Archive for the ‘Teachers’ Category

Cooper has New Principal

March 28, 2013

From the Sun Post;

On March 4 District 281 Superintendent Aldo Sicoli recommended Christina Hester to assume the role of principal at Cooper High School in New Hope following Michael Favor’s move to Executive Director of Student Services and Secondary Schools at the district office.While Hester is Cooper’s new principal, she is a familiar face to many District 281 students and families. Hester, from California originally, moved to the Midwest to begin a career in college basketball coaching. She said she got the itch to begin teaching academically and earned her teaching license from Bethel University .She began student teaching at Cooper High School in 1993 and moved between a number of different roles within the district as she built her career.
Hester taught at Hosterman Elementary, Highview Alternative Program, was principal at Robbinsdale Middle School and became associate principal at Cooper under Favor. She left 281 to become principal at Skyview Middle School in North St. Paul and, following Sicoli’s recommendation, will return to District 281 as principal of Cooper beginning July 13.
Hester said she is excited to come back to the district she calls her “educational home.”

Q: What do you like about Cooper?
A: The people are awesome, I love the kids and the staff is great. It oozes that family atmosphere where kids know they are there to go to school. The warmth within the building is like no other.
Kids talk to each other and groups mix; they don’t isolate themselves. It’s a great opportunity to fill some big shoes, and to work with Mike [Favor] again because he will be my supervisor at the district office.
I want to grow Cooper into something bigger and better than it already is.

Q: Why do you consider District 281 your ‘educational home?’
A: It’s the people and the families. When you talk about staff who get it, and when you work with the large diverse community, you have people working together to do the best for the families and students of the district, regardless of who they are. That, to me, is just so critical in education.
Cooper is at 61 percent kids of color and 57 percent kids of poverty, you have to want to be there. You have to say ‘I signed up for this because I believe so much in the students in the building, and I want to make it the best I can.
Working at Hosterman and Highview really gave me an idea that this is what education is all about.

Q: How is your experience as associate principal of Cooper going to play into your new role?
A: I think the pre-established relationships that I have with staff are a huge deal. It’s a different role, being principal versus AP, but with staff and kids, it helps that they know who I am and where I’m coming from.
I’m hard, but I’m fair. It’s very important that kids know and understand what is expected of them. Our expectations are high and we’re going to hold them to that.
And if they don’t live up to that, we’re going to figure out how we get them there. We’re not just going to say ‘just do what you want to do,’ that’s not a part of the plan.
As an AP, I met with teams of teachers on a daily basis and the freshman class, when I was there, is now the senior class at Cooper, and they are leaving a legacy like non other.
We have built-in rigor at Cooper, but we’re going to give them the support they need to be successful.

Q: What can you say about Michael Favor?
A: What can’t I say? Mike came into the district when I was an AP at Robbinsdale Middle School, and I got to know him there.
He is a gentle giant. He is a man who understands what a building needs; from the adults down to the kids. He knows how to pull things out of people that they didn’t think were there, as far as full potential.
It’s not being critical about who students are, and critical of what they’re not doing. It’s about encouraging and acknowledging the good things and saying ‘hey, I love this, have you thought about that?’ And that’s the stuff that Mike does.
I’ll definitely be applying all that I learned from Mr. Favor.

Q: Where are some areas that you hope to improve at Cooper?
A: Every time I hear that question I say, ‘well, can I get there first?’ It’s a high school of 1,800 kids. You can talk about test scores all you want, it’s only snapshot of a day. But talking about the academic piece for kids and focusing on instruction and giving them the best possible.
That, to me, is an observation of teacher practice and classroom practice and seeing how we can make it better. Because, no matter where you go, classroom instruction has to get better, but that classroom gets better based on the relationship teachers build with kids.
When you ask ‘what is there to improve?” I think education and classroom instruction is always on the rise of improvement. And also, teachers working together and being more collaborative in what they do. And building a community of adult learners that trickles down into students being stronger learners. That’s probably where I’m first going to start.

