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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.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts / Pensamientos post-elecciones

I'd like to send a warm thank you to our community for voting to renew our operating levy in Tuesday's election.  I am grateful, for I know just how much this means to our school district's financial stability.  It will enable us to continue our strong emphasis on academic excellence and offer our students the kind of learning experience they deserve.

Amidst this excitement, we also found ourselves providing support to students after Tuesday's presidential election.  Like you, we are aware of the intensity of the political debate that has been underway for well over a year.  Students were listening to and observing the messages fostered by each of the campaigns.  On Wednesday, staff reported facing some tough questions from students and were called on to deal with sensitive, sometimes difficult, situations in which students expressed a wide range of emotions.  In response, they did their best to help students process the election outcome.  They tried to help students find their voice.  They also reinforced that schools are safe places where all are valued and respected.  

We do not take a political stand in our schools around party or platform.  We respect, and in fact honor, the democratic way in which we elect public officials.  We teach students about the process. We teach them to respect different points of view and to broaden their perspective by seeking knowledge and understanding.  We teach them how to resolve differences.  We are also deeply committed to equity and ensuring a safe and welcoming environment exists at all times for students and families, which includes guiding students in knowing how to express themselves respectfully and in a manner that does not harm or disparage others.

This is a teachable moment at school, and at home.  I urge parents and other adults to talk with students about our democracy, the importance of elections, and the ways in which we can engage with one another positively and productively to solve problems and create a better future for all.  Let's be good role models.  Our students emulate the way in which we as adults engage with each other.   

I am proud to be your superintendent, and I am proud to live in this great country.  Even at a time when we seem divided as a people, I know we stand together in cherishing our children and wanting what is best for them.  Even when we disagree, I know we can find ways to talk with one another and find common ground.  Let's do that.  If adults move forward with hope, healing, and a generous spirit towards all, then so will our children.

Sincerely,

Nancy Allen-Mastro, Superintendent

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197

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Me gustaría enviar un cálido agradecimiento a nuestra comunidad por votar para renovar nuestra contribución de operaciones en las elecciones del martes. Estoy agradecida, porque sé lo mucho que esto significa para la estabilidad financiera de nuestro distrito escolar. Nos permitirá continuar con nuestro fuerte énfasis en la excelencia académica y ofrecer a nuestros estudiantes el tipo de experiencia de aprendizaje que se merecen.

En medio de esta alegría, también nos encontramos proporcionando apoyo a los estudiantes después de las elecciones presidenciales del martes. Al igual que ustedes, estamos conscientes de la intensidad del debate político que se ha estado llevando a cabo durante más de un año. Los estudiantes estuvieron escuchando y observando los mensajes promovidos por cada una de las campañas. El miércoles, el personal informó que hubo que enfrentar algunas preguntas difíciles de los estudiantes y tuvieron que lidiar con situaciones delicadas, a veces difíciles, en las que los estudiantes expresaron una amplia gama de emociones. En respuesta, hicieron todo lo posible para ayudar a los estudiantes a procesar el resultado de la elección. Intentaron ayudar a los estudiantes a encontrar su voz. También reforzaron que las escuelas son lugares seguros donde todos son valorados y respetados.

No tomamos una postura política en nuestras escuelas sobre un partido o una plataforma. Respetamos, y de hecho honramos, la forma democrática en que elegimos a los funcionarios públicos. Enseñamos el proceso a los estudiantes. Les enseñamos a respetar diferentes puntos de vista y a ampliar su perspectiva buscando conocimiento y comprensión. Les enseñamos cómo resolver las diferencias. También estamos profundamente comprometidos con la equidad y con asegurar que un ambiente seguro y acogedor existe en todo momento para los estudiantes y las familias, lo que incluye guiar a los estudiantes a saber expresarse respetuosamente y de una manera que no perjudique ni menosprecie a los demás.

Este es un momento de aprendizaje en la escuela y en casa. Insto a los padres y a otros adultos a hablar con los estudiantes sobre nuestra democracia, la importancia de las elecciones y las maneras en que podemos comprometernos positivamente y productivamente para resolver los problemas y crear un futuro mejor para todos. Seamos buenos modelos. Nuestros estudiantes emulan la manera en que nosotros como adultos nos relacionamos.

