Thursday, February 19, 2015

Capitol Visit Update

On February 18, 2015 I traveled with three other superintendents from rural Minnesota to St. Paul.  We set up a pretty aggressive agenda to meet with our local legislatures as well as education leaders.

We met with the following legislatures:

Rep. Mary Murphy – Education Finance DFL Lead
Rep. Peggy Bennett – Education Innovation Policy Vice Chair
Rep. Ron Kresha – Education Finance Vice Chair
Rep. Jenifer Loon – Education Finance Chair (met with her conference aide)
Rep. Sondra Erickson – Education Innovation Policy Chair (canceled)
Sen. Charles Wiger – Education Committee Chair
Sen. Alice Johnson – Education Committee Vice Chair (canceled)
Sen. Julie Rosen – Local Senator
Rep. Tony Cornish – Local Representative
Sen. Sean Nienow – Education Committee Ranking Minority Member
Rep. Carlos Mariani – Education Innovation DFL Lead

The topics we discussed were as follows:

Additional Money on the Formula – As a district we would like to see more money added to the formula so that we can use discretion as to what it is spent on.  We do not need any added mandates with earmarked financial allocation or unfunded mandates.

Access to Alternative Facilities Funds to Maintain Buildings – The largest 25 metropolitan districts have access to alternative facilities funds to maintain their buildings.  Rural Minnesota districts are not allowed access to these funds.  In order for us to properly maintain our buildings we would like to see equitable treatment in this area.

Teacher Shortage – Reality has set in and we are facing a teacher shortage in several areas of education.  The State of Minnesota must do something to attract and retain people to education.  One of the first steps they could consider is to revise the Minnesota Teacher License Exam (MTLE) to make it more realistic for folks to pass.  In addition to this, the State of Minnesota should consider and embrace more alternative pathways to licensure.  Creating reciprocity with neighboring states would also help attract people to Minnesota.  Lastly, we need to be provided a decent increase to the funding formula so that we may provide our teachers with acceptable income. 

Local Control over the School Calendar – Districts in the State of Minnesota need to be given local control over their learning year.  Each individual district should have the right to work with their students, families and communities to create a school calendar that fits their needs.  Right now, school districts are required to wait until after Labor Day to commence the new academic year. 

If you would like to discuss this information at greater length, I encourage you to contact me through the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton District Office at 507.234.5181.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Crossing Guards

For many years the Trinity Lutheran School (TLS) has provided outstanding crossing guards for our students to cross main street and 4th street.  They have always done an outstanding job to ensure our students from TLS and JWP make it to their destination safely.

Citizens have asked why we do not have crossing guards at main street and 3rd street.  In a distant past, there were crossing guards there but with the restructuring of our district they were eliminated.  Now that we house all students in the Janesville building, we have started exploring ways to bring those crossing guards back.

Mr. Erler has worked diligently in researching the process of providing crossing guards.  He has contacted TLS, the Janesville Police Department, the Janesville American Legion and others to begin developing a plan of action to bring the crossing guards back.  It is always our priority to ensure the safety of our students, families, and staff.  When final details are developed and implementation is imminent, we will be sure to communicate with all of you.  Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

A Path to Eliminating Paperwork for our Families

Over the past three years at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton I have heard from many of our families that the amount of paperwork they fill out at back to school conferences is exhausting.  This year, we have started studying various ways to eliminate some of the paperwork families are asked to complete.

To start the study off, I emailed superintendents in the area to share their processes for back to school registration.  I have gathered this information and compiled it into a database.  Recently, the elementary secretary, elementary principal and myself met to go over the paperwork we have families fill out.  From there, we have identified what paperwork can be eliminated.  What we have realized is that an abundance of the paperwork filled out is already listed in Infinite Campus, our student information system.  However, some of this information is not housed in Infinite Campus.  We have contacted Infinite Campus to find out if there is a way we can have new script written so that families do not have to continuously provide information we should already have.