 Q: What do you like about the leadership role of being principal at a school, what does it mean to you?
A: I love it because, as a classroom teacher, I found that I was effective. And when you’re effective and you’ve got 150 kids, its good. If I’m impacting 150 kids on a yearly basis, that’s pretty cool.
If you’re and administrator and you develop three teachers who have 150 kids, you just now impacted 450 kids indirectly because of the work you’ve done with teachers. That what I love about being a principal. It’s having an impact on adults and building them up as better educators and leaders to have an impact on their students.
Cooper has over 120 staff, so if I impact 10 of those people and they each have 150 kids, you do the math. It’s phenomenal. And it’s only because it’s about giving kids the access, the hope and a future about what they can be and what they want to grow to be.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I would say I’m one of those people who, if I don’t know you, introduce yourself. There are some people I do know, but I want to know everyone. I still have some connections with families, but I want new families to know not to be afraid of coming up to me.
I’m always open to meeting people and knowing faces. Don’t be shy, my door is always open.

Full Article

Enrollment Up Slightly in 281

June 28, 2012

From the Sun Post;

Enrollment was at 11,519 students in Robbinsdale District 281 schools on June 6, the last day of school, an increase of 69 students more than were enrolled on June 9, 2011. Dennis Beekman, District 281’s executive director of technology, on June 18 gave the last of his three annual enrollment reports to the School Board.

“We do monitor enrollment very carefully,” Beekman said. Elementary and high school enrollment is greater than 2010-11 levels, though middle school enrollment is less than last year, according to Beekman.

While midyear enrollment attrition rate was similar to 2010-11, the high school midyear attrition rate was “significantly lower,” Beekman said, primarily due to midyear enrollment option transfers.

Average daily membership exceeded the original 2011-12 enrollment projects by 1 percent, according to Beekman.

It’s so nice to not hear complaining about declining enrollment!

“The primary reasons for the variation are a slightly larger kindergarten and less midyear attrition than anticipated at the high schools,” he said. Whereas there was very little attrition at the elementary level and some reduction in middle school enrollment, there was more attrition at the two high schools, Beekman noted.

Mobility is still supposedly an issue;

Regarding mobility in the elementary schools, Meadow Lake in New Hope, Northport in Brooklyn Center and Lakeview in Robbinsdale had the highest rates of student turnover. Meadow Lake had a 25 percent mobility rate, Lakeview had 26 percent and Northport had 35 percent.

Secondary attrition rates were higher at Robbinsdale Middle School than a Plymouth Middle School, and also higher at Cooper High School than at Armstrong High School, according to Beekman.

Click here for full article

RMS Parents Want an Investigation

May 6, 2012

Here’s an interesting article from the Sun Post. It;s interesting how there is no author listed;

Parents who came to a Robbinsdale District 281 School Board Listening Hour April 16 provided disturbing input about serious discipline problems at Robbinsdale Middle School.

Some students are afraid to use the bathrooms during school hours. Others report being late to class because of disruptive and intimidating activities in the hallways. We’ve been told that teachers and students are subjected to verbal abuse and physical threats.

We strongly believe those reports need to be investigated immediately. Anytime there are 1,300 teenagers in a building, there will be discipline problems. But parents must have a reasonable expectation that when those teens are in a school building, there are teachers and administrators who know how to deal with those problems.

The reports given to three School Board members and three District 281 administrators at last week’s Listening Hour weren’t opening-day problems. Eight months into the school year, the problems persist.

These aren’t one or two isolated reports of discipline problems. There are too many similar reports, and they are too consistent to be ignored.

Parents have a right to expect that when their children are in school, they are safe. And teachers, too, should have an expectation that they are able to do their jobs without fear of bodily harm or gross disrespect from students at the school. That expectation was not borne out by the testimony parents gave last week.

Yes, it’s near the end of a school year, but that is no reason not to take immediate action. The problem is too serious to delay until another school year begins. Input should be solicited from people in the trenches – including students, teachers, aides, hall monitors, food service staff and custodians – and what they say should be taken seriously.

District 281 has dedicated itself to erasing the achievement gap and offering a variety of program choices to attract new students and bring back those who may have left the district. But all the glitzy new programs mean nothing if students are afraid to use the lavatory in school or are fearful of what will happen to them in the hallways. And the dedicated staff people who teach in those programs aren’t going to stick around in a district that does not value them enough to ensure their safety and well-being.

Students who cannot follow the rules and maintain respect for their school, its staff members and their peers need to experience the consequences of their actions, no matter who they are, how old they are or what school they attend.

District 281 needs to take immediate action to ensure that students follow school rules, and that there are immediate consequences for those who don’t.

Anything less is an affront to the community members who are supporting their schools with tax dollars and who have entrusted their young people to the care of educators and staff people they assume are trained professionals.

