LAURENS - Looking back on the past year, Superintendent Iner Joelson of the Laurens-Marathon Community School District said it was a time of growing.
"The past year was all about concept-based lessons and instructing in a different model," he said. "We've also been working toward full implementation of the Iowa Core, so it's been a busy year."
The district also went through an administrative reorganization.
-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Laurens-Marathon Community School third-grader Clayton Ehlers, left, and fifth-grader Riley Oxreider, hang up a picture of a car on a mural in the school’s front lobby. Ehlers and Oxreider started a school-wide fundraiser for juvenile diabetes research, which includes coloring pictures of cars for 50 cents. All the money goes to diabetes research.
Laurens-Marathon hired JoAnne Morenz as the school's pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade principal. Previously, Joelson said the model was a sixth- through 12th-grade principal and a superintendent/elementary school principal position.
The school also made two faculty members deans of students.
"We have repurposed some of our teaching time to allow some teachers to act as deans of students," Joelson said. "This frees up the principal so that she can spend more time working with teachers in the classroom."
Joelson said Laurens-Marathon also improved its technology program.
"This year was an opportunity for us to delve deeper into our one-to-one technology integration," he said. "We finished our second year of integrating technology into the classroom for grades six through 10."
Technology can be seen throughout the school. In a high school business education class, students were using technology to give presentations. In a third-grade classroom, students used a touch-sensitive technology program to learn math skills.
Joelson said this year so far has gone well for the school.
"Our demographics have shifted, but our staff are adapting well to meet the needs of our students, and I think they're doing a great job," he said. "We also expect our achievement to be up. Our early assessments have shown improvements. We're always striving to find ways to move the system forward and to improve the social capital of the students."
Joelson said he's proud of the work the students have done, not just academically, but outside the classroom as well.
Fifth-grader Riley Oxreider and third-grader Clayton Ehlers have led a schoolwide fundraiser for juvenile diabetes research. For 50 cents, students and staff can color a picture of a car and put it on a mural in the school's front lobby. All the money raised will go to juvenile diabetes research.
Joelson said while the school has been successful, the road hasn't always been smooth.
"We're constantly paying attention to enrollment," Joelson said. "It's gone up and down and up and down, and we've been on a negative trend."
He said on the school's count day, they discovered the school was down 10 students. By the second count day, Joelson said that number changed in the opposite direction by being up 12 students.
Joelson said the school has also had to deal with funding issues.
"Keeping everything going is a challenge," he said.
One unforeseen challenge happened after a school bus inspection found that three of the school's buses needed to be taken out of the fleet. Joelson said this set the school back because they weren't able to transport students.
The issue was resolved when the school bought two new buses and the Pocahontas Area School District allowed one of its buses to be used by Laurens-Marathon.
Overall, Joelson said he's looking forward to the next year.
"I think this school year has been great," he said. "We have a phenomenal staff, great families and great kids."