Students with special needs rock into spring with annual Spring Fling event
Hands were up in the air as the dance floor came alive at Majestic Oaks Golf Club on April 26. A mixture of Anoka-Hennepin students with special needs, their parents/guardians and various school staff were dancing and rocking into spring with popular classics like the Village People's "YMCA" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as the backdrop.
The occasion? The district's annual "Spring Fling" for students with special needs. The focus of the event is to provide Anoka-Hennepin students who have significant needs a prom experience, said Heather Johnson, event coordinator, and Anoka Middle School for the Arts - Washington Campus administrative intern. "The students are the special guests and this is their day to shine!"
The event, coordinated by Johnson and Erin Dougherty-Jensen, Champlin Park High School special education department lead, features dancing, photo opportunities (donated by Bruce Lee Photography), announcement of student royalty (a king and queen candidate are selected at each of the district's five high schools) and of course, fun pre-prom activities. At Blaine High School, the staff held a brunch for students to enjoy while they were getting ready, said Beau Dickey, special education teacher and coach at Blaine. Student and staff volunteers also assisted female attendees with hair and makeup.
"Paraprofessionals and teachers put in a great deal of effort planning to meet the students needs," said Johnson. Each year we have an excellent turn out in support from high school and special education administrators, including Rick Gabriel, a technology coordinator at Coon Rapids Middle School. Gabriel has served as the DJ of this event for the past several years. It's his favorite day of the school year, said Johnson.
Overall, it's an enjoyable event for all involved and a highlight of the school year.
"For most of our students, this is their favorite day of the school year," Johnson said. "It has been a treasure being part of this event over the years and it continues to be a great day of celebration for our students!"
Parents/guardians encouraged to participate in annual survey May 13-June 15
All schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District will have the opportunity to take Parent Surveys between through June 15. Parents will receive a letter in the mail with instructions on completing the online survey. If you do not have access to a computer, you may request a paper copy of the survey by calling your school.
In addition, a random sample of parents/guardians of high school students will be surveyed by telephone. The telephone survey is brief and less than five minutes. All responses will be confidential.
This is the 10th year schools have conducted the Parent Survey, which is a project directed by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board. Results are used by schools for school improvement planning.
Click on the appropriate link below to take the survey:
The following list details when events were added to the "School and Program Events Calendar" section. Events are typically added during a two-week period in between Backpack Online e-newsletter issues.
Click here to view complete details of the latest events added to the School and Program Events Calendar section
Click here to view the Backpack Online e-newsletter issue archives
Events added to the calendar between May 2 and 14:
Stay busy this June and July with STEM enrichment courses
The Anoka-Hennepin Math and Science summer enrichment institute is an opportunity for a limited number of students going into grades 6 through 12 to explore areas of mathematics and science not generally taught in existing courses.
Students will be asked to think differently about math and science as they investigate new concepts and activities.
The following courses will be offered this summer. Visit the Summer STEM website here for complete course descriptions and other information, or download a PDF copy of the brochure here.
Monster Storms (July 22 through 25)
Intro to Aviation (June 10 through 28)
Zimmerman THUNDER Science Camp (June 24 through 27)
Gateway Academy/STEP Engineering Camp (June 24 through 27)
Vet Camp (June 19 for middle school, June 20 for high school)
Registration is due May 24. Register and pay online for institute classes here via Community Education. Questions about course offerings can be directed to Renae Lenhardt at: Renae.Lenhardt@anoka.k12.mn.us.
A-H schools are participating in GiveMN's online giving campaign
The Anoka-Hennepin School District is now participating with an online fundraising service called GiveMN. The organization was created in 2009 by the Minnesota Community Foundation to promote philanthropy throughout the state.
The district and schools participated in GiveMN's fourth annual "Give to the Max Day" on Nov. 15, 2012. The event promotes communities to come together for 24 hours of online giving. The district ended up being one of the random "Golden Ticket" winners during the contest (one nonprofit donor and one K-12 public schools donor were randomly chosen every hour to have $1,000 added to their donation). A great big "thank you" to everyone who made a donation and a difference in the lives of A-H students on "Give to the Max Day!"
The promo day is now over, but donations are accepted anytime. The secure GiveMN site provides a streamlined donation process. A customized gift amount can be entered and either a credit or debit card completes the transaction.
Visit the district page or view the list of A-H GiveMNschools and program pages.
Users can also search for Anoka-Hennepin schools and programs in the search bar or scroll through the "projects" section (toward the bottom of the district's site) to find their school/program.Users can also donate via a link on the district's homepage and Facebook page.
Additionally, these schools/programs are on GiveMN as well (not under the district's "projects" section):
Make a difference. Donate to education and Anoka-Hennepin schools!
Stop the slide! Sign up for the Summer Virtual Learning program
For the second year, Anoka-Hennepin's Summer Virtual Learning will be offering summer math and reading activity sessions to students entering grades seven, eight and nine this fall. Last year 660 incoming seventh graders, approximately 40 percent, participated in the program (piloted only to incoming seventh graders).
The results from last year's program were overwhelmingly positive. Participating students scored significantly higher on assessment tests in the fall (2012) than earlier in the spring (2012), essentially maintaining their academic gains. Studies have shown that middle schoolers are traditionally likely to have a decline in their math and reading scores as a result of summer break.
During Summer Virtual Learning, students work for five weeks on daily 45-minute math and reading activities on their own. A licensed Anoka-Hennepin teacher is available to answer questions once a week. To ensure that each student's varying academic needs are met, teachers individually monitor and adjust lessons based on each student's progress.
Access to a computer with Internet service is required to take part in the program. Middle school computer labs will be open once a week for students without this resource, otherwise local public libraries may be an option.
District’s Pathways food shelf in need of donations
Anoka-Hennepin's Pathways food shelf, which distributes food and other essentials to district high schools, Jackson Middle School, Coon Rapids Middle School, and Compass, is in need of donations.
Items of need Items of need currently include canned meats, fruits and vegetables, pasta, boxed dinners, peanut butter, rice, baby food, shampoo and conditioner, and laundry detergent. A full list of the most needed items is available here.
Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., at 11238 Crooked Lake Blvd NW, Coon Rapids.
Community partners McKinley Elementary School's fifth grade Girl Scout Troop No. 13310 is a great example of the community partnerships Pathways food shelf is seeking.
The troop collected 907 items during a food drive held at the school carnival on April 12, and also hosted a community drop off day at McKinley Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School last month. For their efforts, the girls earned the Girl Scout's Bronze Award, which requires 20 hours of community service that impacts the community in a positive way.
For community groups and organizations interested in forming a partnership with the food shelf, contact Pathways Work Coordinator Stacy Olson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The School Board convened for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, May 13 at Sandburg Education Center. The full agenda and its attachments can be viewed on the district's Granicus website. Items included:
Student and staff recognition (Johnsville Elementary, Coon Rapids Middle School, Jackson Middle School, Anoka High School, Anoka County Public Health Award, HealthierUS School Challenge).
Health and hospitalization, and dental insurance rates for 2013-14.
Membership in the Minnesota State High School League for 2013-14.
12-month assistant principal positions.
Update/status report items:
General fund budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
The Child Nutrition Program will use online surveys to seek feedback from Anoka-Hennepin families. The current survey requests information from users and non-users of the FeePay online meal payment system. The department will seek feedback on other areas of its programs through future surveys.
The survey will take less than five minutes to complete. We appreciate your feedback!
The people have spoken and the votes have been tallied at Northdale Middle School - demonstrating good academic behavior, outstanding character, citizenship, school spirit and leadership is the way to go - as evident at the school's ninth annual Renaissance People's Choice Awards ceremony April 25.
"The People's Choice ceremony is a highlight event for our school," said Laurie Jacklitch, principal. "It's a gathering that celebrates student achievement in many areas including academic achievement, improved behavior or attendance and/or citizenship. It allows staff to acknowledge students who sometimes otherwise wouldn't be recognized, as well as those students who excel."
The event also recognizes the joint effort of students, staff, parents and contributing community/business members in supporting student achievement.
Students were awarded in two categories: Exceptional Award and the People's Choice Award. The Exceptional Award recognizes students for a variety of achievements, from participation in the district's honors orchestra to serving as a Minnesota Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassador to placing in the top five percent in the St. Cloud State University math contest. For the People's Choice Award, teachers could nominate a student of their choice who demonstrated a Renaissance behavior, such as excelling in academics, demonstrating positive behavior or achieving their goals.
Student Reagan McCurnin was nervous and exited to receive her People's Choice Award.
"When Mrs. Peterson brought me into the hall, I thought I was going to be in trouble," said Reagan. "Then she asked if I would like to be nominated for People's Choice Award and I said, 'sure?' I didn't really know what it was at first, so I asked her and she told me. I brought home a piece of paper inviting some family and that there would be some cake and punch. When I showed my mom the paper, she smiled so big it went ear to ear."
Math teacher Sara Peterson, who nominated Reagan, said she always has a smile on her face and she tries her best in math regardless of her struggles. Reagan is a student who is able to recognize when she needs help and is not afraid to ask for it, said Peterson.
"In response, she always says please and thank you with a smile. I have seen a great improvement in Reagan this school year and I am proud to call her my student," said Peterson.
After the awards ceremony, Reagan said she went to the Dairy Queen with her family and celebrated. "My parents said that I was the 'best kid ever' and that made me feel like the best person ever. I put my award plaque on my wall in my room. I will always remember being nominated by an awesome teacher. Math is hard but Mrs. Peterson makes it fun and easier and helps me a lot."
Digital citizenship reminder: monitor the conversation areas of video games
Digital citizenship reminder: monitor the conversation areas of video games Do your children play games online or on a Wii, PlayStation or Xbox? Did you know that many games have conversation areas the same as online chat rooms? Even though there are real risks in playing today's games, there are many ways you can protect your children. The website Chat Danger suggests parents share the following:
Be careful who you trust online.
Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous.
Stay in charge in chat.
Look after each other.
Think about your username or "handle."
Learn how to block or report another player.
You can always kick someone out of the game if they are making you feel uncomfortable.
If there is voice chat on the game, sometimes you can disguise your voice by using a voice mask.
Families may register for preschool now! Anoka-Hennepin Community Education offers two preschool programs strategically aligned with the school district's academic curriculum to provide students with skills and experiences needed to meet current learning expectations. Both programs are now accepting registrations for the 2013-14 school year. For more information, eligibility guidelines or to register online, visit: www.DiscoverCommunityEd.com or call 763-506-1500.
School Readiness Preschool The School Readiness Preschool program prepares three-, four-, and five-year-old children for kindergarten. The curriculum is aligned with the school district's academic curriculum and licensed teachers monitor child progress and development throughout the school year.
The preschool environment encourages learning and development through play, which helps children practice skills and make sense of ideas, concepts, and language. Children gain skills and experience in:
Learning to follow routines and rules.
Learning to get along with other children.
Literacy, books and writing.
Math, science, art and music.
Classes are held from September to May at locations across the school district. Morning, afternoon and evening times are available.
Kindergarten Readiness Preschool The Kindergarten Readiness Preschool program was designed for four-year-old children who are learning to speak English and for English-speaking children from families who meet income guidelines. Students should be four years of age by Sept. 1, to register for the 2013-14 school year.
The Kindergarten Readiness Preschool curriculum prepares students for kindergarten by incorporating reading, math, social skills, science, writing, art, music, large muscle, computer and group learning activities.
Classes are held September through May at Wilson Elementary School and at the Anoka-Hennepin School District Educational Service Center. Students attend class Monday through Thursday, in either the morning or afternoon for 2.75 hours per day. There is no cost to eligible families and transportation is provided.
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice speaks to Blaine High School speech, debate students
A special guest speaker visited Blaine High School's speech and debate students during their May 2 banquet: Supreme Court Justice-designate David Lillehaug.
Lillehaug was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to Minnesota's highest court in March and will officially join the bench in June.
According to Blaine's head speech and debate coach Ross Eichele, Lillehaug explained to the students how he credits his years as a high school and college debater with steering him toward a career in law. He went to the National Forensics Tournament in his senior year of high school, making it to the final round in extemporaneous speaking. He also debated for three years while enrolled at Augustana College in South Dakota, advancing to the elimination round in his senior year.
Eichele said Lillehaug also talked about the many positive impacts speech and debate had on his life, and how they shaped his character.
"Blaine students and parents were impressed with his speech and willingness to reach out and encourage them to pursue their passions," Eichele said.
After graduating with honors from Augustana, Lillehaug was accepted into Harvard Law School, where he became an honors graduate.
He has been a trial lawyer for more than 30 years, litigating many of the highest profile cases in Minnesota, including recent U.S. Senate and gubernatorial recounts. In 2011, he represented the Governor in litigation regarding the state government shutdown.
Andover Elementary School celebrates student achievements with annual showcase night
Students from Andover Elementary School proudly showed their work in the area of music, physical education, art and inquiry during Andover's "Showcase Night" on May 2.
Families participated in rock climbing, recorder concerts, science activities, T-shirt printing and engaged in stations presented by Tree Trust (an organization who is sponsoring Andover's upcoming tree planning event). Student artwork was displayed throughout the building as well.
The event also celebrates the hundreds of volunteers that support Andover students and staff throughout the year.
Father's Day will be a little bit sweeter this year for Rum River Elementary School student Dallyce Huizenga and her family.
Dallyce, a fourth grader at Rum River, recently won first place in her grade level category in the 2013 Minnesota Twins Father of the Year Essay Contest. The theme of the essay contest was, "What My Father Means to Me." Dallyce participated in the contest as part of an optional classroom assignment, said her Language Arts teacher Mary Schantzen.
"I thought Dallyce did a very nice job expressing her feelings," said Schantzen. "Her essay was a tribute to her stepdad, Ryan. Both Dallyce and I were excited that her essay was picked from over 5,000 submitted."
Schantzen will join Dallyce and her stepdad Ryan on June 15 for the "Celebration of Fatherhood" event (which will recognize the contest winners) at the Illusion Theatre in Minneapolis. The celebration will be followed by a Twins game at Target Field.
The essay contest was created by the National Center for Fathering in 1992 to raise awareness about the importance of fathering. For the past decade, the contest has helped connect the center to more than a million children, fathers and families across the United States.
Student Services department reorganizing to cope with expected loss of funds
Anoka-Hennepin School District is working on a reorganization of its Student Services department prompted by two factors. The first is the expected loss of approximately $1.95 million in Integration aid, which pays for a portion of the department's budget, and second is the non-renewal of a grant that pays for a portion of the Indian Education program.
The goal of the reorganization is to continue to provide essential services that have been in place and even add some crucial services within the funding available.
According to Dr. Jinger Gustafson, associate superintendent who oversees Student Services, a recent review of mental health services for students found there was some duplication as well as some gaps in services.
The new structure, which will be in place when school starts next fall, will eliminate duplication of services and fill the gaps in support while providing high quality, consistent support programs with built-in accountability measures.
In preparation for the new structure, the district notified student learning advocates (SLAs) and Indian Education advisors that their contracts would not be renewed next year. In addition, the district is seeking new proposals from outside service providers for the prevention specialists who help students deal with chemical health issues. These are currently provided by Lee Carlson Center, which has been invited to submit a proposal.
Students, staff and parents expressed their concerns about loss of these staff. Some addressed the School Board May 13, some met with administrators and others have sent written communication outlining their concerns.
"The School Board very much appreciated the heartfelt testimony students provided as they described the impact these staff have had on their lives," said Superintendent Dennis Carlson. He stressed that the board is adamant that the support and encouragement students now receive will be continued in the new structure.
Current staff are encouraged to apply for the positions in the reorganized structure if they meet the qualifications of the redefined positions.
Carlson also said the board and administration are committed to ensuring that the new support structure reflects the ethnic diversity of the district's student body and continues to provide the encouragement students need not only to stay in school but also to push themselves to succeed academically and grow into responsible young adults.
‘More than just music:’ Blaine High School to perform at ¡Cantaré! May 21
Blaine High School (BHS) concert choir students will join the internationally renowned choral organization VocalEssence to celebrate the culture and music of Mexico with a special performance called ¡Cantaré!, Tuesday, May 21, 8 p.m. at Wayzata Community Church. The Anoka-Hennepin community is invited, and tickets are free.
The ¡Cantaré! program-meaning "I will sing"-pairs Mexican composers-in-residence with select choirs from around the Twin Cities, including schools, colleges and community choruses.
For Blaine to be selected is a huge honor according to Susan Zemlin, Blaine's concert choir director.
"It's an enormous gift and an amazing opportunity," she said.
This year's composer in residence, Novelli Jurado, has visited Blaine three times, spending a week at a time with the choir students, Zemlin said.
In October, Jurado visited and listened to the choir to get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses as a group, Zemlin said. Upon returning home to Mexico, he wrote two original pieces of music especially for Blaine's choir. He shared the music with her in January, and when he returned in March to BHS, the choir sang the songs for him, Zemlin said.
"It was great because students were a part of the composition process," Zemlin said. "As (Jurado) heard their performances of his pieces, he rewrote parts based upon how the choir sounded."
Now, the students are putting the finial touches on their performance, Zemlin said.
"¡Cantaré! is an amazing experience that has overwhelmingly enriched my approach to writing choral music," Jurado said. "Through my music, I strive to touch each one of those beautiful voices with the deepest emotions."
More than music
"There is a whole other part to this," Zemlin said. "It's not just music. We're learning about the Mexican culture and how music is influenced by Mexican traditions and culture."
A great example happened earlier this week, Zemlin said, when a VocalEssence representative was on hand and asked the concert choir students what they've learned or what stands out about the experience.
"We have a Mexican student in the class and she said that her Mexican culture was something that she's always kept at home. This was an opportunity for her to experience that culture at school and share it with her school friends," Zemlin said. "It was a very profound statement."
Zemlin said Blaine's concert choir performs at exactly 8 p.m. and that seating is limited. Tickets are available at Wayzata Community Church, located at 125 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata, MN 55391. For more information, visit: www.vocalessence.org or call 612-547-1456.
A-H’s special education director receives New Special Education Leader Award
Mary Clarkson wasn't a traditional college student, much less a teacher. She chose to start her family first, and then go to college. It wasn't until she was in her late-20s that she had her first classroom.
And for the Anoka-Hennepin School District's special education director, that makes being given the 2013 New Special Education Leader Award by the professional organization she's a part of, all the more humbling.
Clarkson was given the honor in February by the Minnesota Administrators for Special Education (MSAE), a professional association that, among other things, promotes education and services for children with disabilities.
"I'm very, very honored to have gotten the award," Clarkson said. "But it's less a reflection on me and more a reflection on the wonderful people I work with and collaborate with."
The "new leader award" that Clarkson won goes to professionals who have fewer than five years experience in their roles as leaders. She's been Anoka-Hennepin's special education director for a little more than four years. Before that she spent three years as a special education coordinator in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, and prior to that, three years in a similar role here at Anoka-Hennepin.
Clarkson said she's been drawn to special education since she was in high school, during a period that she worked for what was then the Brainerd State Hospital.
"It was really hard to see children and adults institutionalized," she said. "Professionally, I knew I wanted to do something with children, that was a given, but the genesis of working in special education-that happened at the hospital."
Today, Clarkson is passionate about seeing schools become more inclusive.
"Instead of seeing children with disabilities, we need to see children with unique abilities," Clarkson said. "We should make everyone be a part of the school community, no matter where we are."
Cherie Peterson, Anoka-Hennepin's assistant director of special education, who helped nominate Clarkson, said she's "a visionary leader who understands the complexity of meeting the needs of special education students."
Clarkson serves on the MASE Board of Directors, and is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, St. Cloud State University, where she teaches aspiring administrators. "I will always advocate for special education," Clarkson said.
A-H hires five new elementary school principals; they begin new roles July 1
The Anoka-Hennepin School District has announced the hiring of five new elementary school principals.
A handful of retirements over the past six months led to the need for the new hires.
Among the new principals, four currently work for Anoka-Hennepin schools in leadership roles. The other comes from the Elk River School District (additional biography links coming soon).
Brian Mann has been selected as the principal for Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science (CBPA). Mann is currently the interim principal at Monroe Elementary School - Mathematics, Science and Children's Engineering in Brooklyn Center and was previously an assistant principal at CBPA and Sandburg Middle School. Mann's teaching experience includes 17 years as a secondary social studies teacher.
Sam Anderson has been selected as principal for Crooked Lake Elementary School in Andover. Anderson is currently an assistant principal at Ramsey Elementary School and has also been an administrative intern at Andover Elementary School. Anderson's teaching experience includes teaching first and third grades.
Brian Erlandson has been selected as the principal for Franklin Elementary School in Anoka. Erlandson is currently an assistant principal at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School in Brooklyn Park, and was an Administrative Intern and TOSA at McKinley Elementary School in Ham Lake. Erlandson's experience includes teaching sixth grade.
Amy Oliver has been selected as the principal for Monroe. Oliver is currently an interim assistant principal at Andover Elementary School, and her previous positions include administrative intern at Riverview Specialty School for Math and Environmental Science in Brooklyn Park before it was repurposed, and curriculum integrator at University Avenue Elementary School - Aerospace, Children's Engineering and Science in Blaine. Oliver also taught in grades one, two, four and six.
Scott Lempka has been selected as the principal for Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts in Anoka. Lempka is currently an assistant principal at Hassan and Twin Lakes elementary schools in the Elk River School District. Lempka has previously worked for the Spokane, Wash., public school district as a principal assistant and literacy instructional coach. Lempka's experience includes teaching grades four through six and he has also been a special education EBD teacher.
Coon Rapids juniors get lesson in responsibility as they prepare to lead
"So often, people don't want to take on responsibility because it's too much," John Sandahl said. "But it doesn't have to be that way. Just take care of what's right in front of you."
With humor, he gave the assembled group of Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) juniors an example of what he was talking about.
"Imagine a class of fifth graders just finished eating lunch in the school gym," he said. "It's a mess. Chunks of bread and lettuce are everywhere. Chips are crunching under people's feet. It's a disaster.
"If you told one kid to pick up the garbage, they'd be in tears. It's a terrible job," he said. "But if you tell everyone in the whole class to pick up just two pieces of garbage-well now it's a game, and before you know it, the room is clean."
And that was Sandahl's message: responsibility doesn't have to be overwhelming.
"It isn't your job to solve the greater issues in the school, but if everyone picks up the small pieces of responsibility right in front of them, big things can happen," he said.
The lesson was part of a retreat held May 8 at CRHS for 60 volunteer and teacher-picked juniors to work on leadership skills that would help them set a positive example during the next school year.
The retreat was put on by Youth Frontiers, a non-profit organization based in the Twin Cities that is dedicated to building the character of young people. They offer a number of retreats for both students and staff that focus on leadership, courage, respect, improved school communities and kindness.
Sandahl, the Youth Frontiers retreat director, spoke specifically to students about responsibility, and the assembled group of students also participated in a number of exercises, including an ice-breaking activity, some reflection time to brainstorm issues they see in the school, and even heard live music.
CRHS is rather familiar with Youth Frontiers, according to Adam Thronson, a social studies teacher at CRHS who helped organize the retreat. He said the school held the same retreat last year for the then junior class, and that school staff has done prep-week retreats with the group as well.
"Last year, this retreat-it made a really big difference," Thronson said. "When you look at the school dynamics, seniors have a large impact. You could really see the benefits of this (retreat) and the lessons that were learned."
Thronson said each student and staff member was given a small chunk of broken glass from Sandahl when they arrived at the retreat. It represented the small pieces of responsibility each of them could take.
"When you put them all back together, you have a vase," Thronson said.
Youth Frontiers, a non-profit organization, is based in Minneapolis and was founded in 1987.
Madison Elementary School building supervisor John Lero one of A-H’s Above & Beyond winners
Educating students isn't always just a classroom thing. Sometimes it's the people outside the classroom who play as important a role as the teachers in them.
John Lero, the building supervisor at Madison Elementary School in Blaine is a prime example. His colleagues at the school talk about his willingness to "go the extra mile." He's often on a knee, talking to students on their level, looking them in the eye, making sure they have his undivided attention.
It's the extra miles coupled with his desire to build one-on-one connections with students that earned Lero one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District's 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Awards.
Lero, who has spent 21 years with Anoka-Hennepin schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"I believe part of my role at Madison is to understand each and every child that comes through our doors," Lero said.
His efforts are so beloved in the school that on April 24 Madison had a celebration dubbed "Mr. Lero is Our Hero Day." Staff wore custom t-shirts adorned with "Mr. Lero is our Hero," and the day began with students lining the hallways to offer him applause and congratulations for his Above & Beyond Award.
While his goal is to connect with every student, Lero makes a special point to make sure those with special needs get the attention they deserve "so they can feel special and important," he said.
Brenda Murphy-Sperbeck, one of Madison's ESL teachers, nominated Lero. She said he's always supporting student learning and student well-being.
"He has been observed on many occasions helping our students get ready for learning when they have had a hard morning or when they are upset about something," Murphy-Sperbeck said. "Students look up to him for his positive leadership."
There's no better example of Lero's dedication than an unofficial program he runs at the school with kids who have run afoul of school rules. He works with the students on school service projects around Madison to help make amends.
Lero says working with them has helped them learn the value of doing their best.
"There's never a dull moment," Lero said. "You can go from one extreme to the next and have the kids smile at you and say 'hi.'"
Wilson Elementary School’s Jack-of-all-trades Juanita Pabon wins district Above & Beyond Award
One could say that Juanita Mercedes Martinez Pabon does it all.
On any given day, the Wilson Elementary School paraeducator is a crossing guard, a lunchroom supervisor, helps with character education and math lessons, offers interpreter services for Spanish speaking families at the school, and even does laminating and bookbinding for teachers and staff.
It's that work and that dedication that led Pabon to be named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District's 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.
Pabon is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"It's not hard to go the extra mile or exceed expectations when you work with an amazing staff and children," she said. "I love my job."
Angela Young, a parent whose son goes to Wilson, which is located in Anoka, nominated Pabon for the award. Young said she left an "amazingly positive effect on him" during his three years on the student patrol, which Pabon is adviser to, in addition to a participant.
"Every school needs someone like her to watch out for their kids," Young said. Pabon says it's a priority for her to develop positive relationships with students and their families.
"A positive relationship opens many doors for all of us," she said. "If a child knows that you are there to help them with any concern, they will open up when something is bothering them."
Her relationship with the children and their families doesn't stop when they leave school. She also volunteers at Teen Night at Anoka Middle School for the Arts where she says she's happy to keep up with Wilson students who have moved on to middle school. She's also says she is pleased when former students from over the years make time to stop in and visit with her about their lives.
"I enjoy my work and would not change it for the world," Pabon said. "The staff, students and parents at Wilson are awesome and amazing."
Roosevelt Middle School counselor Nicki Magaard wins Above & Beyond Award for her dedication to students
Nicki Magaard has only been a counselor at Blaine's Roosevelt Middle School for two years. But her contribution to the school is impossible to miss, according to Mike Driscoll, one of the school's assistant principals.
In those two years at the school, Magaard has developed a slew of new support groups, a new orientation program for students and families new to the school, reinstituted the school's student mentoring program, and helped a group of students create an anti-bullying group, which she now advises.
All of her hard work has led Magaard to be named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District's 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.
Magaard is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"This award is such an honor," she said. "I am lucky to assist students and families in navigating the education process, finding their strengths, and solving problems to find their success."
Driscoll is impressed with Magaard's ability to tackle complex issues, saying she "works hard to find solutions to situations that do not have an easy answer."
But for Magaard, a self-professed student "cheerleader," it's all part of the territory.
"The best part about my job is when a student recognizes something good about him (or) herself that they were not able to see before," she said. "They sit up a little taller and I know they are leaving my office with a bit more confidence than they came in with-and who knows where that confidence might take them."
Magaard doesn't just think inside the box, either.