New York PC Police on the Warpath in Public Schools

March 28, 2012

From the usual government bureaucrats come this story out of New York;

War On Words: NYC Dept. Of Education Wants 50 ‘Forbidden’ Words Banned From Standardized Tests

Folks we are aren’t making this up! Here is the full story;

NYC Department of Education Story

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — George Carlin is rolling over in his grave. The New York City Department of Education is waging a war on words of sorts, and is seeking to have words they deem upsetting removed from standardized tests.

Fearing that certain words and topics can make students feel unpleasant, officials are requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests. The word “dinosaur” made the hit list because dinosaurs suggest evolution which creationists might not like, WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported. “Halloween” is targeted because it suggests paganism; a “birthday” might not be happy to all because it isn’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Julie Lewis’ family celebrates Christmas and Kwanzaa, but she told CBS 2′s Emily Smith she wants her children to appreciate and learn about other holidays and celebrations. “They’re going to meet people from all walks of life and they’re going to have to learn to adjust,” Lewis said. Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. “Poverty” is also on the forbidden list. That’s something Sy Fliegal with the Center for Educational Innovation calls ridiculous.

“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in their Mercedes … so what? You think our kids are going to be offended because they don’t have a Mercedes? You think our kids are going to say ‘I’m offended; how could they ask me a question about a Mercedes? I don’t have a Mercedes!’” Fliegal said.

In a throwback to “Footloose,” the word “dancing” is also taboo. However, there is good news for kids that like “ballet”: The city made an exception for this form of dance. Also banned are references to “divorce” and “disease,” because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

Some students think banning these words from periodic assessment tests is ridiculous. “If you don’t celebrate one thing you might have a friend that does it. So I don’t see why people would find it offensive,” Curtis High School Sophomore Jamella Lewis told Diamond.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE is simply giving guidance to the test developers. “So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct. This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests,” Walcott said Monday. To which Fliegal responded: “It’s all of life! I don’t know how they figure out what not to put on the list. Every aspect of life is on the list.” There are banned words currently in school districts nationwide. Walcott said New York City’s list is longer because its student body is so diverse.

Here is the complete list of words that could be banned:

Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)

Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs

Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)

Bodily functions

Cancer (and other diseases)

Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)


Children dealing with serious issues

Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)

Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)


Death and disease



Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes

Gambling involving money



Homes with swimming pools


Junk food

In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge

Loss of employment

Nuclear weapons

Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)





Rap Music


Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)

Rock-and-Roll music

Running away




Television and video games (excessive use)

Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)

Vermin (rats and roaches)


War and bloodshed

Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

So the solution to a better education is to ban birthdays, dinosaurs, Rock N’ Roll music, politics, Halloween? These are the idiots in charge of educating our kids. Just one more argument for vouchers, tax credits, and home schooling.

Education Minnesota Man Lyndon Carlson to Run Again!!!!

March 22, 2012

Bad news for education reform coming from the Sun Post;

State Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said last week he is seeking re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 45A. He will seek endorsement at the District 45 DFL convention on March 24.

After redistricting, District 45A includes parts of Crystal, New Hope, and Plymouth. First elected to the House in 1972, Carlson serves as the DFL Lead on the House Ways and Means Committee. He also serves on Capital Investment and Taxes.

Yes 1972! Richard Nixon was president! Elvis was alive! Barack Obama was 11!

A retired teacher, Carlson said education is one of his top priorities. 

Have you ever earned a private sector paycheck?

“Quality education is not only a right in our society, but also the most important responsibility we have to the next generation,” Carlson said.

A right? You have the right to the opportunity to get a great education but an education is earned! Yes it is earned!!!! And of course the DFL definition of a great education is more money, more money, more money!

“We must provide an educational system that prepares students with the skills and knowledge to excel in a rapidly changing world.”

Then instead of the “one size fits all public schools” why can’t we have vouchers and tax credits so we can go to school where we want and seek out the kind of education we want? Oh wait, we forgot; then your financial backers at Education Minnesota wouldn’t be in charge anymore would they Mr. Carlson? And it’s all about the children.

Carlson has maintained perfect attendance in every legislative session since being elected.

Isn’t showing up for work your job?

“My experience and leadership have provided the citizens of northwest suburban Hennepin County a strong and consistent voice at the State Capitol,” Carlson said. “I’d be honored to continue working for the residents of this district – and for all Minnesotans in the next legislative session.”

