NEW ULM - St. Paul's Lutheran Elementary Schools (grades pre-K-8) begins the new school year with two new staff members, a new reading assessment program and facility improvements.
Principal Greg Thiesfeldt also reports that the school has successfully completed the accreditation process with two accreditation agencies, the Minnesota Non-Public School Accreditation Association (MNSAA) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod School Accreditation (WELSSA), a member of the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA).
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
In recent years St. Paul’s has replaced all older classroom desks. The project has been completed over the summer, with 65 new desks for the primary grade rooms (grades 1-2).
The two new appointments reflect enrollment numbers and internal realignment.
Heidi Meyer is the new pre-kindergarten teacher and director. She replaces Sue Schone, who has been re-assigned to first grade to replace a retiree.
Carol Schoenherr is a new teacher, assigned to grades 3/4, reflecting larger class numbers in that age group.
New desks and other facility improvements
In recent years St. Paul's has replaced all older classroom desks, reports Thiesfeldt. The project has been completed over the summer, with 65 new desks for the primary grade rooms (grades 1-2).
In other improvements, new carpeting has been installed in the administrative rooms (the principal's office, school secretary's office and conference room); the pre-kindergarten room has been remodeled, with new paneling with drywall and storage closet; and SmartBoards have been placed in the two remaining classrooms that did not have one. The outdoor security system has been improved with another camera to cover the southwest side of the campus (the parking lot and play area).
The school will use a new reading assessment program, the Scholastic Reading Inventory, said Thiesfeldt. SRI testing will track student progress quarterly during the school year and from year to year. The tests provide a Lexile score, which is a numerical rating of the child's reading ability. "Since books also receive Lexiles that correlate with their level of difficulty, we will be able to recommend reading material to the children that fits with their abilities," said Thiesfeldt.
The program will help identify reading deficits at an early age and map out strategies to address them, said Thiesfeldt.
St. Paul's also has the Scholastic reading Counts Program (SRC), a correlated program which recommends books for students based on their interests and at their Lexile rating. SRC provides a data base of short follow-up multiple-choice tests to assess comprehension of the recommended books. The students take the tests online after they read the books.
In another development, St. Paul's purchased a new series for grade 7-8 social studies (United States History, Holt-McDougal, 2012) and a new series for grades 3-4 social studies (States and Regions, Harcourt, 2010).
St. Paul's will continue programs for the gifted, including MathCounts and Knowledge Bowl. Plans are taking shape for involvement in the Minnesota History Day program (students create a project in history, along similar lines as Science Fair).
Music programs continue, including individual instrument lessons (piano, violin and band) and two mass bands. More than 60 students are involved in the band program. All students have mass choir rehearsals three days each week. Children in grades pre-K to 5 also prepare annual music performances.
St. Paul's offers opportunities for children in grades 5-8 to participate in team sports (football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, baseball and softball).
As of Aug. 15, 252 students were enrolled in grades K-8 for 2012-13. This compares to 250 last year, 237 the year before, and 225 the year before. Enrollment appears to be stabilizing around 250, says Thiesfeldt.
Informal guidelines (including space concerns) call for sections of no more than 16 students in kindergarten, no more than 22 in grades 1-2, and no more than 24 in grades 3-8.
Every year St. Paul's chooses a spiritual theme. "These themes help us focus on the truths of God's Word as the foundation of our belief system," says Thiesfeldt. This year's theme is 'No Greater Love,' based on John 15:13. "These words remind us that in love Jesus gave his life to save us. This focus will strengthen out faith and inspire us to live in ways that reflect the greater love of Jesus," he concludes.