In nominating her for the award, her colleagues at Roosevelt said she once had a hairstylist come in to talk to some of her female students. Knowing the importance of self-confidence, she had the professional talk to the girls about personal grooming and each student left with a new hairstyle and improved self-image. "I believe all students should feel important, understand what their strengths are, and have the opportunity to use them," Magaard said.
Coon Rapids, Centennial high schools joint anti-bully group celebrates end of year with pizza, bowling
After a year of trying to "Obliviate the Hate," members of Coon Rapids High School's (CRHS) anti-bully group joined their companions from Centennial High School on May 9 for an end of the year pizza and bowling party at the Brunswick Zone XL in Blaine.
The student group, made of mostly sophomores and juniors at the two schools, spent the year educating fellow classmates about bystander empowerment, and encouraging those who witness bullying to intervene in conflicts.
The pizza party was a chance to share what the two schools learned, what worked in helping spread their message, and a offered a chance to unwind and celebrate their hard work.
Obliviate the Hate started as an "Empowering Bystander Grant" given to CRHS and Centennial High School jointly by the Anoka County Children and Family Council. The grant allowed each school to gather 50 teacher-selected student participants who would be good ambassadors. (Read more about the genesis of the group here.)
Those students formed Obliviate the Hate ("Obliviate" is a word from the Harry Potter novels that essentially means "to erase") and spent the year educating students about bullying. They held a summit in February for community members and parents to discuss anti-bullying efforts, and held an anti-bully week at CRHS in April.
Associate superintendent's column: Turning the page to the next chapter
By Dr. Jinger Gustafson, associate superintendent of middle schools
Hello and good wishes…
As I was watching my two Siberian Huskies, Sydney and Jasper, run, explore, and just simply exhibit their" zest for life" out in the back yard (and, yes it was in the snow, snow, snow, as of last week), one would not guess that they are respectively 9 and 10 years old.
It was evident that both were looking through rose-tinted lenses of puppy eyes. And, when they were ready to come in the house, they showered me with lavish affection as if they had not seen me for days, even though it was only about 15 minutes. And, as I was overcome by their friendliness, my initiative took over as I was just as enthused to see them -after only about 15 minutes!
As you have read in previous articles, the adults throughout my educational career, and especially in middle school, played a significant role in where I am today. Not only did these adults encourage the gift of learning, but they also modeled overcoming obstacles, learning from struggles, and how one can benefit from mistakes. And this was all done through kindly concern, interest, and support - in other words, friendliness.
It was May of 1979. This particular month and year stands out in my mind because I was an eighth grader trying to be excited about turning the page to the next chapter, in my book, in education - high school. I viewed this "opportunity" more as a sense of loss. The loss I was feeling was attributed to the friendliness I had experienced from those whom I considered role models of friendliness: secretaries, custodians, classroom teachers, busdrivers, lunch ladies, the extra adults who were in my classes, and principals.
Being astute, as role models, they recognized the sadness and conflict I was experiencing. They reminded me that a strength I had was initiative. And, that initiative was my internal motivation to experience success by creating supportive relationships. Plus, supportive relationships just do not come to an end because you move on from one grade, school, or career. It was good advice that I applied in high school, college, graduate school, and try to apply in my daily work.
The rich heritage of the Siberian husky is ingrained deep within their being. Their initiative is the desire to engage in rigorous play for hours as if there is no tomorrow and enjoy the wide-open spaces of the great outdoors. Plus, their friendliness often pours out to include strangers and other dogs.
Our friendliness allows us to be open toward other people and take risks of inviting them into our world. Our initiative allows us to prioritize around the most important things. So, as we reflect on this past school year and look forward to the next school year, initiative tells us that we are capable of doing interesting and complicated work, and, friendliness propels us to to be excited to see each other - even after only 15 minutes. Thank you for your continued support.
International educator visits Blaine High School with an eye on collaboration
With an eye on collaboration, Blaine High School (BHS) hosted an international school leader on May 8.
Director de Preparatoria Eugenio Aguilar Ibarra, of Preparatoria Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico City visited BHS as part of a larger trip to Minnesota.
Minnesota Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Elia Bruggeman accompanied Aguilar Ibarra to campus, and the two, along with BHS assistant principals Susan Hagerty and Jason Paske, toured a number of classrooms as well as the school's TelePresence Immersion classroom.
Aguilar Ibarra, who said he was "very impressed" with the high school, was exploring possibilities for collaboration, including virtual learning opportunities and the hosting of students between the two countries.
One of the first stops was the school's TelePresence Immersion classroom where Aguilar Ibarra received a first-hand look at BHS's virtual college algebra class. Using the technology, he spoke briefly with Coon Rapids High School teacher Shawnee Rasumssen, who was hosting the class from that school's sister-TelePresence room four miles away. The district's Technology Facilitator Tom Skoglund was also on hand to talk more in-depth with Aguilar Ibarra about the technology and how it could be used to collaborate.
Aguilar Ibarra also visited with Alyssa Warne's Spanish classroom, where he talked briefly with the teacher and her students. He also toured John Bayer's Principles of Engineering classroom where students were working on robotics.
Bruggeman said her children attended Tecnologico de Monterrey last summer while studying Spanish, and she called the school one of the best preparatory schools in Mexico.
Aguilar Ibarra was in Minnesota to visit the National Sports Complex in Blaine to scout the use of the location and dorms for a camp for Mexican high school students this fall.
School Board meeting set for Monday, May 13
The School Board will convene for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, May 13 at Sandburg Education Center, 1920 Second Avenue, Anoka. Agenda items include:
Student and staff recognition (Johnsville Elementary, Coon Rapids Middle School, Jackson Middle School, Anoka High School, Anoka County Public Health Award, HealthierUS School Challenge).
Health and hospitalization, and dental insurance rates for 2013-14.
Membership in the Minnesota State High School League for 2013-14.
12-month assistant principal positions.
Update/status report items:
General fund budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
ECFE’s Vehicle Day brings police cars, fire trucks, within reach of children
The Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and School Readiness Parent Advisory Council hosted Vehicle Day May 4, an annual spring event designed for children and their families to get in and check out vehicles they may see in their neighborhoods and around town every day.
View photos from this year's Vehicle Day event on the Anoka-Hennepin Community Education facebook page.
ECFE aims to host Vehicle Day each year on the first Saturday in May. For more information about current classes and activities to support their child's growth and development, view the course offerings on the Early Childhood Family Education page.
Jefferson Elementary’s school forest grows with help from students, Target, DNR, Smokey the Bear
Students and staff at Jefferson Elementary School in Blaine held Planting Day on May 3, which celebrated the building's unique designation as a school forest.
Despite the unusually snowy conditions, students from each classroom trekked outside to plant 30 trees provided to the school by the Minnesota DNR, said Lisa Palmer, Jefferson's instructional coach and forest site coordinator.
"It's forming a good school community," Palmer said. "It also plants the seed to get kids motivated about the school forest and the building, and to take ownership and feel pride about their school."
More than 20 volunteers from Target's National Volunteer Day helped out at the school, helping revive the 12-acre school forest by cleaning up garbage and adding woodchips to the forest trail. The volunteers also helped get the small seedlings ready for planting, labeled and tended to existing trees on the grounds, and dug holes outside for the new ones. Parent volunteers helped each classroom plant the trees, and Smokey the Bear even made an appearance to teach the kids about forest fire prevention. View more event photos on our Facebook page.
"We really used the day-and the forest-for an educational purpose," Palmer said. "We taught the kids about trees and how to care for them."
At the end of the day, each of Jefferson's students and staff members also went home with a small seedling to plant at home, as well as instructions on how to care for the plants. Students also received a DNR-provided goodie-bag with pencils, fake tattoos and bookmarks.
"All of the trees-from the ones we planted here to the seedlings the kids and staff took home-they were all provided to us by the DNR," Palmer said.
And since caring for the trees doesn't end when school does, Palmer said Anoka-Hennepin's Community Education Adventures Plus child-care program has been looped in to help tend to the trees over the summer.
"It's huge to have that follow-up," Palmer said. "Without it, I don't know if we could have done this."
Jefferson's school forest designation is unique. Only 150 schools in the state have the title, Palmer said, and of those, the bulk of them have their forests off-site. That means students need to be bused to another location for lessons or to tend to the forest. Ramsey Elementary, Anoka-Hennepin's only other building with designation, has an off-site school forest.
"Ours is right here. It's a part of the school's grounds," she said. "And it's a fabulous environment for our school. We're very fortunate."
Jefferson received its school forest designation in 1999, and soon, the DNR will be providing the school with signs for Jefferson featuring the school forest designation.
Palmer said six different tree species made up those planted at the school, including Bur Oak, Cherry, Red Oak, White Pine, White Spruce, and Dog Wood. The DNR worked with Anoka-Hennepin's Sites/Grounds Supervisor Tom Redmann to choose which trees to plant that fit in best with the existing forest.
School Board meeting recaps in PDF and podcast format
Action of the School Board PDF recap Get caught up on the latest news presented at the April 22 School Board meeting with our "Action of the School Board" meeting recaps in PDF format.
Summary in Six podcast The format of the Anoka-Hennepin Podcast Network's School Board meeting recaps has recently been revised to "Summary in Six," which shares highlights of School Board meetings, including significant action, in six minutes or less.
Inspire children of all ages at this year’s Anoka-Hennepin Community Education Vehicle Day
Does your child love cars, trucks, or all things on wheels? Inspire your children to imagine themselves as a police officer, firefighter, mail carrier, or even a truck driver at this year's Anoka-Hennepin Community Education Vehicle Day, set for Saturday, May 4, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Champlin Park High School's west parking lot, 6025 109th Ave. N, Brooklyn Park.
Vehicle Day is an exciting opportunity for children to see the cars and trucks that come and go through your neighborhood up close, and even sit in the driver's seat.
Registration is not necessary, and children of all ages are welcome to attend, but must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is $1 per person, although there is no charge for infants three months of age or younger.
Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness Parent Advisory Council organize Vehicle Day.
In the event of inclement weather, call Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education at 763-506-1275 for a recorded message, which will confirm event details on May 4.
WHAT: Anoka-Hennepin Community Education Vehicle Day
WHEN: Saturday, May 4 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Champlin Park High School West parking lot 6025 109th Ave. N, Brooklyn Park
Coon Rapids driving students get up-close lesson in safely driving with ‘big-rigs’ on the road
Drivers education students at Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) on May 2 got an up-close and hands-on lesson in how to drive safely next to semi-trucks.
The Minnesota Trucking Association partnered with the American Trucking Association's Road Team to bring a classroom-equipped big-rig to CRHS for the day. The program is part of an ongoing driver and public initiative by the group called "Share the Road."
As part of the lesson, students were encouraged to sit in the semi-truck's cab to note the driver's blind spots and inability to see cars in certain places. They also toured the cars that were staged in a likely driving scenario around the truck to get lessons on where best to drive safely when next to a truck on the road.
Nathan Wick, who is with the MTA, and Thomas Miller, who is with the ATA were both on hand, and chatted with students individually once they climbed into the truck's cab, pointing out all the potential hazards, as well as the safe places to drive when next to a truck.
All four of the school's spring drivers education classes made it out to the demonstration according to Tom Reis, CRHS's drivers education teacher.
Photo caption: Drivers education students at Coon Rapids High School received a hands-on lesson May 2 on how to drive safely next to semi-tucks. Each of the schools four spring classes trekked outside for the lesson sponsored by the Minnesota Trucking Association.
Real-life filmmakers: Blaine, Andover, Coon Rapids students get hands-on experience shooting movie
Video students from Blaine, Coon Rapids and Andover high schools recently participated in a unique movie-making adventure.
On April 23, the schools' Video Arts 1 and 2 classes-53 students in all-traveled to the Minneapolis Community and Technical College to make a movie with MCTC's Cinema Division.
The film, titled "3 Uses of a Pencil," has a tentative completion date of May 29. It was written, filmed, produced and performed by Anoka-Hennepin students and staff, according to Blaine High School art teacher Kim Blevins.
She said students from the three high schools split into different units, with each group filming for the four hours everyone was at the college.
"My hope is that students now realize how much work and how many people it takes to make even a short film a reality," Blevins said.
All told, each film unit had a director, as well as first camera, second camera, sound, lighting and script/continuity positions. And that doesn't count the actors and actresses who were also Anoka-Hennepin students, Blevins said.
The movie was written by Blaine High School senior Michael Voit, who, according to Belvins, is already an award-winning student-writer and film-maker. Last year, Voit, a Perpich Playwright Scholar, made a movie called "Bay 3," which received a "Superior Ranking" at the State Thespian Festival. He also won a Gold Scholastic Art Award in Film and Video in 2012, Blevins said.
Blevins said it took more than two months for her and her art teacher colleagues-Sarah Hjelmberg (CRHS) and Bree Nieland (ANDHS)-to produce the movie after it was written, but took just four hours to film the three pieces.
"The film really could not have been made without the help of the MCTC Cinema Division, Professor Adam Olson, and advanced cinema students serving as mentors in the process," Blevins said. "MCTC is one of the best film programs in the state and it really shows. They really took the time to help our students."
Photo captions: Video students from Blaine, Coon Rapids and Andover high schools prepare to start filming their movie, "3 Uses of a Pencil," while visiting Minneapolis Community and Technical College on April 23. The movie will be finished by May 29.
Fifth grade girls learn about science at St. Catherine’s University
Fifth grade girls from Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy (CPBA), University Avenue - Aerospace, Children's Engineering and Science (UAES), and Monroe elementary schools took a trip to St. Catherine's University on April 27 to attend the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) program.
Anoka-Hennepin students participated in engaging, hands-on activities such as "Plant Warfare," "More Bounce to the Ounce," and "The Great Viscosity Race." They learned about plant structures and what they need to survive, the composition of glue and super balls, and the mass and density of liquids.
"I liked designing our own plants and adding all the defenses to them to create the strongest!" said fifth grader Alaina Hendren.
"I learned the meaning of viscosity!" said fifth grader Laura Weber. The program is a partnership between the district and the university's National Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Elementary Education. It was created in 2010 to address two education issues: to help young girls who tend not to perform as well on math and science tests as boys, and to increase the percentage of girls who choose a STEM career. (Currently women do not enter these fields as much as their male counterparts.)
"It was amazing to see how engaged the girls were in the activities and how much they already know and can apply to their new learning," said Denise Schnabel, curriculum integrator for CBPA.
Still looking for something for your kids to do this summer?
Summer is a great time to meet friends, learn new things and build on academic skills in preparation for the upcoming school year! The Anoka-Hennepin Community Schools program provides fun activities and learning opportunities for your children, right in your own backyard.
Summer programming includes a wide variety of courses, camps and clinics to enhance your child's academic and social experiences while away from school, such as:
Arts and crafts.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Language and performing arts.
Sports and recreation.
Group and one-on-one tutoring opportunities.
Take a look at our new summer catalog and see what sparks your child's interest: http://bit.ly/103SMIS.
We hope to see you there!
Programs are brought to you by Anoka-Hennepin Community Education, the city of Anoka and the city of Coon Rapids. Registration is first-come, first-serve. Families may register online at: www.DiscoverCommunityEd.com or in person at the Community Education office located at 2727 N Ferry St., Anoka. Limited fee assistance is available for eligible students. Call the Anoka-Hennepin Community Schools office with questions at 763-506-4812.
Summer opportunities for early learning
Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) offers high-quality programs, classes, events and playtime activities especially created to give families information, ideas and skills to support their child's growth and development from birth to kindergarten. The opportunities are available year-round and it's almost time to register for summer classes.
View the summer ECFE classes in the latest Families catalog: http://bit.ly/17vmuvq.
Registration begins May 13 and classes run from June 17 through July 26.
Families are encouraged to register for classes to strengthen parenting skills, find new activities to help children learn and make new friends! Parents, grandparents and other family members are welcome to register for classes with children.
Borrow family and parenting resources
The Parent Involvement Resource Center (PIRC) is a lending center for parents, families and staff. Books, CDs and DVDs are available to borrow. Resource topics include parenting, childhood and adolescence, parent involvement and school/parent/community partnerships.
The Parent Involvement Resource Center is located at the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Service Center, 2727 N. Ferry St., Anoka. Families may enter Door 1 or call Parent Involvement at 763-506-1567 for more information.
Sand Creek students capture kindness at annual fair
Sand Creek Elementary School held its annual Showcase Art Fair on Thursday, April 11. The event theme was "capturing kindness." Students were invited to create "kindness hands" by decorating handprints, which were displayed throughout the school. The hands were designed to promote kindness at Sand Creek through helping, serving, caring, giving and being kind to one another.
Despite the snowy weather, almost 600 students participated in the family event. Students, staff and families raised more than $500 and filled a mini-van with food items for Hope 4 Youth, an organization that supports local youth.
The event also featured Brodini the Magician, who entertained students and parents in the gym, and prizes for students. Each child also received a free book and a complimentary snack.
"Our school community gathered to enjoy a great evening together," said Kelsi Plattner, Sand Creek Elementary administrative intern. "This was made possible due to our supportive volunteer group, teachers, staff, volunteer coordinator, custodians and families."
Ten of Anoka-Hennepin's outstanding employees were recognized at the annual Above and Beyond Awards program April 24. Congratulations to the following winners (more individual winner biographies coming soon):
Muggy Pierfelice, second grade teacher at Oxbow Creek Elementary School.
Karrie Schaaf, homeless youth liaison at the Family Welcome Center.
Mischelle Squire, adult learning coordinator with Community Education.
Kelly Weeks, elementary paraeducator at Andover Elementary School.
"We celebrate the unique aspects of each person's extraordinarily successful work and we celebrate the shining commonalities between them," said Superintendent Dennis Carlson. "It's an honor to share the work of education with these Above and Beyond winners."
A few tears trickled down crowd members' faces as they heard each winner's story. The presenters shared quotes from parents, students and colleagues that nominated them as well as words the winners used to describe themselves. "If we can do something small that brings our students some sense of stability, it is my hope that they are better able to focus on their learning," said winner Karrie Schaaf, homeless youth liaison, in her application.
The Above and Beyond Awards program is sponsored jointly by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF) and the Anoka-Hennepin School District to recognize outstanding employees for innovation, creativity, caring and commitment. Award recipients were selected by a panel of community representatives and principals. A feature of each winner will be shared in the A-H Newsroom and succeeding issues of In the Know staff e-newsletter. See attached program PDF at the bottom of this page for additional information.
Photo caption: From left to right Juanita Mercedes Martinez Pabon, Mischelle Squire, Muggy Pierfelice, John Lero, Nicole Hedlund, Karrie Schaaf, Pam Baker, Kelly Weeks, John Horton, and Nicki Magaard.
Anoka-Hennepin Destination Imagination teams heading to Global Finals
Two Anoka-Hennepin teams earned first place in their competition and grade level at the state Destination Imagination tournament April 20: Blaine High School's "Diys" and the district's high school team "Me, Myself, I and That Guy." Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy's (CBPA) "Lightning Huskies" earned second place in their competition. All three teams are advancing to the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn. in late May where they will join over 8,000 students representing more than 1,250 teams worldwide. Coon Rapids High School's "Awesome in Disguise" will also be attending the international event from earning a wild card spot with their third place win.
"Our team is so excited! Their goal was to go to the state competition, their dream was the Global Finals," said Kurt Cavalier, team manager of CBPA's Lightning Huskies. "Destination Imagination has shown the students if you are willing to work hard, dreams can become reality."
"The Diys are very excited about qualifying for the Global Finals," said Missy Meyers, team manager of Blaine High School's Diys. "It has been an honor and privilege for me to watch this team grow over the years. I am so proud of them!"
At Destination Imagination, teams work on one of seven complex challenges in which they have to develop an innovative, creative solution. Students apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), in addition to improvisation, theater arts, writing, project management, communication, innovation, teamwork, and community service skills.
This year, National Geographic's world-renowned author and photographer, Joel Sartore, will be addressing the participants at the Global Finals opening ceremony. The tournament's Innovation Expo will house engaging exhibits from NASA, Michigan Tech's Mindtrekkers and 3M.
Congratulations to all Anoka-Hennepin teams that participated in the state tournament! The full results are as follows:
Blaine High School's "Diys" earned first place.
Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy's "Lightning Huskies" earned second place.
Coon Rapids High School's "Awesome in Disguise" earned third place.
Crooked Lake Elementary's "The Rockin' DI Royals" earned eleventh place.
Franklin Elementary's "Aquadrydic Hero" earned sixth place.
Johnsville Elementary's "7 Girls in Disguise" earned third place.
Johnsville Elementary's "The Elite Prototypes" earned fifth place.
The district's high school team "Me, Myself, I and That Guy" earned first place.
Photo caption: Blaine High School's "Diys" earned first place at the state Destination Imagination competition.
University Avenue students video conference with NASA representatives
When students at University Avenue Elementary School - Aerospace, Children's Engineering and Science (UAES) wanted to learn more about the history of rocketry, they went straight to the source!
Earlier in April, UAES fifth graders video conferenced with a NASA employee based at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL (nicknamed "Rocket City" for its space mission history). For 60 minutes, students learned about the history of rocketry and observed the launch of "balloon" and "fizzy" rockets. They were able to answer questions about Newton's Laws of Motion that the NASA educator posed and had an opportunity to ask questions about the Apollo missions, the Space Shuttle program, and the future of NASA and human space exploration.
"Students were so excited to have the chance to not only hear from NASA directly, but to be able to raise their hands and be called on, all the way from Alabama!" said Michelle Zimmerman, curriculum integrator.
Last week, third graders video conferenced with a NASA employee from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a presentation called "Our Solar Neighborhood." In May, first graders will be part of a program on spacesuits led by representatives from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. All events are part of NASA's Digital Learning Network. More information can be found at: http://dln.nasa.gov.
Jackson Middle School father breakfast serves up food, fun and family time
This school year, three events drew about 600 people to Jackson Middle School for a series of breakfast events especially for dads. The most recent event in April brought dads, daughters and sons together to eat breakfast, win door prizes and spend quality time together.
John Warren, student learning advocate at Jackson Middle School, came up with the idea for the breakfast series. "The Fathers Breakfast is a great way to validate fathers in our community while allowing an education setting to be the backdrop of the fun." Warren wants fathers to meet each other, schools to be seen as community focal points and children to have fun with their dads in a laid-back way. At a previous event, Warren met two fathers who had lived in the same neighborhood for years. He explains, "Their boys had played together for four years but the dads had never met." They met for the first time at the Father Breakfast.
Karrie Schaaf, Homeless Youth and Families Liaison said, "This kind of an event is over due and much needed. People are wanting and needing more parenting activities, especially ones that focus on fathers." Schaaf is quite certain this "may be one of the only father-child events in the Anoka-Hennepin School District."
Besides the pancakes, sausage, eggs and fresh fruit, the dads and kids had fun with high-energy activities in the gym and brainteaser activities in the cafeteria. Two massive inflatables called the Three Lane Bungee Run and the Gladiator Joust filled one gym while participants shot hoops in the other gym. The cafeteria doubled as a Soda Straw Rocket lab and a trivia game competition.
Students also liked seeing their friends outside the classroom. "Bye Ethan," Olaoluwa (second grade), from Monroe raised his right hand to wave farewell to his brother's classmate. His brother, kindergartener Ayoola, gave a smile and a nod as well.
Their father, Daniel said Ayoola's teacher, Mr. Durand, "sent a letter from school and the boys kept reminding me, 'don't forget.'"
At the far end of another table, two brothers sat with their children. Brothers Joe and Brad were recently reunited after years of living in different states. The group was excited because Jeremiah (fourth grade) could now spend time with his cousin Tes (first grade) here in Minnesota. A friendly game of Gladiator Joust rounded out their morning.
As the event wrapped up and the dads and kids left, one boy turned around to face the staff at the table and exclaimed with gratitude, "Thank you. This was awesome."
Rumor alert: Boundary changes
Rumor: I heard the boundaries will change for Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy, Oxbow and Dayton elementary schools for the 2013-14 year. Will the kids that currently attend via open enrollment have to reapply? That seems to be the only fair way to do it.
Response: Several weeks ago, the associate superintendent of elementary schools, along with the director of facilities, met with the School Board to discuss capacity concerns in some of our elementary buildings. The district is not looking at boundary changes. However, programming and capacity adjustments are being considered to address those concerns.
What most people fear, these students embrace
Blaine High School hosts State Speech Contest
Public speaking is often cited as the number one fear in America. It surpasses fear of heights, snakes, spiders, and even fear of death. National studies say 74 percent of Americans fear public speaking.
You couldn't tell that by the more than 600 talented students from around the state who braved a spring snowstorm to gather at Blaine High School (BHS) April 19 and 20 for the Minnesota State High School League State Speech Contest (MSHSL). These students thrive on public speaking. From their enthusiasm it was clear that they not only take pride in delivering polished speeches, but they also enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded students.
Unlike other MSHSL state competitions, where bands are playing and cheerleaders are revving up the spectators, a speech competition has an almost hushed atmosphere. There are few spectators. Some students cluster in little knots talking and laughing quietly; others pace the hallways or stare at a blank wall while quietly practicing. When it's time for their event, they go into their assigned rooms with the other students in their round, the doors close and they wait quietly for their turn, listening to their competitors and providing polite applause at the end of each.
During a state meet each student participates in three preliminary rounds. The scores from all three judges are then averaged to determine who advances to the final round. This year 12 Anoka-Hennepin students qualified for the competition by winning at their section tournament in one of 13 different speech events. Of those, three district students made it to the final round, each placing eighth: Rachel Rystedt of BHS in Discussion; Kalli Doyle, also of BHS, in Extemporaneous Reading, and Alec Francen, Andover High School, in Great Speeches.
Ross Eichele, head speech and debate coach at Blaine, was proud to host this year's tournament, which was the first ever hosted by an Anoka-Hennepin high school. "In a time when many districts have cut back support of the arts, our school board, district administration, and Blaine's administration is supporting the arts across Minnesota by hosting the state speech meet," he said. He described the competitors as the "brightest and most articulate students in the state."
"Minnesota is a very strong state for speech. Our kids do really well at the national level," said Eichele. In fact, he has three students representing Blaine at the National Forensic League (NFL) tournament this summer: Christian Vasquez in Extemporaneous Speaking and Shilvi Joshi and Bailey Rung in Congressional Debate. They were selected based on their performance at speech and debate contests earlier in the year.
It's a long journey to this competition of top students. Most spend virtually every weekend between late January and the end of March at various competitions around the state. Some participate in more than one event at each competition, which gives them an opportunity to try a variety of events to find the one that best fits their individual strengths and interests.
During the week, they meet after school with their coaches, researching, writing and re-writing their speeches and perfecting their delivery. Preparation varies somewhat depending on the particular events they choose. For example, students participating in Extemporaneous Speaking, like Vasquez, spend many hours researching topics of national and world significance, similar to preparation for debate. They need to be prepared to speak on a wide range of topics because they won't know their topic until the day of the contest, and then they have just 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech.
"I spent three to four hours nearly every day after school preparing," said Vasquez. His question for the state competition focused on President Obama's political agenda and prospects for accomplishment. A senior, Vasquez has participated in speech every year of high school. "Originally I hated public speaking. My mom kind of went behind my back and forced me into it but now I absolutely love it."
Junior Lauren Hince participated in Original Oratory, which must be persuasive, with an eight-minute speech on how the word love is "misused, overused and downright abused." She spoke on the same topic the whole season and had the opportunity to improve it after getting comments from judges over the months. Before getting involved in speech, she was like most of the population. "I had huge stage fright when I was in third grade. Now, I love getting up and speaking in front of people," she said. "Speech is awesome."
Senior Shilvi Joshi participated in Great Speeches, which required choosing a great speech and analyzing its significance at the time and why it matters today. She chose President Franklin Roosevelt's second inaugural address, which was delivered at a time of economic crisis. "He used his opportunity to help reaffirm the American spirit and to urge people to be confident so the United States could survive and thrive," she said. She likes the competitive nature of speech and debate. "They have helped me so much in other aspects of my life."