And we’d honored to throw you a retirement party!

Carlson and his wife, Carole, live in Crystal. They have three children and six grandchildren. He is a lifelong resident of the area and is a member of the board of directors of the Northwest YMCA in New Hope. Carlson received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Mankato State University and has done graduate work there and the University of St. Thomas.

Come 45A, elect someone else!!!!

Unions Flustered About Contracts

March 8, 2012

With the January 15 deadline to negotiate teacher contracts now gone, teacher unions are going nuts! From the Sun Post;

Beth Schultz, a kindergarten teacher at Earle Brown Elementary in Brooklyn Center, was scheduled to complete her master’s degree March 1. Normally teachers get raises when they finish advanced degrees. But Schultz doesn’t know if or when she’ll see that money. “My (students) are benefiting, but I’m not getting the recognition of financial compensation from that,” she said.

Like teachers in nearly half the school districts in Minnesota, Schultz has been working without a contract for eight months and counting. Because the state legislature last year eliminated the deadline for school districts to settle teacher contracts, there’s no sure end in sight. “I’m frustrated,” Schultz said. “I feel like we deserve a fair contract.”

And what would a fair contract be? Removing a deadline doesn’t mean a contract is unfair!

Teacher contracts, which are negotiated every two years, expired at the end of June. In the past, districts faced a financial penalty if they didn’t settle by Jan. 15. But not this year. According to Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, about 47 percent of the 338 districts in the state had not settled contracts as of Feb. 14, about a month after the usual deadline.

Schultz, a member of the negotiating team for the Brooklyn Center teachers union, was one of 47 teachers who came to the Feb. 13 board meeting to encourage board members to settle a contract soon. Brooklyn Center teachers aren’t the only ones trying to make their voices heard. As a sign of unity, nearly 500 teachers in the Minnetonka School District met school board members as they arrived at a work session Feb. 24.

Not surprisingly, Education Minnesota opposed the elimination of the negotiations deadline. In a Jan. 18 statement, the group’s president, Tom Dooher, called for its reinstatement. “When contract negotiations drag on, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the community,” he said.

Ahh, poor Mr. Dooher! Did you lose your leverage over districts and by definition the taxpayers? It’s funny how Education Minnesota wants local control yet they want an artificial deadline that benefits them!

But the Minnesota School Boards Association terms the Jan. 15 deadline artificial and says it makes negotiations unfair. “What the Jan. 15 deadline has done for years is really tilt the negotiations in favor of the teachers union,” said Greg Abbott, spokesperson for the school boards association.


Minnetonka Supt. Dennis Peterson agrees. “I think during these difficult times, for most school districts across the state of Minnesota, having the deadline taken away has been helpful in the whole process, because it created an artificial climate for negotiations,” Peterson said. Abbott said penalizing districts for missing the deadline hurt students more than anyone.

And we thought Education Minnesota only cared about the children!

Abbot also said it was sometimes difficult for districts to meet the Jan. 15 deadline because of uncertainty regarding their financial positions. Last year that challenge was exacerbated by the state government shutdown. According to Abbott, many districts didn’t negotiate during the summer because of the uncertainty.

“You can’t promise money if you don’t know if you’re going to get anything,” he said. Even in the absence of a government shutdown, school districts often don’t finalize the next school year’s budget until the end of June.

Brooklyn Center School Board Chair Cheryl Jechorek said it’s difficult to make promises to teachers without knowing what the budget will look like. That’s especially true in Brooklyn Center, which is struggling to climb out of statutory operating debt. The elimination of the deadline will help Brooklyn Center make more informed decisions. “It’s better for the district, but I understand it’s frustrating for teachers,” Jechorek said.

“You’ve got to negotiate with the resources that you have,” Abbott said. “So if your reserve is gone and the state gives you nothing, you’ve got to think twice before you start giving increases.” Teachers say they know times are tight for everyone.

“Our intent is not to drive the district further into debt,” said Scott Rykken, a science teacher at Brooklyn Center High School and a member of the negotiating team. But he said teachers are starting to feel unappreciated. “The longer it goes, the more we feel less valued,” he said.

Give us a break! You feel unappreciated with your defined pension and tenure? If you feel unappreciated then quit!

Peter Eckhoff, president of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, called drawn-out negotiations a “distraction.”

A distraction for who? Did you miss a few DFL fundraisers Mr. Eckhoff?

