Archive for November, 2012

Middle School STEM is Here

November 30, 2012

From the sun post;

The District 281 School Board approved a proposal Nov. 20 to start a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet school next school year at Robbinsdale Middle School. Up to three sections will open for sixth-graders beginning in the 2013 school year. By 2014, the program will include students in grades 6-7, and students in grade 8 will be added by 2015.

Students matriculating from the School for Engineering and Arts at Olson Elementary will have first priority for enrollment in the new magnet. Additional seats will be filled through a lottery if applications exceed available supply. One change was made to the original proposal. An additional $67,300 was requested to remove two walls in the northeast corner of room 030, one of the rooms to be used for the program, and expand the lab space devoted to small electrical tool use. Those requested were made in addition to the $28,800  originally requested to remove a ramp and half-wall and relocate the south door in room 030.

A sample class schedule included with board documents indicates that students in each grade at the new STEM school would spend period seven, the final class of the day, in classes based on the “Gateway to Technology” curriculum. That curriculum, developed by Project Lead the Way, is currently being used in the district’s middle school technology education programs.

The proposed budget for the first year of classes at the new STEM program comes in at $253,100, with $152,100 for classroom improvements and enhancements. Transportation costs could total around $35,000. “I think this plan will work, and we’re pretty excited about it,” said Gayle Walkowiak, the district’s executive director for teaching and learning.

Board Clerk Mark Bomchill explained his reasons before against the proposal. “I will be (voting no) reluctantly,” he said. “I can’t support something that is going to increase transportation costs. I think that as much as I want a program like this, I can’t support this at this time.”

“One of the reasons that I like this is that students across the district have a chance the participate, and the skills … are the life skills in the 21st century,” said Director Helen Bassett. “I share some of the (transportation) reservations (Bomchill) has … (but) I’m interested in providing something that everyone could use.” The board (sans Treasurer Linda Johnson, who was absent) voted to approve the program, with Bomchill casting the sole vote against. The district opened its School for Engineering and Arts at Olson Elementary this past fall.

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Levy Fails in Osseo

November 17, 2012

From the Sun Post;

When the numbers came in, voters had narrowly rejected both proposed levies, and only 83 votes separated the school board candidates in third and fourth place. That’s less than a tenth of a percent difference.

Because voters rejected both proposed levies on the ballot, the school district expects to cut about $14 million from the budget over the next two years. That includes $2 million of reductions to “align staffing with enrollment” that were projected to occur regardless of the election’s outcome.

“One of the things that’s frustrating about this is that our expectations for our work and the accomplishments of our students doesn’t change,” Supt. Kate Maguire said.

One of the levies voters rejected was a 5-year operating levy that would have provided $9 million per year. The other was a 10-year technology levy that would have raised $5 million per year. The operating levy received 33,792 “yes” votes, or 49.9 percent and 33,908 “no” votes, or 50.1 percent. That’s a difference of 116 votes.

The technology levy garnered 32,470 votes in favor, or 48.3 percent, and 34,757 votes against, or 51.7 percent. The difference was 2,287 votes. “It’s heartbreakingly close,” Maguire said. “Certainly I’m disappointed, and I’m disappointed because I know what it means. We’ve been here before. And I know the good results we’re getting for students in our community. … It’s going to be difficult to sustain that progress with fewer and fewer (staff members).”

In spite of the disappointment, Maguire said she’s grateful to everyone who supported the levies and worked to inform others. The district has estimated cuts will result in the loss of the equivalent of about 200 full-time positions.

According to Maguire, the advisory committee that looks at long-range financial planning has already worked to identify essential services, such as those required by law. In November and December the school board will begin having work sessions to consider the budget. The board will provide direction to staff, and the district will begin identifying specific areas for reductions in next year’s budget.

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