Rachel Rystedt chose Discussion, an event in which competing students sit down together to solve a problem related to a general topic they have researched throughout the season. She likes the ability to interact with her competitors and enjoys the clash of ideas in cooperative competition. "Occasionally we have heated arguments but we need to know how to mediate them and be respectful of each other," she said. "I really love the interaction with people and forming solutions off others' ideas. It is very applicable to real life."
Freshman Kalli Doyle participated in the Extemporaneous Reading event. Competitors in this event draw three different cuttings from well-known stories. They have 30-minutes to prepare to deliver a dramatic six-minute reading and they do a different piece for each round. She was surprised to make it all the way to the state tournament her first year in speech and she is looking forward to next year.
The other Anoka-Hennepin competitors were Asha Warsame and Jacob Hanson, BHS; Maddy Thor, Alec Francen and Maddie Morris of Andover High School; Emily Harrison, Anoka High School; and Alica Arline, Champlin Park High School.
As for Coach Ross Eichele, he is looking forward to taking students to the NFL tournament in Alabama June 16 through 21, then taking a few months off before starting the next debate season. "It is a real privilege to work with these kids," he said.
Champlin Park High School’s Pam Baker a 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winner
As Champlin Park High School's college and career specialist, Pam Baker tells students to dream big, no matter their post-secondary goals.
Her own advice has led to a pretty big honor for Baker. She' been named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District's 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.
"There is nothing better than seeing a smile on the face of a student who is able to pursue their dream," Baker said of the work she does helping CPHS students develop plans for after high school.
Baker, who has spent 33 years with Anoka-Hennepin schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"It's an honor-it truly is," Baker said. "But it's also very humbling. I feel like I work with many people who go above and beyond every day. To be acknowledged-it's a very humbling experience."
The colleagues who nominated Baker said she's "an essential person in the community of Champlin Park High School," and that she offers a very personal touch helping students with their post-secondary dreams-especially those who are first-generation college students who may have little help at home.
Specifically, last year Baker worked with a student who needed to complete credits for graduation once her senior year had ended. Baker, according to her colleagues, worked on a post-secondary plan with the student, finding a suitable college and guiding her through the financial-aid process. Baker even talked to the college to see if she could attend in spite of needing to complete some of her high school work. Once the student was approved, Baker went so far as to help the girl-who would be away from home for the first time-buy necessities for her dorm room. All the while, Baker continued to help the student finish her high school credits by hiring a tutor and helping provide financial assistance to cover those costs.
"We have lots of students who, with support, can move forward in the whole college planning process," Baker said. "I'm just one of those people who has a passion to provide that support. Some of the kids-they need that."
Baker is constantly seeking new ideas to promote the career and college culture at Champlin Park High School, including what she considers to be the most meaningful contribution-the staff scholarship fund. Staff members donate to the fund, which is used to provide scholarships to graduating seniors pursuing careers in education. The fund has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships to date.
"My actions and words demonstrate that I do care and am concerned about the success of the students at CPHS," Baker said. "Each student is unique and it is in helping them that I can truly say I have a great job."
Nicole Hedlund’s care, unique approach to teaching leads to 2013 Above & Beyond Award
Every morning, Nicole Hedlund sets the tone for the learning day in her second-grade classroom at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy with a morning meeting.
Students gather around, greet one another, and share recent events in their lives. The "team-building activity," as Hedlund calls it, is the most important part of the day, she says.
It's that kind of special attention to students that led Hedlund to be named one of the Anoka-Hennepin School District's 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winners.
Hedlund, who has spent nine years with Anoka-Hennepin schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"I was taken aback-just so honored," Hedlund said of the award. "I love coming to work each day to work with amazing children and staff. Each morning I am greeted with smiles and each afternoon hi-fives and hugs!"
For Hedlund, it wasn't even a colleague that nominated her-it was a parent.
Michelle Bickford's son is in her class, and she said it was through Hedlund's individual attention, care, and kindness that a learning issue was identified with her son.
"She knew it was going to be difficult for us to hear, as it was just as difficult for her to tell us," Bickford said. "Knowing that there was a difficulty that he could not control, she felt it best to go to the next step, talking to us, the parents. She is truly amazing in her kindness and has deep concern for her students."
Soon, Bickford's son was receiving the extra help he needed, and as a result, he has made tremendous progress. Bickford recalled the phone call Hedlund made to announce the progress her son had made-nearly crying as she told the parent.
"She made that extra effort out of her day to make sure we as parents knew that there was hope," Bickford said. "She also made sure our son knew that he had achieved something great."
"When I found out (Bickford) had taken the time to nominate me-we've really been on the same team, her and I, and it's been great to develop that relationship and earn her trust," Hedlund said. "We have such a connection."
Hedlund, though, is quick to point out she isn't alone, saying she works with amazing people.
"Within this professional environment I have been given the opportunity to work with amazing leaders that have inspired me throughout my educational journey, which is a true gift," she said.
Hedlund said she wants to use this experience to help and inspire other young teachers in the district.
"This is not an easy job," Hedlund said. "I want to be there to support and collaborate-I believe in paying it forward."
For John Horton, a 2013 Above & Beyond Award winner, it’s all about advocating for students
For John Horton, teaching stretches far beyond his own students, or even his everyday time in the classroom.
Horton, a third-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Coon Rapids, hosts a two-week summer camp for student to brush up on their math and reading skills. He didn't even mind that many of the 18 students who participated last year weren't going to be in his class.
"I don't know very many teachers who are willing to do something like this," said Rachel Koep, a parent whose daughter was in his class last year.
It's fostering that sense of community for the school that is just one of the many reasons Horton was named an Anoka-Hennepin School District 2012-2013 Above & Beyond Award winner.
Horton, who has spent eight years teaching in Anoka-Hennepin's elementary schools, is one of 10 recipients of the annual award that recognizes teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, and other employees who work extra-hard to make sure students are successful.
"I believe it's my job to make sure that every child loves learning and coming to school," Horton said. "For me, that means making sure I know each child as a person and a learner."
It was Koep who nominated Horton for the honor. Last year, it was his extra work to produce a video explaining how the new math method worked that allowed her and her husband to help their daughter with math homework. This year, even though Koep's daughter had moved to fourth grade, he stepped in to offer help when she had told him about being picked on by new girls on the playground.
"If every teacher had the same philosophy as him, we would have no problem making every student a success story," Koep said, marveling at "all the extra hours, effort and love (Horton) puts into his profession."
Horton said he prides himself on connecting with families and parents to create a classroom and school community that's excited about learning. But at the end of the day, it's about students.
"My classes focus on team building, compliments and looking out for each other," he said. "Every child is special, and I want to be their biggest advocate."
Every day, Horton's students talk, laugh, ask questions, and even fix mistakes.
"I think it's important to never stop encouraging the students who need it, and never to stop raising the bar for everyone," Horton said.
Professional recognitions in May
National Teacher Appreciation Week May 6 through 10; National Teacher Day May 7 On May 7, National Teacher Day, thousands of communities will take time out to honor their local educators and acknowledge the contributions they make to our lives. Teachers play a crucial role in making sure every child receives a quality public education. National Teacher Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6 through 10) convey the hard work that teachers do each day to make public schools great for every child. Be sure to say "thanks" to the teachers in your families' lives.
School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week - May 6 through 10 Between preparing healthy food, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, Anoka-Hennepin nutrition professionals have a lot on their plate. To celebrate their hard work and commitment, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) organizes School Nutrition Employee Week, May 6 through 10.
To kick off the celebration, SNA has partnered with Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the "Lunch Lady" graphic novel series and Random House Children's Books, to create School Lunch Superhero Day, May 3. The day and the week are an opportunity for parents, students, school staff and communities to thank those who provide healthy meals to 32 million of America's students each school day.
All across the school district, school nutrition professionals will be honored with thanks, cards, and recognition from students, school staff, parents, and the community. School nutrition employees must balance many roles and follow numerous federal, state and local regulations to ensure safe and healthy meals are available in schools. In fact, federal nutrition standards ensure that every school lunch offers students a well-balanced meal offering low-fat or fat-free milk, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. School meals also meet limits on calories, sodium and unhealthy fats.
The importance and nutritional value of school meals are well documented. For many children, school lunch is the most important and nutrient-rich meal of their day.
National School Nurse Day May 8; National Nurse Week is May 6 through 10 On May 8, school nurses will be recognized nationwide for their contributions. National School Nurse Day, established 41 years ago to foster greater understanding of the role of school nurses, occurs annually on the Wednesday of National Nurses Week, May 6 through 10, which culminates on the birthday of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.
More than 66,000 U.S. school nurses promote health and safety, provide intervention for potential and actual health issues, coordinate case management services, and collaborate with school faculty, families, and health care providers, teaching students the skills for self management and self advocacy in their health care. School nursing, recognized as a specialized practice, aims to advance the academic success, well-being and life-long achievement of students.
The image of school nurses has undergone a profound transformation. Although they still tend to wounded knees from the playground, the school nurse is as likely to be found teaching a student, newly diagnosed with asthma, how to use their inhaler or helping a student with diabetes how to better manage their condition. "Advocacy, Access, Achievement: Leading the Way," this year's theme, captures the impact school nurses have on their students' health and well-being, as they navigate more complex challenges than ever before.
National Educational Bosses Week May 20 through 24 The National Association of Educational Office Professionals' (NAEOP) National Educational Bosses Week is May 20 through 24. This week recognizes the significance of the many and varied duties and responsibilities assumed by the educational leaders at all levels of the educational process. National Bosses Day is observed in many countries throughout the world on Oct. 16.
Frequently asked questions regarding winter weather and schools
Listen to the winter weather and closing schools podcast episode Click here to listen to the winter weather and school closing podcast episode, featuring special guest Superintendent Dennis Carlson, in the Anoka-Hennepin Podcast Network (AHPN) section.
Where can I get information on school closings due to weather? To get information regarding school closings or delayed start times, you should monitor school and district websites, and pay attention to TV and radio news reports.
The district will post any general information about school closings/delayed start times on the front page of the website (www.anoka.k12.mn.us) and the district's Facebook page and Twitter account. Sign up for the district's weather status alerts with email or text updates here.
The district also releases this information to TV stations (WCCO, KSTP, FOX 9, KARE, Northwest Community TV) and WCCO radio. You may also call the district office at 763-506-1000. The district office phoneline is answered from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Note:Check with individual schools on the status of specific activities. Those responsible for activities scheduled in schools over the weekend determine whether or not an activity will be held if weather is a concern.
How cold does it have to be to close school? The safety of all our students is our first priority when determining if it is safe for schools to stay open in very cold weather. In making this decision, we use the National Weather Service wind chill chart, which uses a combination of air temperature and wind speed to determine the length of time a person may safely be outside. Click here to view or download the chart.
The goal is to be within the wind chill range where students can be outside for 30 minutes without risk of frostbite. This should give students time to walk to school or wait for the bus safely. By dressing children properly, parents/guardians can protect against the effects of cold weather.
Why don't you close school when it is really cold and windy? Even when it's very cold and windy, typically businesses and government offices remain open, and most school districts in Minnesota, including all those in the metro area, remain open.
The decision to close school is a serious one, and it affects many working families who would have to take a day off of work or find day care on short notice. Some families do not have these options and their children may be left home alone. Often, children are more at risk when we close school. As the largest school district in Minnesota, with more than 240,000 residents and approximately 39,000 students, many families and businesses are affected when Anoka-Hennepin closes its schools.
Extremely cold weather is not unheard of in Minnesota. Many times it gets very cold in the state while school still is in session. By dressing children properly, parents/guardians can protect against the effects of cold weather.
What if I am concerned about the weather and school is in session? In case of very extreme winter weather, parents/guardians have the final decision on whether or not to send their children to school. If school is open, students are expected to attend. However, if parents/guardians they feel their children would be in danger they can choose to keep them home. The absence will be excused if the parent/guardian calls to report it prior to the start of school. If the school is not contacted, the student will not receive an excused absence. Students who are already in school will not be excused if they choose to go home. How does the district determine if it is safe to operate buses? District transportation staff members drive roads and check with bus company staff, local city and county public works staff between 4 and 5 a.m. to determine if streets are open and buses can get through. We also check weather forecasts and consult with other school districts who may be experiencing the same or similar weather.
When we have snowstorms and similar winter weather, the roads are slippery. It does take us a little longer to get through routes; however, we plan as much as possible to be on time.
In a district of our size, more than 170 square miles, it would be difficult for us to maintain a site to track conditions across the district. Parents should assume that unless school is called off, our school buses are running.
I heard that Anoka-Hennepin never closing for weather related problems. Is this true? No. Typically, when Anoka-Hennepin has closed school, the conditions were snow and ice - conditions that kept buses from running. In 1994, then-Gov. Arne Carlson ordered schools closed due to extreme wind chill temperatures.
Anoka-Hennepin closed in the fall of 2005 following a large rainstorm that caused a number of power outages. In addition it has closed several times in recent years for snow or cold. For example, it closed on March 15, 2002 (due to heavy snow fall overnight), March 2, 2007 (due to wind chill), Feb. 29, 2012 (due to ice and snow) and March 5, 2013 (due to heavy snow fall and unplowed roads in several areas of the district).
Tips on appropriate dress for cold weather:
Wear several layers, the layer of air between each piece of clothing acts as extra insulation
Wear clothing that insulates, shields and breathes. Wool and polypropylene are good insulators
Outer layers should be wind and waterproof
Wear wool socks and well-fitting waterproof boots
Wear a hat to prevent heat loss
In most cases, mittens are warmer than gloves
In extreme cold, cover all areas of exposed skin
Does the district lose money if school is closed? No. The district does not lose state aid if school closes for weather or other emergencies. State revenue is based on the number of students enrolled in school, not on the number of days in school. Will elementary students be allowed outside for recess when it is 25 below zero? No. The guideline for keeping children inside for recess will be zero degrees or 10 degrees below zero wind chill. Accommodations for children with special medical needs can be made with the Health Services office; written documentation from a doctor will be required.
Are student crossing guards allowed out in cold weather? Yes. School staff check student-crossing guards to ensure that they have warm and proper clothing to be out in cold weather.
District students place in national poster contests
National Magnet Schools of America poster contest Blaine High School Center for Engineering, Math and Science (CEMS) Sophomore Teresa Goetz placed third in the National Magnet Schools of America seventh annual poster contest. Goetz also received a cash prize of $50.
The contest is sponsored by Magnet Schools of America (MSA) as part of the celebration of National Magnet Schools Month. This is a national initiative to highlight and promote magnet schools across the country and takes place every January. The contest theme for this year was Magnet Schools Transforming America Today for a Stronger Tomorrow. The top poster will be recognized at the National Conference on Magnet Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 5 through 8.
Blaine's CEMS program is one of 11 magnet programs (also known as specialty schools) in Anoka-Hennepin. Each specialty school offers the same core curriculum as other district schools, but with a unique emphasis, including: the arts; science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM); International Baccalaureate (IB); and world studies.
Goetz, currently a CEMS student, previously attended Anoka Middle School for the Arts (AMSA) before coming to Blaine, said Dr. Lori Dykstra, CEMS curriculum integrator. "It is really neat to see students put their artistic skills/talents into use here at CEMS. Engineering requires a lot of creativity and AMSA prepares the students well."
Minnesota D.A.R.E. poster contest Adams Elementary School student Mariam Abdulkareem placed second in the 2013 Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) poster contest. This year's theme was "Safe, Healthy, and Responsible Choices." The contest was open to fifth and sixth grade D.A.R.E. students statewide.
Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc. received hundreds of entries from around Minnesota. The top entries will receive special D.A.R.E. prizes and will be framed and put on display at D.A.R.E. events throughout the state.
Minnesota D.A.R.E. is a prevention and education program that advocates and educates for healthy and safe children. D.A.R.E. serves young people and their families teaching the skills to make positive decisions, provides education on safe and healthy lifestyles and gives the tools to enable them to resist engaging in negative and violent behaviors. More than 25 million students have been reached worldwide and approximately 74,000 Minnesota students receive instruction annually.
School Board meeting set for Monday, April 22
The School Board will convene for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, April 22 at Sandburg Education Center, 1902 Second Avenue, Anoka. Agenda items include:
Student and staff recognition (Andover High School, Blaine High School, and Jackson Middle School).
American Indian Education.
Termination and non-renewal of teaching contracts for probationary teachers.
Long term substitute teachers, intern teachers and re-employed retired teachers.
Rescind the inclusion of certain teachers' names in resolution terminating probationary teachers.
Update/status report items:
Mental health recommendations.
The full agenda and its attachments can be viewed here. A live broadcast of the meeting will be available on local cable access channels and via webcast here (Microsoft Silverlight required). Stay tuned for an "Action of the School Board" publication and "Summary in Six" podcast in the days following the meeting.
Recognition dinner celebrates employees who’ve served 25 years or more
Anoka-Hennepin's annual recognition dinner was held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center earlier this month. The special event honors employees with 25 years or more of continuous service with the district. Out of more than 630 honorees, Joan Flygare, a physical education teacher, had the longest service - 47 years. Third grade teacher, Barb Karst, was the runner-up with 44 years of service.
On the program, the School Board and administration wrote a message to the honorees. "We extend sincere appreciation to each of you for your years of association with the Anoka-Hennepin School District. On behalf of the students and parents of the Anoka-Hennepin community, thank you for all you have done for our students and schools."
A full listing of the honored employees can be found here.
View or download event photos taken by the Communication and Public Relations Department via the district'sGoogle Picasa site. To download a photo, click on the desired photo. Then click "Download" and select "Download photo" from the drop-down menu.
Free breakfast event at Jackson Middle School Saturday for fathers and children
Fathers and their children are invited to attend the Third Annual Father's Breakfast Saturday, April 20, 9 to 11 a.m., at Jackson Middle School, 6000 109th Ave. N, Champlin. The event incudes free breakfast, door prizes and games, resources for fathers and more.
This popular event attracted over 350 people in its first two years and John Warren, student learning advocate at Jackson, is hoping for even more this year. The event is open to all fathers and their children in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
For more information call John Warren at 763-506-5223.
Blaine’s trap shooting team earns $20,000 endowment
Blaine High School's trap shooting team is among three teams across the state that earned a $20,000 endowment from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
Struttin' Toms, the local chapter of the NWTF, promoted Blaine as a strong candidate for the endowment. They shared with their national organization that the team was relatively new to the competition and could use the extra funds to get things rolling. Blaine is allowed to draw up to five percent from the endowment each year for items such as range fees, ammunition and tournaments.
"We are very grateful for the gift and all of the hard work the NWTF did for us to receive this," said parent Tracy Wright.
Over 70 students are participating on Blaine's trap shooting team this year. "Some kids have competed in trap shooting before, others are just learning the sport," said coach Larry Osmek.
The team's spring season goes through the end of May with a state competition June 7-9. The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL) is holding the event. Next year, the Minnesota State High School League will join MSHSCTL in a partnership to carry out the competition. This will make Minnesota the first state to hold a sanctioned trap shooting tournament at the high school level.
The Pioneer Press wrote a story on Blaine's league as their season got underway last fall. The full article along with photos and videos can be seen at: http://bit.ly/T7ZI39. More information about the NWTF is available at: http://www.nwtf.org.
Evergreen Park students reach out with penny collection
Families and friends of students at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School have been digging deep into their pockets to contribute to the school's Pennies for Patients fundraiser. In just two weeks, students collected $2,156.67 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Principal Sheryl Ray described the outpouring of pennies as "incredible, knowing the level of poverty in the school." More than three-quarters of the students at Evergreen Park qualify for free or reduced cost lunch, which is a federal measure of poverty.
"It is so inspiring. Even though we have so many families in poverty, it is important to them that they too can be part of helping others," said Vanessa Wood, curriculum integrator and specialty school programmer for Evergreen Park.
"As a community school, part of our model is to involve students in service learning projects. Our student council decided on their own that they wanted to do the Pennies for Patients fundraiser."
The school had a kick-off event for the fundraiser as part of an all-school assembly March 28. The next week each student got a collection box and got down to work. The collection will end April 26. Anyone who wishes may contribute by sending contributions to Evergreen Park School at 7020 Dupont Ave. N, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430-1212.
Wood said students have also decided to participate in Hearts for June, an effort to collect 20,000 paper hearts by June 1 to decorate the walls of a hospital room for a 3-year-old girl suffering from a rare disease. In addition, a group of fourth graders who read a story about slavery collected money to send to the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery.
"It is exciting seeing the students come up with ideas on their own for how they can help their community," said Wood.
Celebrating more than 10,000 volunteers: April 21 through 27
In honor of National Volunteer Recognition Week (April 21-27), the Anoka-Hennepin School District thanks its more than 10,000 volunteers who contributed over 183,000 hours of time, energy and service to Anoka-Hennepin schools over the past year.
"Volunteers support our schools and our students every day, " said Sue Archbold, Anoka-Hennepin Volunteer Services Supervisor. "We take time this week to thank a strong band of community members, families, PTOs, PTAs, booster clubs, local businesses, friends and so many others who generously give of their time, energy and talents to our schools and students all year."
Anoka-Hennepin Volunteer Services provides individuals with the ability to participate in school activities while enriching student learning opportunities and giving teachers the flexibility to provide students with individualized attention. Volunteer opportunities may include working one-on-one with students in reading or math, coordinating school-wide reading programs, sharing information about professional experiences and careers, helping with clerical tasks, or assisting with sports and academic activities.
It's easy to get involved. Contact the Volunteer Services Coordinator at your school of interest or Anoka-Hennepin Volunteer Services to receive a volunteer assignment. Completion of a volunteer application form and a criminal record history release form is required of all volunteers serving the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Good luck to A-H students at state speech contest
An even dozen Anoka-Hennepin students advanced from their regional competition to the State Speech Contest, which is being held today and tomorrow at Blaine High School.
Good luck to:
Andover High School Maddy Thor in Creative Expression Alec Francen in Great Speeches Maddie Morris in Original Oratory
Anoka High School Emily Harrison in Informative Speaking
Blaine High School Asha Warsame in Drama Rachel Rystedt in Discussion Jacob Hanson in Extemporaneous Reading Kalli Doyle in Extemporaneous Reading Christian Vasquez in Extemporaneous Speaking Shilvi Joshi in Great Speeches Lauren Hince in Original Oratory
Champlin Park High School Alica Arline in Prose
Anoka Middle School for the Arts theater teacher earns youth advocate award
Jefferson Fietek is one of those lucky people whose childhood dreams about what they wanted to be when they grew up actually came true.
As a child he was fascinated by The Muppet Show and told his parents that's what he wanted to do. "Be a puppeteer?" they asked. "No! Put on shows," he said. He got an early start, frequently organizing the kids in his neighborhood and putting on plays in his garage.
He went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in directing and acting and K-12 theater licensure. He taught preschool for six years, led acting workshops and taught Community Education classes, co-founded Young Artists Initiative to give access to the arts to inner city children, and worked for Anoka Children's Theater.
Today he teaches theater full-time at Anoka Middle School for the Arts and directs plays that go well beyond the usual level of Middle School Theater. He likes to choose works that will leave an important message with an audience.
Among the messages he has been emphasizing in his work and his life are that everyone deserves respect and that we need to stand up for those who are bullied or harassed. For his efforts, the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership presented him with the 2013 Reese House LGBTQIA Youth Advocate Educator of the Year Award at a recent conference in San Diego.
Nominated by a student and community member, Fietek was very surprised to be honored with the award. "They kept describing the work I do as being courageous. I remember what it was like to be a teenager and I think that kids today have a lot more to deal with - like cell phones and the Internet," he said. "When kids stand up for each other in a climate where it isn't always OK to stand out, that takes real courage."
He said one of the wonderful things about the award is that it made him think back to the great teachers he had and it reminds him how important teachers are in kids' lives. "Teachers have been a primary influence on me. Now I have the opportunity to give back," he said.
Fietek grew up in Anoka-Hennepin and attended University Avenue Elementary School, Northdale Middle School and Coon Rapids High School. He recalled his elementary music teacher, Marietta Miller, who produced "Fiddler on the Roof" and gave him his first opportunity to be in a "big show." His sixth grade teacher, Louise Mullen, got him excited about the possibility of being a teacher and his high school theater teacher, Rick Gabriel, was open to his idea of bringing elementary students into the school on weekends for workshops in the arts.
He feels extremely fortunate to be a full-time theater teacher in a middle school, partly because there aren't many jobs like that, and partly because it's doing work he loves with students who are "eager to learn, passionate about things, and at an important fork in the road."
At one point he wanted to work on Broadway, but that changed. "You can't imagine what it's like to go to a job everyday where people are excited to see you," he said "This is such a loving environment, even with the kids who are sometimes a challenge."
Enthusiasm was evident as kids filed into Fietek's first hour classroom. They were laughing and joking, vying for his attention until it was time to settle down and get to work. They were creating puppets and writing scripts for upcoming presentations. He likes to assign puppet projects at the beginning of new class as a way to help students find their voices, first behind the façade of the puppet before moving on to acting themselves. It helps develop confidence in expressing themselves.
That's why he feels teaching the arts is so important. "Arts allow people to express themselves and share ideas that may be hard to express in other ways. I originally started using things like poetry and script writing and performance as a way to process what I was going through," he said. "If you are having a hard time, feeling angry or depressed, you can celebrate your gift. It may be playing your violin or doing sports - throwing the football or running. You need to do whatever makes you happy."
He also believes the arts are a great vehicle for empowering students who may feel different. "The arts seem to be open to all sorts of differences. Our paras talk about how they love to bring kids with special needs into our arts classes because they are always made to feel welcome," he said.
He takes great pride in watching students grow over the years. Some are in his classes all three years of middle school. At an arts specialty school he has the opportunity to teach students acting skills that he wouldn't be able to do in an after-school play production experience alone. He has seen students blossom as a result. "When they take that first journey on stage at school, you never know where they will go. "It's exciting to go to The Guthrie or the Minnesota History Theater and see my kids on stage.
"I remember Malick Ceesay who had one line in a show as a sixth grader. Now he has done a Broadway tour and has had phenomenal roles in a lot of shows," he said. "It's another thing that makes this job so great."
Boys golf coach scores hole in one with Assistant Coach of the Year honor
Congratulations to Tim Maaske, social studies teacher and boys assistant golf coach at Blaine High School (BHS), for being named the 2012 AAA Assistant Coach of the Year. The Minnesota State High School League and the Minnesota Golf Coaches Association recently presented Maaske with the honor. Head coach Kevin Overgaard, science teacher at BHS, nominated him.
"Being a part of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Blaine High School and the boys golf program has enriched my life," said Maaske. "I am very appreciative of the opportunities that have been given to me to make a positive impact on young people's lives."
Maaske will be recognized at the organization's annual banquet event this fall. Way to go Bengals!
Anoka High School triple jumper among best in state, named Athlete of the Week
Congratulations to Anoka High School (AHS) sophomore Ky'Eric Baynes, who was named Kare-11's Athlete of the Week for his record-breaking triple jump in the All-American Invitational in track and field earlier this year. His 46 foot, 9.75 inch jump broke the record for the meet and AHS' 1993 record held by Troy Walz. Baynes continues to shine in this spring's track and field season, even though there's been just three meets to date.
"Ky'Eric is a talented athlete who is willing to keep working hard to become better every week," said coach Jenny Birkmeier. "We are excited about his success and know that he will continue to excel in many areas of track and field."
"I have a lot of fun," said Baynes to the Kare-11 reporter. "And my teammates help me, and I help them. It's like an Anoka family." The entire Athlete of the Week piece can be seen on Kare-11's website at: http://kare11.tv/XA9jIU.