“As we sit in this unsettled state, there’s always a lot of questions about what will be the ultimate outcome,” he said. Ekhoff said people in the business community are often shocked that teachers and districts don’t have another contract in place before the original expires. He thinks the deadline gave at least some impetus to get a deal done in a timely manner. He suggested, however, that the state should consider an incentive for completing contracts on time rather than penalty for missing the deadline.

Although the Robbinsdale School District announced a tentative agreement with its teachers Feb. 17, pending school board approval, Eckhoff thinks the lack of a deadline slowed the process. “Historically we had been driven by (the Jan. 15) deadline to get our work done early,” he said. “This time it certainly wasn’t the same sense of urgency, at least that was my perception.”

Stephanie Crosby, executive director of human resources for Robbinsdale Schools, downplayed the effect of the change. “We went a couple of weeks over,” she said. “It wasn’t like we said, ‘We don’t have a deadline. Let’s not meet.’ … We did it as timely as possible.” Crosby said negotiators still came up with “a decent package that shows good-faith bargaining on both sides.”

You mean that’s possible without a deadline?

Jechorek offered similar sentiments. “We want it done too,” she said of the Brooklyn Center teacher’s contract. “(Our teachers) deserve whatever we can give them, but we have to live within our means. … We really want to treat them fairly.”But in many school districts it’s not clear when a fair settlement may come.

At least districts don’t have their backs against the wall!

RFT and 281 Reach Agreement

March 1, 2012

According to the sun post the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers and District 281 have reached a new two-year contract agreement;

Robbinsdale Area District 281 Schools and the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers announced Friday, Feb. 17, that they have reached tentative agreement on a new two-year contract. The 900 members of the federation, the Robbinsdale Area Schools teachers’ bargaining group, are working under a contract that expired June 30, 2011. Peter Eckhoff, president of the organization, said the tentative agreement will be presented to the group’s executive board and then to the full membership for ratification, hopefully by Feb. 29.
If the teachers ratify the agreement, the District 281 School Board tentatively is expected to consider final approval and full ratification of the two-year contract at its March 19 meeting. No details of the agreement will be released publicly until it is approved by the School Board, according to Eckhoff.

A spokesperson for Education Minnesota, the bargaining group representing teachers throughout the state, said last week that 178 of 338 school districts have settled their contracts thus far. Metro area school districts that have settled their two-year contracts as of Thursday, Feb. 16, include Anoka-Hennepin, Columbia Heights, Eden Prairie, Edina, Elk River, Fridley, Hopkins, Osseo, Richfield, Spring Lake Park and Wayzata.

Districts no longer are penalized by the state for failing to reaching contract agreements by Jan. 15. Contract settlements so far are averaging salary increases of 0.92 percent in the first year and 1.04 percent in the second year, according to the Education Minnesota spokesperson. Those figures do not include increases that go with seniority or increases in educational attainment.

The District 281 School Board on Feb. 6 approved a new two-year contract for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, Local 499, which includes office employees in District 281. The agreement, which is retroactive to July 1, 2011, includes a 1.25 percent wage increase in the first year, but no increase in the second year.

In addition to the RFT, the district still is negotiating with the Service Employees International Union, which includes separate contracts for bus drivers and custodians, and also with the child nutrition employees and principals bargaining groups.

Union employees in the bargaining groups have continued to work under the two-year contracts that expired June 30, 2011. All new two-year contract settlements will be retroactive to July 1, 2011.

School: Opposition to Gay Adoption is “Bullying”

January 18, 2012

Check out this from Fox News;

By Todd Starnes

A Wisconsin high school is in the middle of a free speech debate after they apologized for publishing a student essay opposing gay families who adopt children. School officials called the essay a form of “bullying and disrespect.”

The column ran on the editorial page of the Shawano High School student newspaper. It was part of an op-ed featuring a student supporting gay families who adopt children and one opposed to the idea. The student who opposed gay adoptions cited Bible passages that called homosexuality and sin punishable by death. “If one is a practicing Christian, Jesus states in the Bible that homosexuality is (a) detestable act and sin which makes adopting wrong for homosexuals because you would be raising the child in a sin-filled environment,” the student wrote.

You cited the Bible? Oh no, big mistake!

The school district profusely apologized after a gay couple – who has a child at the school – complained.

A couple? One couple?

“This is why kids commit suicide,” Nick Uttecht told the Green Bay Press Gazette. “When I saw this I was in shock.” The school district released a statement apologizing for the story. “Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future.”