Estoy orgullosa de ser su superintendente, y estoy orgullosa de vivir en este gran país. Incluso en un momento en que parecemos divididos como pueblo, sé que estamos unidos para valorar a nuestros hijos y querer lo que es mejor para ellos. Incluso cuando no estamos de acuerdo, sé que podemos encontrar maneras de hablar unos con otros y encontrar un terreno común. Vamos, hagamos eso. Si los adultos avanzamos con esperanza, sanidad y un espíritu generoso hacia todos, entonces también lo harán nuestros hijos.

Sinceramente,

Nancy Allen-Mastro, Superintendente


Follow me on Twitter @Supt197


Friday, November 4, 2016

Financial Stability. Academic Excellence.

District 197 has a lot to be proud of.  Highly qualified teachers, dedicated support personnel, and a committed and supportive community wrap their arms around our students every day.  When these forces come together around a common vision, great things happen for kids.

In the general election on November 8th, we are asking voters to approve the renewal of an operating levy that was first passed in 2007. A second operating levy passed in 2011.  Since the community's approval of these two levies, we have been able to achieve a level of financial stability that the district has not seen in years.  This has been followed by visible increases in academic excellence.

First and foremost, student achievement is trending upward.  Scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) have risen steadily over the past four years. Districtwide, science scores are up by 3.6%.  Reading scores are up by 4.5%, and math scores are up by 7.6%.  Our scores exceed that of our comparable suburban districts in the Twin Cities by as much as 10 percentage points.

Stakeholder satisfaction has also increased for the third straight year in a row, as measured in our annual stakeholder survey conducted by the Morris-Leatherman Company.  In 2016, we saw the following gains:  

  • 92% of residents feel the community receives a good value for its investment in its public schools (up from 82% in 2014; 87% in 2015).
  • 93% of residents are proud of District 197 schools and would recommend them to friends (up from 77% in 2014; 84% in 2015).
  • 94% of residents trust the school board to do what is right for students (up from 84% in 2014; 87% in 2015).
  • 98% of residents feel District 197 provides a safe and secure environment for students (up from 87% in 2014; 91% in 2015).
When measuring parent satisfaction, those ratings run even higher.  More details on our results can be found here

More students are earning college credit in more classes offered right here at Henry Sibley High School, which in turn saves families thousands of dollars in tuition.  Since 2012, we have nearly tripled the number of students taking at least one course for college credit, such as Advanced Placement, College in the Schools, Project Lead the Way, or Post-Secondary Enrollment Options. While student achievement itself is cause for significant celebration, credit earned in University of Minnesota College in the Schools courses last year alone saved families more than $350,000 in tuition!

Eleven students were recognized this fall by the National Merit Scholarship Program for academic achievement, the most students in recent history.  Of those, two were named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists.  One of our finalists even earned a perfect score on his ACT test.  Ninety (90) students were recognized recently as Advanced Placement (AP) Scholars by the College Board for achievement on AP tests last spring.

We are fortunate to have been able to make important investments in some key program areas in recent years.  This includes increasing access to academic interventions for students who need additional support.  We've invested in our K-12 music program and our gifted and talented program. We have added school counselors for students in grades K-12, and we've designed a schedule for learning at our middle schools.  More recently, we have begun to make significant strides towards personalizing learning in a way that will both individualize instruction to meet the unique learning needs of all students and engage them in problem-solving, teamwork, and other high-level skills that will better prepare them to be ready for the career or college of their choice upon graduation.

When added up, these things lead to increasingly higher levels of excellence and achievement.  I've no doubt that our momentum will continue well into the future. As a school district, we may be small, but we are mighty.  Never doubt what our students are capable of and what we can accomplish together.

Please vote on November 8th.  To become more fully informed about our levy renewal request, please visit our district website.  

Proud to be your superintendent,

Nancy Allen-Mastro

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197