Coon Rapids High School’s Anti-Bullying Week promotes bystander awareness
For eager students at Coon Rapids High School, an Anti-Bullying Week full of teenage-led lessons, newfound knowledge, and school spirit has been a long time coming.
Nearly six months in the works, a week full of anti-bullying awareness, bystander empowerment, and school spirit flooded Coon Rapids High School during the week of April 1. And the best part for some students? Band-aids.
"No, seriously. It's a fabulous lesson. In the time it takes to put on a Band-aid, someone just got bullied," CRHS sophomore Janet Irankunda said. "So we're going to have all the students put on a Band-aid in the morning, then challenge them all not to say anything negative the rest of the day."
The Band-aid lesson was just one of many student-led lessons during Anti-Bullying Week. Others included a student and staff orange-out day-when all staff and students wore orange to school-Spirit Day and student-led morning announcements.
The week was spearheaded by a student-group called "Obliviate the Hate," whose primary goal is to empower those who witness bullying to intervene in conflicts. "Obliviate" is a word from the Harry Potter novels that essentially means "to erase."
"The facts are surprising if you think about it. If a bystander intervenes in an act of bullying, the conflict can end in 10 seconds or less," said Irankunda, an Obliviate the Hate member and someone who says she was intensely bullied.
"I got made fun of a lot from fourth grade all the way up until probably the beginning of this year," Irankunda said. "I literally cried every time I went to bed. I really didn't want to talk to anybody because I felt nobody was going to listen."
Irankunda believes that if she or her fellow students had the tools and knowledge she has now, things might have been different for her.
"I don't want anyone else to feel the same way I did," she said. Bystander empowerment and awareness are the difference for Obliviate the Hate compared to some other anti-bullying groups, according to CRHS Assistant Principal Shannon Madison.
"This group, while it's an anti-bullying group-its core message is to give bystanders who witness bullying conflicts the tools to intervene," Madison said. "It's really very different from other groups that just teach anti-bullying messages."
For CRHS sophomore Maureen Galleymore, also a member of Obliviate the Hate, the difference is a big deal. In middle school, Galleymore said she was the victim of bullying by someone she thought was a friend.
"She always degraded me. That was one of my hardest times. It was pretty bad," she said. "But now, I feel like I can control (bullying) almost. I feel like I can tell someone it's not cool to bully and they'll get the hint. It's totally the message we learned at the retreat."
The bystander-empowerment message is also no coincidence. The genesis of Obliviate the Hate is an "Empowering Bystander Grant" given to CRHS and Centennial High School jointly by the Anoka County Children and Family Council, Madison said.
The grant allowed each school to gather 50 teacher-selected student participants who would be good ambassadors, Madison said. And that's what CRHS found.
"This group of kids that I've gotten to know-they're special," Madison said. "For many of them, they're here because they've been bullied. They want to make a difference."
Also different - the makeup of the group. Madison said of the roughly 50 students chosen to participate, all but 10 of them are freshmen and sophomores.
"The grant specifically targets 10th and 11th graders because they're the ones who will be in the school the longest, and making the biggest difference with what they learn from this program," Madison said. "Upperclassmen-frankly, they're going to be graduating soon."
And soon, Obliviate the Hate's work is going to be moving down the grade-level totem pole.
Galleymore said the plan for next year is to head to Coon Rapids Middle School with the same message that's been so important to her at CRHS.
"I want to help the future kids-to make sure bullying doesn't happen to them," she said. "If we can get to the smaller kids and teach them, it'll stay with them all the way through high school."
Many of the lessons and Anti-Bullying Week activities came from an all-day retreat in October by the group participants from both CRHS and Centennial. Students learned about the anti-bullying and bystander empowerment message from Deborah Tackmann, a nationally renowned speaker on health education, and also made a promise to bring it back to their schools, Madison said. The name Obliviate the Hate was also chosen at the retreat (to learn more about the retreat, click here).
Since the retreat, CRHS and Obliviate the Hate have held one other large-scale program to promote bystander awareness. Roughly 70 students, parents and guardians, and community members attended an Obliviate the Hate Summit on Feb. 11. The idea, Madison said, was to bring everyone in the community together to be part of the conversation.
The highlight of the summit was a keynote address from Dr. David Walsh, a psychologist, educator and author, who spoke about fostering respect and courage in 21st century youth. (To read more about the summit and Walsh's speech, click here).
But for Madison, and Obliviate the Hate students, anti-bullying week was something to which everyone had looked forward since the October retreat.
"Anti-Bullying Week-it's our week," Madison said. "It's the week this group has been waiting for to spread the word."
Armed with tools, lessons and some fun, Madison said students planned a full week of activities to help educate the 2,200 students at CRHS to stand up to bullying and to intervene when they witness it.
Activities ranged from the Band-aid lesson to the more than 650 handprints that Obliviate the Hate members taped to student lockers throughout the school on Tuesday night, representing the one in four students who are victims of bullying, as well as Spirit Day and the orange-out activity. Obliviate the Hate also sold awareness bracelets in the cafeteria during lunch. In addition, during an all-school assembly on April 2, nationally recognized and Emmy Award-winning motivational speaker Mark Scharenbroich encouraged students to respect others, be pleasant and happy, and to make school a caring place for all.
"This week-it's amazing," Irankunda said. "I'm empowered now. I really am. My confidence has boosted really high. Where I usually would have my head down in the hallway, now I'm smiling all the time. It's really impacted me, and hopefully this will help others."
Anoka High School Symphonic Rock Concert fundraiser entertains and educates
Last weekend Anoka High School (AHS) student musicians entertained 2,000 people, raised $24,000, and brought their musical skills to a new level. And, everyone had a great time. Click here to view more photos on Facebook.
The event was the wildly popular Symphonic Rock III concert of students in concert choir and concert orchestra as well as the classic rock band, Staff Infection, which is made up of school staff. It also included special guest artists Superintendent Dennis Carlson, Minnesota Senator John Hoffman and Patrick Plant, who retired from the district last year as chief technology and information officer.
Over the three years AHS has produced this concert, it has raised approximately $75,000 for the school's Caring and Sharing Fund, which supports students and families in need. The event has become so popular that the school started selling tickets the second week of January and within a month it was nearly sold out. Two weeks before the performances every last seat in the house was sold and folding chairs were brought in to accommodate another 120 people.
"It was gratifying to have such large and enthusiastic audiences. That was really inspiring for the kids," said orchestra director Mike Halstenson, the originator of the event. They also felt good about the role they played in raising a significant amount of money to help their fellow students.
Superintendent Carlson said it was wonderful to spend that much time with students doing something together that they all enjoy. He praised Halstenson's commitment to the project and the students. "It takes a tremendous amount of leadership and time to put together a concert like this. Mike scored 1,000 pieces of music," said Carlson. "It was a privilege to play with him and our talented students."
Halstenson gave credit to the students for making the utmost effort to perform at a high level. "There is a two to three week period where the kids put those 22 pieces together. I have high expectations and they have to work really hard, but they all did it," said Halstenson.
He said this experience gives the students a taste of the life of a professional musician. "When you are an adult, you don't get four weeks of practicing every day to perfect a piece like you do when you are a student. You get just a few days," he said.
The students performed two hours of music in a two-and-a-half hour concert, which is unheard of at the high school level, according to Halstenson. They were excited about the tremendous enthusiasm of the audience. "The kids were equally excited about their work.
They were saying, 'I am a better player' or 'I am a better singer than I was two months ago.' That comes from the expectation of having to do it right."
The students also enjoyed seeing the superintendent and a state senator on stage with them. It was a good demonstration of how people can enjoy making music throughout their lives, even if their careers take them down different paths.
Gallagher 5K run/walk sees large number of participants
Over 700 people participated in last week's Bill Gallagher Memorial/Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF) 5K Fun Run/Walk. Together with the event's sponsors, they earned more than $11,000. Sponsors were Allina Hospitals and Clinics, AKA Sport, Anoka Rotary, Lanigan and Kolb, Rebyl Sport, Tim Orn at State Farm, and the United Educators Credit Union. All proceeds are going to Anoka-Hennepin schools to support literacy. Click here to view more photos on Facebook.
"For many schools that will mean new books, e-books and/or online subscriptions for the media center. For others it might mean supporting a tutoring program, a summer reading program or other related projects," said Tess DeGeest, director of AHEF.
The amount each school receives is based on the number of its run/walk participants. This year's prize funding winners are Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science (CBPA), Roosevelt Middle School and Champlin Park High School.
Two staff members at CBPA told students they would shave their heads if the school won the highest per capita registrants in the elementary category. Tim Carlson, media specialist, and Butch Hathaway, physical education teacher, did just that with the help of a few students on April 10!
"We are extremely proud of our students, families and staff who participated in the run/walk this year," said Carlson. "Since they did their part, we kept our promise. The entire school watched us get our heads shaved at the end of the day. It was well worth all the smiles and excitement of our students!" Click here to view more event photos on Facebook.
"We are so appreciative of the hospitality of Anoka High School students and staff, who were outstanding in their support of this districtwide event," said DeGeest. "Peter Tremain, the school's track and field coach, was wonderful to work with and had more than 20 track members helping out and cheering on our runners and walkers."
The 2014 run/walk date will be shared later this month.
Foundation receives $5,000 grant from local chamber of commerce
The Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF), a non-profit with the singular goal of providing resources to Anoka-Hennepin schools and its students, was just awarded a $5,000 grant to stock the district's food shelves because of the generosity of the Ham Lake Area Chamber of Commerce (HLACC).
"The HLACC is deeply committed to helping our students and schools, especially in these areas of direct need," said Tess DeGeest, AHEF director. Last year, AHEF received another HLACC donation for the Chance Fund, which helps students from struggling families participate in extra-curricular activities at school. The HLACC donated to the fund again this year.
Learn more about the foundation and donation opportunities by visiting www.anoka.k12.mn.us/ahef or calling DeGeest at 763-506-1107.
Nationally Renowned Speaker’s Simple Advice to Coon Rapids High Schoolers: ‘Live Freely, Love a Lot’
Motivational speaker Mark Scharenbroich's words of wisdom encouraged students to respect others, be pleasant and happy, and to make school a caring place for all. Coincidentally, his timeless advice tied perfectly into CRHS's Anti-Bullying Week.
It's not often that an all-school assembly can fill a fieldhouse with equal parts knee-slapping laughter, cheering and heartfelt applause, and moments of intense silence and bated breath.
But that's what 2,200 Coon Rapids High School students accomplished during an April 2 visit from nationally recognized and Emmy Award-winning motivational speaker Mark Scharenbroich.
Part comedy set, part serious advice session, Scharenbroich's message to students was simple and poignant: "Live freely and love a lot."
He connected with CRHS students through witty humor and inspiring yet relatable stories, and while he spoke, he regularly drew laughter and applause after moments of hear-a-pin-drop silence. He spoke for about an hour about how students should try to make every moment of high school a meaningful one, focusing on the need for students to respect others as well as themselves, and to play nice in both school and in life.
"The moment you've got to put somebody else down to bring yourself up, or the moment you have to make fun of somebody else to have fun yourself, you're playing a game you can't win," Scharenbroich told the CRHS crowd.
That message tied brilliantly into the school's Anti-Bullying Week, which began April 1.
CRHS Activities Director Kelley Scott said Scharenbroich's visit wasn't officially part of the week's anti-bullying events, but his messages blended well with the over-arching themes of the week. (To read more about the school's Anti-Bullying Week, click here.)
"He's here to get kids excited-not only about the end of the school year, but about life and all the topics he talked about," Scott said. "His messages ring true far beyond the school's walls."
Scharenbroich said he was honored to be at CRHS during such an important time, calling the anti-bullying message one he incorporates into his visits to high schools.
"What an amazing thing for students and staff to do and what an honor for me to participate in that," he said. "It's really something I'm happy to have been a part of."
Scharenbroich was such a hit that many students stopped to shake his hand when the assembly concluded.
"He was so funny, and his message-it was just so wonderful," sophomore Janet Irankunda said. "He's a parent, so not only did he live these lessons, but he talked about how he's witnessed them firsthand through his kids. It was cool."
Maureen Galleymore, a sophomore who posed for a photo with Scharenbroich after the event, said she loved his message.
"He was just so fantastic, and really inspiring," she said. "Words to live by, for sure."
Scharenbroich's message is timeless, and is as relatable to today's students as it is to their parents and teachers.
"High school is about making memories, not regrets," he told the assembled students. "Regrets are opportunities you never took advantage of.
"At what other time in your life is there so much dramatic growth and change in such a short window of time? Never."
And that, Scharenbroich pointed out, is the basic message that parents - along with teachers and coaches - have been trying to convey to students since middle school.
"Those of us who have walked the path of life farther than you have-it's only natural for us to look back and say: 'If only I could do it over again,'" he said. "Why does this time in your life matter so much? For the very first time in your life, if you want, you finally get to define who you are. You get to choose."
Scharenbroich, who grew up in Minneapolis, said he used to do more than 100 high school assemblies a year before his career took him in a different direction. Today he's an accomplished author who addresses mostly business audiences as a keynote speaker. But Scharenbroich said he just can't shake the "fuzzy feeling" he gets while talking to high schoolers, and it's why he still does three or four assemblies a year like the one he did at CRHS.
"High school students keep me connected," he said. "You look in their faces, and they're so open and respectful, and they let you have a connection with them. It's unique and really rather rewarding."
Scharenbroich says his high school experience was wonderful, and it's important to him to let students know high school can be a decent time. He does that, he says, using a simple message combined with years of public speaking experience that began when he performed as a comedian during and after his days as a student at St. Cloud State University.
During his talk at CRHS, Scharenbroich discussed how each year of high school offers students a newfound knowledge and discovery. Freshmen, he said, are uncertain, while sophomores are grateful. Juniors, he joked, are going through a sort of mid-life crisis, and seniors are self-assured.
And through it all, he said, students should "stop looking over their shoulders," experience life rather than just watching it pass by, and respect others who are different.
Anti-Bullying Week was coordinated in part by more than 50 CRHS students-mostly freshmen and sophomores-who are working to encourage bystanders to speak up when they see acts of bullying. Their student group, "Obliviate the Hate," is a joint project with Centennial High School, and funded by an Anoka County grant. "Obliviate" is a word from the Harry Potter novels that essentially means "to erase."
The events, which ran from April 1 through 5, featured a number of activities, including more than 650 handprints taped to student lockers, representing the one in four students who are victims of bullying, the selling of awareness bracelets, and student-led announcements about bullying every morning.
In the end, Scharenbroich had another easy message for Coon Rapids students. "Don't wait for the last 30 seconds to connect in a positive way with your fellow seniors," he implored the upperclassmen. As for the other classes:
"Don't wait until you're a senior to be a part of the Cardinal Nation," he said, urging those assembled to freely accept each other, to share themselves, and to participate.
Anoka-Hennepin Health Services team receives 2013 Anoka County Public Health Recognition Award
The Anoka-Hennepin Health Services team was recognized as a 2013 Anoka County Public Health Recognition Award winner at the April 9 Anoka County Board of Commissioners meeting.
The award (which features two categories - youth and adult) recognizes and honors individuals and groups in Anoka County who devote their time, energy, and talent to improving public health in their community. The awards are presented in April, which is designated as public health month in Anoka County.
District 5 Commissioner Carol LeDoux said during the meeting, "School nurses of Anoka-Hennepin work everyday to protect and promote the health and safety of students, staff and the entire community. In the past few years, they've had to manage a pertussis epidemic, the H1N1 outbreak and any number of other contageous diseases that students bring to school with them. These school nurses have been more than up to the challenge."
The Anoka-Hennepin Health Services team is comprised of the following nurses:
Diane Adair Cindy Barnhouse Sharon Bombardo Tara Bubar Anne Coughlin Jilene Coutant Sheila Davies Elizabeth Field Rachel Giesbrecht Kathy Goodloe Gail Goss Cindy Hiltz Diane Jones Judy Lindenfelser Kristine Kondrack-Fish Patti MacGillivray Diana Melin Merry Joy Naeher-Olson Jennifer Pena Shari Rigstad Cindy Ritter Kathy Schulz Terri Sullivan Kathryn Westensee Lois Whittet Jennifer Yarger
Nurses Tara Bubar (Blaine High School), Kathryn Westensee (Adams Elementary and River Trail Learning Center), Elizabeth Field (Anoka Middle School for the Arts) and Cindy Hiltz (district health services coordinator) accepted the award from Commissioner LeDoux on behalf of the team at the meeting. View the video of the April 9 Anoka County Board of Commissioners regular meeting here. District team representative Tara Bubar is introduced at 37:12.
Photo caption (left to right): Nurses Tara Bubar (Blaine High School), Cindy Hiltz (district health services coordinator), District 5 Commissioner Carol LeDoux, Kathryn Westensee (Adams Elementary and River Trail Learning Center) and Elizabeth Field (Anoka Middle School for the Arts).
Champlin Park orchestra students host a lullaby concert for area youth
Champlin Park High School's orchestra group presented a fun-filled evening for area youth and their families on April 8 with "Carnival of the Animals."Click here to view more event photos on Facebook.
Wearing their "jammies," area elementary and middle school students had the opportunity to experience hands-on activities at different stations run by CPHS students, like the "violin petting zoo" (where students got to test out violins), coloring with crayons, face painting, hula hooping and a chance to win a "build-a-bear" drawing.
Following the activity stations, CPHS orchestra students continued the event theme and closed the evening with performances of music from classic animal-theme movies, like "The Lion King."
Healthy snacks for classroom celebrations now made easy
One of the biggest questions facing busy families is what snack to send to school with their students for a classroom celebration.
For many years, Anoka-Hennepin's school cafeterias have had an informal process of families purchasing healthy snacks from the cafeterias for celebrations. Last summer, thanks in part to a grant from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), the process was formalized.
An order form now allows families to place orders from the Anoka-Hennepin School District's Child Nutrition Program for fun and healthy snacks for classroom celebrations. The snacks are prepared at the student's school and delivered to the classroom.
Order forms, available at the school's main offices, are due two weeks prior to the classroom celebration date. A minimum order of 12 is required. Completed forms can be given to the school's Child Nutrition supervisor or dropped off at the school office. Payment is also due at that time. Families can write checks for payment or have the amount deducted from their child's lunch account.
Snacks available for purchase include:
Seasonal fresh fruit pieces and yogurt dip, $1 each.
Same day registrations available on-site for Saturday’s Gallagher 5K run/walk
You can register on-site for the annual Bill Gallagher Memorial/AHEF 5K Fun Run/Walk for Literacy. The 13th annual event is set for tomorrow, April 6 at Anoka High School, 3939 7th Ave. N, Anoka. Registration starts at 8 a.m., the PreK (not quite 5K) run starts at 8:30 a.m. and the run/walk event starts at 9 a.m.
Hosted by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation, all money raised goes to Anoka-Hennepin schools to support literacy. Each school receives funds in proportion to the number of participants from that school. Children participating receive a free book.
New this year - instead of runners receiving awards, all participants will be eligible for prize drawings. "This fun event is about bringing parents, students and staff together to support health and literacy in our communities and schools. We want everyone to feel included, not just our competitive runners," said Chuck Day, volunteer co-chair for the event.
Last year the event drew more than 700 participants and earned $7,500 for literacy; this year the goal is 1,000 participants, according to Tess DeGeest, AHEF executive director.
"We especially appreciate our event sponsors that help keep our overhead costs down so we can give more back to the schools," said Day. Last year's sponsors included AKA Sport, Allina Health, Anoka Rotary, Horace Mann Insurance, Lanigan and Kolb, State Farm (Mike Orn), Rebyl Sports, and United Educators Credit Union.
Registration fees are $20 per adult, $10 per student, with a household cap of $50. For more information call DeGeest at the AHEF office, 763-506-1105.
Digital citizenship reminder: properly adjust privacy settings on your child’s social networking sites
A survey of 10 to 17 year olds revealed 34 percent had posted their real names, telephone numbers, home addresses, or the names of their school online where anyone could see and locate them. Forty-five percent had posted their dates of birth or ages, and 18 percent had posted pictures of themselves.
Many social networking sites and chat rooms have adjustable privacy settings to restrict viewing access. Parents and guardians, talk with your child about the importance of these settings and your expectations of who should be allowed to view their profiles.
High privacy settings are suggested for children using chat rooms. Most chat rooms allow users to control whether contacts can see their status, including if they're online or not. Some enable users to block messages from certain contacts on their list. Parent/guardians may find this feature useful for friends or non-relatives.
For each of these Internet tools, a screen name is needed to create an account. Encourage your child to think about the impression that screen names can make. A good screen name won't reveal much about how old they are, where they live or their gender. For privacy purposes, your child's screen names should not be the same as their email address.
You may want to limit your child's online "friends" to people they actually know.
As facial expressions, body language and other visual cues are not expressed online, teens may feel free to do or say things that they wouldn't otherwise. Remind them that behind the screen names, profiles and avatars are real people with real feelings.
When you talk to your teen, set reasonable expectations. Anticipate how you will react if you find out that he/she has done something online that you haven't approved.
Associate superintendent's column: A look at adapted athletics in the district
By Jeff McGonigal, Associate Superintendent
When I was principal at Coon Rapids High School I made it a point to stop in to watch the competitions involving our adapted sports teams. Walking into the gym always put a smile on my face because the Coon Rapids kids recognized me and were excited that I was there. Afterwards, they would seek me out in the halls to talk about how the game went.
Their parents and family members were there to cheer them on, proud to see their kids enjoying a spirited competition and doing their best to win. And win they do.
Adapted sports give students with physical or cognitive impairments an opportunity to join with their peers in a team activity that is as valuable for them as sports are for our other teams. Though the students on an adapted sports team come from each of our high schools, they unite as one, the Anoka-Hennepin Mustangs. They are able to build friendships with students across the school district who are in similar circumstances. When a student in a wheelchair sees other students who use wheelchairs, there's the feeling of "I am not the only one in a wheelchair and we're going to use them to compete!" They also have an opportunity to get the sense of playing a role in something that is bigger than each of them as individuals. Team activities provide that important experience for students.
In January, the U.S. Department of Education directed all school districts offering athletic programs and receiving federal funding to accommodate or adapt for students with disabilities. School districts across the nation are now scrambling to learn more about the new requirement and what they must do to comply. Locally school districts are doing the same, but we are in a much more positive position than most other states.
Way back in 1992, a number of area school districts created the Minnesota Adapted Athletic Association (MAAA). The following year, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) later added its sponsorship for adapted sports. There are now four sports available for students with disabilities including indoor soccer, floor hockey, indoor softball, and bowling.
Minnesota schools are in the forefront for creating such opportunities. They see the value it provides our young people. Minnesota schools enthusiastically support all MAAA programs. Despite such positive strides, challenges still exist. In many cases, districts combine athletes to create the numbers needed for a sporting activity to take place. Doing so is much easier in the Twin Cities than in rural Minnesota. The MAAA and its participating districts are currently trying to find ways for these rural districts to create teams and participate.
Since January's announcement by the U.S. Department of Education, Anoka-Hennepin has completed its winter floor hockey season. Saturday, March 16, I attended the final day of the Minnesota State High School League's state adaptive floor hockey tournament (view Jeff's photos on Facebook).
As has been the case for a number of years, the event was hosted by Bloomington Jefferson High School. Teams from Anoka-Hennepin not only qualified for their tournament, but also competed very well on their big day. Other area teams from Fridley, Centennial, Circle Pines, Columbia Heights, Spring Lake Park, and Osseo school districts competed as well.
The spring season will bring indoor softball. Home games for Anoka-Hennepin's Mustangs are played at the Andover Community Center. The State Tournament for indoor softball will be held at Coon Rapids High School later this spring. Please consider attending an adaptive game supporting any school or team, I am confident you will come away seeing the value of these programs. Schedules are available at: http://www.maaaconference.org.
School Board work session set for Monday, April 8
The School Board will convene for its regularly scheduled worksession Monday, April 8 at the Educational Service Center, 2727 N Ferry St., Anoka. Agenda items include:
Upgrading Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) II.
Student ambassadors welcome families and visitors to University Avenue
University Avenue Elementary recently changed to a specialty school to focus its curriculum on aerospace, engineering and science. Never before has telling the University Avenue school story been so important.
A small group of fourth and fifth graders called student ambassadors are now sharing what makes University Avenue a school of choice by taking prospective families and other school visitors on tours. To initially prepare for the tours, the ambassadors highlighted the important places visitors would be interested in as well as captivating information about the school, specialty program and community events. The ambassadors had just two weeks to practice their created script.
"We are excited to have the student ambassador program in place at University Avenue," said Michelle Zimmerman, curriculum integrator. "By having these ambassadors lead the tours of our school, visitors are able to see University Avenue through the eyes of the students. It's an exciting program, and the student ambassadors are proud of their role in representing our school to visitors."
The ambassadors were chosen from a large group of applicants. They had to submit an essay, outlining why they should be chosen to represent the school, along with a teacher recommendation.
To schedule a tour with a student ambassador at University Avenue please call 763-506-4500.
Blaine High School Teacher Ross Eichele named finalist for Education Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year
Ross Eichele, English teacher at Blaine High School, has been named a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year through Education Minnesota. Eichele is among 10 teachers throughout the state that have been recognized for this honor.
"This is not only a tremendous honor for Ross, but a direct reflection on Blaine High School, the outstanding staff we have and the teamwork we display focusing on helping our students every single day," said Principal John Phelps.
Eichele began teaching because he liked working with people and learning new things. He enjoys his work most when students master an idea or task. "More than anything else, I enjoy seeing the reaction when someone learns/understands something new. The look on someone's face when everything clicks and the light bulb goes on is priceless," said Eichele.
"Of the many courses I've been able to teach, I love seeing students transformed in public speaking and debate. In addition to learning a valuable skill set in these courses, students conquer a fear of speaking in front of others. They leave more confident and better prepared for the life in front of them."
The 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be named at a ceremony on May 5. The Minnesota Teacher of the Year also becomes Minnesota's candidate for National Teacher of the Year. This is the 49th year of the program.
Teams from Jackson Middle School and Champlin Park High School place in state archery tournament
Congratulations to the Champlin Park High School (CPHS) and Jackson Middle School (JMS) archery teams! Both schools recently participated in the Minnesota National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) NCB tournament, held on March 22 through 23 in Champlin.
CPHS's team placed second in theHigh School Division, while ninth grader Jamie Dupre placed second in the High School Division girls' individual competition.
JMS's seventh and eighth grade team placed first in the Middle Division and the sixth grade team placed first in the Elementary Division. Four JMS students also placed in their respective individual competions; sixth graders Lucy Martini (first place, Elementary Division girls), Anna Conroy (fifth place, Elementary Division girls), Dane Peterson (fifth place, Elementary Division boys) and seventh grader Grace Dube (fourth place, Middle Division girls).
The three teams and five individual competition winners also qualified for the NASP tournament in Louisville, Kentucky in May.
This is the eighth consecutive state NASP Middle Division championship for JMS's seventh and eighth grade team and second consecutive Elementary Division championship for its sixth grade team (making 10 state titles in nine years of NASP competition!).
Check out this JMS page for more information on the team's history.
Consider hosting an exchange student
Expand your world by hosting a young person from another country. Student exchange programs connect people from around the world and offer rich opportunities to share ideas, culture, language and more.
Anoka-Hennepin Schools accept a limited number of exchange students each year only from organizations that are part of the Council on Standards for International Education Travel (CSIET). Incoming students must also have J1 visas.
If you have considered hosting a student from abroad, go to csiet.org and click on the orange Program Finder button. This will link you to approved exchange organizations to contact for information about hosting a student and availability of students needing host families for current openings. If there are no students needing host families at this time, you may be included on a list of families willing to host a student in the future.
Jackson students get a hands-on lesson on sound with handbell choirs
Members of the Hennepin Chime and Bells of the Lakes Handbell choirs came to teach a lesson on sound for several Jackson Middle School classes recently.
