2007 Lowlights and Highlights for District 281

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.


– District 281 schools were included in the eighth annual list of “Best 100 communities for Music Education,” based on a survey by the American Music Conference.

– Tom Dooher, president of the 1,200- member Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers union for the last 10 years, was elected president of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, on March 17.


– The District 281 School Board considered a timeline for 2008-09 budget reductions.

– A private donation of $30,000 from Armstrong High School parents restored the District 281 alpine skiing program.

– A telephone interview with 400 randomly selected registered voters in District 281 revealed that 63.5 percent would support an increase in the existing operating levy.

– A bullying police was approved April 23 by the District 281 School Board.


– Barb Lehman of Brooklyn Park, a retired 34-year employee of District 281 who is executive secretary of the Class Lake Conference, received a Distinguished Service Award.

– Ken Kostka, executive director of teaching and learning in District 281, and Cliff Holman, interim director of special education, announced their retirements.

– Michael Smart of Golden Valley, a Japanese teacher in Intermediate School District 287’s Global Languages Program, was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

– Jeff McGonigal, principal at Cooper High School since 2005, announced his resignation, effective July 1.

– Students, staff, and families at Sandburg Middle School in Golden Valley filled a giant shipping container with more than 100,000 meals for hungry families in Tanzania, Africa, during an all-school packaging event on May 22.

– The District 281 School Board considered an offer by Prairie Seeds Academy Charter School to buy Lincoln School, 6200 W. Broadway, Brooklyn Park, for $3.1 million.

– Nancy Rajanen, executive director of human resources in District 281, and Gayle Walkowiak, executive direct of teaching and learning, were named assistant superintendents.


– District 281 agreed to accept a lease/purchase agreement for Lincoln School.


– Students at Armstrong and Cooper high schools will be required to wear identification badges during the day and on buses to and from school, according to a policy passed July 16.

– Mike Favor, principal at North High School in Minneapolis, was named the new principal at Cooper High School.

– Michael Sullivan and Ellen Woit were named co-directors of the District 281 Department of Special Education.

– The Armstrong/Cooper high schools girls’ gymnastics team sought to raise $25,000 on its own to keep the sport going.

– District 281 decided to ask residents for approval of a $9.7 million operating levy on Nov. 6.

– Supt. Stan Mack earned an $8,321 bonus after a performance evaluation July 16.


– Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner of Golden Valley was named new executive director for the Mosaic Youth Center.

– Senior high classes would begin 10 minutes earlier in District 281, officials said.

– District 281 received a $314,500 federal Physical Education Program (PEP) grant.

– Bus Radio came to 50 of District 281’s school buses.

– Ellen Hebert, an assistant principal at Cooper High School since 2005, left Cooper to become the new principal at North High School in Minneapolis.

– Ten District 281 schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, according to information released Aug. 29 by the Minnesota Department of Education.


– A District 281 committee would be formed to consider alternate venues for commencement ceremonies at Armstrong and Cooper high schools, officials said.

– District 281 set a $44.5 million tax levy for next year.


– A professional referendum buster from Iowa notified Robbinsdale District 281 he was hired to oppose the operating levy referendum election on Nov. 6.

– District 281 officials said $5 million in cuts would be needed in 2008-09 if the referendum does not pass.

– The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against District 281 in a special education case initiated in the 2004-05 school year.

– District 281 and the RFT reached agreement on a new two-year contract.

– The Robbinsdale District 281 teachers union elected Peter Eckhoff, a third-grade teacher at Meadow Lake Elementary, as president of the union.

– Multiple bomb threats were investigated at Sandburg Middle School in Golden Valley. A sixth-grade girl was identified as the perpetrator in one of the incidents.


– A hotly contested $9.7 million operating levy referendum was defeated Nov. 6, by a vote of 10,733 against and 9,660 in favor.

– The 281 CARE committee opposing the school levy in District 281, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Superintendent Stan Mack and the Office of Administrative Hearings for its enforcement of a Minnesota statute banning false speech.

– An 11th-hour petition from the 281 CARE committee requesting the appointment of poll challengers in the Nov. 6 election was denied Nov. 5, on the advice of a District 281 attorney.

Sherry Tyrrell topped the list of vote getters for the District 281 School Board. Incumbents Barb Van Heel andHelen Bassett were re-elected.

– A four-year-old student at Cavanagh Early Childhood Center in Crystal was mistakenly left alone on a District 281 school bus for two hours on Nov. 14.

– The 90-member District 281 AFSCME office employees union filed an intent to strike on Nov. 21.

– A 125-percent increase in 2008 health insurance premiums brought teachers to the school board Nov. 19 and again on Nov. 26.

– District 281 is among six Minnesota school districts that will receive an International Baccalaureate (IB) grant. Robbinsdale District 281 will get $555,630.


– Parents of students at Lakeview Elementary in Robbinsdale and Robbinsdale Middle Schools mounted a campaign to keep the two Robbinsdale schools open. Northport School in Brooklyn Center later was identified as the candidate for school closing.

– The District 281 School Board met in a seven-hour work session Dec. 15 to firm up $5 million in budget cuts for 2008-09. The list was formally presented at a board meeting Dec. 17, followed by a public hearing Dec. 18.

– District officials scrapped plans to file for an injunction to prevent office employees from going on strike, after union members agreed not to strike until after a mediation session set for Jan. 4, 2008.

– Cooper High School girls hockey coach Nathan Paul Antrim, 35, of Rogers is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after he admitted to having sexual intercourse with a player on the team. He has not yet been tried.

– After a school district insurance committee met, it was announced that health insurance premium costs would be reduced by 10 percent for 2008.

Comment on this story at www.mnsun.com.

One Response to “2007 Lowlights and Highlights for District 281”

  1. James M. Gabrielson Says:

    I wrote a letter early last fall to Superintendent Stan Mack concerning the constant and persistent trash problem in my yard. I live directly across from Cooper High School and was present at two of the New Hope Planning Commission meetings in which a neighbor of mine spoke about this problem prior to the construction of the new football stadium at Cooper. At that time we were promised, hands down, this would not be a problem in the future, yet I constantly pick up trash from this school. I know it’s from Cooper because many of the papers had students names and there were even pages, many, from a teachers lesson guide strewn all over my yard. Stan Mack’s response was to send the head custodian over to speak with me. I explained the situation to the custodian and stated I didn’t have a problem with him, I respected and appreciated his coming over, however, I thought it a bit strange that Mr. Mack could take time out of his busy day to at least stop by and apologize, he chose instead to send his custodian, who by the way stated he was deeply sorry but “it’s the kids, you know how these kids are today. My wife and I moved to Princeton because of this”, or words to that affect. I agree with him but then said “what does the school board, the administration do about this lack of discipline?” You see I find it had to understand, having served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Chief Petty Officer. In my view this man, Stan Mack, is incompetent. I don’t care how much alphabet soup he has after his name. His remedy for all this is to throw money at the problem and thrust the burden on District 281 taxpayers. I for one am fed up with it. In my letter last fall I stated such and that I would fight his tax levy increase all the way. I still pick up trash from that school. I have baseballs come in my yard, and one time had four people in my yard after a baseball was hit over here. My dog had retrieved the ball and the first person to come over wanted it back. I said well if you can get it from him, and laughed. Then all of a sudden I have 3 more adults over here making threats and telling me “You should move if you don’t like it”, or words to that affect. I’ve had soccer balls kicked against my house and when I wouldn’t return it to the teacher, the teacher began cursing at me in front of his students. A find example. This is the management of Stan Mack. As you can tell I’m not his greatest fan.

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