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Boreal Community Media

I.S.D. 166 and GES agree on “educational pillars” for area students

Mar 23, 2018 06:07AM ● By Editor
Toby Anderson, 4th grade, read his School Service essay to the school board at their March 15 meeting. “School Service is helping people, young and old. It is about wanting to help people. I am a school crossing guard and everyone is safe crossing the roads. I smile and wave at them to give them a better day. My other crossing guard friends also help others. Knowing I am helping others makes me feel good too. When I have been just a person crossing, the guard was friendly and made me feel better. Being a crossing guard is my first step forward to becoming a police officer.” Staff photo/Brian Larsen

By Brian Larsen of The Cook County News Herald - March 23, 2018

The I.S.D. 166 March 15 meeting opened with a long list of public comments on a variety of issues.

Three people, Denny Fitzpatrick, Rena Rogers, and Greg Gailen spoke about the positive impact the recently held daylong social justice conference had on students at I.S.D. 166. Becky Bartol and Devlin Duvall came before the board asking the board to approve a part-time communication position for the school. That position would be discussed later in the meeting.

Grand Portage Oshki Ogimaag Charter School Director of Education Maria Burnett came before the school board and told them that for the first time in a very long time the school was in concurrence with goals set between the school district and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “We will continue to keep working on it,” said Burnett. 

Educational pillars

With Great Expectations School (GES) Director Peter James in attendance, I.S.D. 166 superintendent Dr. William Crandall announced that I.S.D. 166 and GES school boards had earlier in the week approved a statement in support of educational excellence for the county.

According to Dr. Crandall, “The shared values and purposes highlight the efficiencies, priorities, and connections that are important as we each use funds to accomplish our goals. Because many families have students who attend each setting over time, we wanted to provide a framework that helps our respective school boards during decision-making, so that the best interest of all students is kept at the forefront.

“We also see it as a formal expression of our intention that survives current boards, administrators, or staff to create continuity and clarity independent of circumstances or personalities.”

GES Director Peter James added, “The statement doesn’t mean we want to combine schools, relinquish our independent boards, or become more similar and it doesn’t compel an organization to compromise its programs, uniqueness or culture for the benefit of another. 

“Rather, it clarifies the commonalities in our operations, because we are all working to bring about many of the same changes, conditions, and outcomes for education and our community. It prompts us to make decisions in an intentional way, considering the best balance of all the things we values.”

The statement of shared educational pillars listed six points, the last comment, “We believe that education is enriched when programs include a variety of supplemental, alternative, and individualize opportunities for learning. We agree to act in ways that encourage, integrate, and develop relationships with community partners, including individuals and organizations that enhance the educational experience of students.”

Going forward, said Dr. Crandall, the school boards of Oshki Ogimaag in Grand Portage and Birch Grove Community School in Tofte would each consider the educational pillars statement at their upcoming board meetings.

“We are here because we want the best for our county’s children,” said I.S.D. school board chair, Sissy Lunde, “and we want our communities to know we are working together to make that happen.”

As quoted in the statement, GES school board chair Carolyn Fritz added, “We are inviting and supporting partnership with community organizations whose missions and values align with our own, and we are open to exploring new opportunities as technology, or other circumstances present them.” 

School goals

During a discussion about goals, Dr. Crandall said the school board had the option of following the recommendation of the teachers who have voiced their support for the current administrative structure and personnel, or the board could advertise for an assistant principal, an interim position now held by Mitch Dorr.

Board chair Sissy Lunde said she felt that the board should follow protocol and advertise for the position. But she added that she thought Mr. Dorr was doing an excellent job in his new role.

Currently, the school has a K-12 principal (Dr. DeWitt), a part-time superintendent shared with Silver Bay and Two Harbors (Dr. Crandall) and interim principal Mr. Dorr.

After some discussion, the board decided to hold a special meeting on March 24 to decide whether or not to take the interim tag off of Mr. Dorr and to stick with the current make-up of the administration. They were also meeting to vote on culinary arts and science room bids and to approve a bus purchase. 

Social Justice Conference

Megan Rubbelke and Julie Bishop, who headed up the Diversity Committee, gave an update about the Social Justice Conference held March 9 for students 6-12. 

The conference was held to improve both social cohesion and the freedom to interact in ISD 166 without fear of prejudice or discrimination. The goal was to foster students’ voice, generate a greater understanding of how identity influences individual experiences, and to provide the opportunity for students to engage in critical conversations while maintaining respect and accountability.

Students discussed and explored the topics of race, identity, gender, privilege, justice, and culture.

Rubbelke said former CCHS graduate Bill Blackwell Jr. did a great job as the keynote speaker for the community gathering held the night before.

Rubbelke presented results of a poll given to middle and high school students that showed the majority of the students came away with a positive feeling about what they had learned and experienced throughout the day long sessions. She asked the school board to consider scheduling another Social Justice Conference next year and the board members, who praised all of the work that the volunteers did to make the conference a big success, said they would strongly consider doing so. 

Students' walkout

Dr. Dewitt said students that joined the National School Walkout on March 14, at 10 a.m. were very orderly and very respectful. Students around the country walked out of their schools for 17 minutes, commemorating the shooting that took 17 lives in Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, as a way to protest gun violence. Dr. Crandall and interim principal Mr. Dorr also gave the students high marks for their respectful behavior. 

Motions approved by the school board:

. The resignation of para-professional Krystal Baumann. 

. Four community experts were given non-renewal status and their positions will be open for teachers who hold licenses in their fields. However, as Dr. Crandall noted, just because the jobs have to be advertised doesn’t mean they will be filled with new staff. The reason community experts were hired in the first place is that teachers holding these licenses couldn’t be found, therefore necessitating hiring community experts. 

The four notified are Erika Ternes, who teaches choir; Jason Gesch, who teaches culinary arts; Mila Horak, who teaches art; and Jill Erickson, middle school math teacher. 

. Special education teacher Theodore Olson, a probationary teacher, will not be back next year. Dr. Crandall said his position would be posted. 

. Brooke Youngdahl informed the school board that she would resign her early childhood (ECSE) position at the end of the year and seek other areas of work. 

. Middle School teacher Peter Lucken’s resignation was accepted with regrets. Peter will finish out the year, but he announced that he had agreed to take a job to teach in Sweden next year. 

. After some discussion the board decided to hold a third reading at their next meeting of a policy outlining how campus buildings, rooms, and fields will be named to honor someone. 

. The board, following a report by Mr. DeWitt, green-lighted a reorganization of the special education program. 

Under the reorganization, one more full-time special education instructor will be hired which will require less paraprofessional support in the department. Mr. DeWitt said special education instructors will work with students best suited to their skills and training, which should be better for both students and staff. 

. The expenditure revenue report submitted by Lori Backlund. 

. Becky Bartol, who is a volunteer on the communication committee that has spent months looking for ways the school can improve its ability to communicate, came before the board with three recommendations. 

The gist of Bartol’s report was a recommendation by the communication committee for the school to hire a short-term, part-time communication specialist, as well as deciding on communication priorities. The committee also recommended that the school board request creation of a communication action plan. 

Until the morning of the board meeting, said Dr. DeWitt, he was in favor of hiring a part-time communication specialist. But after discussing the matter with his staff, he was now in favor of splitting the duties up between staff members—allowing time in their day—to gather and distribute information to parents and the community. After concurring with Dr. DeWitt, school board chair Sissy Lunde thanked Bartol and the committee for their efforts, adding the school board would use much of the information gathered by the committee to help improve communications with parents and community.

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