Education will always be the best return on your investment.Posted by Kristi Peterson on 9/28/2020
Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. The best part about making an investment in education is that no one can ever take the education that someone receives away from them.
When you have a strong school district, you have a strong community. This is true from the smallest of communities to the largest. From the youngest learners to the oldest, we never stop learning. It is part of life. This is how we continue to innovate the world that we live in.
During the upcoming election season this Fall, the Shakopee School board is asking the community to make an investment in the education that the students in Shakopee receive thru a voter-approved operating levy.
This was not an easy decision to ask voters for addition funding at a time when members of our community have been faced with the many challenges associated with the pandemic. As a school board, we have all faced some of those same challenges.
The reality is that in order to maintain the same level of programming and opportunities currently offered to our students, attract and maintain high-quality teachers, and build long-term financial stability, our school district will need additional revenue.
Shakopee is not alone in this situation. We are one of 33 school districts across the state in 2020 asking their respective communities for additional funding to maintain the same level of services and programs currently offered. Did you know that Shakopee is one of only a few school districts in the State of Minnesota WITHOUT a voter-approved operating levy?
It is a known fact that state funding has not kept pace with inflation, along with several unfunded mandates from both the state and federal governments. If state funding had kept up with inflation since 2003, SPS would have received an additional $5 million in state aid in the 2019-20 school year alone.
The school board has already approved over $2 million in budget cuts (outside of the classroom) for the current year and 2021-2022 school year. Unfortunately, $5.4 million in additional budget cuts, which will impact the classroom, academic support, 5th grade band and middle school athletics, will result for the 2021-2022 school year without additional revenue coming into the district.
I encourage our community to review the SHAKOPEELEVY2020.ORG website for more information and facts about the upcoming ballot question from the school district. If you have questions, please reach out to the district office or any school board member.
Back to School quieter than normal
The excitement and anticipation surrounding the first day of school were more muted on September 8 with the smaller number of students being able to attend our buildings each day. All employees in our district have done a fantastic job preparing for the first day of school like no other. Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours were spent this summer working thru situations and scenarios to determine the best way to get students back into the classroom, with the health and safety of students and staff members a top priority. While some modifications have been made in parts of the back-to-school plan, our students and staff have done a tremendous job adjusting to the new normal associated with being in the classroom. Thank you, parents, for supporting your students through this challenging time.
This is also a challenging time for our teachers and staff as they modify learning models for this school year. They make a huge difference in the lives of all our students. Don’t forget to reach out to them and tell them how much they are appreciated.
Remember, we are all in this together, and we will get thru these challenging times together!
Student and Staff Safety Critical as School Year ApproachesPosted by Kristi Peterson on 8/23/2020
March seems like such a long time ago when our staff and students were part of an abrupt change from classroom learning to distance learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of the school year, we had visions of students returning to school on September 8 like a normal school year. Unfortunately, the pandemic still grips our country, state and community which has resulted in modifying the return to school.
As a board, we get it. Everyone is frustrated that we can’t safely have our students and staff return to school like normal. We are frustrated too! We want our students in the classroom as much as parents and our community do. We understand that changes can make people anxious and that there is not a perfect solution. However, we believe that our back-to-school plans will give students the best learning opportunities in a challenging situation that every public school district across the state faces.
A huge THANK YOU goes out to the team of individuals from administration, principals, teaching and learning, classroom teachers and other district support teams, that have spent hundreds of hours preparing three different learning models: In-person, a Hybrid model and Distance learning, along with Shakopee Online. This team of dedicated individuals spent most of their summer preparing to give our students in Shakopee the best education that we can give them under the circumstances we are living in. Our school board applauds your efforts.
Although our learning models were solid before the Governor shared his guidance to schools across Minnesota in late July, there was still work to do. This work surrounded the most important piece to any plan: the safety and well-being of our students AND staff. Our health, safety and operations plan as presented during our August 10 board meeting gave an outline of how we plan to ensure our students and staff remain healthy and safe as possible. This outline includes the precautions taken by the district in physical buildings and classrooms, transportation, nutrition services and day-to-day operations.
For example in the Hybrid model, if a classroom typically held 32 students, only 16 students will be allowed in that classroom at a time. The students would sit in one area of the classroom, leaving the other chairs open for the next class to come in and utilize. This type of rotation in the classroom will allow for more effective cleaning in between classes.
Many other precautions will be implemented such as increased ventilation and fresh air in the buildings, sanitation stations in classrooms and throughout the buildings, staggered use of communal spaces, limited number of visitors in all buildings, and modified meal times and locations. Precautions on buses will include assigned seating, loading from the back to the front, and disinfecting following each route.
