Archive for January, 2008

Decision: No School Closings – More Budget Cut And Mail Ballot Referendum Plans In The Works

January 18, 2008

The Robbinsdale School Board approved a $5 million cut plan without closing a school this year. Now the tricky part: creating more plans for reducing costs in other areas. Will there be enough letters in the alphabet for their updated scenarios? You can download Budget Cuts “Scenario I” here (PDF).

From the MN Sun-Post January 15:

By opting not to close an elementary school, the board chose instead to make reductions in other areas suggested by the administration, including the special education and English Language Learners programs. District officials have not yet said if staff, programs, or both, will be cut in those departments.

Board members agreed to begin a “strategic planning process” to establish a future vision for District 281, including recommendations for school closings, repurposing of facilities, and grade-level re-organization. That process is expected to begin in March and conclude by Sept. 10.

Keep your eyes peeled for a possible mail-in referendum this year (Superintendent Mack said this might happen).

“We wouldn’t have to wait until November,” Mack told the board on Jan. 7. “There are two-week windows in March, May, September and December.”

Ballots would have to be sent first class mail, and is triple the cost of regular election expenses.  If citizen groups with funding come forward, the ballots will be coming in your mailbox. Meanwhile, an additional $4 million in spending cuts are estimated for 2009-10.

Superintendent Stan Mack Has a Plan. No, Really.

January 15, 2008

The MN Sun-Post published an article January 14 with an update on the school board’s decision on cuts and a school closing. We’re not sure at this writing which letter scenario they’re up to now, but the solutions remain fluid.

Based both on the board’s public discussions in the past six weeks and ongoing input from district residents, Superintendent Stan Mack said in a memo to the School Board Jan. 10, “It appears that we may have a divided Board of Education as well as a divided community.”

Citing “this undesirable outcome,” Mack submitted a new cost-cutting plan that would not include closing a school in 2008-09.


Court of Appeals Rules Against ISD 281 – AGAIN

January 15, 2008

District 281 is having a tough go with the Court of Appeals, this time regarding a private school student’s rights to access public special education services. From the StarTribune:

By Rochelle Olson | Last update: January 8, 2008 – 10:17 PM

Special education students in nonpublic schools are entitled to services and instruction, even extended-year services, from public schools, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in a case involving the Robbinsdale school district.

The decision by a three-judge panel upheld a 2006 ruling by the Minnesota Department of Education and affirmed the agency’s ability to investigate districts.

The department found the Robbinsdale district in violation of state law because it was limiting special instruction and services to disabled private-school students, especially extended-school-year services — even though the school district was found to have provided appropriate services for the student in this particular case.


2007 Lowlights and Highlights for District 281

January 3, 2008

The MN Sun-Post showcased “The best and worst of times for District 281” in 2007. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time. Lowlights (quite plentiful) are set in bold for emphasis. The referendum defeat in our opinion is a highlight, not a disappointment as the Sun-Post wrote. Left out are lockdowns at Cooper from fights in December, and countless other items that didn’t make it on the news.


– Superintendent Stan Mack announced a reorganization of leadership in the special education department, following scrutiny by the Minnesota Department of Education for having what the state claimed is a disproportionate number of complaints from District 281 parents about how children with special needs are treated.

– A list of $4.5 million in proposed budget cuts for 2007-08 was approved Jan. 8 by the District 281 School Board.

– More than 700 District 281 employees signed up for an exercise-walking program.

– A bomb threat cancelled classes for students at the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion program/Robbinsdale Middle School on Jan. 8.

– A Robbinsdale Area Schools transfer bus that has been operating since 1982 will begin phasing out in 2007-08, school officials said.


– Sandburg Middle School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program was one of four out of 2,000 IB programs in more than 120 countries chosen for in-person documentation by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Project Zero.

– District 281’s enrollment declined 1.3 percent, or 177 students, from January 2006 to January 2007.

– Teach for America, a national corps of recent college grads who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools, indicated interest in District 281.

– Plymouth Middle School sixth-graders will be reassigned to Olson School in Golden Valley for 2007-08, while their school is remodeled, officials announced.

– The Minnesota Department of Education withdrew its threat to withhold $526,638 in special education funding from the Robbinsdale School District because the district took steps to implement corrective action.

– A Bullying Policy Task Force in District 281 began working on administrative procedures to address bullying in the schools.