Handbells were originally used as a practice medium for people who rang bells in bell towers. Since then, they have become an instrument unto themselves. Because of the numerous ways bell sounds can be manipulated, they were a perfect medium for studying sound.
Using bells, Jackson students learned how echoes are used in a musical manner, by reflecting sound off walls or into foam pads. In addition, they were able to learn how to produce sounds in different ways, such as malleting, marcato, mark lifts, and ring-touch. They observed a new technique, "singing bells," (similar to making a glass sing when you rub your finger around the edge), by using a rubber coated stick to make and continue the vibrations on the outside of the bell.
As part of the class, students were allowed to do a "change-ring" exercise. This mathematical process involves students re-arranging their bells using what is called "cross and stretch." Using two or three octaves, students moved the bells from an ascending scale to a descending scale, while observing how the lowest bell traveled up the line of students.
New safety modifications to be made at all elementary schools
The school district is planning to modify schools' main entrances and install automated check-in and keyless locking systems this spring and summer. These changes, which should be complete when school opens next fall, will provide greater security in all 24 Anoka-Hennepin elementary schools.
The goal is to secure the schools while still maintaining a welcoming and nurturing facility, according to Chuck Holden, chief operations officer for the district.
District staff are now reviewing a number of automated check-in systems that record the name of the visitor and print an identity badge. They plan to choose and purchase a system soon so installation can be completed before opening day.
Main entrances vary from school to school, but many now allow visitors to walk directly into the building without going through the school office to check in. All entrances where this happens will be modified so visitors cannot have access to classroom areas without first going through the automated check-in process in the office.
At some schools a door directly into the school office will be added from the vestibule so visitors would be required to go through the office and check in. At other schools, a check-in station would be added. Once check-in is complete, the interior door would be unlocked.
In schools where the building design does not allow that simple fix, an additional vestibule area may be constructed. Visitors would then use an intercom to contact the office and use an automated check-in process before being allowed to enter the building. Possible solutions will be reviewed to determine what will work best for each school.
The new keyless entry systems to be installed use electronic key fobs that signal a fob reader to unlock the door and record time of entry and identity of the person to whom the key fob is assigned. In addition to staff, these will be provided to parents whose children are in the Adventures Plus Program so doors do not need to be left open for parents dropping off or picking up their children. The system can be programmed to allow access only during specific hours for student drop off and pick up on days the program operates. The fobs can be attached to a key ring.
Throughout the remainder of this year and next, Holden and Steve Anderson, director of buildings and grounds, will complete detailed security reviews of each school in the district, starting first with elementary schools.
Minnesota Orchestra musicians share their music with district students
Classical music lovers in Minnesota would have loved to be in the seats of Blaine High School music students March 22 when the orchestra performed two free concerts for them as well as students from other Anoka-Hennepin schools.
Conducted by bass player William Schrickel, the orchestra played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and selections from the Carmen Suites by Bizet.
"It was a wonderful experience for our students to hear a great orchestra playing great music," said Ed Schaefle. "The orchestra musicians commented on how attentive the audiences were."
Nearly 1,100 students attended the concerts. In addition to Blaine's band, choir and orchestra students, all eighth grade orchestra students from district middle schools, the district's middle level Honors Orchestra and Adams Elementary third through fifth grade students attended.
The concert was similar to the Young People's Concerts that the Minnesota Orchestra typically plays at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis every year for thousands of students. Those were cancelled this year because the musicians have been locked out by the Minnesota Orchestral Association since October.
A Minnesota Orchestra member who is aware of the district's strong orchestra program contacted Schaefle in late February and offered to perform a concert. After gaining approval from the school and district administration, Schaefle made it happen.
Since that time orchestra members have organized a few concerts on their own, including school concerts in Forest Lake High School and a family concert in Wayzata. They also performed a concert in February to celebrate their Grammy Award nomination in the Best Orchestral Performance category of their recording of Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 directed by Osmo Vanska.
Principal John Phelps was enthusiastic about the whole event. "It was so very good, a definite WOW!" he said.
School Board meeting recaps in PDF and podcast format
Action of the School Board PDF recap Get caught up on the latest news presented at the Feb. 25 and March 25 School Board meetings with our "Action of the School Board" meeting recaps in PDF format.
Summary in Six podcast The format of the Anoka-Hennepin Podcast Network's School Board meeting recaps has recently been revised to "Summary in Six," which shares highlights of School Board meetings, including significant action, in six minutes or less.
March 25 meeting Recognitions, update on rumor/threat communication, building capacity, space needs and related policy modifications, legislative update presented and staffing resolutions approved.
Feb. 25 meeting Enrollment projections presented and school security information presented.
Creativity spreads like wildfire at Destination Imagination’s regional tournament
Nearly 100 teams participated in the North Metro Destination Imagination regional tournament at Blaine High School Saturday. Each team worked on a complex challenge in which they had to develop an innovative, creative solution. Teams were rated on various components for each challenge.
In the theatrical challenge called "In Disguise," students created a story about a concealing character. Jackson Middle School's "The Classicals" created a skit about a robot that went on a cruise ship and tried to take over. During the competition they were required to use non-verbal forms of communication and present two mask props. "I was nervous, but it was really fun," said student Leo Lee. "The Classicals" consisted of students Dzidedi Azumah, Bailey Hanson, Leo Lee, Hannah Reynolds, and Mary Vu, as well as parent coach Cheryl Reynolds. They earned second place at the middle school level of this competition.
In the architectural challenge called "Twist-O-Rama," students built a structure made entirely of materials (aluminum foil, copper, newsprint, etc.) that could withstand a large amount of weight. While their invention was being tested, another portion of the team shared a story with a surprise. Madison Elementary's "Destination Imagination Dominators" created a skit about a mad scientist who tricked a girl into trying his time machine. "It's definitely harder in front of a group, because everyone saw me with this weird face paint on," said student Ama Anohene. "Destination Imagination Dominators" consisted of students Ama Anohene, Talon Bauman, Sam Burnes, Lauren Christenson, Ashley Piche, Gavin Spartz, and Noah Sperbeck as well as coach Andrea Mihalow, academic support teacher at Madison Elementary. They earned sixth place at the elementary level of this competition.
Students from both teams had suggestions for students thinking about getting involved. "They should just go with their gut and do it, because if you try you will succeed," said Madison Elementary student Sam Burnes. "The key is just to have fun, to try new things and be creative," said Jackson Middle School student Bailey Hanson.
Twelve of the 35 Anoka-Hennepin teams will be competing in the state's Destination Imagination tournament on Saturday, April 20. They include: Blaine High School's Diys; Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy's The Lightning Huskies; Coon Rapids High School's Awesome in Disguise; Crooked Lake Elementary's The Rockin' DI Royals; Franklin Elementary's Aquadrydic Hero; Johnsville Elementary's 7 Girls in Disguise, The Elite Prototypes, Neon Zebra Apocalypse, and The Rosemary Chickens; Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts' Project Outreach; Roosevelt Middle School's One Two, Three....Action!; and the district's high school team Me, Myself, I and That Guy.
Destination Imagination is an international tournament. About 125,000 students and 38,000 volunteers have participated in the program since 1999.
Governor Dayton visits Blaine High School’s 38th graduating class
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton visited Blaine High School's 38th graduating class Wednesday to talk about the importance of education.
"In terms of your future, there'll never be a clearer and more pronounced divide for your generation between people who have high school and college educations and those that don't," said Governor Dayton. "The job opportunities for people who have degrees are going to be virtually unlimited here in Minnesota, around the country and throughout the world."
The Governor described a recent conversation he had with representatives at Microsoft. Currently there are 2,600 computer science positions available with the company, but all require degrees. Candidates fresh out of school are receiving $105,000 a year. Even though this particular field may not be of interest, the Governor said, many other careers provide the same level of job satisfaction (but perhaps not the same income). He mentioned a medical practitioner or teacher as examples of rewarding professions.
"Graduate here (at Blaine High School), go on to college, graduate there, and the world is wide open for you," said Governor Dayton.
Governor Dayton spent most of his time answering questions the students had on everything from same-sex marriage to the drinking age to paying for college. He had a thoughtful answer for each and commended the students for having the bravery to ask what was on their mind.
"I thought that the presentation with Governor Dayton was a very beneficial experience as a graduating senior," said student Maya Johnson. "Getting to ask him a question and have a conversation with him is an experience that I will never forget. I asked him about aid for college tuition and his education platform. He has a lot of good information for me that I'm sure will help me in my post-graduation plans."
Student Emily Blake also thought the visit was positive. "Governor Dayton's visit was an incredible opportunity for the senior class. Being so young our first real taste of politics was the opportunity to vote, and even then we didn't really know what impact we were making. When I asked about fully funding all-day kindergarten, Governor Dayton answered in the best possible way. I am so grateful to have met him, and to have been able to ask him questions," said Blake.
Proposed legislation and state funding impacting A-H, its families and taxpayers
It is estimated that Anoka-Hennepin will need approximately $28 million in new funding for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 to retain current programming. The Governor's proposed budget, which includes recommendations from the Education Finance Working Group, shows Anoka-Hennepin receiving only $2 million in new state revenue for 2014 and $9 million for 2015.
"Even though school districts have been operating in a very lean fashion for the last six to eight years, there is not enough money in the pool to meet our needs," said Steve Kerr, community education director.
Compared to neighboring districts of similar wealth (low property value), Anoka-Hennepin receives far less funds per student. Proposed legislation gives Anoka-Hennepin just $54 per student in 2014 and $251 per student in 2015. Brooklyn Center, Osseo and Robbinsdale districts would receive $222, $123 and $104 per student in 2014. These same districts would receive $667, $504 and $511 per student in 2015.
Anoka-Hennepin has been asking the legislature to consider not only a more equitable distribution of some state funds, but also an adjustment for inflation. Kerr stated at a recent School Board meeting that the district needs about $300 per student in new money each year to sustain programming. Superintendent Carlson and School Board members have given testimony regarding the district's needs at recent senate and house committee hearings.
Oxbow Creek boasts nearly 690 projects and performances
Organizers of the March 21 Oxbow Creek Elementary Arts and Academic Expo,"Letting Your Imagination Run Wild," are celebrating record-breaking participation. More than fifty percent of the student body gave 66 live performances and presented 620 projects. The school was buzzing with activity.
Deb Mayo, a parent who has helped plan the event for the past three years, said they do this event instead of a science fair. "The kids start working on their projects about six weeks before the event. They don't work in school at all. Instead, they choose something fun to do on their own that showcases their creativity and talents. They love demonstrating their skills to parents, friends and staff."
There are 14 categories for the students to choose from including creative writing, dance, handwriting, vocal music, historical project, science project, photography, games by kids and many more.
Kung Fu, Hula Hooping and a soccer demonstration are three never seen before live performances. Kris Schoomer, Oxbow Creek staff and coordinator of the live events, says, "I like the idea that the kids find, pick and choose their own category. They are not put in a box and told this is what you have to do. If they make an ultra special space ship out of Legos, they can share that. If they are proud of a dance they know, they can perform it." Schoomer adds, "The younger kids see the older kids being brave on stage and they think 'I can do that too.' " The older students definitely have something to look forward to. If a student participates in the Expo for five years in a row, they receive a medal their fifth year.
The Expo also helps children learn from each other. Two sisters, Kylie Wick, grade 4, and Mya Wick, grade 2, explain their creative projects. Kylie carefully describes her tie blanket process. "I bought the material, cut the little squares out of the corners and then tied the little ends and then double knotted it." Mya describes her piece of art as taking two clay colors and rolling them out flat. Then she "twisted the white clay on two ends and wrote The Pledge of Allegiance with a Sharpie®."
The Expo is set up to be an individual experience and not a competition. Judges, made up of community members, high school students and other volunteers, offer encouraging feedback on projects and performances.
The student's creative thinking combined with the support of staff, volunteers and parents are the key ingredients for the Expo's success. As Dr. Seuss once said, "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try."
Legislative highlights for Anoka-Hennepin in 2013
Superintendent Dennis Carlson and Board Chair Tom Heidemann have testified on behalf of the district and its students before the state's legislators at several recent Senate and House committee hearings. Testimony highlights include:
Senate File (SF) 177 School districts equalization aid levels increase for operating referendum and debt service equalization aid programs; education advancement revenue creation.
Finance - E-12 Division, March 21 (Heidemann).
View the video. Chair Tom Heidemann begins speaking at about 13 minutes and 26 seconds into the video.
Photo captions: (top left) School Board Chair Tom Heidemann testifies before the Senate Finance E-12 Division Committee on March 21.
(middle right) Superintendent Dennis Carlson testifies before the House Education Finance Committee Feb. 27 with Marilynn Forsberg, school board member from Spring Lake Park. (bottom right) Supt. Carlson testifies as part of presentations from community partners before the Senate on Jan. 24.
Where does your school rank in AHEF Gallagher 5K Competition?
The AHEF Gallagher 5k competition is heating up, said Tess DeGeest, AHEF executive director. Here are the latest school rankings for per capita registrations in the AHEF Gallagher Memorial 5K Fun Run and Walk for Literacy.Paper registration forms are available in school offices. Register online here or download the PDF here.Register by March 28 and receive an event T-shirt. Participants can also register on the day of the event.
High school rankings: Champlin Park is in the lead as of today but Anoka is catching up (followed closely by Blaine).
Middle school rankings: Once again, Oak View is leading, but Roosevelt, Northdale, Jackson and Anoka are each within five registrants of taking the lead! This is turning into a very tight race, said DeGeest.
Elementary rankings: 1. Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy has taken an early lead in registrations (both online and hard copy). 2. Franklin Elementary (always a competitor) is right on the heels of Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy. 3. Lincoln Elementary is in third place as of today, but still sending in registrations. 4. Johnsville Elementary was last year's winner - can they do it again this year? 5. Oxbow Creek Elementary rounds out the "top five."
Filling out the "top 10" in rank order (and by no means out of the competition yet): 6. Madison Elementary. 7. Ramsey Elementary. 8. Andover Elementary. 9. Hoover Elementary. 10. University Avenue Elementary.
Look for another update early next week to see which school is leading as we approach the event date of Saturday, April 6!
Registration open for AHEF Bill Gallagher 5K
It's a sure sign of spring when registration opens for the annual Bill Gallagher Memorial/AHEF 5K Fun Run/Walk for Literacy. The 13th annual event is set for Saturday, April 6 at Anoka High School, 3939 7th Ave. N, Anoka. Registration starts at 8 a.m., the PreK (not quite 5K) run starts at 8:30 a.m. and the run/walk event starts at 9 a.m.
Hosted by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation, all money raised goes to Anoka-Hennepin schools to support literacy. Each school receives funds in proportion to the number of participants from that school. Children participating receive a free book.
New this year - instead of runners receiving awards, all participants will be eligible for prize drawings. "This fun event is about bringing parents, students and staff together to support health and literacy in our communities and schools. We want everyone to feel included, not just our competitive runners," said Chuck Day, volunteer co-chair for the event.
Last year the event drew more than 700 participants and earned $7,500 for literacy; this year the goal is 1,000 participants, according to Tess DeGeest, AHEF executive director.
"We especially appreciate our event sponsors that help keep our overhead costs down so we can give more back to the schools," said Day. Last year's sponsors included AKA Sport, Allina Health, Anoka Rotary, Horace Mann Insurance, Lanigan and Kolb, State Farm (Mike Orn), Rebyl Sports, and United Educators Credit Union.
Paper registration forms are available in school offices. Register online here or download the PDF here.Register by March 28 and receive an event T-shirt. Participants can also register on the day of the event. Registration fees are $20 per adult, $10 per student, with a household cap of $50. For more information call DeGeest at the AHEF office, 763-506-1105.
AHEF annual night out with the Minnesota Twins April 26
Join the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF) at Target Field for a fantastic family evening with the Minnesota Twins on Friday, April 26 at 7:10 p.m. (at the Twins vs. Texas Rangers game).
"Home plate view" tickets in section 320/322 are available for $25 (of which $6 is a donation).
Tickets can be purchased in person (at the AHEF office) or by mail (send cash or a check made out to AHEF and mail to: AHEF, Educational Service Center, 2727 N. Ferry St., Anoka, MN 55303). Order forms are available at the AHEF office or online here.
Tickets will be under the family name at "Will Call" on April 26.
Winners of the 2012-13 Anoka-Hennepin bus safety poster contest announced
Winners of the 18th annual school bus safety poster contest were recently announced. This year's theme was "At My Stop - You Stop!"
Jeff Mueller, transportation safety coordinator, said each student received a bus-shaped bank with $25 dollars. Kottkes and First Student bus companies provide the prize money.
"The Transportation Safety Committee was very impressed with the artistic ability of the students during the voting process," Mueller said. "The creativity, design and the messages the students displayed were exceptional. It truly illustrates that the staff at our schools are teaching, promoting and reviewing the important rules of riding the school bus safely."
Kindergarten, Sophie Blanchette, Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy.
First grade, Eva Leukam, Epiphany School.
Second grade, Sophia Larson, McKinley Elementary School.
Third grade, Ethan Wiens, Madison Elementary School.
Fourth grade, Travis Chooraman, McKinley Elementary School .
Fifth grade, Laima Liulevicius, Epiphany School.
Sixth grade, Danny Howman, Epiphany School.
Seventh grade, Hannah Svihel, Epiphany School.
Eighth grade, Tammy Pham, Jackson Middle School.
Ninth grade, Nick Edstrom, Anoka High School .
10th grade, Abby Chesness, Anoka High School.
11th grade, Mundah Keleekal, Anoka High School.
12th grade, Katie O'Neill, Anoka High School.
The students received their awards at the district transportation safety committee meeting on March 6 at the Educational Service Center. All district winners' posters will be submitted to the state competition for the possibility of additional awards to be announced in April. State winners will go to the national competition, which is held in November.
Adams Elementary third graders brush up on their oral health knowledge
Third graders at Adams Elementary visited the University of Minnesota's pediatric dental clinic in early March. Dental team leaders discussed the development and progression of tooth decay through interactive demonstrations, games and educational handouts. The negative effects of frequent snacking, and consumption of sugar-based beverages and snacks were also stressed.
The third graders simulated the placement of dental sealants by brushing water-based paint into the grooves of molars (teeth in the rear of the mouth) on dental stone models. Drs. Tiffany Andersen and Anna Sipe led a town hall style forum that helped the students identify foods that are healthy for their body and teeth. Later a "To Tell the Tooth" game was played to test the student's new oral health knowledge.
"As a dental team our goal was to provide an environment for the students to participate in the science of dentistry, identify how they can impact their oral health, and provide meaningful illustrations for the students," said clinic manager Susan Howe.
Kelly Wierman, third grade teacher, said the students were able to get a lot out of their visit. "The activities they planned were engaging, hands-on and student centered. The enthusiasm of the doctors kept students engaged from the start. I am confident that the oral health knowledge gained by our students will be beneficial for years to come."
Anoka High School Sparkle team featured on website
This month, the Sparkles team from Anoka High School is featured on The Sparkle Effect website. The Sparkle Effect provides students with special needs an opportunity to cheer side-by-side with their peers. As one of the first Sparkle Effect teams to form in the nation, the Sparkles have been part of the Anoka High School cheerleading program since 2010.
Every Sparkle is assigned a Sparkle Buddy from the squad. Sparkle Buddies help get the girls to the locker rooms for practice, their props for the games and make sure they are happy. The Sparkles are fully integrated into the sports programming at Anoka, cheering with the varsity squad at football, basketball, soccer, and hockey games. The students also perform at school pep fests and volunteer at community events throughout the year. Although the Sparkle team at Anoka represented the first inclusive cheerleading team in Minnesota, the spirit and success of the team inspired additional Sparkle Effect teams at Jackson Middle School in Champlin and Centennial High School in Circle Pines.
Kim Heckman, the team's coach, explains that she started the squad after hearing about the Sparkle Effect because she wanted Anoka's girls to cheer for and represent their own school as well as "feel like part of our family."
The experience has proved to be transformative for the students on the team, as Heckman described to a local reporter: "I've watched the Sparkle girls become typical cheerleaders. They're louder, they're flirtier, and they've grasped that whole cheerleader spirit. They have more friends...Everybody likes more people knowing your name, and I think they all feel that way."
But, for Heckman, that hasn't been the biggest surprise: "I went into this hoping the coaching of cheerleading and the varsity girls could make a difference in these girls' lives and I think the reverse has happened. They have made an enormous impact on us and truly blessed us."
Anoka Middle School for the Arts students recognized by the Minnesota Reading Association for their written work
The Minnesota Reading Association (MRA) recognized students at Anoka Middle School for the Arts (AMSA) for their work in the "Writers are Readers" program. Students included sixth graders Jonah Argo, Lauren Bastien, Davide Graske, Kitri Lindberg, and Julia Smith; seventh graders Kasha Mouachewpao and Katelyn Scherping; and eighth graders Camryn Schake and Coral Joy Wymer.
Each student had an opportunity to read a portion of his or her writing at the MRA Celebrate Literacy Reception earlier in March. "The students all read clearly and with expression; they were very poised," said Kristin Gifford, creative writing teacher. "I was extremely proud of them for their hard work and professionalism."
Student Carol Joy Wymer thought her participation was very valuable. "I was really nervous to read in front of all those people, but I was proud of myself for winning an award for something that I've been doing since I was young. I had a lot of fun."
All recognized students were part of Gifford's creative writing class. As an arts magnet program, creative writing is an elective unique to AMSA. A lot of the class is focused on brainstorming and revision processes.
Congratulations to all!
School Board meeting set for Monday, March 25
The School Board will convene for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, March 25 at Sandburg Education Center, 1902 Second Ave., Anoka. Agenda items include:
Student and staff recognition (Anoka Halloween, Blaine High School, Center for Engineering Math and Science, Anoka Middle School for the Arts, and elementary celebration schools).
Discontinuing and reducing educational programs and positions.
Termination and non-renewal contracts of probationary teachers.
Termination and non-renew of probationary assistant principals and principals.
Update/status report items:
Rumor threat update.
Long term sub teachers, intern teachers and re-employed retired teachers.
Discussion and input items (final decision at a subsequent meeting):
Building capacity and programs.
The full agenda and its attachments can be viewed here. A live broadcast of the meeting will be available on local cable access channels and via webcast here (Microsoft Silverlight required). Stay tuned for an "Action of the School Board" publication and "Summary in Six" podcast in the days following the meeting.
Anoka-Hennepin secondary students receive Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards
A number of students from Anoka-Hennepin School District middle and high schools received awards in the 2012-13 Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards (MSAA) competition, which is sponsored by the Art Educators of Minnesota and the College of Visual Arts (CVA).
Coon Rapids High School sophomore Jennifer Quach earned a Gold Key Award and was named as one of five American Vision Nominees for her ceramics and glass piece, "Sassy Frassy."
MSAA is a statewide regional affiliation of the National Scholastic Art Awards program. MSAA recognizes many of our state's most creative teenagers and offers scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors. It's open to all Minnesota students in grades seven through 12.
This year, MSAA received 1,849 individual artwork entries and 164 portfolio entries (up 500 from the previous year). The jury awarded 183 Gold Keys for individual entries and 17 Gold Keys for portfolio entries. Additionally, the judges awarded 186 Silver Keys and 340 Honorable Mentions for individual entries, as well as 13 Portfolio Silver Keys and 27 Portfolio Honorable Mentions.
Gold Key: Awarded for excellence. Gold Keys are included in the MSAA Exhibition and digital images of these pieces will continue on to the National Scholastic Art Awards competition in New York (MSAA Gold Key Flicker Gallery)
COON RAPIDS HIGH SCHOOL Gold Key Award Mitchell Nozzarella, grade 12: Pendulum (ceramics and glass) Jennifer Quach, grade 10: Sassy Frassy (ceramics and glass) (American Visions Nominee)
Silver Key Award Natalie Geiger, grade 11: Basket of Tea (ceramics and glass) Mckenzie Haas, grade 11: Led Into the Unknown (ceramics and glass)
Honorable Mention Amber Ammann, grade 12: Interupted Stripes (ceramics and glass) Anna Danielson, grade 11: Box Teapot with Lilies (ceramics and glass) Andrea Engstrom, grade 12: Hair-raising (ceramics and glass) Shad Olson, grade 11: Blueteaful (ceramics and glass) Ulyana Zhdan, grade 11: Plavayushchiy Lilia (ceramics and glass)
Instructor: Sarah Hjelmberg
Middle schoolers to participate in state geography competition
Congratulations to eighth grade students Jonathan Ababiy of Northdale Middle School, Jacob Erickson of Oak View Middle School, John Hawkins of Anoka Middle School for the Arts, and Kellen Rung of Roosevelt Middle School. They are all participating at the state level of the 25th Annual National Geographic Bee on Friday, April 5 at St. Cloud State University. To qualify Jonathon, Jacob, John, and Kellen each successfully answered oral questions about geography at their school-level bees and submitted a written exam.
One winner from each state will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C. The final round will be moderated by Jeporady host Alex Trebek and will air on the National Geographic channel late May. Participants will also have a chance to earn a $25,000 college scholarship.
Good luck Jonathon, Jacob, John, and Kellen!
High school students taking part in prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair
Connor Klemenhagen, a senior at Champlin Park High School, will be participating in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Arizona this May. This is the second time Klemenhagen has been to this prestigious event. His first year was as an observer. Filling his observer shoes this year is Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) junior Matt Lerdahl.
Klemenhagen said a field trip to the Cedar Creek Research Center as a Jackson Middle School seventh grader is what first sparked his interest in science. During this time, he found his love for ecology, the study of the relationships that living organisms have with each other and with their environment. "If you do something that you like it should never be a burden," said Klemenhagen. The last couple of years Connor has been working with educators from the University of Minnesota (U of M) to learn more about ecology, the science research process and creating a formalized presentation.
Sam Bauer, U of M extension educator, said Klemenhagen's turfgrass project requiring less water is quite important. "Connor is an exceptional student with an innovative mind. The research project he chose is relevant more so today than ever before. With increasing water shortages throughout the United States, it has become important to identify turfgrass mixtures that consume less water yet still maintain the functionality of a landscape." Klemenhagen will be bringing his turfgrass project to ISEF. Next year, he plans to attend the U of M to study environmental science.
A couple years ago, Lerdahl worked on a class science project that made it to the state competition. It was through this experience that he first recognized his passion for science. Currently, Lerdahl is working on a prosthetic hand that delivers improved accuracy. Two professional organizations are interested in his work. "Matt is an incredible young man and very driven," said Gary Alexander, CRHS science teacher. Lerdahl has another year to decide his post secondary path, but for now he is leaning towards the Air Force Academy or Notre Dame to study engineering. This summer Lerdahl is attending the Air Force Academy's summer seminar to get a better idea of whether or not he'd like to go. Lerdahl had a couple suggestions for students wishing to pursue a path they are enthusiastic about. "If you develop a passion for something, definitely follow it and stick with it."
Over 65 countries and 2,000 students will be represented at this year's ISEF. Participants of the competition will have an opportunity to earn a variety of financial prizes including a full college scholarship. Before Klemenhagen and Lerdahl head to ISEF they will be taking part in the Minnesota Science and Engineering Fair in April.
Group tutoring opportunities available from Community Education
Tutor Connect is a program available through the Anoka-Hennepin Community Education Department to provide students with the extra academic boost that they need. This spring, Tutor Connect will offer two different after-school courses, "Dive Into Math" and "Dive Into Reading" to support students in grades one through three with math or reading concepts at the following schools:
Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy.
Morris Bye Elementary School.
Oxbow Creek Elementary School.
Ramsey Elementary School.
Highly trained and experienced tutors work with students in groups no larger than six. The small group setting makes this class a great value, as one-on-one tutoring is normally $49 per hour. Course tuition is $95 for five 90-minute sessions including snack, formal assessment, comprehension bookmarks and an activity packet. Visit the Community Education website to register.
