From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 12 - March 19, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

New Pinedale principal approved

by Mari Muzzi

A new principal for Pinedale High School was chosen by the district superintendent and then approved by the board during the Sublette County District #1 board meeting on Thursday.

The current principal, Richard Kennedy, will be retiring at the end of the school year after serving 16 years.

“It was my responsibility to make the decision (of selecting the new principal),” said district superintendent Doris Woodbury.

Though, Woodbury said she had received input from students, parents, staff, administrators and members of the community.

“We had a lot of people participate, because I think it’s important for a large number of folks who are going to be working with that person to have some input,” she said.

Barbara Leiseth of Wall, S.D., was selected from 60 applicants and will be starting the position in July.

“We had very strong candidates and it was a tough decision,” Woodbury said. “Leiseth had very good experience, very good training and had knowledge of many of the programs we have in place here in the district.”

Woodbury said that Leiseth’s positive attitude and the fact that she has lots of energy were also reasons why she was selected for the position.

“She had some really great ideas to help solve some of the issues that our district and high school has been grappling with,” Woodbury said.

Some of Leiseth’s ideas were to have more of an active role for student council and to use curriculum mapping.

“She just has a really good background and depth of knowledge, plus a lovely, nice personality,” Woodbury said.

Leiseth is currently a principal at Wall High School and Middle School and also the athletics and curriculum director for the school.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in early and elementary education from Valley City State University located in Valley City, N.D.

Leiseth continued her education at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., and Capella University, which is an online college located in Minneapolis.

She also has a PhD in K-12 education administration and leadership.

“I’m coming from a school with high-achieving students, much like Pinedale High School,” Leiseth said during a phone interview. “I am an advocate for standard-base school improvement, where instructions are driven by learning — I believe we should always strive for excellence.”

She and her family feel that the Pinedale community is very welcoming and can’t wait to call the area home, she said.

“It’s exciting — I want to get adjusted to the community and learn what’s going on in the school,” Leiseth said. “My family and I have met some community members, some of the staff and the administrators at the school — I believe we are going to be a good fit.”

Her family’s desire to live near the mountains is what made her interested in Pinedale, she said.

“We’ve always wanted to live close to the mountains and now we live in the desert, so it will be a nice change,” she said.

She and her family have visited the area on three occasions to see the Pinedale High School campus.

Leiseth said she is impressed from her tour of the campus.

“The students are real nice and the administration team is at the top of its game,” she said.

Leiseth will be moving to Pinedale with her husband Rod and one of their sons, Max, who will be a senior at the school.

“We kind of all decided that it (Pinedale) looked like home,” she said.

They have three other children, including another son Jack, who recently graduated and has a job in Marbleton and will be moving to the area at the end of the month.

“My other two (a son and a daughter) will be coming out in May as soon as they are done with the semester to find summer jobs,” Leiseth said. “My kids are excited to move to the Pinedale area — what a great adventure.”

Leiseth will also be bringing the family’s five horses to Pinedale as well.

She is currently researching the area and going through the school handbooks to prepare for her new position.

“I feel blessed that the district administrative team is keeping me abreast of the current initiatives in the district and I can hardly wait to come and join the super successful learning team,” she said.

In other school board news:

— The district is not quite finished with its lawsuit against the state, Woodbury said.

She said the state of Wyoming had asked the Supreme Court to certify the question.

“And they found very much in favor of the school districts that it wasn’t constitutional for them to try and go backwards in time and take money that had already been budgeted,” Woodbury said.

In certifying the question, the issue is sent back to the district court and now the school district is waiting to hear the final resolution, she said.

“The district court has to make that final ‘yeah, we are all done and finished,’” Woodbury said.

The state’s attorney and the school district’s attorney are working on a stipulated agreement where both sides agree on what the Supreme Court decided, she said.

“If both sides can agree that is what the Supreme Court meant, then we will be finished,” she said.

Woodbury said if the attorneys can’t come to a resolution then the issue will go to the ninth judicial district judge Nancy Guthrie.

“We’re not worried about the question being re-decided, but there are some small interpretations, like how long does the district have to spend the money,” she said. “Nobody’s appealing, it’s just getting the final interpretation on what the Supreme Court said.”

— Twenty-one laptops were discovered missing from Pinedale High School on Monday, but the sheriff’s department has recovered them undamaged.

They haven’t been returned to the school yet, because they are being used as evidence, said detective Shane Templer.

Detectives recovered the laptops on Wednesday afternoon and a 17-year-old juvenile was questioned and admitted to the thefts, according to the police report.