Per the state mandate, all students and staff will be required to wear a face covering during the school day. We understand that our younger students might be challenged by this, but we ask our families, if you have not already done so, to begin working with your children about the importance of face coverings in school and have them practice wearing a mask before school starts.
Remember, we are all in this together and we need to be supportive of each other. I encourage our community to reach out to a teacher and/or staff member and tell them how much you appreciate what they are doing. A simple gesture will lift them up and let them know that our community has their back during an unprecedented time.
I recently came across a saying that we all need to remember as we approach the start of a new school year: The 3 most important school supplies for the new school year are patience, flexibility and grace.
The Future of Shakopee Public Schools: Today and Into the FuturePosted by Kristi Peterson on 7/11/2020
What will school look like for Shakopee Public Schools this Fall? This is a common question and is currently on many people’s minds.
Without a doubt, we want to open the doors on September 8 just like a normal school year. However, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has brought additional complexities to planning for a new school year. As a district, the health and safety of our students and staff members is extremely important.
A group of teachers, directors and administrators in Shakopee have been working on plans for three different scenarios: opening school like normal with social distancing measures, a hybrid approach that would have a mix of in-person and distance learning, and only distance learning. We appreciate the feedback that the district has received from students and parents about distance learning this Spring. This feedback was very valuable in making necessary adjustments in case distance learning will be needed again.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will be providing specific details about what school in the Fall should look like by the end of July. As soon as the district has more information and direction, we will be finalizing plans and communicating this to our community.
A primary focus of being a school board member is planning for the future. While we – like everyone – have been consumed with how best to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we are also looking at our financial foundation.
Education funding is a shared partnership between the state and federal governments, and local communities. However, state funding has not kept pace with inflation, leaving a $5 million annual funding gap for our district. We receive less and spend less per student than the metro and state averages. We do not have a voter-approved operating levy, which most Minnesota school districts have, to help provide local support for their schools’ operating costs. We, like all Minnesota school districts, are also faced with funding important programs for which we are not fully reimbursed by the state and federal governments. Combined, these financial realities put increasing pressure on our budget and our expenses will exceed our revenue.
The primary way school districts increase revenue is by asking voters to approve an operating levy – something the majority of Minnesota school districts have done. In Shakopee, we currently don’t have a voter-approved levy.
Shakopee is in a unique position. Because we are paying off debt, we have the opportunity to increase revenue through an operating levy with no school net tax increase for residents until 2022. Given the economic challenges created by COVID-19, that is welcome news.
Over the last 8-10 weeks, the board has been reviewing options to balance our budget, including budget cuts, an operating levy or a combination of both.
Our financial goals are to:
- Maintain quality programming and learning opportunities for students
- Attract, retain, and fairly compensate high-quality teachers
- Build a path to long-term financial stability
If you have ever managed people in a business setting either currently or in the past, you may have had to make decisions that affect the livelihood of people. Personally, I have been on both sides of these decisions: first as an employee who was part of reductions, and then as a manager that was tasked with making tough decisions about the livelihood of employees. In both situations, it gave me a rotten feeling.
As the school board plans for the long-term financial stability of our district, I can assure you that the entire school board is experiencing these same emotions. People are the heart and engine of a school district, and people are the bulk of our budget. Due to the previously described financial realities, we are faced with difficult decisions, including budget cuts.
Deciding what to cut is incredibly challenging. Many people – including district leaders, principals and others, have spent a significant amount of time evaluating their respective buildings and departments to determine efficiencies, including the evaluation of open positions that could remain vacant, as well as salary and hiring freezes.
At our July 20 Board meeting, we will make final decisions on two sets of cuts: one totals $2 million and must happen no matter what else we do. The second set of $5.4 million in cuts is needed if we don’t receive any additional revenue.
As a board, we understand how serious of a situation that our financial challenges are and the impact it will have on our district. Recognizing the proposed salary freezes and cuts throughout the district that were presented during our June 22 meeting, our school board members decided to voluntarily forgo our stipends for the upcoming school year.
If the $5.4 million in cuts is required, Shakopee Public Schools will not look the same. Classroom teachers across the district would be cut, middle school athletic programs would not be available, students in fifth grade would not have the opportunity to participate in band, reductions would be made to academic and support programs, and the list goes on.
A thriving community is a result of a thriving school district. People move into communities with strong schools. We want to do all we can to avoid several million dollars in budget cuts, which would hurt the livelihood of our students, teachers and the growth of our community.
