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Chisago Lakes Schools

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February 3, 2023

11/23/2022 9:46:00 AM
Chisago Lakes Board reviews next steps after referendum fails to pass

In the first school board meeting since the community voted down a bond and levy for the school, members seemed to treat the meeting as business as usual and decided to take the long term view of what the next step will be.

Board chairman Mark Leigh and the rest of the board voted officially to certify the election, which results in three new members — Cory Spencer, Josh Soderlund and Jen Penzenstadler — taking seats in January, and certified failure of the bond and levy questions.

Superintendent Dean Jennissen noted that he had met with the newly-elected members already and was working with them to make their on-boarding process smooth. The January 9 meeting will be their first official duty.

Much of the back half of last week’s meeting was used to discuss updates on goals and plans that were laid out in the beginning of the 2022 in regards to academics, communications and general district  policies.

Outside of presentations from Lakeside Principal Sara Johnson and Director of Curriculum Sara Schmidt, communications took the forefront of the discussion.
Director of Community Engagement and Outreach Michelle Kleist said that she has worked to develop a new comprehensive plan for external and internal communications. “It’s a 20 page document that lays out what we’re going to accomplish this year and make sure that we are clear and concise with our building specific communications,” she said.

Tying financial and communications together, one of the goals that was discussed was gaining the confidence of the community that the districts finances are accurate and stabilized.

“I think word of mouth is huge and I think there is a historical part of [that distrust]. Over and over, that  came up in discussions with people I talked to,” board member Jeff Lindeman said. “I think some were valid and I don’t know how we address that. I think somehow, those things have to be addressed.

He continued, saying, “I’m just thinking of that historical piece of these generalized statements of management of funds. And I will go on record, Robyn you do a wonderful job, and I think all of us are way more confident than where we were a couple years ago. I think we’re doing well, and I think that message needs to get out to our community.

“Somehow, we need to address that with our community. I always hear how did we get to this point. I have in a nutshell an explanation of how we did that, but I think our community needs to know. I think we need to have some explantation because we’ve had some ups and downs with people in Robyn’s position.”
Board member Brenda Carlson followed Lindeman by saying, “We need to stop the rumors with information that’s correct. Once we do that, it’s up to them to believe it. We can’t force them to believe things. And we’ve started that already.

Board member Lori Berg added, “I think a part of it is maybe a lack of understanding about how schools are funded. And I’m not putting anyone down because until I sat here I wasn’t sure. I don’t think people have a full understanding of why you get where we are over time. I just think as a general rule, most people don’t have all those facts,” she said. “And I think that there’s this whole rhetoric out there that there was some big mistake that cost the district millions of dollars and if we could clear that up, that’d be great, because it absolutely never happened.

“We keep trying to explain it, but outside the few people that are coing to board meetings, it’s hard to get the knowledge out there. We should always educate more about how schools are funded.”

That discussion led to the board reflecting on how they wanted to get clear, quick, concise and accurate information to the public, especially as it relates to social media.

Much of it will start with Kleist, they said, as her position was only recently created. Once there is uniformity on how the district will respond in that manner, the board agreed that the trust can come with it.

The meeting ended with two small change orders for fire alarm devices and metal stud work at the Primary School project, and then a closed discussion on contract negotiation strategies.

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