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Making it harder to fail

Posted 10/20/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

What can be done by teachers and school administrators to help students who are failing classes? That is a question that is not only plaguing schools across the United States, but schools in McKenzie County as well.
“One out of six of our students in grades seven through 12 is failing in one or more classes,” stated Jay Diede, Watford City High School principal during the Oct. 12 McKenize County Public School District No. 1 school board meeting. “Many of these students are failing in every class.”
With that many students failing classes, Diede believes that it is time for the school district to put in place a program that makes it harder for students to fail classes than it is for the student to receive passing grades.
“We don’t have anything in place to help students do better in class,” stated Diede. “Some kids just don’t care.”
Coupled with hiring a new high school teacher who will help tutor failing students, Diede would also like to use a little tough love to help encourage students to get passing grades and to stay in school.
“We want to create a credit recovery program that allows students a chance to get passing grades on classes that they had failed prior so that they can graduate,” stated Diede. “And we need to provide programs that give the students the academic help that they need.”
Two of the programs that Diede believes will help are a mandatory noon hour tutor program and a mandatory regular study hall tutor.
“By requiring students who are failing classes to attend mandatory tutor sessions, we believe that we can help these students get passing grades,” states Diede.
Diede acknowledges that getting failing students to step up their academic work is a two-way street and it’s going to take effort by both the student and the school.
“It’s too easy to fail,” says Diede. “We want these students to get immediate rewards for getting passing grades.”
And Diede sees the immediate rewards for students getting good grades as being more freedoms.
“When a student is failing they are going to have to attend the mandatory tutoring sessions, plus they aren’t going to be able to leave the school during school hours or to attend dances and other events,” states Diede. “But when students get Cs or better, all of those restrictions are gone.”
In fact, Diede is also working on establishing what he refers to as “comfort zones” within the school where students that receive Cs or better can relax and study or just hang out during their off times.
“We want these ‘comfort areas’ to have nice couches and furniture that the students will want to go to,” says Diede. “We are even talking of creating a patio area at the entrance to the school that the students can use.”
For Diede, implementing the new programs is a win-win for the students and the school.
“We need to focus on the students who are in the bottom tier to help with our Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) score,” stated Diede. “It’s these students who we are missing the boat on. We need to help them.”
During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, the board questioned Slade Herfindahl, Watford City police chief, on the procedures that the department uses during drug searches on school property.
Answering a question from Brent Arnegard, Herfindahl stated that the K-9 searches are limited to the common areas of the school, lockers, locker rooms and the school’s parking lot.
“If a dog alerts in any of these areas, we have probable cause to do a search,” stated Herfindahl.
According to Herfindahl, the last K-9 drug search at the high school went very well and he hopes to continue the program.
Herfindahl also encouraged school administrators to contact him if they suspected drug use.
“If you suspect something, you can always call us,” stated Hefindahl. “That’s what we are trained for.”
Herfindahl also informed the board that he would be running the CounterAct program this year at the elementary school.
In other business, the school board:
• Approved hiring a tutor at Watford City High School.
• Was informed that the district audit would be done on Nov. 3.
• Approved hiring Kim Strode as a special education aide at the high school at $10.70 per hour for 7.5 hours per day.
• Tabled action on a mineral lease from Empire Oil.
• Approved adopting a resolution to work with the WSC Career and Technology Center.
• Was updated by Supt. Holen and Principal Jay Diede on possible staffing issues at the high school.
• Approved changing the district’s Lice Policy to provide that no student  with a lice infestation shall be prohibited from attending school.
•Approved the second and final reading of the Dual Credit Compensation Policy setting forth the amount of compensation that district teachers would receive for teaching dual credit classes.
• Approved the first reading of a Professional Contract Early Retirement Policy.
The next meeting of the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board will be at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8.