Three district schools attract awards of distinction
Three district specialty schools attract top honors in 2013. Outstanding community support, flexible, committed faculty and staff and a fully integrated curriculum are the secrets to their success.
Andy Nelson, a senior at Blaine, describes his senior capstone experience by saying, "when you have four strong minded people in one group, you're in for a fun ride."
His description can also apply to education. Three schools with strong-minded, yet flexible groups of people are national award winners this year. Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science, Anoka Middle School for the Arts, and Blaine High School Center for Engineering, Math and Science (CEMS) are all named Magnet Schools of Distinction from Magnet Schools of America (MSA). In total, nine Minnesota schools are award winners but Anoka-Hennepin secured three of the top spots, more than any other district in the state.
Dr. Lori Dykstra taught math for 25 years prior to becoming the Curriculum Integration Coordinator of the Blaine High School CEMS program. She is the main person high school student Nelson turns to for help. "I enjoyed the classroom," Dykstra states, "but one of the most rewarding pieces for me is seeing the student's changes, growth, and maturity year after year."
Principal John Phelps explains, "From the beginning, Lori and the staff connect students with other classes such as world languages and the arts assuring a completely integrated curriculum and a unique experience. The capstone projects are so good because they are hands on and they force the students to communicate. The language of a scientist must translate to the language of the general public."
Dykstra adds, "Students take math and science all four years. But what is unique is the opportunity to take engineering classes that allow them to explore even deeper." She is quick to thank a solid advisory board made up of higher education professors, engineers in the community and parents. These community members often serve as mentors to the incredibly creative students.
At the Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science Principal Marilyn McKeehen and Curriculum Integrator Denise Schnabel offer a standing ovation to their community network. The city of Champlin Environmental Resources Commission, Three Rivers Park District, the Champlin Garden Club and involved parents make the academy's award-winning curriculum possible. "We are so incredibly proud of the program we put together. Our newly formed school resulted in bright faculty and staff who are fully supported by outstanding parents and community members."
Schnabel adds, "We have 11 raised bed gardens, a green house and we partner with the PTO on their greeting garden. Everything ties to curriculum. It is so exciting to be able to offer these types of programs and experiences and to watch the students develop ownership and pride in what they create."
At Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Principal Jerri McGonigal and Curriculum Integration Coordinator Jolanda Dranchak are relishing their first award. They strategically laid the groundwork over the last few years and defined what arts integration meant before they even applied for this award.
The faculty and staff are the key ingredients to success according to McGonigal, "Staff has done a fantastic job using creative teaching techniques. For example, students have written their own books and composed their own songs." Dranchak and McGonigal say the achievement gap is shrinking and they are confident their arts school, which encourages each student to use both the left (logical) and right (creative) sides of their brain to recall and retain information, is one of the reasons.
Whether it's an arts magnet, a science magnet or some other specialty school, Anoka-Hennepin schools have found award-winning success.
Back at Blaine's CEMS program, Nelson's capstone team member, Shilvi Joshi, also a 2013 graduate, sums it up nicely when she says, "It takes lots of team work. The bonding really got us through."
The MSA award recognizes Magnet Schools that demonstrate a high commitment to academic standards, curriculum innovation, diversity efforts, specialized teaching staffs and encourage parent and community involvement. The MSA's professional organization represents approximately 4,000 magnet and theme-based schools nationwide.
Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy read-a-thon fundraiser raises the bar while raising money
To celebrate "I Love to Read Month" in February, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) of Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science (CBPAMES) sponsored its third annual read-a-thon from Jan. 28 through Feb. 24.
The read-a-thon's goal was to help students to read as much as possible and enjoy a variety of books in a four-week period and in the process raise much needed funds. The long-term purpose is to help students find ways to fit more reading into their lives and become lifelong readers.
Students earned bonus minutes for each book read in the weekly-featured genre, comprised of poetry, folklore, historical fiction and biographies. "Our school and local libraries were impressed with student's genre book selections," said Neila Nesbitt, CBPAMES read-a-thon coordinator.
CBPAMES read a total of 662,623 (or 11,043 hours or 460 days) and raised $18,340.01, which surpassed the school's initial goal of $16,000. Nesbitt said 100 percent of the money raised will go directly to the programs and events sponsored by the PTO.
The five students with the most minutes read in each grade were awarded medals and recognized during the read-a-thon televised award ceremony. The first place fundraiser received a Sky Zone pizza party. The second and third place fundraisers will be "guest principals" at a later date.
STEP-UP boys give back at Good in the ‘Hood project
Fifty young men in grades 9 and 10 from area schools representing Northwest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD) received a lesson about giving back to the community at Cedarcrest Church in East Bloomington. Good in the 'Hood, which is short for neighborhood, is an organization "dedicated to intentional acts of kindness."
NWSISD is a consortium of the Anoka-Hennepin, Brooklyn Center, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose, Elk River, Fridley, Mounds View, Osseo and Rockford school districts. Created in 2001, NWSISD was established to provide programs and services that promote integrated learning environments and enhance diversity and cultural awareness in racially isolated schools.
Good in the 'Hood runs a food shelf at Cedarcrest and Normandale Community College, supports a mobile dental program, distributes clothing, serves hot meals as well as promotes the Shoe Away Hunger program.
NWSISD students organized and packed food for the food shelf, painted positive graffiti messages, sorted clothing and learned how their community service efforts will impact families across the metro area. They also had a lesson about leadership and goal setting.
The STEP-UP Boys Mentorship Program helps promote student achievement by encouraging students to focus on four educational concepts: Aspirations, Expectations, Opportunities and Achievement. Students in the program receive guidance and participate in mentorship activities throughout their high school careers.
A-H high school college fairs March 19-22
College Fairs will be held March 19 through 21 at the following high schools:
Anoka High School, March 19, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Blaine High School, March 21, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Champlin Park High School, March 21, 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Coon Rapids High School, March 22, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (CRHS families only)
The Anoka and Blaine college fairs are open to the public, families and other schools via invitation. The Champlin Park fair is open to the public, families and students from other schools, who must be accompanied by an adult. The Coon Rapids fair is open to Coon Rapids students and their families only. Andover High School held its fair in the fall.
Prior to the fair, students are encouraged to think about what they are looking for in a college and what they are interested in studying.
At the fair, career counselors encourage students to ask questions about admissions, financial aid, the average number of students in class, if professors are available to students, if housing is available on campus, what the community is like where the college is located, and how many freshman return to the college for the sophomore year. More specific questions are available to students from their school's career counselors.
To save time at the fair, students can register with the Minnesota Education Fair to create a bar code to be scanned by colleges they are interested in. For the bar code, register at: http://www.gotomef.com/, print off the barcode and bring it to the fair.
More than 100 nationwide colleges and universities will be attending the Anoka-Hennepin School District College Fairs. Here's a sampling of schools that have attended the district's college fairs in the past (each school may differ slightly in actual attending colleges/universities):
Air National Guard Alexandria Technical College Anoka Technical College Anoka-Ramsey CC - Anoka Campus ARGOSY University Arizona State University Army National Guard Ashford University Augsburg College Augustana College Aveda Institute Minneapolis Bemidji State University Bethany Lutheran College Bethel University Buena Vista University Carthage College Central Lakes College - Brainerd Century College Clarke University Coe College College of Saint Benedict-Saint John's University College of St. Scholastica College of Visual Arts Columbia College - Chicago Concordia College - Moorhead Concordia University - St. Paul Cornell College Crown College DeVry University Dickinson State University Drake University Dunwoody College of Technology Empire Beauty School Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise Globe University - Minnesota School of Business Gustavus Adolphus College Hamline University Hennepin Technical College - Eden Prairie Hibbing Community College High Point University Indiana University Iowa State University Jamestown College Johnson and Wales University Lake Superior College Luther College Mayville State University McNally Smith College of Music Mesabi Range Community & Technical College Michigan Tech University Minneapolis Business College Minneapolis College of Art and Design Minneapolis Comm and Tech College Minneapolis Media Institute Minnesota School of Cosmetology Minnesota State University - Mankato Minnesota State University - Moorhead Minot State University Model College of Hair Design Mount Marty College North Dakota State College of Science North Dakota State University North Hennepin Community College Northern Michigan University Northern State University - Aberdeen Northern State University - Worthington Northland College Northlan Community and Technical College Northwestern College - Orange City Northwestern College - St. Paul Oak Hills Christian College PCI Academy Presentation College Rainy River Community College Rasmussen College Ripon College Saint Mary's University Simpson College South Dakota School of Mines and Technology South Dakota State University Southwest Minnesota State University St. Catherine University St. Cloud State University St. Cloud Technical and Community College St. Olaf College The Art Institutes The Institute of Production and Recording The Original LaJames College The Salon Prefessional Academy United States Air Force United States Army University of Arizona University of Cincinnati University of Glasgow University of Iowa University of Mary University of Minnesota - Crookston University of Minnesota - Duluth University of Minnesota - Morris University of Minnesota - Rochester University of Minnesota - Twin Cities University of Montana University of Nebraska - Lincoln University of Nebraska - Omaha University of North Dakota University of Sioux Falls University of South Dakota University of St. Thomas University of Washington University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee University of Wisconsin - River Falls University of Wisconsin - Stout University of Wisconsin - Superior University of Wyoming Upper Iowa University Valley City State University Vermillion Community College Viterbo University
Superintendent's Column: Board and superintendent work with legislators toward equitable, adequate funding
By Superintendent Dennis Carlson
Funding for schools in Minnesota is a complicated system that isn't fair to everyone. Last year the Governor convened a diverse group of school and civic leaders, legislators, parents and other citizens to make recommendations on simplifying the current system and making it more adequate, equitable and stable.
I certainly appreciate the efforts of the Education Finance Working Group. They were faced with a difficult task and they came out with a number of recommendations that were positive. Unfortunately, the overall result for Anoka-Hennepin School District does not correct the inequities that have plagued our district for many years.
Working with the Governor's budget proposal, which includes recommendations from the report, legislators are now considering a number of bills as they work toward setting school funding for the next two school years. Anoka-Hennepin administrators and school board members are working closely with the 20 legislators who represent our district. We are also reaching out to other key legislators - committee leaders and other legislators who represent low property wealth school districts.
We are hoping the result will be legislation that will adequately fund the educational programs we know our students need to succeed. We are also looking for fairness for our taxpayers. For years, taxpayers in districts with comparatively low property value have paid two or three times more to generate the same amount of dollars per student as those in wealthier areas. That is not fair to our taxpayers and gives other students programs and services ours do not have. It results in an opportunity gap for our students.
Last week several school board members went to the Capitol to speak with our legislative delegation. School Board Chair Tom Heidemann, Vice-Chair Marci Anderson, Director Jeff Simon, and our newest board member, Director Bill Harvey. Chair Heidemann testified in front of the Senate Tax committee on a tax relief bill offered by our former school board member, Senator John Hoffman.
I testified in the House Education Finance Committee on a bill that would provide greater equalization aid to the so-called "property poor" districts like Anoka-Hennepin. Equity funding for us is critical because of our low property tax wealth. We have little in our commercial industrial tax base so the impact of school funding falls mainly on homeowners.
If it makes it through the legislature, this bill would provide needed tax relief for our homeowners. However, it would not provide additional dollars to cover our inflationary expenses over the next two years. The same day I also testified on a bill that would tie the most significant part of our funding, which is known as the general education basic formula allowance, to the rate of inflation. This would be an incredible improvement to districts and families across the state. It would mean that school districts could count on - and plan on - having the revenue to cover the costs of educating students without cutting teachers and increasing class size or eliminating important programs.
Inflation for our district currently runs about 3 percent a year. In the last decade, the state has increased funding an average of 1.5 percent a year. The budget proposed by the Governor would extend that underfunding at another two years, meaning a gap of about $18 million between our revenue and our expenses for the biennium.
Many school expenses are fixed - for example, the costs of transporting students to school and heating and lighting school buildings. They cannot be reduced. The area where we have greatest flexibility is with staffing. Timelines in state law require school districts to make staffing decisions in March, even though this is generally three months before we know how much money we will have.
That leaves us with two choices for next year, asking our 13 staff bargaining groups to accept another pay freeze - the second in the last four years - or cutting 200 to 250 teaching positions and again raising class size. We have no other choices.
If we knew we could count on an inflationary increase, we would be able to spare many of our teachers the pain of wondering if their jobs are on the line each year and to provide at least minimal salary increases so they can cope with their own inflationary costs.
Anoka-Hennepin is a district that works. We have graduated about 3,000 students each year for the last several years, which is more graduates from any single school district in Minnesota history. We have reduced the achievement gap between white students and students of color and our students have continued to perform above the state average on state tests, despite the fact that the percentage of our students who are living in poverty or homeless has increased dramatically in recent years.
As the state's largest school district we need school funding formulas that work for us and we pledge to continue working toward that goal. Because our demographics (one-third students living in poverty, one-fourth students of color) represent the average Minnesota school district, we are similar to many other districts around the state. They are having the same struggles with funding that we do. Forty-one are in worse shape because their citizens have not approved their local levy referendums.
Funding for our school children should not be defined by the zip code where they live. We love and care for our children just as much as anyone else. It is time for our elected officials who represent ALL of the state of Minnesota to make sure ALL our school children are represented as well. We thank our 20 local legislators for all the help they are giving us to do just that.
Photo caption: Superintendent Dennis Carlson testifies before the House Education Finance Committee Feb. 27 with Marilynn Forsberg, school board member from Spring Lake Park.
How would you rate our communication efforts for Tuesday’s school closing?
The safety of all our students remains the top concern when determining if schools should stay open. Staff members from the district's transportation department drive roads and check with bus company staff as well as local city and county public works officials between 4 and 5 a.m. to determine if streets are open and buses can get through. More information about this process, other frequently asked questions, and for the district's weather status with email and text updates go to: www.anoka.k12.mn.us/weather.
If a decision is made to close school, as happened March 5, the district quickly begins sharing this through various venues. Please take a moment to share how you typically find such information during these times and if there are other ways that you'd prefer to be notified in the survey below. The fifth and final question is open-ended for you to share any ways that the district could improve its communication practices. It takes about five minutes to complete.
Click here to take the survey (an email address is required to submit responses per our e-news vendor). All responses will be kept confidential and used only to enhance communication efforts. Thank you for your participation!
Donate spring clothing to the Pathways Career Closet!
It's time to clean out those clothes closets! Donate your gently used spring clothing to the district's Pathways Career Closet.
All donations go to A-H students needing interview, work and special event clothing.
Pathways Career Closet is located at the Coon Rapids Family Place Mall at 11238 Crooked Lake Blvd.
Anoka High School teens teach teens about living with disabilities
"Can we participate?"
"I want to try it."
"What's this all about?"
To help raise awareness, and to honor February as National Disability Awareness Month, the students in Ann Sarazin's Anoka High School (AHS) special education class planned dozens of interactive activities during lunch time Monday, Feb. 25 through Friday, March 1.
Hundreds of students stopped by the Disability Awareness Table to try the activities. All week Sarazin's students heard, "that looks fun, I want to try it," from their curious peers. To simulate the oversensitivity to sensory stimulus caused by autism, students were subjected to intense sound and light while someone talked to them. To demonstrate what it might be like to be blind, students were blindfolded, given a walking stick and asked to navigate through a wall of lockers.
One of Sarazin's students, Jordan Peschong, a ninth grader living with Traumatic Brain Injury, helped plan the events. Jordan recently became an outspoken advocate for himself and others with disabilities. He explains, "When people know my disability, they are more kind to me. I help them understand; things that are simple for them are harder for people with a disability, like me."
Early in the school year, Jordan and other students in Sarazin's class began discussing self-advocacy and the importance of teaching instructors and peers to be sensitive to their needs. "The students got fired up," she said. "They immediately started to talk about how they could educate people. We started with the idea to create a one day event but Principal Mike Farley said, 'take a week,' and so we did."
In order to organize an entire week of activities, the special education students asked the AHS student council for help. Nicole Pexa, a student council member, said her response was, "an immediate, yes! I don't really see someone's disability at first. But once I learn a person's backstory, why they are the way they are, I become really more sensitive and aware."
Nicole and the other student council members worked in partnership with the youth living with disabilities to plan awareness activities. "They did everything," Sarazin proudly stated. "The students worked together to define the activities, decide who would be in charge of which topics and days, and they even promoted their efforts around the school. All exercises during the five-day period were interactive and fun, thereby engaging the larger student body in the learning process.
The weeklong activities highlighted these disabilities:
Monday - autism
Tuesday - traumatic brain injury and developmental cognitive delays
Wednesday - specific learning disabilities and other health impairments
Thursday - deaf and hard of hearing, visual impairments, speech and language impairments
Friday - emotional and behavioral disorders
"Sometimes they feel isolated in mainstream classes because their peers don't know how to talk with them, or don't understand them. Even teachers don't always remember that students with some disabilities may need a little extra time to answer a question or to have things explained in a different way," Sarazin said. Event organizers hope people will remember three key things from their experiences during the week:
Treat everyone the same: Say "hi" to people with disabilities in the hallways, classes and cafeteria. Ask how their day is. Be aware and be kind.
Stay open minded: Don't judge people with disabilities and they won't judge you. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing or offending people. If something is not clear, simply clarify by saying, " I am sorry" or "Can you repeat what you just said."
Be patient: Wait for your friend with a disability to process information. Let them speak at their own pace. Don't try to answer a question for them. Give them a chance to express themselves.
AHS student Eric Collier created a short documentary video featuring Jordan and other AHS students with disabilities to help raise awareness. It was the perfect complement to a week of interactive, engaging events. Jordan Peschong was one of the students featured in the video. After planning a week of events and being featured in the awareness video, Jordan explained that people treat him differently now. "Kids come up to me that never talked to me before and they give me a high-five. They ask me questions about me. I feel happy and proud."
More than 260 of the 2,350 students at AHS are identified as living with disabilities. For more information about the Disability Awareness week events contact Ann Sarazin at 763-506-6471 or at: email@example.com.
Blaine High School students win President’s Volunteer Service Award
Three Blaine High School students were honored recently with the President's Volunteer Service Award for exemplary service. They are Amy Paschke, Ham Lake, and Kathryn Polensky and Zachary Porwoll, both of Andover.
The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was presented by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of President Barack Obama.
Sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program recognizes young people across America for outstanding community service activities. More than 370,000 young people across America have been considered for these awards since the program began in 1995.
"The recipients of these awards vividly demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities," said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. "In recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer service activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community."
"Demonstrating civic responsibility through community volunteerism is an important part of life," said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. "These Honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people as well as adults will emulate."
Program applications were distributed nationwide last September. After Local Honorees were named, state-level judges selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact, and personal growth.
NASSP represents middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. Prudential Financial provides more than 50 million individual and institutional customers worldwide with life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services.
University Avenue first graders get a first-hand view of aviation at the Anoka County Airport
First grade students at University Avenue Elementary - Aerospace, Children's Engineering and Science visited the Anoka County Airport Monday to learn more about planes, how they work and their history. Part of their time was spent at the Golden Wings Flying Museum and the other half with Twin City Aviation (TCA).
University Avenue Elementary was recently changed to a specialty school. Its curriculum is now focused on aerospace, engineering and science, where students learn about both air and aircraft as first graders. The field trip gave these students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to a real life situation. "It's a great way for them to transfer that learning, and that, in turn, makes it much more meaningful for them," said Michelle Zimmerman, curriculum integrator at University Avenue Elementary.
The students learned a great deal while visiting the airport. TCA representatives showed them the parts of an airplane including the cockpit, landing gear and storage compartments. "I felt the texture of an aircraft," said student Nathan Roe. One group of students was also able to see the functionality of a hangar. "I learned what a hanger was and saw them tow a plane into it!" said student Ayah Ismail.
Upstairs at the TCA hangar, students had an opportunity to view the runway. More details were shared about the airport including the length of the runway, the role of TCA and other groups, and the number of people working there. One group was able to see a plane touchdown during this time, but the snowy weather prevented other students from seeing such an event.
At the museum, students were able to view 30 unique planes from the 1920's and 30's - the Golden Age of aviation. Some of the rarities included NASA's first aircraft, a stainless steel amphibian and the first airplane in which a pope ever flew. "I liked seeing the airplane that Amelia Earhart flew!" said student Lucy Johnson.
"Not only did the students get to see and learn about fascinating forms of transportation, but they were exposed to history, inventors and engineers that are very influential to our daily life," said first grade teacher Kate Watson. "They were also exposed to jobs that they may never have considered to work towards like that of a pilot, engineer or mechanic."
DCD students at Blaine High School play with “Cars”
Fifteen Blaine High School (BHS) students created a stage spin-off of the animated hit movie Cars. Their newly scripted show titled, Cars: This is Your Life, was performed live on March 6 and 7.
The students are part of the DCD program for students with developmental cognitive disabilities and adaptive disabilities. The play's message was friendship and hard work. An opening line read, "What most local cars don't realize is that Radiator Springs did not just pop up overnight. It took a lot of work, many helpers and a big dream."
And, so did this play. "Our students are capable of doing much more than we imagine," said Carrie Holly, lead teacher for the seventh annual DCD performance. The students worked on the show for more than four months and transformed the auditorium into the fictional city, Radiator Springs. The bright backdrops, character-perfect costumes, and perfectly cast actors made the show a hit. The students worked on every aspect of the show.
"Everyone gets a part that fits their comfort level," said teacher Lynn Florman. "Even the staff contributed the things they are good at, just like our kids." Florman was referring to the fact that some people are good writers, some are great designers and others are creative problem solvers. These gifts and many others emerged during the production process.
The third teacher in this dynamic trio is Beau Dickey. He beamed with pride as he described student Ronnie Smith, who played the tow truck character named Mater. "Ronnie always does a good job, but he has literally been transformed over the last three years on stage. He is a senior and a leader. He really stepped into his role. He not only says his lines now but he plays to the audience and actually acts them out."
Holly adds, "They really blossom the most during stage prep. Once you put a microphone in front of some of them you see so much that you did not know was inside them."
Some of the actors, including Ronnie, say their lines with the help of speech synthesis devices such as iPads or iPhones. When Dickey cued line number 9, for example, Ronnie pressed the corresponding number on his device, and generated the artificial production of human speech, "Have a good day ya two. Do you want to go tractor tipping tonight?" And the audience roared with laughter.
Holly summarizes her hopes and dreams for her young students. "Although they may acquire information at a different pace, students with significant cognitive needs are always learning. One of my goals as a teacher is to help others understand that students with disabilities are teenagers just like everyone else at Blaine High School. They have likes and dislikes, they experience crushes and broken hearts, and as they grow into young adults they continue to have dreams and desires. They are fantastic people with personalities, and they are more than worth getting to know as individuals."
There are 45 youth in the DCD program at Blaine High School. The 15 that performed this original play are moderately to severely disabled.
Blaine High School senior wins leadership award
Colton Nelson, a senior at Blaine High School, was recognized as the winner of The Sanneh Foundation Leadership Award during the foundation's third annual Gala 4 Goals event Feb. 2 at the Depot in Minneapolis.
Colton's award was in recognition of excellence in soccer, academic accomplishments and his outstanding community service. The Sanneh Foundation recognized only one male and one female with this award. Colton is the son of Denne and Janet Nelson of Coon Rapids.
The Sanneh Foundation is a youth development organization that provides life skills programs for young people using soccer as a catalyst to "empower kids, improve lives and unite communities." It was founded in 2003 by Tony Sanneh, a St. Paul native and retired professional soccer player who played for the United States in the 2002 World Cup.
New mobile library brings excitement to preschoolers
Many families understand that reading with their preschool age children is a crucial component of school readiness. But for some children, checking out library books has not always been an option.
"Most Kindergarten Readiness Preschool locations have a media center in the school, but that was not originally available at the Educational Service Center," explained Early Childhood Education (ECE) supervisor Kathy Mirocha. Until now.
Last November Media Services and the Community Education departments pooled $4,000 to build a "mobile library" comprised of books at a preschool-age reading level for the early childhood classrooms located at the Educational Service Center.
"The teachers tell us that their students cannot wait for library day," Mirocha said. Once a week, a cart full of shiny, brand-new books is wheeled into the classroom. The books are labeled with library bar codes just as they are in media centers across the school district, which allows students to select a new book to take home and read with their families each week.
The benefits of the mobile library have surpassed expectations by encouraging families to read at home and increasing parent involvement.
"Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth and pleasure. Students who read well and understand what they have read are more successful in school and in life," said Lee Ann Clauer, media teaching and learning specialist. "The mobile library enriches our youngest student's lives by providing access to books and libraries."
Community Education offers School Readiness Preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children to help prepare them for kindergarten. Kindergarten Readiness Preschool is a program that was created specifically for children who are learning to speak English or for English-speaking children who may meet income guidelines.
The Kindergarten Readiness program is offered at eight locations across the school district:
Educational Service Center.
Evergreen Park Elementary.
Sorteberg Early Childhood Center.
University Avenue Elementary.
Licensed teachers work with the students enrolled in the Kindergarten Readiness Preschool and School Readiness Preschool programs to learn basic social skills in addition to critical reading, writing, math, science, art, music and computer skills aligned with the K-12 academic curriculum. To learn more about the School Readiness Preschool programs or to apply for the 2013-2014 school year, call 763-506-1500.
Pay for College without Going Broke, from Community Education
High school students may be eager to begin searching for the perfect college, but as a parent, you may be nervous about how it will affect your bank account! Help your student strive for the degree, rather than debt! Register to attend a workshop for parents of students in grades nine through 11,Pay for College without Going Broke, from Anoka-Hennepin Community Education.
The workshop will cover common mistakes that families make in selecting a college and how to prevent them, myths about college financial aid, how to complete to Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), how to obtain college grants and more. The workshop will also help families develop a strategy in the college selection process to avoid unmanageable debt. The cost to attend is $25 per family of four. To enroll, visit the Community Education website or call 763-506-5766.
Best Buy donates office supplies for district students
Anoka-Hennepin students will be well supplied with pens, markers, rulers, Post It notes and more thanks to the generosity of the Best Buy store in Blaine, which donated eight large boxes of office supplies to the district Feb. 28.
Members of the store's Employee Engagement Team dropped off the items in the district warehouse, where they were greeted by grateful staff and Tess DeGeest, executive director of the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation.
"This may feel like a little thing to some, but for students who need these supplies, it's a big thing," said DeGeest. "We really appreciate this. It will mean a lot to our students."
Photo caption: Employees of Best Buy in Blaine and Anoka-Hennepin staff gathered for the hand-off of thousands of office supplies the store donated for students. From left are Tess DeGeest of the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation, Mel Lunsford, Amy Whiteford and Nick Booth all of Best Buy, lead custodian Don Morrell, prevention advisor Barry Scanlan, Associate Superintendent Jeff McGonigal, and Blaine High School senior Brandon Lindemoen, who is a Best Buy employee.
YouTube is now accessible in Safety Mode for educational purposes
Students and staff can now access YouTube, a video sharing website, for educational purposes. The site has become a popular place to store and access educational content worldwide.
Instructors may choose to present YouTube videos to dive deeper into topics discussed in class. As has been past practice, all video content from non-district resources, such as YouTube, must be part of a curriculum review process with principals and Professional Learning Committees (PLCs) before being shared in the classroom.
YouTube is being shared in "Safety Mode" meaning that videos with mature content or age restrictions will not populate in video searches, playlists, shows, and movies. The district's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and its guidelines further describe how students should appropriately use such online resources. It can be found in its entirety on the district website and in student policy handbooks.
High schools called on to educate teens following deadly week on the road
It's been a tragic week for teenagers on Minnesota roads - two 16-year-olds were killed in crashes and another was seriously injured. These cases remind us that traffic crashes are the leading killer of our youth.
