School board discusses AVID program and hire of math teacher

School board discusses AVID program and hire of math teacher

The school board met on Jan. 19 to discuss the recently implemented AVID program and share news regarding the hiring of an in-person math teacher.

The Advancement Via Individual Determination, commonly known as the AVID program, originated in the 1980s at Clairemont High School near San Diego, California. Its popularity and mission of preparing students for college and career readiness have continued to grow well into the 21st century. The program is currently implemented in more than 7,000 schools across 47 states in the U.S.

Numerous schools in Minnesota, including Shakopee Public Schools, Mankato Area Public Schools, and Robbinsdale Area Schools, have adopted the AVID program into their curriculum within the previous decade. Most recently, the college and career readiness program has made its way to the North Shore. Cook County ISD 166 adopted the program at the start of the 2022/23 school year.

Chris Lindholm, superintendent at ISD 166, said the program focuses on helping students with skills they can apply in their classes, including critical thinking, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading.

Lindholm said that ISD 166 rolled out a mandatory half-block AVID class for 6th through 10th graders at the start of the school year. Shortly after that, five teachers attended a three-day AVID conference in Dec. The teachers returned and began implementing AVID strategies into the core math, science, social studies, and English classes. “That’s what’s now rolling out that was maybe new compared to what students experienced in the fall,” Lindholm said. “So we’re happy about that”

However, some parents in Cook County do not share the same excitement. During the Jan. 19 school board meeting, numerous parents and community members attended the meeting to share their thoughts and perspective about the AVID program.

Amanda Anderson, a parent of students at ISD 166, shared her concerns during the meeting. “Students are struggling to understand the agenda,” she said.

“We want our school board to know our students are suffering because of this class,” Anderson said. “We ask the school board to investigate the teacher Lindholm and how she runs the class and program itself. Not to take the word of others or the administration, but to look into it themselves, into the class, into the students.”

The AVID program is taught by the superintendent’s wife, Kristin Lindholm. The other ISD 166 teachers implementing AVID strategies in their classrooms are middle school science teacher Emma Spoon and middle school math teacher Steven Anderson. As the program continues to roll out, middle school social studies teacher Melanie Olsen, among others, will begin implementing AVID strategies.

Parents of students at ISD 166, Lindsay and Aaron Mielke, also voiced their concerns during the meeting. Lindsay Mielke disagreed with the emphasis on pushing students to prepare for and attend college. “There are more choices than just that,” she said. “Maybe going forward, this class could continue for those that are interested in college.”

She added, “This class needs to revamp, and I hope parents are heard regarding the concerns that we have.”

While the AVID program was discussed during the Dec. school board meeting, Aaron Mielke said, “It really strikes me the difference between what’s actually happening and what was covered. And it’s not matching up. It’s not the same.”

He added the program had caused frustration and confusion, and he would like to see the school focus on improving test scores rather than implementing this program.

Lindholm said in response during an interview with WTIP following the Jan. 19 school board meeting, “I disagree, adamantly, that this (program) is a distraction from the core subjects. I would argue this is very much designed to help students access and be successful in core classes, not take away from it.”

“We definitely care about each of our students and work hard to make their learning experience the best we can, and we appreciate the community input,” Lindholm said.

“Going forward, we’re going to be tripling down on helping our faculty focus on these strategies with efficacy so that its truly the supportive environment that we want in math, science, social studies, English, and all of the other subjects they take,” he said.

During the meeting, the school board shared news regarding hiring Lisa Vanderwyst, the new high school math teacher. The position has remained open since the start of the school year. In the meantime, ISD 166 secured a contract with an online math teacher from Duluth at the beginning of the year.

“We’re just excited to finally have that position filled,” Lindholm said. In addition, the school hired a handful of other teachers and coaches. Molly Libra is the new SPED paraprofessional; Patrick Karr is the long-term substitute math teacher; Hayley Scott is the head softball coach; and Ann Schultz is the assistant softball coach.

During the meeting, the board also discussed ISD 166 principal Megan Myers’s resignation. Myers will resign at the end of the school year on June 30.

“I think the board feels very close to Megan, and I do as well. I’ve looked up to her for her leadership and her help and understanding and getting to know the Cook County community,” Lindholm said.

Lindholm said the school is actively recruiting for a new principal. The position is posted on the Cook County Schools website.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with the superintendent at ISD 166, Chris Lindholm, following the Jan. 19 school board meeting. Audio from the interview is below.