As a school board, we work hard to be transparent with the community. You can visit the Finance Facts section of the district website to learn more – and view all the School Board materials and recent meeting videos to see what we are discussing. The community does have a voice and the board values your feedback. Thank you for working in partnership with us to support our students and our staff!
From the School Board ChairPosted by Kristi Peterson on 6/8/2020
A Bitter-Sweet Ending to the ’19-’20 School Year
This is the time of year school board members look forward to. It is the end of another school year and we are able to celebrate the achievements of all the students, teachers and staff in our district. However, this year is a little different with the COVID-19 pandemic and the altered plans for graduation.
To the Class of 2020, this is your moment. You have achieved an important milestone in your life that nobody can take from you. Graduation from high school is meant to be a special time in your life. However, history found you in the middle of a pandemic that will likely change the way we live for some time. No matter how far you go, never forget where you came from and who showed you the path to where you stand today. Sometimes it is impossible to know where you are headed without reflecting back on where you came from. Graduates, during these trying times we must lean on each other to show us our clearest path forward. Your parents and other family members share the same sadness about graduation that you do. However, don’t forget about the best gift that your parents could have given you – they believed in you since the day you were born. They have taught you to be resilient, strong, patient and passionate about your dreams. Don’t forget to reach for the stars and make a difference in the world. Your parents will be proud.
To the amazing students and their families who follow behind in elementary, middle and high school, thank you for your willingness to finish strong. It has been a challenging end to the school year, but we have all learned to adapt and make the best of the situation we are in. We also commend our parents for assisting their students with distance learning while working at the same time. It might not have been easy, but we appreciate your dedication during these unprecedented times.
A huge thank you goes to our teachers and staff in Shakopee for finding new ways to teach, communicate and grow in a very short period of time. We often have little control over what happens to us in life, but we have full control over how we respond. As a district, our teachers and staff have embraced this opportunity to personalize student learning and connect in different ways. We appreciate you and all that you do to impact the lives of our students.
As the end of another school year concludes, the district continues to plan for the future of Shakopee Public Schools.
We already find ourselves looking into the future at what school might look like for the 2020-2021 school year. Over the summer, members of the administration and a group of teachers within the district will be developing plans based on the direction of the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health to ensure that we provide our students with the safest learning environment possible.
In addition, this is also the time of year when we finalize next year’s budget and project long-term financial needs. Unlike normal years, we are operating in a very uncertain economic context due to COVID-19. There are many more unknowns than in a typical year. Everyone is tightening their belts, and we are too.
In future years, our school district expenses will be outpacing revenue, forcing us to consider budget cuts, an operating levy to increase revenue, or a combination of both. Funding from the State of Minnesota has not kept up with the rate of inflation causing a significant funding gap for all schools in the state. In addition, many state and federal mandates for special education and English Learner programs are not fully funded, requiring our school district to spend an additional $9 million each year out of our general fund to meet these requirements.
Shakopee receives less funding per student than both the metro and state averages - and also spends less per student - while still maintaining our quality programs and services. In addition, we are one of only a few districts in the state to not have a voter-approved operating levy. Put all these facts together, and we are faced with difficult financial decisions ahead.
We are looking at various scenarios to be sure we can deliver a quality education while being respectful of our community’s financial realities. Please visit the “Finance Facts” page on our district website (www.shakopee.k12.mn.us) to learn more about our future financial challenges and to provide your feedback. You can also participate in a virtual information session on June 8 at 4:30pm – you’ll find the link on our website.
Strong schools build strong communities. We are fortunate to have a community that supports our students with mentorships and partnerships. These schools belong to you. Please, learn more about our future together and share your views. Your voice truly matters!
From the School Board ChairPosted by Ashley McCray on 4/30/2020
Over the past 6 weeks, there has certainly been a significant amount of change in the world - change that was sudden and unexpected. There wasn’t a book to pull off the shelf to help guide us through it. When Governor Walz issued the executive order declaring that the State of Minnesota was in a Peacetime Emergency, our school board was given the authority to hold our regular meetings by conference call or other electronic means such as video conferencing. Our meetings are still public meetings. Instructions are available on the district's website as to how to submit a public comment for an upcoming meeting. A link to our meetings via video conferencing can also be found on the district website. As with previous meetings, they will also be recorded and posted on the website.
