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Truancy program set to expand

Rochester Public Schools will expand its truancy program to the entire district after the success of last year's two-school pilot program.

The district hired Lisa Weber as the program's district-wide early intervention coordinator. Weber will handle the multi-agency program's coordination with students, families, the county attorney's office and other players.

"We are excited this school year that we are actually expanding into all our secondary sites," said Brenda Lewis, the district's assistant superintendent.

Weber, a police liaison at Mayo, saw truancy as a problem and realized parents needed help with their children. After a conversation with the Olmsted County Attorney's office the program was created.

The three-step program takes a stronger approach to combating truancy by partnering with the Olmsted County Attorney's Office to address issues on the front end. The program started at Mayo High School and Willow Creek Middle School, but expanded to John Marshall High School during the spring semester because of alarming truancy rates.


When a student is truant, the first step is a parent information meeting. Then students are required to meet with Olmsted County Attorney staff if the problem continues. Finally, a truancy petition can be filed, and the student may be required to meet with a judge regarding habitual truancy.

The program saw strong results at all three schools. At Mayo High School 56 students went through the first step of the process, 29 went through the second step and 15 were involved in the third step. At John Marshall High School the results were even more dramatic. The program started with 197 students at the first step, and three students going through to the third step.

Other business of the school board on Tuesday included:

• CTECH Groundbreaking.The Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz, or CTECH , will host a groundbreaking ceremony at its Heintz Center location, 1926 Collegeview Rd. E., at 4 p.m. Aug. 18.

CTECH is a $6.5 million project and collaboration among local education institutions like Rochester Public School District, Winona State, Rochester Community and Technical College and University Center Rochester. It will offer career experience for technical fields, including agriculture, engineering, health science, hospitality and construction. The project was funded through city sales tax.

Visit the district's website to RSVP for the event.

• Research Request.A group of about 100 pre-K Rochester students will likely be the subject of an education study focused on the closing the achievement gap.

The study, which is run through the Midwest Child-Parent Center Program, will look at the effects of new early childhood education techniques like family support on test scores and success in later education.


"School underachievement originates early in life," according to documents filed with the Institutional Review Board by the study's principal investigator, Dr. Arthur Reynolds. "So the most cost-effective prevention strategies are often designed to promote readiness in the transition to elementary school."

Researchers chose Rochester because of its all-day pre-K programs. The study will will target non-English speakers and other minority groups at Hawthorne , according to documents filed with the IRB .

During the 2015-16 school year, it will be implemented in four half-day Head Start classrooms and one full-day Head Start classroom. This will allow Reynolds to compare half-day and full-day programs in the district, said Amy Eich, the districts director of community education.

"So (Dr. Reynolds will) get some data for his work out of our program and then we get the opportunity to work with his staff and all of their knowledge of all of these amazing programs," Eich said.

While the study is awaiting IRB approval, Eich said the research team is confident it will be approved in the next few days. Eich said the program may expand in the next few years to kindergarten through third grade students, but the district is still in discussion about this possibility.

The study will also be conducted at school districts in Madison, Wis. and Normal, Ill. The program's research has been done primarily in low-income neighborhoods and was established in the Chicago Public School District in 1976.

• Sale of Golden Hill property.After a closed session discussion, the board announced it will sell the Golden Hill property, 2220 Third Ave. SE. The property and building have an estimated market value of $3.3 million, according to Olmsted County property records.

Golden Hill Education Center was the former site for many of the district's alternative learning center, but programming was moved after the building was deemed unfit for teaching students.


"We accepted a letter of intent to negotiate a purchase of that property," said school board member Gary Smith.

Smith said the administration is free to negotiate with the potential buyer, but the interested party wants confidentiality at this point — a condition that will only granted during negotiations.

"I'm expecting that by the next board meeting we might have an actual purchase," Smith said.

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