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, June 6, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Dear Friends and Families of District 197,

June has arrived and with it the last week of school.  Students are gone and summer vacation is officially underway.  It has been an exciting year, and I hope you have been pleased with the programs and opportunities afforded your child.

The 2013-14 school year was marked by many accomplishments.  Scroll through the District Facebook page since last September and you will see time and time again where we celebrated the success of students and staff. Numerous recognitions have taken place at our schools, and in any given week one could attend a wide range of celebrations marking academic, athletic, artistic, and creative excellence.

We've had our disappointments too.  We proposed a technology levy and building bond that would have built an early learning center and improved school security.  Although both questions failed on the May referendum ballot, we alerted our public to these critical needs.  These needs have not gone away.  We've spent the last month listening to our voters and collecting feedback in a post-election analysis.

On May 31st the school board and I spent the day reflecting on how to best move forward.  A couple of things seem likely.  First, we will explore leasing options for early learning space.  We are experiencing significant growth.  In November we shared our enrollment projections with you. Enrollment growth is occurring at the same time our early learning program is growing.  School districts are no longer K-12 institutions; we serve children from birth to age 21.  Early learning is as critical a program as kindergarten or 8th grade. It is no longer a nice to have, it is a must have that we need to find space for.  Our families demand it, plus it makes good educational sense.  Early learning is central to closing the achievement gap, and it is central to preparing children to enter kindergarten ready to learn and progress at a steady rate.

The second thing that is likely is that we will resubmit the technology levy and the security proposal to voters for approval.  Our technology levy expires this year.  Of the 1.7 million annually that was proposed, 1.1 million was just to sustain what is currently in place.  The loss of our technology levy would severely cripple our ability to maintain the current infrastructure and number of devices we already have.  An increase will also help us bring a level of equity to all buildings so that access to technology is not a function of which school you happen to attend in the district but is provided to all our students. We did, however, hear our voters, and we have identified some ways to scale back the technology levy based on suggestions we have heard.

Security remains a critical need as well.  We don't anticipate making any changes to the security proposal.  We cannot afford to do less than what was proposed to make our entrances more secure. Our feedback indicates there was strong support for the initiative.

We have not decided when we would resubmit these proposals to voters, but it could be as early as this fall during the general election.  We will keep you informed.

As we have deliberated over these questions, we've also decided to examine the feasibility of moving Matson Field to the Henry Sibley campus. You may recall last January that stadium advocates in the community submitted a petition to the school board asking that the stadium be on the May ballot. The school board felt more time was needed before such a question could be put to voters. Because we are considering another school district ballot, we want to give this request serious consideration as we promised we would.  To that end, this week I have invited community leaders to be part of an advisory committee to examine the feasibility of moving the stadium.

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in this discussion, making for a busy summer.  The discussion is time-sensitive as we explore whether a fall referendum is in the best interest of students and programs.  Be sure to watch our progress on our district website.  We will do our best to keep you informed.
In closing, thank you for choosing District 197.  We hope we have met your expectations this year and that your children have thrived. We are committed to their growth and development, even in the summer.  Be sure to take a look at our programs in community education where I am sure you can find something for everyone.

Most of all, please enjoy your time as a family.  Minnesota is a special place in the summer, and I hope you will enjoy the grandness of nature and all it has to offer. And don't forget to read as many good books as you can.  I know what's on my summer reading you?


Nancy Allen-Mastro