As I write this piece, Governor Walz has ordered schools in the State of Minnesota to continue distance learning for the rest of the school year. While we anticipated that this would happen, it certainly is tough news to hear. It is disappointing because our students will not have the opportunity to participate in Spring sports seasons, final band concerts, plays, classroom experiences, etc. Students will miss their last days together in elementary school before transitioning to one of our middle schools and our middle school students will miss being together for their last days before entering high school. In-person final good-byes between students and district staff will be absent. Lastly, my heart is broken for the Class of 2020. They will be writing a different ending to their high school years than what they envisioned. While this news is still very fresh, we do know that we will give our Seniors a graduation experience. More details will be available in the coming days.
In my last communication, I discussed the school board coffee chat initiative. We invited members of our community to participate in a coffee chat with 2 board members starting on Saturday, March 21. Unfortunately with the stay at home order from Governor Walz, we have had to postpone this opportunity. Community engagement remains very important to the school board. Thus, we are working on a “virtual coffee chat” with 2 board members. Watch for more information in the near future.
From athletics to the classroom, from community education to food service, our district employees have had to pivot and provide the same education and programs in a different way over a very short period of time. To that extent, I commend our district leadership for their relentless dedication to navigating our district during this unprecedented time.
Distance learning in Shakopee has been going very well. As a result of the support from our community, technology has allowed us to create and deliver not only our teaching but allowed us to connect with our students like never before. Now more than ever, it is important to stay connected. Not just technologically, but emotionally connected with our students and their families, within our community. While I knew this was the case before, I have seen over the past few weeks how much our teachers and staff care about our students, and it has made me very proud knowing we have a district full of compassionate people. It is truly remarkable. As a parent of a high school student, I have read the caring nature of many emails and messages that my student has received from teachers outlining their care for the well-being of the students and their families. I recognize that this has not been an easy transition to distance learning but I applaud our teachers and staff members for their countless hours and days of preparation to ensure that we are able to continue educating our students. This is what makes Shakopee a great community!
Sun Path is the designated school where our child care for essential workers is located. Our custodial team has done a fantastic job of ensuring that this building is thoroughly cleaned each day to maintain a safe place for our staff and students. In addition, our staff members working with the child care program have provided a great experience for those students. Our technology department has spent countless hours to ensure that our students' devices are running smoothly for distance learning. We can’t forget about the important work of our food service team, delivering thousands of meals to our students since mid-March.
All of these great things have been happening while our administration and school board continue to run our school district in the same way that we would during a normal school year. However, the challenges we face as a district have not changed. The unprecedented economic difficulties that our community and state face will likely present additional challenges to all school districts across the state, including Shakopee. We continue to review all options at this point in time to conquer the financial challenges facing our district so that we can continue to deliver an exceptional education experience in Shakopee classrooms.
There are so many wonderful things happening in our community to lift each other up during a time of uncertainty. Whether it’s our teachers reaching out to students checking on their well-being, our local restaurants raising funds for those in professions that have been shutdown, or community members making masks for healthcare workers and those who are more vulnerable during these times, it gives me great comfort as I read and see first hand how much our community cares for one another. We are all in this together.
From the School Board ChairPosted by Kristi Peterson on 3/24/2020 10:00:00 AM
If I had to pick one word to describe the past couple weeks, it would be Compassion.
As a member of the school districts COVID-19 response team, I have witnessed firsthand just how much our teachers, staff and administration care about the well-being of not only our students but our entire community of Shakopee.
Without a doubt, when this team met for the first time at 8:30am on Sunday, March 15, there was 110% commitment to develop plans across all facets of the district to continue educating the students in our district and communicating with our community how our district would be proceeding under the guidance from the Department of Education.
I would like to commend Dr. Redmond and Mr. Orlawsky for their tremendous leadership through a time that nobody could plan for. There was not a plan to pull off the shelf to execute. It was a situation that continued to evolve and change by the hour. Because of your leadership, our district is in a good place as we head into our Spring Break week.
I would also like to commend those who came together in teams to work on taking distance learning to a new level. I recognize that many long hours were spent crafting what this was going to look like and the necessary training that was needed to get our teachers up to speed to successfully execute distance learning.
Our food service teams and administration, along with our transportation provider Palmer Busing, for preparing and delivering meals for any child in Shakopee that needed a meal including those attending the childcare program at Sun Path. I would like to mention that Cantebury Park donated hundreds of pounds of food to our district to ensure that it got into the right hands in our community during this time of need.
We can’t forget the YMCA for working with the child care team to help lead our childcare at Sun Path elementary for essential employees through Spring Break.
And to our community, our school district can’t thank you enough for your willingness to volunteer to help with whatever we might need. Our lengthy list of community members willing to roll up their sleeves and help during this time of need is amazing. Without your support of a technology levy a few years ago, distance learning would have been more of a challenge for our teachers and students during this pandemic.