Our hope is to provide an efficient process that will meet the needs of our families, students, faculty and the Minnesota Department of Education.  As always, we take feedback from our families seriously and are always looking for ways to improve our processes.  Thank you for providing us feedback to ensure we are on the path of continuous improvement.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Governor Dayton's Initial Budget Released (Specific to Education)

Governor Dayton recently released his budget for the State of Minnesota.  On Tuesday, January 27th the Commissioner of Education provided superintendents in the state with a summary of how the budget may impact education.  This blog will highlight the information and will provide an initial synopsis of how this may impact the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District.  We are still early in this legislative session and the Governor's budget may look different when an omnibus bill is passed and signed by the Governor.

Governor Dayton has proposed a 1% increase each year to the per pupil funding formula over the course of the two years in the upcoming biennium.  This would raise the per pupil funding formula from $5,831 per pupil in 2015 to $5,948 in 2017.  Although two percent over two years is appreciated, it is not enough.  The Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District needs more money added to the formula to continue our pursuit of excellence.

Presently Minnesota is facing a teacher shortage.  In order for us to attract future college graduates to our profession and to keep those here committed, we need to be able to provide a competitive compensation package.  A two percent increase is not enough to attract folks to the education profession and to keep those here committed.  Iowa has recognized this need and their senate recently approved a four percent increase for each of the next two years for education.  You can read this approval by clicking here.

Governor Dayton proposed $109 million over the next biennium to expand public pre-kindergarten education statewide.  We know early education positively impacts student achievement as pointed out in this article.  However, there are unique challenges when opportunities such as this arise.  We will have a need for additional space and teachers.  JWP has made some changes to the building structure to accomodate potential additions.  However, it is difficult to find preschool teachers and our state has rigorous expectations to be licensed.  If this is to pass, we need additional facilities funding and alternative pathways for teacher licensure.

19.4 million has been allocated to eliminate the Head Start waiting list.  At first blush our district is not on this waiting list and would not benefit from this additional funding.  Instead of eliminating the waiting list, we would prefer this money be dispersed to districts for facilities use so that we can expand early childhood programming.

Governor Dayton has proposed 28.1 million to pay for breakfast for PreK-3rd grade students.  It is without doubt that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  However, for the JWP school district, this is not necessarily a priority.  Many of our students have a nutritious breakfast before they arrive at school.  Families also have an opportunity at free or reduced meal prices for breakfast and lunch from the federal government and some from our state government.  Funding for breakfast may not be necessary for our district.

In closing, Governor Dayton has been and continues to be an advocate for education.  His budget has the absolute best intentions for students in mind.  However, we believe his allocation of financial resources can be distributed differently.

It is my job to continually advocate for the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District.  On Wednesday, February 18, 2015 I will be in St. Paul advocating for our specific needs.  I have the following schedule in place to meet with legislative leaders working to provide for the students of Minnesota.

9:00 AMRep. Mary MurphyState Office Building - 343Cassandra651.296.2676Education Finance DFL Lead
9:15 AMRep. Peggy BennettState Office Building - 507Nick W. 651.296.8216Education Innovation Policy Vice Chair
10:00 AMRep. Ron KreshaState Office Building - 531Lisa651.296.4247Education Finance Vice Chair
12:00 PMRep. Jenifer LoonState Office Building - 449Tim Smith651.296.7449Education Finance Chair
12:15 PMRep. Sondra EricksonState Office Building - 479Ethan651.296.6746Education Innovation Policy Chair
1:00 PMSen. Charles Wiger & Sen. Alice JohnsonCapitol Building - 205Katelyn Snyder/Marie651.296.6820/2556Education Committee Chair & Vice Chair
1:15 PMLunchCapitol Basement
2:00 PMSen. Julie Rosen/Rep. CornishState Office Building STE155 139Jessica/Simon651.296.5713/4240Local Senator - District 23 and Local Rep.
2:30 PMSen. Sean NienowState Office Building - 105Andy651.296.5419Education Committee Ranking Minority Member
3:30 PMRep. MarianiState Office Building - 203Jamal651.296.9714Education Innovation Vice Chair DFL Lead

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me directly via the contact information below.

With Highest Regards,
Bill Adams, Superintendent