Todd Carlson, the superintendent of the Shawano School District told Fox News & Commentary he was shocked by the article. “We do apologize,” Carlson said. “We have a responsibility as a school district to make sure we create a positive school climate and culture. This article probably didn’t go along with the policies and the guidelines and the practices that we have as a school district.”

But the school district only took issue with one of the opinion pieces – the one opposed to gays adopting children. That’s because Carlson said the essay is a form of bullying. “It is a form of bullying or disrespect to a group of people – that’s right,” he said. The school district did not comply with a request to read the entire essay – and they declined to say if the student who wrote the essay would be punished.

Really? Why don’t you release the entire essay and let us decide for ourselves if this is “offensive?”

“Our efforts have been placed to make sure that items of this nature don’t happen in the future,” Carlson told Fox News & Commentary. “We have this responsibility to create a positive environment for all.”

However, critics said removing the opinion piece is a form of censorship.

“I hope they won’t squash any political viewpoints because of this,” David Hudson, of the First Amendment Center told USA Today. “Bullying is a serious concern, and I don’t take it lightly. But I hope it doesn’t lead to squashing different viewpoints. I do think (gay adoption) is an issue people are deeply divided about. Hopefully, student journalists don’t have to fear they’ll be squashed if they take a controversial view.”

Trust us, they will only sensor speech if it offends one left-wing person.

Carlson told Fox News & Commentary this is not a case of censorship. “It is not a freedom of speech issue,” he said. “I know some are trying to make it that. It’s our policy that we are concerned about – not to create disrespect and bullying and harassment.”

Harassment? Opposing gay adoption is harassment? So if you don’t believe in gay adoption you are assumed to be a bully? Mr. Carlson you should be fired. Oh wait, you’re a public employee which means you’ll never be fired.

At least one university professor believes the school district did the right thing by apologizing for a student’s personal opinion. “To see something like this debated in the paper could be devastating,” Christine Smith, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay told USA Today.

So you’re not allowed to debate??

“How would you feel if someone said your family is abnormal, is not acceptable, that your parents never should have been allowed to have you, that they’re not suitable to raise you?”

Really “professor?” Why don’t you teach and NOT social engineer!

LAC-DFL Has 2012 Agenda

January 4, 2012

Well District 281’s DFL Party (aka Legislative Action Coalition) has their wonderful agenda for the 2012 legislative session.  Believe it or not, their agenda isn’t as redundant and horrible as usual.  We almost agree with them on a few issues!  There are, however, some serious red flags.

*The state must fully fund special education so that special education students are well served and resources are not diverted from the general fund.

Of course, we are asking for this for the 93rd straight year.  When are we going to realize that the state is not going to “fully fund” (and in 281 ‘s eyes that means automatic increases every year) before we drop this?

*The state should develop a plan to return to a 90-10 funding pattern and begin paying back the funds owed to schools without impacting current funding levels and set criteria for the reporting of the payback.

While we agree that the shift needs to be paid back, we aren’t sure that it’s possible to pay the shift back and have no impact (ie; not prevent increases in the general formula) on current funding.

3) The state must maintain its commitment to equitable and integrated learning environments as reforms are made to the integration revenue program.

Talk about “edu-speak!” Integrated learning? We know Integration aid was a hot topic last year, but we aren’t sure what the LAC is saying right here. What changes do we support? We’ve thrown integration aid at schools for 10 years and what do we have to show for it?

*Establish an equalized early learning levy to allow school districts to develop or expand school-based early childhood education programs and full-day kindergarten.

OK folks, now it gets serious.  Establish another levy? And, of course it’s for two of the three liberal obsessions; early childhood education and all-day kindergarten (the other being free and reduced lunch). This will be spun like every liberal “idea” as “helping kids in poverty” but no liberal programs ever seem to do that.  Why would anyone think forcing early childhood education and all-day kindergarten would change that?

*Like all other publicly elected bodies, school boards should be allowed to generate and spend financial resources to best meet local needs especially when state funding resources are limited.

What? Generate and spend financial resources to meet local needs? Read between the lines; they are asking for the ability to extend a referendum without a vote or the ability to have a discretionary levy, both items have been endorsed by the LAC-DFL before. We need to oppose this!! Once our right to vote is gone, these people aren’t going to give it back.

*Current policies and procedures of managing the school trust lands should be reformed to maximize the future revenues from these resources.