In every aspect, we have a community and school district full of compassionate people that simply care about the well-being of our students and families in our community during this time of need.
I want to especially mention the Class of 2020, a class born into a time very shortly after 9/11. Successful sports seasons came to a close too early for many seniors to realize some special times, whether it was playing in the boys basketball section finals, participation in speech tournaments or small and large group music competitions, etc. You will not be forgotten and we will do what we can to help you conclude this chapter of your life in a positive manner.
Update from the School Board ChairPosted by Kristi Peterson on 3/16/2020 7:00:00 AM
Last month, I discussed the importance of listening to all stakeholders in our district. When I studied journalism as part of my undergraduate degree, I learned that if I wanted to be a good interviewer, I needed to be a good listener. This learned skill is also critical in a leadership role in business or other organizations. Our mission statement also follows this same principal, “Shakopee Schools, in partnership with our community, will educate lifelong learners to succeed in a diverse world.” When we listen, we learn from each other.
Starting this month, Shakopee school board members invite you to attend a coffee chat. Our first “Coffee Chat” will take place on Saturday, March 21 at Starbucks on Old Carriage Court (Southbridge area) in Shakopee from 8:30am - 9:30am. This is the community’s opportunity to bring any questions related to governing the school district to a school board member. This is also a great time to get to know your school board members.
Mark your calendars for other upcoming scheduled coffee chat dates:
● Wednesday, May 20 from 7:00am - 8:00am at Sit & Sip (downtown Shakopee)
● Wednesday, July 15 from 7:00am - 8:00am at Sit & Sip (downtown Shakopee)
● Saturday, September 19 from 8:30am - 9:30am at Starbucks (Southbridge location)
Tuning-in to the concerns and voices of the community is very important. If you are unable to participate in an upcoming coffee chat, there are a variety of ways to communicate with the Shakopee School Board.
● Public Board Meetings: A standing agenda item at each school board meeting gives the public an opportunity to address the board within the established guidelines for public comment established by the school district.
● Email: On the Shakopee schools website, the school board’s individual email addresses are posted on the “Meet the Board” web page, which can be found at: shakopee.k12.mn.us/Page/9669
● Telephone: For topics that might be more complex, a phone call might be the most effective. Board members phone numbers are listed on the district website.
We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming listening sessions.
Shakopee School Board Chair
Update from the School Board ChairPosted by Kristi Peterson on 2/10/2020
On January 6, I was elected to serve as Chair of the Shakopee School Board by my peers. While this is only my second year of service on the board, I appreciate the confidence bestowed in me to lead the school board in 2020.
Our seven member board consists of a wide-range of talents and experiences in areas such as finance, education, instructional technology, human resources, military service, as well as marketing and communications. However, one thing remains constant: we are one body of individuals who work together with the goal of improving our schools. It is our collective responsibility to the Shakopee community to govern the school district efficiently and effectively.
We understand that trust is like a forest - a long time growing, but is easily burned down. The community survey, conducted by the district last July, told us that the level of trust in the school board was improving, which was great to hear. However, our work is far from complete as we continue to work on cultivating a deeper connection and trust within our community.
Listening to the stakeholders in our district is one of the many ways we can continue to build trust. This includes listening to ideas and concerns about our school district from our community members, business leaders, parents, teachers, staff and administrators. Listening is about learning and respect. The more we listen, the more informed we can be to make decisions.
Because we understand the value and the importance of engaging with our community, we have created the School Board Community Engagement Committee, which will specifically focus on how the board can more regularly engage with the community.
Throughout the course of the year, the board is planning various opportunities for the community to attend listening sessions with school board members. Watch for more information about these opportunities in the near future. Other notes of interest:
- As our legislature starts its 2020 session, there are several education bills that will be considered including, but not limited to, annual school safety aid, special education cross-subsidy funds, linking the state aid formula to inflation and the addition of 1% to the funding formula for the second year of the biennium.
- Shakopee has two candidates for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year: Sheila Matzke, Special Education teacher at Sun Path Elementary; and Rachael Schweigert, Young Scholars Specialist at Jackson and Sweeney Elementary schools. Congratulations Sheila and Rachael!
- The sale of a small parcel of land near Jackson Elementary was completed January 30. The value of the transaction was added to the school district’s fund balance.
As a school board member and parent in the district, I applaud the job that our teachers, staff and administration do each day with our students. Our community should be proud of the tremendous amount of opportunities that are available to our students both in the classroom and through programs with our community business partners. The future is bright in Shakopee. I, along with the entire school board, look forward to connecting with our community more frequently in the coming months.
Shakopee School Board Chair