Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Beauty of a Community

Sweet! The title of this article got you to click on it. So, now that you are here, I encourage you to read ahead. While we are talking about community as defined by Merriam-Webster, I shall provide said definition.

"A unified body of individuals: such as, the people of common interests living in a particular area."

It is quite clear the common interest of those living in the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District and beyond is the school district. People from all over donated silent auction items and other outstanding door prizes for our Bulldog Night Out (#bulldognightout). Attendance of supporters at this event was humbling. I, personally, couldn't be more proud to lead this district. In addition, I am thankful my own children attend a district filled full of outstanding educators and supportive adults.

A special shout out goes to the Bulldog Backers. What an amazing group of volunteers lead by President Holly Oliver. As a district, we are overjoyed by the commitment of this group of supporters. These folks put in a lot of time to ensure Bulldog Night Out was an absolute success. To put it boldly the event was a paramount success!

Here is a rundown of all the activities involved in our special Bulldog Night Out.
  • Silent Auction Items
  • Raffle for Jewelry
  • Pick of the Litter Raffle
  • Entertainment - Which many of our staff members provided through music and comedy.
  • Beverage Tasting
  • Appetizers
  • Collection of Monetary Donations
  • Securing a Venue and Date
There are so many people to thank for this event that I won't attempt to do so in fear of forgetting someone. With that said, thank you to those that organized the event, donated in some way, provided entertainment and came to support the event. You are all amazing and make JWP a beautiful community.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Where are we going?

School districts throughout the United States work consistently to develop strategic plans to provide direction for their learning organizations. Typically there are diverse stakeholders involved in the development of said plans. Our district participated in this process about five years ago and we landed on a great product that includes our current mission statement.

"Our district will empower learning, energize achievement and enhance community. Excellence without excuse."

As a result of this work, our school district has made positive progress in several areas. With anything, there are still areas of concern and we are honed in on problem solving. We want to increase our achievement results in all areas and improve graduation rates. This district is full of committed professionals that are improving their professional practice to enhance student learning.

We have this process down and have mastered our oversight of the plan. However, we are missing one important piece of the puzzle and I cannot believe we overlooked it. Thanks to my good friend Dennis Laumeyer, superintendent of the Benson Public School District, the puzzle piece was found. We don't have any strategic directions over our activities programming. This work will begin soon.

Our activities programs allow our students to participate in things they are passionate about and to learn lifelong skills that they do not learn in the academic arena. I firmly believe that we should have a plan in place that works to improve our overall programming in this area. So, what's the game plan?

I recently contacted Bruce Miles of the Big River Group to discuss an effective process to gather input and ideas to develop a plan. He is working on getting me pricing. From that point, we'll give the go ahead to our Activities Director to begin this work with the assistance of the Big River Group. We are excited to provide direction to the overall activities program!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Recent Call to Action

Every now and again you're pitched a curveball with very little time to respond. On Tuesday, March 7th school districts across Minnesota were provided information that recent long-term facilities maintenance (LTFM) legislation could be in jeopardy. Thankfully, this curveball was hit out of the park.

LTFM was provided in recent legislation as a way to equalize facilities funding. This new revenue stream has provided districts like Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton the ability to address ongoing facilities issues. As many of our constituents are aware, we will set out to address major safety concerns on our athletic facilities utilizing this funding source. As you might imagine, talk of eliminating LTFM drew major concerns from this school district.

In a call to action, we are asked to contact our legislatures to explain the impact to our school district. The following communication was sent to local legislatures and legislative leaders.

First and foremost, thank you for the work you do on behalf of Minnesotans each and everyday. I realize you folks have a difficult job ahead of you and appreciate your willingness to listen to the people of Minnesota. Your work is sincerely appreciated.

It has been brought to my attention that House leaders are considering cutting Long Term Facilities Maintenance (LTFM) revenue in preliminary budget plans. This may or may not be accurate. With that said, the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District along with many other districts in rural MN would be negatively impacted by this action.

I can only speak for my school district. We have waited for many years to address maintenance problems in the school district due to the lack of funding for such issues. We were NOT going to cut from the classroom to make repairs and improvements. With the passage of LTFM our district was provided the opportunity to make these repairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

We are one of those districts that have bonded to pay for work that will be completed this spring. The revenue generated from the LTFM would be used to pay off the bond over a period of years. The JWP School District does not receive any equalization aid from the State due to current legislation. All revenue generated comes directly from our local taxpayers. With that said, we had our truth in taxation meeting in December with max authority being approved. Our taxpayers received their statements of the impact of this levy in advance. We had zero constituents in attendance voicing concerns.

I urge all of you to consider the negative impact this will have on school districts and students. Please do not consider eliminating LTFM or capping it. We are thankful for LTFM and our students and community will benefit from our improvements.

In closing, thank you for listening and all that you do for Minnesotans. Best of luck throughout the remainder of this legislative session.

As a result of unified communication from school districts throughout the state, our legislatures have informed advocacy groups that they are no longer considering negative adjustments to LTFM. This Call to Action was a success!