School Board
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

   The Monticello Community School District’s use of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies was discussed in a report during a special meeting of the Monticello School Board Sept. 14.

   The report was presented by Shannon Guyer, district behavior coach and SEL behavior and mental health coordinator; and Robyn Ponder, district curriculum director and special programs director.

   The purpose of the program, made possible by a Therapeutic Classroom Incentive Grant for $166,680 recently awarded to the district, is to help students better deal with social or emotional situations which might negatively impact their learning.


   Guyer and Ponder pointed to numerous studies, including a meta-analysis study of school-based interventions conducted by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) that involved 270,000 students, to support the value of SEL.

   Guyer said the Monticello district looks at five key indicators: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness.

   “What they found is that when SEL interventions are given in those five areas, that academic performance increases by 11 percentile points,” Guyer said.

   Superintendent Brian Jaeger agreed: “Our data is telling us this is the direction we should be going, and we’re moving in that direction. It’s helping kids get the tools they need to put in their toolbox so that they can interact with other kids better.”

   Board member Mark Rieken had a different view.

   “I did a little bit of looking online,” board member Mark Rieken said, “and there are studies that will contradict that SEL works. So I’m concerned with this direction, of whether this is actually going to be successful or can be successful.

   “Are we taking too much instruction time away to do emotional activities instead of reading, writing and arithmetic, which is why they’re all here?”

   Ponder replied that SEL programs are embedded into regular curriculum so that the strategies are part of regular classroom instruction.

In other board business:

   • The board heard a report about Panther Academy from director Tammy Helgens.

   She reported that because of demand this summer, a second location was added for the academy, using Carpenter School as well as Shannon.

   The goal was to make sure no families were turned away, and Jaeger said none were.

   “Daycare is an enormous issue in this county and in our community, and your program is part of the solution,” board president Craig Stadtmueller said, “It definitely fills a huge need.”

   The program serves children ages 4-12.

   • The board also approved the following personnel items:

   Resignations – Carly Recker as special education child specific associate at Carpenter, Melissa Motley as special education child specific associate at the middle school, Ryan Luensman as middle school wrestling coach, and Greg Williams as 1/3 strength and conditioning coach.

   Appointments – Rileigh Newhard as talented and gifted/ELP teacher at the high school, and as .5 assistant speech director, Cameron Bartels and Ryanna Devaney as Panther Academy associates, Cathy Crowe and Susan Freeze as special education child specific associates at the middle school, Amy Kurth as special education child specific associate at Shannon, and Heather McDonald as volunteer high school volleyball coach.

   Amendments – Cesar Escobar and Marie Escobar as associates for high school Spanish at the high school.