In Anoka-Hennepin, we are making efforts to remind students about the dangers of being behind the wheel, riding with others, and making life-saving decisions - like always buckling up, paying attention and driving at safe speeds.
These recent events also serve as a reminder for parents and caregivers to reinforce safe driving choices and to be aware of the resources available to help develop safe teen drivers. This message is especially important as prom season approaches.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety offers this information that we encourage you to review to help keep your teen safe on the road:
Provide significant supervised driving training, and continue to do so even after licensure.
Train your teen on a variety of road types (urban, rural) and in different conditions (nighttime, rain, snow). Use a driving skills checklist.
Talk with your teen to reinforce laws and set limits (such as passenger limitations, nighttime driving) - and use a driving contract between parent and teen to set rules:Teen driver laws, Parent-teen contract.
Specific to making prom plans, it is illegal for a person under age 21 to possess or consume any amount of alcohol. It's also against the law for a person to sell or provide alcohol to a person under age 21.
[If applicable, check to see if your town has a Social Host Ordinance, which makes it illegal to allow anyone under age 21 to consume alcohol on your property, or the property you rent, regardless of who provided the alcohol.
For more on teen driving, visit: ots.dps.mn.gov, and click on "Teen Driving" under "Traffic Topics." Thank you in advance for your help to keep your students safe on the road.
Student is top jump-a-thon fundraiser three straight years
For the third straight year, fourth grader Quinn Knudsvig was the top fundraiser in the Jump Rope for Heart program at Morris Bye Elementary School, Coon Rapids. He raised $265 this year for the American Heart Association.
"I want to help kids with bad hearts be healthy," said Quinn. "It's important to me so I went around to neighbors and asked them if they would donate."
He said keeping his healthy heart is important to him so he likes to be active. He enjoys not only jumping rope, but also playing basketball and soccer and hiking, especially in the autumn when his grandfather comes to visit.
"Quinn is excited every year about helping others through our Jump Rope for Heart community service event," said Steve Claggett, physical education teacher at Morris Bye. "He actually asked me on the very first day of school if we were going to participate again this year! The fact that he has led our student body in JRFH fundraising for three straight years is commendable."
District talks about its leading TelePresence Immersion practices internationally
Some Anoka-Hennepin high schoolers have had the opportunity to participate in a distance learning environment like no other this year. The technology called TelePresence Immersion is so advanced that it feels like the instructor and students are in the same room. Five TelePresence classrooms are being used across the district for electives that would have otherwise been cut due to low enrollment. Anoka-Hennepin is only the second district in the state to utilize such cutting-edge technology.
Two presentations have recently taken place in the district's sixth TelePresence room at the Educational Service Center (ESC) in Anoka. Late January, Superintendent Dennis Carlson and Associate Superintendent Jeff McGonigal spoke live at the Florida Educational Technology Conference without leaving the ESC. Most recently Superintendent Carlson pre-recorded a presentation mid-February with superintendents from California, Arizona and Australia that will be viewed in March at Cisco's Virtual Forum for Education Leaders - again without leaving the ESC.
"It's really something. We're seeing benefits that go far beyond classroom instruction, which is the reason we got the TelePresence system," said Superintendent Carlson at Monday's School Board meeting. "We're finding staff development opportunities and other opportunities like this that we never would have had."
Tanner McArdle selected as U.S. Presidential Scholars Program candidate
Anoka High School senior Tanner McArdle has been selected as a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which was established in 1964 by executive order of the president to honor some of the nation's most distinguished graduating seniors.
McArdle, who earned a perfect score on his ACT test, appreciates the rigor of the Advanced Placement courses he has taken. He participates in band, jazz band, cross-country running and National Honor Society. He plans to study biomedical engineering and become a doctor.
Congratulations to Tanner and the teachers and other staff who helped him excel.
Rum River Elementary begins fundraising to fight hunger
For the fifth year, Rum River Elementary students and staff are raising money to fight hunger. Their efforts have helped pack 288,500 meals over the years. The school works with a Minneapolis non-profit called ImpactLives, devoted to humanitarian efforts across the world.
At this year's kickoff event last Friday Dr. Ramon Pastrano, president and CEO of ImpactLives, said, "You can do a lot when you do it together." Students demonstrated ways for their classmates to begin raising money. One group brought buckets, shovels and mops to the stage, showing that chores may be an option.
A final group of students who were neighbors showed that collecting money at every group or family meal might also be a good fundraising choice.
Over the next couple of weeks, fundraisers are taking place at Rum River as well. Such events include a pencil drive, hat day, recycled cans and sneakers collection, and T-shirt drive. Kindergarten teacher Renee Blue displayed the shirt at Friday's kickoff. It said, "Got food? Rum River against hunger! Five years of feeding those in need."
"Over the past four years our students have grown to really understand what it means to help others," said Blue. "We don't need to just help someone by packing food on one day, we are able to help others everyday of our lives - no one is ever too young or old to make a difference in another person's life."
High school students take part in prestigious honor choirs
Minnesota's American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) selected students from Anoka-Hennepin high schools to participate in the organization's honor choirs for grades nine and 10. From Anoka High School students included Abigail Backous, Molly Hayes, Hannah Majkrzak, and Alexander Stokes; from Andover High School Maurice Britts, Ryan Jasperson, Emma Peterman, Kelly Phelps, Elizabeth Reynolds, Sara Strommen, Joelle Stubbs, and Rachel Verhoef; from Blaine High School Renata Mecicar and Jordan Schwartz; from Champlin Park High School Jacob Blindauer, Kayla Chidester, Joseph Martini, Carter Nelson, and Josh Woodley; and from Coon Rapids High School Grace Hausker, Amelia Hausker, Mycah Lerum, and Thomas Nordby.
Students selected for the ACDA honor choirs had the opportunity to practice and perform five musical compositions directed by nationally acclaimed and recognized conductors, Phillip Swan and Judy Sagen. The events were held at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis mid-February. Melanie Kjellberg, music teacher at Andover High School, who serves as a coordinator for the ninth and 10th ACDA honor choirs, thought the event was great. "It was a fabulous day of singing with the best of the best," said Kjellberg.
Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy provides leadership in waste reduction, gardening
Leadership in waste reduction The waste reduction program that got underway at Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science (CBPA) last year is serving as an example for other schools through its partnership with the Jeffers Foundation.
Denise Schnabel, curriculum integrator, said CBPA is a model school featured on the foundation's Waste Reduction Awareness Program (W.R.A.P.) website for its use of such things as compostable rather than Styrofoam trays on days when dishwashing is not available and color coded bins in the cafeteria for separating materials for disposal.
The partnership with the Jeffers Foundation, which provides education programs on conservation and preservation of natural resources, started as the result of a visit to the school by Dan Fosse of the foundation. "They were really impressed with what we are doing in environmental education and waste reduction," said Schnabel.
CBPA partnered with adjoining Jackson Middle School and nearby Oxbow Creek Elementary School to receive a $25,000 waste abatement grant from Hennepin County last year to set up sorting stations in cafeterias and implement off-site composting.
Schnabel said the new disposal practices are working well. "Kids feel good about what they are doing and they teach their families about it," she said. "The organics program is wonderful. We have reduced our trash hauling significantly. At first we were hoping it would be cost neutral, but we have found that we are actually saving the district money."
Some of the compostable materials hauled off site come back in the spring to fertilize the school's gardens.
Leadership in gardening The school's gardening program is also a model for schools. Schnabel was invited to speak about the school's gardens and curriculum at the Schoolyard Gardens Summit Feb. 22 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The summit was designed to share successful schoolyard garden projects and to bring together communities, businesses, educators and local government officials to discuss ways to integrate gardening into schools' educational culture.
"They reached out to us," said Schnabel. "They had heard about our school and what we were doing so they asked us to present at the summit. It was a nice recognition of our school."
All CBPA students have the opportunity to start from seed, grow, transplant and maintain a garden tied to the curriculum each year.
The school partners with Hennepin County Master Gardeners and Champlin Garden Club and gets staff support from the Three Rivers Park district and the arboretum. It also involves students in the Anoka Technical College horticulture program, Champlin Park High School's horticulture and landscaping courses, its own Adventures Plus program, and students' families.
Fifth grade students complete the Junior Master Gardeners curriculum and earn Junior Master Gardener certification. The Junior Master Gardener program originated with Texas A&M University; Champlin Park's participation is supported by Hennepin County Master Gardeners through the University of Minnesota - Extension.
20 district schools earn national recognition
At long last, Anoka-Hennepin's Child Nutrition Program received word that 20 of the district's schools have received federal recognition in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), which recognizes excellence in nutrition and physical activity.
The announcement came Feb. 20, nearly nine months after the applications were due. Three schools received bronze awards and the remaining 17 received silver awards.
Adams Elementary School (silver)
Andover Elementary School (silver)
Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science (bronze)
Crooked Lake Elementary School (silver)
Dayton Elementary School (silver)
Eisenhower Elementary School (silver)
Franklin Elementary School (silver)
Hamilton Elementary School (silver)
Hoover Elementary School (silver)
Jefferson Elementary School (silver)
Johnsville Elementary School (silver)
Madison Elementary School (silver)
McKinley Elementary School (silver)
Mississippi Elementary School (bronze)
Morris Bye Elementary School (silver)
Oxbow Creek Elementary School (silver)
Ramsey Elementary School (bronze)
Rum River Elementary School (silver)
Sand Creek Elementary School (silver)
Wilson Elementary School (silver)
"We are just thrilled to have so many of our schools receive this recognition," said Bradford. "It represents a lot of good work on the part of our staff to help students be healthy and better prepared to do well in school."
Schools that applied for the award had to go through a 95-page application kit and complete a 13-page application form documenting such things as the amount of time students in each grade spent in physical education classes, what kind of nutrition education students receive, and four weeks of menu details such as the number of servings of legumes offered each week. "It was very rigorous, right down to details such as serving a green vegetable and an orange vegetable every day," said Bradford.
Schools that received silver awards will each receive $1,000; those with bronze awards will receive $500. All will receive plaques and banners for their schools and be listed on the federal Team Nutrition website. Winners have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. in June for a ceremony on the lawn of the White House with the president and first lady.
The HealthierUS School Challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative to improve school environments and help students make healthy choices. It supports the Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. This year schools in 17 Minnesota districts received the award.
District shares anti-bullying strategies at national symposium
Anoka-Hennepin was one of only 15 school districts across the country invited to participate last week in the Broward Stonewall Education Symposium called The Kids are Not All Right.
"School districts shared best practices in inclusion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students, families, and staff related to policies, programs, and practices that are inclusive of all individuals," said Jennifer Cherry, district Title IX coordinator. The district was also represented by School Board Chair Tom Heidemann, Associate Superintendent Jinger Gustafson, Jennifer Cherry, Parent Involvement Coordinator Linda Rodgers and Prevention Coordinator Barry Scanlan.
"Anoka-Hennepin's participation in the symposium was a great opportunity to learn with and from diversity and equity leaders in the largest school districts across the nation," said Cherry. "In order to continue to improve school climate we must continue to ask ourselves: Who is included? Who is not included? And, how do we include more individuals in more ways in our schools?"
The program was packed with speakers, presentations and sharing sessions from early morning until well into the evening. "It was a very full agenda, well planned, with passionate and dedicated facilitators," said Scanlan.
Board Chair Heidemann said the symposium gave him "confidence that our anti-bullying initiatives will be successful."
He found the comments of keynote speaker Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) who also led the Obama administration's anti-bullying initiative, to be particularly helpful. "Jennings emphasized that individuals have first amendment rights. The schools cannot go out and try to change the personal beliefs of individuals; their responsibility is to set and enforce standards for appropriate behavior," said Heidemann. "We have kids who are Catholic and kids who are Muslim. We are not going to change their beliefs, but we can build common ground and work toward respect for all."
District participants said they were struck by the level progress Anoka-Hennepin has made in addressing bullying and harassment and concerns of LGBT students in comparison with other districts. "I felt we were well out ahead of all the others, except Massachusetts, which has strong state laws on harassment," said Scanlan, "Nearly all the other participants were much bigger districts like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C. so I was surprised that we seemed to be so far ahead." He felt the support from the district administration, School Board policy and budget for related staff development have resulted in the district's progress.
Another thing that has made Anoka-Hennepin unique is the strong partnership it has developed in recent years with the faith community. "Other districts were very interested in what we have done and how it has benefitted our students," said Scanlan.
Heidemann said the district was able to share the strategies underlying the district anti-bullying/anti-harassment program: having a documented plan shared with all stakeholders, building partnerships across a diverse community by focusing on changing behaviors and not beliefs, implementing the program in all schools with full leadership and central support, using feedback from teachers to drive practices, measuring success with data, and focusing on keeping all students safe. The district's participation in the symposium was partially funded by the Broward Stonewall Education Project.
Schools celebrate 'I Love to Read Month' in February
Anoka-Hennepin schools are observing "I Love to Read Month" in February with special activities designed to encourage students to read.
In many schools, students are keeping track of minutes spent reading or the number of books read, working toward individual or school goals. Some schools have book give-aways, book exchanges, guest readers and artists in residence.
View our "I Love to Read Month" photo album on the district's Facebook page.
Andover Elementary School Andover Elementary School is celebrating with an all-school read of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. The book is about a young boy who escapes from two wicked aunts and embarks on a series of adventures with six giant insects he meets inside a giant peach.
Some of Andover Elementary's other related activities include:
Mystery Book Wednesdays: During announcements an office staff member will read a selection from a mystery book. Classes have just the day to figure out the reader and the book.
Peachy Prattle: Classes will select interesting vocabulary words from their reading selection. These interesting words will be on display outside the classroom doors along with some additional information that the class has discovered about their word.
Missing Peach: A wandering peach will be a cause for concern and searching throughout the school; along with "Peachy Ponderings" (questions about what students have read).
Follow Your Heart and READ: Staff, students and visitors to the building will note their "fave" book along with a picture of them on a conversation-type heart. The "fave" and photo will be displayed in a chain around the building.
Fridays will include: "Read Your Hat Day," "Read Your Shirt Day," "Dress as Your Favorite Character Day" and "Pajama/Read-a-thon Day"
Laura Bratland and Karen Stong's fifth grade classrooms kicked off "I Love to Read Month" with a visit from Representative Peggy Scott (R) on Feb. 8. Scott read the book, "House Mouse, Senate Mouse," which teaches children about our nation's Capitol building and takes them through the legislative process.
The book was written by Washington, D.C. area husband and wife author/artist team Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes.
Bratland and Stong's students also had the opportunity to ask Rep. Scott questions about her job afterward. Some of the questions they asked included:
What kind of pets do you have?
What's your favorite color?
Are you married? Do you have kids?
Where is your office located?
What was your job before becoming a representative?
Have you ever met the mayor of Andover or the president?
Is it hard to convince people you are the best (person for the job)?
Do you get nervous that you won't win?
Have you considered running for higher office?
"The students enjoyed having a legislator for our state come read to them," said Stong. "It sparked great conversations about civics and government, as well as reading for everyone at any age. They also enjoy our all-school book James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and the all-school activities that we do throughout the month."
Coon Rapids Middle School A special reading area can be found near the Coon Rapids Middle School (CRMS) main office during the month of February. It features rocking chairs and beanbags where students can comfortably read. Since the beginning of the month the area has been occupied by students and classes of students each hour of the school day.
Also as part of I Love to Read Month, CRMS debuted its Little Free Library. Books can now be found in a small wooden chest at the main entrance of the school. They are available for all community members to borrow. Once a book has been read, community members can either return it or replace it with a different book - all for free!
The Little Free Library nonprofit formed in Wisconsin in 2009. Thousands of Little Free Libraries now exist throughout the world from Minnesota to Ghana, Africa to New South Wales, Australia.
Morris Bye University of Minnesota athletes and their mascot, Goldy Gopher, spent the morning at Morris Bye Elementary School Feb. 8 talking about the importance of reading and answering students questions about books, college and sports.
The athletes took turns reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, to the entire student body, which assembled in the gymnasium for the special I Love to Read Month program. Students enjoyed chiming in on the chorus of the popular children's book.
The athletes shared how important reading is and described how they use it in their particular sport, which included baseball, football, rowing, volleyball and swimming/diving. Reading scouting reports about their opponents, for example, helps them prepare for games and meets.
When asked if they were good readers when they were in elementary school, several of the athletes said they struggled with reading at first so they turned to parents and friends who helped them. And, they practiced a lot. They stressed that reading and sports both take a lot of practice.
"I was a horrible reader," football player Luke McAvoy told the students. "Now I read two to three hours a day and I love it." McAvoy said he is majoring in English so he has many books to read for his classes.
The athletes also emphasize the importance of doing well in school, because schoolwork comes before their sports, and practice for their sports comes before other activities, such as playing video games.
Following the program students clustered around Goldy for autographs, hugs and high-fives.
Kindergarten teacher Lindsey Hawkins organized the event.
Champlin Park students earn President’s Volunteer Service Award
Congratulations to the Champlin Park High School (CPHS) students who earned the President's Volunteer Service Award. The award recognizes Americans who contribute to their community through providing service to others throughout 2012.
"We are very proud of these students who chose to volunteer on a consistent basis in their communities," said Jane Hansen, CPHS community school coordinator.
Students ages 14 and under are recognized for their volunteer service with a bronze award for 50 to 74 hours; silver award for 75 to 99 hours; and a gold award for more than 100 hours. CPHS's Anna Betland received a bronze award and Makala Sabas a silver award. Receiving gold awards were Jamie Dupre, Viktar Pisarchyk, Rebecca Vassar, Kiara Jackson, and Samantha Proctor.
Students and people up to age 25 are recognized for their volunteer service with a bronze award for 100 to 174 hours; a silver award for 175 to 249 hours; and a gold award for more than 250 hours. Receiving bronze awards from CPHS were Megan Pietruszewski, Gavin Line, Christian Dube, Amber Westlund, Belinda Huang, Erin Daehn, Elise Nikolic, Nicole Olson, Dalena Vien, and Heather Bates. Michelle Smeaton received a silver award and Stephanie Surma received a gold award.
"These students went up and beyond by volunteering in their communities," Hansen said. "Some of these students have earned this award previously also, which means they have really made a commitment to volunteering."
Hansen said the awards will be presented in the spring.
Evergreen Park fourth graders sing spirituals
Fourth grade students at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School performed songs they created as part of the VocalEssence Witness program for students, staff and parents in mid-February. The VocalEssence Witness program gives Minnesota schools the opportunity to learn more about the contributions African Americans have made, and are making, to the fine arts.
This year the organization is celebrating Marian Anderson's contributions. Each song the fourth graders performed was a short spiritual about the African American vocalist. In 1939, Anderson began breaking barriers for African American artists with a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for over 75,000 people and millions more over radio broadcast. Teaching artists T. Mychael Rambo and Anita Ruth helped the fourth graders with their song creation.
Superintendent Dennis Carlson thought the day was very rewarding for students. "For students to be able to interact with such talented and amazing artists encourages them to explore creative avenues for their own positive expression. It truly is preparing our students for life - and a high quality of life - filled with creative expression."
Fifteen of the fourth grade students were selected to sing at a special community leaders luncheon sponsored by VocalEssence at General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley.
"T. Mychael and Anita had worked with Evergreen Park students and felt they were a good fit to show the work the VocalEssence Witness program does with schools," said Katrina Vander Kooi of Vocal Essence. They were the only students who sang at the luncheon, which is an annual affair of VocalEssence designed to express appreciation to their donors.
The students were thrilled with the opportunity. "It was really great experience for them," said Wood. "They were very much in awe of the General Mills building and they had fun practicing and singing in a big auditorium space wearing their Evergreen Park Tigers t-shirts and dress pants."
They also enjoyed eating what Wood described as "a very fancy lunch" with T. Mychael and Anita.
"I was very proud of them and pleased to hear community leaders tell them they did a great job singing," said Wood.
Crooked Lake student leaders visit Animal Humane Society
Members of Crooked Lake Elementary School's K-Kids Student Council recently toured the Animal Humane Society in Coon Rapids.
Prior to the visit, the students held a school-wide animal supply donation. Animal Humane Society staff said they were very impressed with the quantity and quality of the donations.
Advisors Jen Galvin and Tammy Sloth attended the visit with the students. Sloth said the students enjoyed seeing the surgical area where animals are treated and cared for. They also saw firsthand how essential blankets and towels were to the operation of the Animal Human Society.
During the visit the students were able to pet several animals including a dog, a cat and a rabbit. "It was a fabulous trip and quite the learning experience," Sloth said.
Madison Elementary's multicultural night marked with exciting performances
Music, movement and colorful performances marked another exciting "Multicultural Night" at Madison Elementary School on Thursday, Feb. 7.
The school's fifth annual event was held to showcase the diversity of the school community and featured lively performances from the Bethany Russian Orchestra, a Native American dance by Katrina Larock-Rousseau, the Kids of Jerusalem, Champlin Park High School Steppers, a Dominican Republic dance and the Vietnamese Lion Dance.
All of the performing groups (except for Larock-Rousseau) featured current and former Madison/Anoka-Hennepin students.
"Madison's Multicultural Night is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diversity at our school," said Dorothy Olsen, Madison principal. "Madison students benefit by learning about their own heritage as well as the heritage of others. Our families enjoy the sights and sounds from the performances of people from different cultures and come back year after year for this one event. It is a wonderful evening!"
In addition to performances from six groups, this year's event also featured various Hmong and Palestinian crafts for sale and traditional needle work.
Coon Rapids High School takes first place in One Act Play regional competition
Congratulations to Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) theater students for taking first place in the 5AA One Act Play regional competition. The win earned them a spot in the state's One Act Play Festival earlier this month. They were one of only eight teams in the state granted this opportunity. The last time the school advanced to this level was in 1980.
"From the time we started rehearsal, I think we all felt we had something creative and unique to offer at the One Act contest," said Karla Haij, theater advisor. "The experience of going to state will be a life-long memory for our students. It was quite charmed."
The cast and crew included 19 CRHS students. Their performance at the state festival wove three shorter plays entitled The M Word, Three Tables and Dance Lessons into one performance. It was set in a restaurant scene and completed in less than 35 minutes, as required by competition rules.
Photo by Rick Orndorf, ECM Sun
Fifth graders perform cultural dances at Evergreen Park
Fifth grade students at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School performed dances they created for the entire school last Friday and visiting parents. Karla Nweje, teaching artist from the Dance to Learn residency, assisted the fifth graders in their dance creation. Dance to Learn is an education program supported by the Ordway and the Perpich Center for Arts Education's Professional Development and Research.
The fifth graders worked with Nweje for about three months to choreograph and practice their performances. Elements of African American collegiate stepping, funk and modern dance were incorporated with some sort of costume or prop element. One of the fifth grade groups dancing used sunglasses as part of their performance. Another group was inspired to wear camouflage bandanas because of the "military step" prevalent in their choreography.
The fifth grade teachers demonstrated a few of their moves and all students, including those in the audience, had an opportunity to try. Nweje demonstrated a technique integral to building focus-one of the main themes of the residency.
Vanessa Wood, curriculum integrator and specialty school program coordinator, knew the Dance to Learn program would fit well with the school's new community school theme.
"In our first year as a community school, programs such as Dance to Learn have given us great opportunities to partner with community organizations. These types of programs expose our students to other experiences and provide a different lens for learning. Most importantly though, the students learned what it means to create community with one another."
Get the latest School Board meeting news in PDF and podcast formats
Action of the School Board PDF recap Get caught up on the latest news presented at the Jan. 28 School Board meeting with our "Action of the School Board" meeting recaps in PDF format:
Jan. 28 meeting Recognitions, proposed 2013-14 integration budget, finance: audit report for 2012 fiscal year, presentation of OPEB actual trust variation and investment review and policies update: school activities and equal access to facilities policies.
Jan. 14 meeting Election of board officers, new member sworn in, resolutions for conducting school on holidays and supporting MSHSL Foundation, current year budget amendment, preliminary general fund budgets, policy updates on activities and facilities access, and approval of employee terms and conditions and agreements.
Summary in Six podcast The format of the Anoka-Hennepin Podcast Network's School Board meeting recaps has recently been revised to "Summary in Six," which shares highlights of School Board meetings, including significant action, in six minutes or less.
Associate superintendent's column: The love of reading
By Dr. Mary Wolverton Associate superintendent for elementary schools
"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you will go," noted Dr. Seuss several decades ago. We are all probably familiar with his book, "Oh the Places You Will Go." His books truly inspire the creativity and imagination in children across the world. More importantly, his books inspire a true love of reading. During the month of February, schools across the nation celebrate "I Love to Read Month." Engaging students and families in varied activities around reading, highlights the importance of being a lifetime reader.
In 1985, the Commission on Reading issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Two critical findings still resonate 28 years later. The Commission's findings noted, "the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children." It additionally states that "reading aloud to children should occur in both home and school." We know that reading is a skill. Becoming a great reader is much like a sport. It takes practice. The more you read, the better you get at it. The last 30 years of research is strong. Despite all variables, including socioeconomic background, students who read the most achieve at higher levels and have a higher likelihood of staying in school.
As we examine our student achievement level, we know students who read at a certain level at the end of kindergarten, have a high correlation to proficiency in reading at the end of third grade. Why does third grade proficiency matter? There is strong national research supporting third grade proficiency links to high school graduation rates and success in post secondary careers. Reading matters. With the increased rigor in state standards, we define kindergarten readiness much differently than we did even 10 years ago. A student on the first day of kindergarten who knows up to 40 of the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet comes with a strong foundation for learning and success. Reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers is perhaps the most important thing we can do to prepare children with critical readiness skills.
Students today have varied media to engage them in reading. While traditional books are still the typical method in which children explore books, electronic tablets are quickly becoming a common experience for many. In a number of our schools, students may either be using an iPad or a Kindle to read and access information. Whether a student is reading a traditional book or reading through technology, what is critical is engaging in the act of reading.
As a parent, I found that one of the most enjoyable rituals with my children was reading aloud to them prior to bedtime. As their level of reading progressed, it was exciting for all of us to see the shift from picture books to chapter books and series books. As a future grandmother, among the first things I bought for my future grandson were several books. I smile when I think of being able to sit with him, reading books and instilling the love of reading. "Oh the places you can go!"
Coon Rapids Middle Schools take the plunge for Special Olympics
Coon Rapids Middle School (CRMS) staff and Coon Rapids Police all work together to keep kids safe. They also worked together Feb. 9 to raise some cold cash by plunging into the icy waters of Crooked Lake for a worthy cause - Minnesota Special Olympics. View more event photos on our Facebook page.
Twenty-four teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries and a few students raised $8,050 in pledges at last count in the second annual Anoka County Polar Bear Plunge.
Tech coordinator Rick Gabriel, who headed the Coon Rapids Middle School Team, was very pleased with the team's effort. "Last year we raised about $2,800 with 13 jumpers so this was quite an increase," he said.
For dollars raised, the team ranked third in the state among schools, behind the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Campus and the University of Minnesota - Duluth. "Not bad for a small school in comparison," said Gabriel.
He organized the CRMS team last year after a challenge from Coon Rapids Police liaison officer Pat Carlson. "The police are major sponsors for the Polar Bear Plunge. Pat was talking about jumping with the police department last year and I thought I have always wanted to do that. So, I organized a team. I think the idea that we were giving to Special Olympics in Minnesota is what made people want to participate."
Gabriel said the school's entire administration team jumped together both years.
So, what's it like jumping through a hole in the ice? "The anticipation is worse than the actual jump," said Gabriel. "Everyone who jumped last year is jumping again because it' wasn't that bad. Your adrenaline is flowing so much and you walk down with the music playing and everyone cheering so you get excited."
The jumpers walk from a heated tent, jump into the lake, scramble quickly in a hot tub to warm up, and then back to a heated tent to dress. "It's a lot of fun," said Gabriel.