*RAS supports allowing locally elected school boards to determine their school calendar including setting the start date.

Now we support this, but we have to wonder why this is such a priority. Are there not more important things to advocate for then the start of school being the day after labor day?

*The state should use growth measures when reporting school and student performance. Growth measures are a more accurate indicator of a student’s and school’s performance and also support schools to improve individualized student instruction.

Again that all sounds good what where are the specifics? What should these growth measures be? What should be the standard? Usually districts like to celebrate “progress” when they do well and when they do poorly they’ll claim the standards are unfair.

Now let’s think about what they left out (and always do).

*Tenure reform

Tenure should be earned, not given to someone after three years. How do you have local control when you don’t have control over your staff. This is perhaps the WORST state mandate.

*Consolidate Districts

Do we really need 350 some odd districts? Can’t we consolidate anything. We could eliminate 25-50 districts and put that money right in the classroom without raising anyone’s taxes.

*Simplify the basic formula

Why is the formula so complex? Do you really need be an IRS agent just to figure out the basic funding formula?

*Pension reform

Pensions are unsustainable. We need to ween our way off them gradually in the public sector.

*Stop taking federal money

Sending your money to Washington and then having them send it back to us with strings attached is the dumbest way to fund anything. All states and districts do is complain, moan, and gripe about federal money so STOP taking it!!!

Let the legislative session begin!

District Defense of STEAM

December 31, 2011

Well, District 281 continues to use their well-oiled machine to pump it up for the new STEAM magnet school at Olson elementary.  Communications director Tia Clasen wrote this in the sun post last week;

As the administrator in charge of marketing and communications in the Robbinsdale Area Schools, I need to dispel some misconceptions about the Olson STEAM magnet so that our communities have the correct facts.

Misconceptions? Having the correct facts? People who oppose the magnet idea disagree with the concept, they aren’t ignorant of the facts!

Let me clarify: the financial model used for the STEAM magnet does require open enrollment. That should come as no surprise, as in order to create new programming, funding is needed, and rather than “take away from existing programs,” we wish to bring in new funding that comes with new students, or with students who may previously have attended schools other than Robbinsdale Area Schools.

Open enrollment is required?? We’ve been accused of making that up! I guess we were right!

The one-third number that is being conveyed doesn’t solely come from the new magnet. It is a ratio of the number of seats at that school that would be above and beyond the current open enrollment in the district and could be filled by new students coming to any school.

So the one-third number is right or wrong?

The financial model uses numbers that are in keeping with the current percentage of open-enrolled students in the district (approximately 10 percent).

Regarding the financial timeline, the district would begin to see revenue as a result of the STEAM magnet after year nine, using a very conservative financial model. Then the revenue enhancement increases, with an over $5.5 million revenue enhancement in year 14.

Of course, that’s assuming everything stays the same 14 years from now…..

Implying that we can continue to be an exemplary district by contracting within our own walls is simply not forward thinking. I personally don’t wish to “exist,” but to grow and continue to offer students the best possible education anywhere.

Who is implying that? We can’t be a good district unless we open another magnet? According to District 281 they are already the best at everything!

As both a former teacher and coordinator of magnet programs, a “school-within-a-school” model of programming, for STEAM specifically and at the elementary level, is not feasible nor what is best for students. I’m not sure how one assumes this can be done in a “school-within-a-school” model. Would kids be pulled out to learn STEM? If so, that’s not STEM education. Would the school pool their K-5 students together in a STEM classroom? If so, how would that work with such a vast difference in curriculum, age of students, and developmental level?

Wait a minute? Wasn’t the “school within a school option” presented by the district? If it wasn’t feasible, why was it ever mentioned as an option?

The development of a STEAM magnet at Olson Elementary School will provide options for families, and give new families the opportunity to experience the great things that Robbinsdale Area Schools has to offer.

Yes and remember choice is great as long as Robbinsdale provides it.  What if a charter school pushed the STEAM program and offered “choice to our area.” Would District 281 love that?

It will also have a direct effect on the learning across the district.

While I appreciate the opinions of others, this district is moving forward; it is innovative and fresh. Things are happening all across the district that is taking our students to the next level. We must jump on this train of fast-changing education for the benefit not only of our students, but our community members, our residents, and our students yet to come.

We are moving forward and you better get on board!

Tia Clasen is the marketing and communications program director for the Robbinsdale Area Schools.