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With another school year underway and plenty of new staff in the fold, the Columbus School District continues to work on policy changes.

During the Sept. 10 school board meeting at city hall, the board examined monitoring reports for life skills, instructional programming and instructional materials.

Superintendent Annette Deuman has been working with new student services director Lisa Blochwitz and district principals on improving the district’s life skills policy for students.

“In the report you will find a lot of the redefining ready work from the National School Superintendent’s Association as to what they’ve developed for criteria for students as they become college, career and life ready,” Deuman said. “The criteria they’ve developed has been researched and evidence based to help students be ready for the world.”

Deuman said the board expects all Columbus students to be college, career and life ready upon graduation. The indicators the district has created sets targets for reasonable progress toward that goal.

Blochwitz said students can start developing life skills by charting their progress through a student portal called Career Cruising.

“Within that portal, students can house work they do in exploration of their college and career readiness,” Blochwitz said. “As part of academic and career planning, the Department of Instruction has laid out a general scope and sequence from third and fourth grade all the way through high school.

“By the time they are ready to graduate, they really have a comprehensive portfolio of work they’ve done when they leave us that they can take with them.”

Blochwitz said the district’s goal is to have middle school students work through the scope and sequence portion so they have a better idea of what their career path will be when they enter high school. Starting this year, eighth graders who don’t take band and choir can take a career class for one quarter.

“That will be a good opportunity for students to explore a variety of careers,” Blochwitz said. “When they entire high school they will have a pretty good idea of where they may want to explore career interests based on the work they did in middle school.”

The student services director said students will continue working on their scope and sequence to identify a career pathway by their sophomore year. Finding a pathway should help students choose a college or tech school that meets their career aspirations, according to Blochwitz. Students will also work on creating resumes in English classes that will be imported in the Career Cruising portal. Columbus will also increase dual credit courses through Madison Area Technical College to give students a jumpstart on their college credits.

“We want to take the work they’ve done in that English class and memorialize it in that portal so it’s there when they need it,” Blochwitz said.

Columbus plans to invite community members to the schools to discuss their careers. Blochwitz said it’s an ideal way to connect the district with the community and get students thinking about jobs they find interesting.

Students can also learn how to manage finances through a financial literacy course or an economics class. Board members praised the financial literacy course as an ideal life skills asset.

“My daughter graduated last spring and she said the financial literacy course was very valuable,” said Board Member Mary Arnold. “It was one of the most helpful classes she took. I hope all the kids have access to that.”

Starting this year, staff is also charting behavioral statistics through a positive behavior manual. The manual will help identify major vs. minor student infractions. Administrators will have access to the data. Deuman said multiple cases of bullying could be charted as a major infraction.

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.

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