The department would not say if the teen was a student at the high school due to his age.

The matter is now at the County Attorney’s Office to decide whether the teen will be charged as an adult or juvenile, Templar said.

“We’re very happy to have them back and of course very disappointed that they were taken,” Woodbury said. She said they are working on getting the computers back in time for PAWS testing.

— Having an assistant principal at the elementary school was purposed, however, all the board members were not in agreement regarding the number of days the position would entail so most voted against it.

Woodbury said she would rewrite the proposal and the board will vote on it again during next month’s meeting.

— The board had discussed getting buses with seatbelts during last month’s meeting.

During Thursday’s meeting, however, district manger Vern McAdams said buses with seatbelts are not available in the state at this time.

“Seat belts are a no-go, no how, no way,” he said. “There is no way that they can provide buses with seatbelts at this point in Wyoming — it will not be available until such laws become adopted.”

The current bus seats are not equipped to have seatbelts put in, though McAdams said they are still the best travel option for students.

“I’ll remind everybody right now, it’s still the safest possible travel,” he said.

— Third-graders got to visit the planning and zoning office and students will get to design portions of a local subdivision.

“Third-graders are taking over the county, so come to us with your planning and zoning,” said third-grade teacher Keri Hecht, with a smile. “We talked about where houses should go and if we want them spread out or close together.”

Students will also learn which locations work best for roads.

— The Science Fair students returned from state.

“We took away all of the major rewards at both the middle school and high school,” said middle school principal Kevan Kennington. “A lot of kids got $500 scholarships and it was amazing.”

— Teachers and administrators discussed the March student performance results.

Curriculum Director Darlene Harman-Hallam and subject coaches from the elementary and middle school presented the data to the board.

The data was from the MAP and the RIT test scores, which illustrate mathematics, reading and language arts performances. The results are then compared to the national average.

Mathematics coach Melissa Bernard presented the results at the elementary school.

She said the first-grade scores had increased from the winter tests results and exceed the national average.

“Their growth rate was very strong and we’re very happy about that,” Bernard said. Third-grade scores were also above the national average and second-grade scores were within the national level.

Fourth-grade scores, however, were slightly below that average, she said.

Bernard also presented the reading scores at the elementary.

“We were concerned in the fall about our reading scores at the elementary school and our teachers have worked very hard with students to try and improve those scores,” Bernard said.

The winter median RIT scores for reading improved and scores were at or above the national growth rate in all grades, except third, she said.

“We made some process in grades two and grades four as far as closing the gap,” Bernard said. “There’s been tremendous growth,”

The language arts scores also displayed student growth.

Winter median RIT scores for language in grades three and four improved over fall scores and in those grades the growth was above the national rate, she said.

“We are working really hard on writing and are pleased to see that our growth rates are at or above the expected rates,” she said.

Corelle Lotzer presented the middle school results. All grades at the middle school scored above the national average, except sixth.

Lotzer said the sixth grade has shown improvements since the winter testing.

“Almost every student who struggles with math in sixth grade are also low readers,” Lotzer said.

She said that is why the math program focuses on reading problems and hands-on assignments.

“The one thing we have noticed in that class is that we have 105 students, 14 of them are special ed and 30 are at least one to three grade levels below (the math level) that they should be in sixth grade,” she said.

She said it has been a challenging group, but their performances continue to improve.

“The one good point was that our ‘at risk’ group won our MAP growth contest and got doughnuts,” she said.

That is because the sixth grade had the larger growth improvement.

Lotzer said the sixth grade has also experienced the most population growth during the school year.

“It was neat for them to be able to win that,” she said.

The sixth grade also made improvements in reading scores due to the looping program, she said.

The looping program is where fifth grade reading teachers continued to teach the same students this school year.

“For the most part the teachers who taught students in fifth-grade kept those student this year, which allowed them to start off the year already knowing who they are, what they can do, what they can’t do, and how to relate with them emotionally and academically,” Lotzer said.

The seventh and eight grades were above the national average.

“Our seventh and eighth grade teachers have focused hard on writing this year,” she said.

— The board decided not to include a time requirement for the length of day for teaching staff.

“We should include some language where we expect a minimum of eight hours a day,” said attorney for the district Doug Mason. “We don’t want to tie it to a certain time period, because I think there’s a small bit of a risk of overtime claims.”

Woodbury and board members agreed. They said that it should be the administration’s job to handle those who leave early.

“If we’re seeing a staff abuse of time where people aren’t staying and working with kids, I believe it’s the responsibility of our school administrators to deal with that on a individual basis.” Woodbury said.

The next meeting will be April 9.

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