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, September 23, 2016

Levies Are for Learning

In District 197, we are fortunate to have two 10-year operating levies that support learning.  One was passed in 2011; another was passed in 2007.  School District 197 depends on both levies to help pay for the basic learning needs of students, including academic programming, books and supplies, teacher and staff salaries, and other operating expenses.  On November 8th, we will be asking voters to renew the 2007 levy for another 10 years.   Renewing the levy will help us maintain current programs and services and ensure continued support for academic achievement and innovation.

The 2007 levy, which expires in 2017, provides $5.2M in funding above and beyond the basic per pupil aid funding from the state of Minnesota, which is eight percent of our annual general fund operating budget.  This is equivalent to the annual budget to run one of our middle schools.

With these levies, we have been able to invest in our education program in recent years.  We've expanded K-12 music and gifted and talented programming, and we've revamped the middle school schedule to better support fifth and sixth grade students.  We also added deans at the middle schools.  Recently we expanded the number of K-12 school counselors by staffing a full-time counselor at each elementary school and adding counselors at the secondary schools to increase support for career guidance and college planning.

We have also been able to invest in our co-curricular program. For example, in 2014 we joined forces with the cities of West St. Paul and Mendota Heights to renovate and upgrade the John V. Hoene Ice Arena in West St. Paul, extending the facility's life for another 20 years and ensuring home ice for our boys' and girls' hockey programs.

Our levies for learning have ensured a more stable revenue stream for District 197 schools by including an annual inflationary increase based on calculations determined by the Minnesota Department of Education.  The inflationary increase ensures the value of the levy amount remains constant over the duration of the levy period. The inflationary adjustment each year is critical, especially when considering that while the state legislature has increased funding for schools in Minnesota, the increases in the per pupil amount have not kept pace with inflation.  You can see this reflected in the chart below.

Local levies make up for shortages in state aid, plain and simple, because communities want more for their students than what state monies can provide.  Our community is no different.  We want the best for our students.

We also believe we operate our schools resourcefully.  Our community agrees.  In our 2016 annual stakeholder survey conducted by the Morris-Leatherman Company, 92% of respondents stated they feel the community receives a good value for its investment in its public schools.  We also know that the total tax impact on households in District 197 is lower than any of our neighboring districts and those whom we often compare ourselves to in terms of size.  You can see the comparisons in the chart below.

I hope this information is helpful.  I urge you to become further informed.  In addition to direct mailings, we have a variety of information meetings and webinars occurring between now and November.  You can access these dates and other important information on our district website at  I hope to see you soon!


Nancy Allen-Mastro

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197

Friday, September 2, 2016

Come talk with us!

It's back to school, and we're ready! Our buildings and grounds crew have our schools in tip top shape, and teachers returned this week to a full slate of professional development opportunities. It promises to be another outstanding year in District 197.

As the year gets underway, I would like to encourage you to get three important dates on your calendar. Each year, we provide opportunities for our parents and community members to engage in dialogue around our Strategic Framework and the six goals that have been identified by our school board as priorities for growth and development. We do this in a series of three discussions throughout the year that are open to all staff and members of the community.  Anywhere from 50 to 100 people have attended past discussions.

In these community-wide strategy team meetings, we discuss key aspects of select initiatives.  I would like to invite you to three conversations we have planned.  The three dates and related topics are as follows:

September 19, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
January 10, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
March 16, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Presentation:  Annual World’s Best Workforce Report
Breakout discussions:
  • K-12 math review
  • Parent academy
  • Adaptive curriculum resources
  • Elementary 1:1 rollout
  • TriDistrict Career and College Readiness Initiative
  • Universal preschool design

Topic:  E-12 Required and Elective Offerings
Breakout discussions:
  • What are the essential required courses all students should have in order to graduate career or college ready?
  • What elective courses should be offered to ensure students graduate career or college ready?
  • Designing flexible learning spaces
  • TriDistrict career pathway options
  • Preschool class offerings
Topic:  Personalized Learning Vision

Breakout discussions:

  • Emerging models in District 197
  • Strategic Framework:  Next Steps

As a token of our appreciation, we will provide you with a light supper at 5:00 p.m. prior to the meeting.  Child care and translation services are also provided upon request.  We just need you to sign up so we can plan accordingly for all who will be attending. Simply click here to register.  Although you are welcome to attend one or two meetings, we encourage attendance at all three if possible so that the conversation is ongoing.

I hope you will join us for this unique dialogue with our community.  Gathering a wide range of input into these topics help to ensure we are advancing programs in a way that meets our community’s needs and expectations.  Your presence and input will be greatly appreciated by all.


Nancy Allen-Mastro

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197