School District 197 Superintendent Blog
Welcome to my blog! The purpose of the blog is to provide an avenue for communication with parents and community members. I will be sharing our progress in implementing the District Strategic Framework. Periodically I will also post photos and share news of special events that I attend in our schools.

Friday, April 4, 2014

May Referendum: Be Informed

Dear Friends and Families of School District 197,

As you know, our School Board has called for a special election to be held on Tuesday, May 6.  At that time voters will be asked two questions.  The first is whether to renew and increase our capital projects levy for technology to $1.7M annually, and the second on whether to purchase bonds totaling $11.2M to build an early learning center and fund security upgrades to our schools.

These three initiatives are closely linked to our strategic goals.  In fact, technology, early learning, and security impact each and every goal in one way or another.  Why is moving forward in early learning, technology, and school security so important?

Our students live in a highly connected world where technical literacy has become an essential 21st century skill.  In this digital age where information is instantaneous, global, and available 24/7, access should also be available in all classrooms 24/7.  Instruction is already changing.  We now have "flipped classrooms", and blended learning is increasingly common.
  • Devices allow for more personalized, self-directed learning.
  • The Internet provides more dynamic and up-to-date, interactive materials than a mere textbook can offer.
  • In order for students to use digital tools effectively, they need to learn how to connect, collaborate, create, and engage in learning that is relevant, contextual, and experiential.
  • Infrastructure is necessary in order to support the presence of digital tools that must be continually replaced and updated.
A computer will never replace a teacher, but it can replace a 50 pound backpack.  Nor will students be glued to a screen in a digital classroom.  On the contrary, teachers know the computer is only a tool and only as good as the instruction behind it.  Classrooms will still be filled with books and plenty of opportunities for hands-on, experiential, face-to-face learning, which we all know remain crucial for students.  

Early Learning
Early learning programs are growing in Minnesota and across the country.  Demand locally has grown as well.  This is no surprise given the strong evidence that supports the effectiveness of high quality programs. High quality early learning experiences provide dramatic academic and social/emotional benefits for students, in particular low-income students and students whose native language is not English.  We need to ensure programs and services are accessible to all students.  As our programs have grown, so has our K-12 student population. Building an early learning center:
  •  Allow the district to serve more students and provide a wider range of programming options.
  •  Allow us to centralize services and provide dedicated space, as well as provide more age-appropriate learning spaces.
  • Alleviate crowding at our elementary schools due to increases in K-12 enrollment of almost 400 students in just the last five years.
We remain committed to creating a welcoming experience for all school visitors.  We must, however, be conscientious in regard to what it takes nowadays to secure schools and protect students during school hours to the greatest degree possible.  We've developed a reasonable but prudent plan that will enable us to do several things:
  • Screen all visitors during school hours.
  • Allow staff to direct visitors to the proper location.
  • Minimize disruption to the school day.
  • Impede unauthorized visitors.
Information You Can Find at Your Convenience
Our district website has extensive information for voters on each ballot question.  In addition, you can find information on where and when to vote and a handy tool for finding your individual tax impact if you are a homeowner.  Information is being mailed to all households with a registered voter and should be arriving in approximately one week.

It is important to me that you have the information you need to vote on May 6.  Therefore, you are also invited to attend one of two community information sessions where you will have an opportunity to hear more ask questions.
  • April 8, 6:30 p.m., Heritage E-STEM Magnet School Cafeteria
  • April 22, 6:30 p.m., Henry Sibley High School (third floor)

Nancy Allen-Mastro