In addition to Gabriel, Coon Rapids jumpers were Bobby Anderson, Abby Bautch, Cindy Bautch, Laura Bautch, Carolyn Beahen, Katy Benhardus, Robert Cahow, Pat Carlson, Mark Dahl, Celeste Hofstede, Rachel Jorgensen, Jeanne Kimble, Eric Lakanen, Gwen Poore, Ryan MacSwain, Jessica Mesna, Hetty Rasmussen, Peggy Schierl, Tom Shaw, Emily Stavem, Lisa Tauer, Beth Tomlinson, Jessica Tucker, and Jim Urban.
Anoka Middle School for the Arts team plunges also
Anoka Middle School for the Arts (AMSA) also participated in the Anoka County Polar Bear Plunge. The 14-member team headed by tech para Dan Keller raised $2,401 in total pledges, beating their $2,300 goal.
Known as the Arctic Cyclones, the AMSA team also included Lee Alberts, Tabitha Bretheim, Roxanne Chambliss, Jeff Dillon, Kate Dillon, Jefferson Fietek, Lucy Hunter, Jerri McGonigal, Todd Meadows, Victor Meadows, Kristen Summerville, Brian Summerville, and Jacob Summerville.
"Most who did the plunge said they would do it again next year. We had a great time!" said Keller.
Blaine’s dance team heads to state this weekend!
Come cheer for Blaine High School's (BHS) dance team as they compete in the state tournament at Target Center this weekend. Tickets are $9 for students and $14 for adults. The team competed on Friday's Jazz Day. On Saturday's "High Kick Day" the team will compete about 2:05 p.m. This is the fourteenth year that Blaine has qualified for the tournament.
Trina Develice, Tricia Eckerman, Jessica Jones, Stephanie Mitchell, and Kelsey Boltoncoach coach the team. "We are very proud of our team and how hard they have worked to earn their way to the state tournament!" said Coach Develice.
Last years AAA jazz champion was Wayzata High School and high kick champion was Eastview High School, Apple Valley. More information about the competition can be found on the Minnesota State High School League's website: www.mshsl.org.
Community joins conversation to ‘Obliviate the Hate’ at anti-bullying summit
Last October, 100 students from Coon Rapids (CRHS) and Centennial high schools gathered to discuss how to end bullying in their schools. In an effort to bring parents, guardians and community members into the conversation, an "Obliviate the Hate" summit was held Monday, Feb. 11 at CRHS. About 70 students, parents, guardians and community members attended the event.
CRHS sophomore Janet Irankunda spoke about her experience at the October retreat. While students walked into the day thinking it would be just another talk about how bad bullying is, they were surprised to find out it was much different. They learned that one out of four teens is bullied, that if a bystander intervenes a bullying conflict can end in less than 10 seconds and about how damaging cyberbullying can be.
"By the end of the retreat we were inspired to make a change," she said.
The summit's keynote speaker was Dr. David Walsh. A psychologist, educator and author, Walsh spoke about fostering respect and courage in 21st century youth.
Walsh began his presentation with a story. A grandfather told his grandson he had two wolves batteling inside of him; one was kind and caring, the other mean and selfish. The grandson asked his grandfather which wolf would win. The grandfather said, "Whichever wolf I feed."
"We need to create a culture that feeds respect and where people cooperate with each other," Walsh said.
Walsh talked about character traits parents would like to see in their children, such as respect, kindness and honesty. He said these traits don't happen automatically, they have to be fed and developed. Many ask themselves how a culture of disrespect and meanness takes hold. Walsh points to how many screens are in people's lives and compete for time and attention. Television, video games, websites, and social media sites were not created for entertainment; they exist to provide a vehicle for advertisers. Some television, video games and websites use "cheap jolts" for attention. A cheap jolt could be violence or disrespectful behavior.
"We become desensitized to the violence, so it is increased," Walsh said. "We've gone from a story telling culture to a 'make my day' culture. And we see this in political leaders. Instead of solving problems they are fighting with each other all the time. It's like a virus and it works its way into bullying.
"We have a real challenge. It's a tribute to the students who are here tonight who want to change this culture."
Walsh explained how the brain develops the science behind bullying. When students are being bullied, their thinking shifts from the part of the brain that is used to think and learn to part of the brain involved with survival. It is difficult for a student to sit in class and learn if he or she is thinking about being bullied at school, on the bus or through social media.
"Kids who are bullied are more anxious," Walsh said. "They skip school because their brain is in survival mode. They use drugs to dull the pain. Each day in the U.S., about 160,000 children stay home from school because they were scared and didn't want to be bullied."
In general, children are bullied because they are "different." This could refer to their appearance, religion or sexual orientation. Parents and guardians can looks for signs of being bullied such as unexplained injuries, children avoiding certain places or playing alone, children who have few friends, and those who make statements that indicate helplessness.
Walsh also shared symptoms of being a bully, including trouble controlling anger, blaming others, accepting responsibility, and needing to win or be the best. Walsh said bullies are often popular students.
Social media has given the old problem of bullying new methods to be delivered. It provides bullies with ease and access to private space (students are no longer "safe" once they are home behind a locked door), spreads rumors quickly and gives bullies a sense of anonymity. Things that would never be said to a person's face are posted on social media sites. Walsh showed a slide that said, "If you wouldn't say it in person, why say it online? Don't write it."
In providing guidance to parents and guardians in the audience, Walsh said to remember the children are always watching adults. They look to see how their parents talk about someone of a different culture or religion, treat other drivers, act at sporting events, and what actions they take when they see someone being treated disrespectfully or unfairly.
"The parents' role in bullying prevention is communication; talk to your kids about how you define bullying and what disrespectful and healthy relationships are," Walsh said.
In line with the CRHS and Centennial students' work as part of the "Empowering Bystander Grant" from the Anoka County Children and Family Council, Walsh spoke about bystanders.
"There are two groups of bystanders; those who watch and don't say anything and those who join in," Walsh said. "Bullies like an audience; 85 percent of bullying happens when other kids are around. Only 1 out of 10 bystanders intervene - the students who intervene will change that norm at CRHS.
"What the students are talking about doing is not easy. Bystanders can do everything from anonymously reporting an incident to an adult to saying something to the bully. It's not easy to stand up and say 'that's not cool,' when someone is being bullied. It takes a lot of courage."
In his discussion of the brain, Walsh said one thing the brain likes to do is answer questions. As he ended the evening, Walsh asked the students to reflect on questions to help them change the culture at CRHS such as will you push against the tide of disrespect, will you stand up for everybody, and will you show courage when things are hard? His final question was, will you have a school where everyone feels safe?
Students at CRHS will continue their Obliviate the Hate work with a week of activities set for the end of February.
Students at Coon Rapids Middle School sign pledge to discourage prejudice
In recognition of Black History Month, students from the Multicultural Group at Coon Rapids Middle School (CRMS) gave classmates and staff members the opportunity to sign the "Birmingham Pledge," promising to respect others and discourage prejudice. Over 550 staff and student signatures were collected from the school. They will be sent to the Birmingham Pledge Foundation, a non-profit located in Birmingham, Ala., dedicated to recognizing individual worth and added to more than 100,000 signatures from across the world.
Before students had the opportunity to sign the pledge, they watched a film called "The Children's March," which shared the adversity young African-Americans faced during the Civil Rights era and their non-violent ways for protesting change. Teachers led CRMS students through a series of discussion questions after the film.
Organizer Lisa Reyes Tauer, student learning advocate, said both activities were a great learning experience. "Our students were able to watch African-American history as a part of our American history, more importantly, that coming together (peacefully fighting segregation as a group) had an empowering effect on the children of Birmingham. The Multicultural Group of CRMS thought that all of us signing the Birmingham Pledge could have the same effect on us - that we can come together and make a difference in our school."
After the pledge booth had been opened for a few minutes, Tony Marquardt, a student that helped organize the event said, "I think this is for a great cause."
The Birmingham Pledge Foundation was formed in 1997. Its pledge says, "I believe that every person has worth as an individual. I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color. I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others. Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions. I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort." More information is at: http://www.birminghampledge.org.
Rumor Alert: Substitute positions at Anoka-Hennepin
I've heard that Anoka-Hennepin has hired all the substitutes it needs or is able to employ? Not true! Anoka-Hennepin has an average of 210 teacher absences and 95 Paraeducator absences each day. The district is always in need of qualified, dedicated substitutes and will continue to hire for these positions through the school year.
I've heard that Anoka-Hennepin makes it complicated to become a substitute. Why are substitutes required to attend an information session and complete paperwork, including a criminal background check? Great question! Substitutes are among the 8,000 employees of the school district. Current information is needed for payroll, benefits, tax and communication purposes. This information is required of all employees, including substitutes, in order to ensure a safe and secure learning and working environment. Student safety is the district's top priority!
I've heard that AESOP, the absence system used for substitute assignments, limits the number of substitutes that can be stored in the system. This prevents Anoka-Hennepin from hiring additional substitutes when needed. Not true! The ASESOP system has the ability to hold an unlimited amount of substitute information.
I've heard that you're required to work a minimum number of days for Anoka-Hennepin each week/month/year or you are removed from the substitute list. Not true! Anoka-Hennepin prefers that substitutes are available for work five to 10 days per month, but understand that family commitments, desires to work part-time, and/or travel opportunities are also important in the lives of substitute employees!
I've heard that Anoka-Hennepin only offers substitute information sessions on a limited basis - just one or two times a year. Not true! Substitute information sessions are offered one to two times each month, with the exception of June, July and December. The information sessions are included on the employment opportunities page of the district website and are posted two weeks prior to the session.
I've heard that Anoka-Hennepin will not hire retired employees as substitutes to avoid paying higher compensation rates. Not true! Anoka-Hennepin values and appreciates the experience of retired employees and encourages them to return to work as substitute employees!
Northdale hosts event for African American Parent Involvement Day
Families and staff at Northdale Middle School (NMS) celebrated the 6th Annual National African American Parent Involvement Day Monday, Feb. 11. View more event photos on our Facebook page.
Jennifer Jones, an administrative intern at NMS, said the event has evolved from an afternoon of conversations between a few parents and staff members to an evening of dinner, community resources, volunteer opportunities, academic resources for students, and a student showcase. NMS also promoted resources available to families from Anoka-Hennepin, including A-HConnect that allows parents and guardians to look up students' grades and how to help students prepare for state tests.
More than 200 family members and 20 staff members participated in this year's event.
"We know that when we can easily communicate with parents about his/her child's academic needs or successes, we have more successful students," Jones said. "And we hope students gained an understanding about how important it is to have their parents here at school. We want students to see how as a school, we know the importance of building strong relationships with each student and their family."
Jones enjoys the event because she loves seeing the joy in parents and guardians as NMS teachers and staff members share positive words about their children.
"I love seeing the students beaming with pride performing in front of the people they love and respect the most - their families!" she said. "I love seeing the camaraderie, the community, and the overall happiness this event brings.
"We are so thankful to have such involved parents at Northdale. We love hosting this event every year and we are very thankful to the community supporters who help us make it possible!"
Photo caption: Northdale Middle School staff members Tina Tamura and Holly Clark (left to right) talk with parent Meimah Walker at the 6th Annual National African American Parent Involvement Day.
Public invited to anti-bullying summit Feb. 11 at Coon Rapids High School
The public is asked to join an anti-bullying discussion about empowering bystanders Monday, Feb. 11 at Coon Rapids High School (CRHS). Free pizza and a resource fair will be available from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria and a free program begins at 6:30 p.m.
Thanks to an "Empowering the Bystander" grant from Anoka County, students from Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools took part in a retreat in October to learn about the helpful and hurtful roles bystanders play in bullying.
Studies show bullying can be prevented or the duration reduced when a bystander takes action. Students learned how to use their voices to encourage others to stand up and take action and named their effort "Obliviate the Hate."
The highlight of the evening will be a presentation by Dr. David Walsh. Psychologist, educator, and author specializing in parenting, family life and the impact of media on children and teens, Walsh will present "The Character Challenge: Fostering Respect and Courage in 21st Century Youth."
In his talk, Walsh will discuss how developing character traits likerespect, honesty, integrity, courage, compassion and kindness in our youth is more important-and more challenging--than ever. He will explain how these qualities are the most effective antidotes to bullying.
Walsh will also describe what we can and must do to foster them so that our youth can stand up for themselves and others in a culture that has replaced "Have a nice day" with "Make my day."
Coon Rapids High School anti-bullying effort to be featured on WCCO-TV Saturday, Feb. 10
One facet of the work Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) is doing to stop bullying will be featured on Life to the Max Saturday, Feb. 9, 11:05 p.m. on WCCO-TV Channel 4. Anoka County partnered with Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools to introduce a program that empowers bystanders who observe bullying to speak up and take action.
The Life to the Max crew spent a day with the students at a retreat as they learned about the role of bystanders in bullying and how to encourage others to stand up against bullies. The 7-minute segment they produced includes interviews with CRHS students speaking about their experiences and two individuals who have first hand experience with the consequences of bullying, Anoka Country Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, whose youngest sister committed suicide as the result of bullying in the workplace, and Carrie Burk, executive director of B.U.L.L.Y. Inc., whose 12-year-old brother who was bullied by peers. The program also touches on efforts of the high school to end bullying.
Supt. Carlson supports mental health legislative response to recent violence
Anoka-Hennepin School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson recently appeared at a press conference at the State Capitol to support legislation aimed at reducing violence by investing in early mental illness initiatives. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. John Hoffman, a former Anoka-Hennepin School Board member.
"The attention being paid to investments in mental health programs linked to our schools is encouraging," Carlson said. "I look forward to seeing this legislation develop and I will continue lending my support to Senator Hoffman's work on this bill."
The legislation aims to give parents and schools the tools they need to address mental health deterioration before behavior becomes violent. The bill includes investments in school-linked mental health services, training for mental health professionals on early psychosis and intensive treatments and support for families with adolescents and young adults experiencing their first psychotic episode.
"I believe this legislation successfully starts tackling one of our society's toughest challenges," Sen. Hoffman said. "By including mental health support systems in our reaction to gun violence, we are finally addressing an often-ignored facet of this conversation."
Mentors work with girls in CEMS program to foster interest in civil engineering
To help girls in Blaine High School's Center for Engineering, Mathematics and Science (CEMS) have a deeper understanding of civil engineering, Dr. Lori Dykstra connected with the Women in Transportation Studies' Minnesota Chapter. Founded in the 1970s, WTS works to transform the transportation industry through the advancement of women.
WTS offers "Transportation You," a program that highlights career opportunities in the transportation industry. Through Transportation You, Rhonda S. Pierce, a civil engineer for Pierce Pini & Associates in Blaine, and Marie Colt, a civil engineer at the SRF Consulting Group office in Plymouth, have been working with a group of girls. Dykstra opened the opportunity to get involved with the program to civil engineering and architecture students.
The program kicked off in October when the mentors and students met for the first time. Through March, monthly meetings discussing specific topics, such as bridge design and planning and policy, are being held. The program concludes in April with a visit to the Blaine Airport and a year-end celebration.
At the January meeting, the mentors and students were joined by Shawn Haag, a program coordinator with the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota. The focus of the meeting was traffic and safety and Haag introduced the group to a "Distraction Dodger" activity available on the U's website.
After the activity with the girls, the mentors spoke about their paths to becoming engineers.
As a young student, Pierce, who grew up in Brooklyn Park, received top scores in math and science. One time she and eight boys were at the top of a math ranking. The boys told her she shouldn't be there.
"A naively arrogant child, I looked at them and said 'I am smarter than you and you and you,'" she said. "Other girls wouldn't have been as vocal when they were teased. While things have changed they are not changing fast enough. Even 20 years ago there were 10 women in my engineering class in college. Not all of us went into engineering; a few went into business or management."
Pierce had always planned to be a lawyer, but with an interest in math and science, found herself studying engineering at the University of Minnesota. She started out studying aerospace engineering, but when she learned from a friend her career paths would be working for a business that made weapons or going into the military, she changed to civil engineering.
"As a civil engineer you work on projects that last a long time," she said. "These are things you can point out to your children."
Cote grew up in Hawaii where she attended a private high school. While she got good grades, she was also involved with sports and wasn't one of the top students. When it came time for college Cote chose to attend a liberal arts school, Loyola Marymount University in California. She thought engineering and medicine were for the "smart students," but met an engineering student who was "cool, funny and social." He changed her mind about engineering students and influenced her to study the discipline.
"While I was a good student and had taken higher level courses in high school, I wasn't at the top 5 percent; it took me getting to college and meeting people to give me the confidence to make the leap to study engineering," Cote said. "My roommates in college were studying psychology and business and I found myself studying three times as hard as they did."
Both members of WTS, the women joined the mentor program because they've seen a lack of women in the field of civil engineering. Pierce said she is always looking for opportunities to mentor and teach. Cote has heard comments that are concerning.
"I have children in high school and parents of girls will ask me if their daughters are smart enough to get into engineering," Cote said. "At one school girls are told that boys do better on tests than girls. That gives them the message that the girls are a step behind."
Dykstra said some people might think that girls are not as good at hands-on mechanical activities. She said things are changing and noted that in the past few years she's seen Legos that are female orientated. With Lego targeting girls, she hopes to see a change.
Pierce, who has a son and daughter as well as nieces in the CEMS program, also sees a difference between boys and girls. While boys are more confident and tend to ask questions in class, girls tend to hold back and not ask questions like boys.
While anecdotal evidence of mechanical and building skills and confidence favors boys, anecdotal evidence has girls leading in something just as important, soft skills.
Dykstra said many girls are interested in careers that help people. While they don't see engineering as a field that will allow them to help people, Dykstra likes to point out that in a field like biotechnology, girls can create things that save people's lives. Dykstra also noted that until she was involved with CEMS, she didn't realize how much creativity there is in engineering. Pierce agreed that was true and said it's important for girls to understand that creativty is part of the job.
Cote said other key soft skills many women possess are social skills and the ability to communicate. It is not natural for some male engineers in upper or project management to communicate issues.
"Some women have an easier time having conversations," Cote said. "I treat my employees like a team and we work together. That comes naturally to me. This is a strength that tends to shine more brightly for women."
"Women have a better ability to bring other people's ideas together," Pierce said. "And I think women do a better idea of thinking outside the box and looking for different ways to solve a problem."
No matter an engineer's gender, both Pierce and Cote agree that the world of engineering has changed and engineers need to improve their writing skills. Where at one time communication was done through memos that were reviewed by numerous people and proof read, email and texts are the name of the game now; engineers need to be able to respond quickly and coherently to clients.
"Kids want analytic skills and see communication as a soft skill," Pierce said. "People with communication skills will move up more quickly in their careers."
"Some students can do the technical side of the job, but someone who can give a presentation and convey his or her information to an audience is a step ahead," Cote said. "There are a lot of smart people in engineering, but there is more to a career than giving the right answer to a problem."
"My dream is to bring English into the CEMS curriculum," Dykstra said. "I'd also like to add a deeper writing component to the CEMS research projects."
Pierce, Cote and Haag had high praise for the CEMS program. While Pierce has first-hand knowledge and Haag is a member of the CEMS Advisory Board, Cote is enjoying learning about the program through her mentoring work. In its sixth year, the program can accommodate 180 students a year in grades nine through twelve. The program has grown over the years as has its retention rate for students starting in ninth grade until they graduate.
"The emphasis on math and science is great for preparing students for college," Pierce said. "CEMS teachers have high expectations for students to achieve and do well. The bar is set high and the students work hard. This will transfer to college, work and life in general."
Haag likes that CEMS shows students the opportunities they have in science and engineering.
"CEMS prepares students for engineering programs," Haag said. "Sometimes you see students who test well and get good grades, but they are not necessarily prepared for college. Going through CEMS will help students in the long run. Even if CEMS students don't go into science or engineering, the program prepares them well for their time in college."
Dykstra said she values the relationships built between the mentors and the girls because it gives the girls good role models.
"Role models for girls are really important because in our country there has been a negative image of being a smart woman," Dykstra said. "We need to show girls roles models that you can be smart and still be attractive. I like the mentorships because I am showing them females that can do that."
She appreciated the conversation the mentors had after the January session.
"It continues to re-affirm that we are providing the right type of instruction and experiences for the students," Dykstra said. "It also validated my desire to eventually bring English in as a CEMS class as the soft skills of writing and public speaking are so critical."
Transportation You's next meeting is set for Feb. 27 and will include a field trip to Metro Transit in Minneapolis. For a full experience, the students and mentors will meet at the Blaine Park & Ride and take a Metro Transit bus to downtown Minneapolis.
Photo caption: A CEMS student works with Rhonda S. Pierce, a civil engineer for Pierce Pini & Associates in Blaine as part of Transportation You sponsored by Women in Transportation Studies.
Photo caption: Civil engineers Marie Colt, from SRF Consulting Group, (center) and Rhonda S. Pierce, a civil engineer for Pierce Pini & Associates, (right) have been working with girls at the Center for Mathematics, Engineering and Sciences (CEMS) at Blaine High School. For their January meeting, they were joined by Shawn Haag, a program coordinator with the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.
College possible expands to Champlin Park High School
College success program adds Champlin Park High School to list of partners
College Possible, a nationally recognized nonprofit making college admission and success possible for low-income students, will be expanding to Champlin Park High School. A group of 40 juniors interested in earning a college degree begin their journey toward higher education at Champlin Park High School this fall. College Possible is currently available at Coon Rapids High School.
College Possible's expansion has been made possible in part through a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota to the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which supports a collaborative partnership with College Possible and the City of Brooklyn Park. The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation grant promotes health equity for families in low-income communities. This expansion will put a college degree within reach for more low-income students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, helping to break the cycle of poverty and improve health outcomes.
"We're thrilled at the opportunity to serve more low-income students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District," said College Possible Twin Cities Executive Director Sara Dziuk. "Their staff has shown enthusiastic support for our mission, and we're excited to build this partnership to ensure more students achieve college success. We have been eager to add Champlin Park to our growing list of partner schools for several years."
Founded in 2000 and based in St. Paul, College Possible served 35 students in its first year, partnering with public high schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The program has grown more than 200-fold in twelve years, adding school artners in the Columbia Heights, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, Osseo, Bloomington and Anoka-Hennepin school districts. With the addition of Champlin Park High School, College Possible will be serving more than 1,600 students in 20 partner high schools in the Twin Cities this fall. To help these students succeed, 59 AmeriCorps members will commit more than 100,300 hours of service.
"Champlin Park High School is ecstatic about College Possible coming to our campus," said Champlin Park High School Principal Michael George. I have been witness to the program and all it has to offer students, which makes it a necessary addition to the work we are doing each day to prepare our students for life after high school. This program will provide targeted services to qualifying students that have a variety of challenges to overcome, and in most cases, these students will be the first in their family to attend college. I am excited to watch College Possible change lives!"
College Possible students meet twice per week in afterschool sessions during their junior and senior years of high school. Coaches support students in small learning groups and one-on one, providing free ACT/SAT test preparation, intensive guidance in preparing college applications, help in obtaining financial aid and guidance in the transition to college. After graduation, students receive support from college coaches renewing their FAFSA, getting connected to existing resources on campus, and searching for scholarships and internships.
Last year, 99 percent of the 668 College Possible seniors earned admission to more than 100 colleges and universities, and were awarded more than $4.2 million in scholarships. The juniors in the program achieved a remarkable average ACT score increase of 27 percent last year.
NWSISD launces new website focused on family, community empowerment
As a member of the Northwest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD), families and staff of the Anoka-Hennepin School District have access to the organization's "Family Community Engagement Program" (FCE). The program now has a website that can be found at: http://nwsisdfce.wordpress.com/. The website is designed for educators, families, students, and community partners. Educators can access valuable resources for the classroom, working with parents and families as well as students.
Parents and family members are able to access resources to strengthen family relationships, academic help for students and collaboration with schools and teachers. There's a student highlight page along with activities and programs for youth to be change agents in their communities. The site includes several community partners that serve, help educate, impact and provide valuable resources for families and youth.
FCE works with schools and families to improve student achievement through engaging parents in their child's education, increasing an understanding of cultural diversity, and facilitating the building and developing of community partnerships. Studies show that relationships, resources and school climate play a significant role in family engagement. Our desire in preparing this online resource is to offer the best practices on various topics related to the strengthening of family/school connections that results in all students succeeding.
Anoka-Hennepin School District, Faith, and Community Partnership helps student pursue a dream
In December, Champlin United Methodist Church (CUMC) hosted an event to honor students at Crossroads West for their academic accomplishments. The church and school work together as part of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Faith, and Community Partnership. The event began at 8 in the morning, but Crossroads' student Luke Larson thought it began at 8 in the evening. This misunderstanding had a wonderful consequence for Larson.
When Larson arrived at the church that evening, he found Julia Brown. The church's associate director of worship, Brown also teaches piano lessons at the church. Brown and Larson began talking. When Brown learned Larson had taken piano lessons during middle school but had to quit because of his mother's work schedule and it was his dream to take lessons again, she offered to provide him lessons free of charge.
"It was perfect timing," said Brown who taught her first piano lesson in 1976 and has been teaching in Minnesota since the mid-'90s. "I always have a couple of scholarship students and one of my students had left for college. I welcomed the opportunity to work with Luke."
CUMC has been an important player in the work of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Faith, and Community Partnership. Focused on meeting students' basic needs, such as food, hygiene products and clothing, CUMC has worked with other churches, business organizations, individuals, and the Champlin Library in an effort they call "Better Together." Brown said a music group even sponsored a student in the Teen Pregnancy Program.
"By coming together we've been able to meet every request of the Hennepin schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District; schools keep telling us that it is so nice to have a faith partner to call when there is a special need," Brown said. "Requests have expanded beyond school supplies and winter outerwear, to furniture and an honor's brunch for the students of Crossroads West. Now I am working with Luke. Who knows what other ways we can let the children, youth and families of our community know we care about them?"
Brown said Larson is enjoyable to work with and she is glad for the opportunity to assist him in reaching for his dreams.
Larson said his reaction to Brown's offer of free lessons was, "are you for real?" He was happy he was able to pick up at the level of skill where he left off because he is considering studying music in college. Working with Brown has helped him to brush up on his technical skills.
"Taking lessons from Julia has been really cool," Larson said. "Without the church's work with Crossroads West this would have never happened."
The Anoka-Hennepin School District, Faith, and Community Partnership is a collaborative effort of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, faith based organizations and broader communities to raise an awareness and understanding of compelling community issues and to mobilize people to help meet the basic needs of students. It provides immediate response to those in need and offers specific suggestions for those who want to help.
Student permission was obtained for student photo use on the district website.
School district meeting Feb. 6 on communication about rumors, threats
The Anoka-Hennepin School District has scheduled a community meeting to discuss procedures the schools use to provide information about rumors and threats that involve district schools.
The meeting is set for Wednesday, Feb. 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Staff Development Center at the Educational Service Center, 2727 N. Ferry St., Anoka.
District administrators will review the protocol schools use to inform parents/guardians, students and staff of rumors and threats that could potentially impact the school environment. Parents/guardians will have the opportunity to provide input.
For more information call 763-506-1111.
NWSISD summer enrichment opportunities information event Feb. 6
Information about summer camps, enrichment opportunities and family activities for children of all ages will be available at an event Wednesday, Feb. 6, 9 a.m. to noon, at NorthWest Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD), 6860 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 208, Brooklyn Center.
Stop by anytime during the event to learn about opportunities available through organizations including YMCA, YWCA, Concordia Language Villages, Camp Courage/Friendship Ventures, park and recreation departments from area cities, specialty camps for youth with special needs, University of Minnesota Enrichment and Athletic Camps, Hennepin County Library activities and more. Scholarship information will also be available and refreshments will be served.
NWSISD is a consortium including Anoka-Hennepin and seven other area school districts that provides programs and services that promote integrated learning environments and enhance diversity and cultural awareness. For more information call NWSISD at 763-450-1336.