May 21, 2004 at 9:31 a.m.

Award-winning students are featured at May 13 Chisago Lakes School Board meeting

Award-winning students are featured at May 13 Chisago Lakes School Board meeting
Award-winning students are featured at May 13 Chisago Lakes School Board meeting

It was a delight to attend the Chisago Lake School Board meeting May 13, because two of the best and brightest repeated the performance that helped them catapult over 30,000 students, making it to the top 10 in a statewide contest in two categories––live performances and video reporting.

Jared Mitchell performed as Martin Luther, a role his mom, who just finished a Masters Degree on Luther, encouraged. He competed in the top 10 for “live performances.”

Samantha Nelson showed the video she created about the life of Grace Kelly, a subject suggested by her mom and approved by Jim Gillach, an instructor who encouraged her to select a strong woman who contributed to make the world a better place.

Mitchell was dressed as Luther, wearing a minister’s robe standing in front of a prop simulating the cathedral door where Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis.

“I became a monk after I prayed to St. Ann when I was caught in a violent storm. I said, “Save me from this violent storm and I will be a Catholic priest. It stopped. I become a Catholic priest.” Later, he turned to face the spot where Martin Luther stood in front of the church door and in a booming voice suggesting the church of the time said, “Martin Luther, will you recant?”

“Give me a day to think about it,” Luther replied, calmly to the intimidating voice. The next day he said, “ I cannot recant. It is against my conscience.”

This history lesson, presented in the words of Martin Luther, made history come alive, illustrating key facets of the life of Martin Luther, including his marriage to a former Catholic nun and the enjoyment of his six children during the last 15 years of his life. Clearly, this young man knew his Luther, how to present his case, and how to draw an audience into his drama.

Nelson created a media story, “A portrait of the life of Grace Kelly,” focusing on how this famous actress and Princess of Monaco used her position to help others using the techniques of television news reporters.

Her video report had the quality of any major network reports. Family and official photos of Grace as an actress and as the Princess of Monaco, including some video and audio clips from various events in her life were woven with skill and clarity.

Nelson’s project emphasized the good works that Princess Grace Kelly performed before her untimely death in a car crash on the very site used as a backdrop for one her most successful movies. Grace Kelly learned French so she could get closer to the people of Monaco and she gave up acting because the people of Monaco didn’t want her in the movies. As Princess she organized a series of charities to help children and those charities continue to help thousands of children around the world. Her children continue her good works.

Watching these two students perform was a poignant reminder that one person can make a difference in the history of the world and the Chisago Lakes School system is committed to learning and excellence, with some very exceptional students. History Day teacher, Jim Gillach, beamed with the pride of a parent when his students received enthusiastic applause from the Board and audience.

The Board then discussed the pressures and conflicts inherent in the struggle to achieve balance between the academic needs of students and parental demands for athletic programs.

Several members and faculty felt that “kids have too much pressure on them to perform well in one sport to the exclusion to all else.” This is not the philosophy of Chisago Lakes Schools. The school wants students to have “balance between academic and sports.”

Board Chair Mark Leigh noted, “We’re the right size––about 4,000 students––to let students play in three sports in an academic year. We don’t want children deciding to only focus on soccer or baseball or hockey in third grade so they can be super-stars and possibly get a scholarship in that sport to college.”

It was pointed out that getting an athletic scholarship is rare but somehow that information is lost when parents see their son or daughter participating in a sport.

Dr. Thomas Dickhudt, Superintendent, said, “We’ve just seen two of our finest show the real focus of our efforts. We have to educate the children. Few athletic scholarships are available. Our children need skills that will help them succeed as adults. Our real job is teaching. We need to strike a balance between fine arts and athletics.”

Lynn Johnson, board member, said, “It’s a dilemma, because many of the students want to have it all, to participate in a variety of extra curricular activities even when it might harm their learning.”

The School Board was searching for a balanced approach that will benefit the children without losing the academic focus that is the primary task of the Chisago Lakes School system and intend to explore this issue at the next Board retreat.

An item of “old business” illustrated the dilemma facing activities directors and coaches who need to schedule competitions between different schools.

Thunder Bay is scheduled to play two soccer games on the same day in June. This is apparently due to the scheduling of national, statewide and non-public-school associations that have contracts with media companies and have championships slotted into a particular day, without consultation with local schools, athletic associations and coaches.

Several Board Members didn’t like the idea of students playing two soccer games in one day, with the pressure to win so they could move up to the next level.

Issues the Board had more control over were then handled with dispatch:

•A new handbook was approved for Chisago Lakes Senior High School.

•A mid-week graduation was approved because “Parents want a mid-week graduation and it’s worked well where its been done,” according to Dave Ertl, High School Principal. Thus, graduation was scheduled for June 1 in 2005.

Board Member Wade Carlson wanted assurance that “a mid-week graduation will be scheduled for at least two, possibly three years.” The Board agreed.

•The Board also agreed that $110 per day for a substitute teacher was in line with the pay scales in the state.

•The Board also agreed to interview a series of vendors for repairs to the Chisago Lakes Community Pool.

•Member Gerald Vitalis told the Board the air exchanger at a Taylors Falls facility had “bought the farm.” He was pleased it would be fixed, soon.

•Board Chair Leigh said, the “Parents visiting classrooms during school hours issue,” raised at last month’s meeting, “will be on the agenda next month and some preliminary information will be sent to board members before the meeting.”

•Teachers Rep Jim Gillach told the Board a report on teachers views on the issue would be sent to them before the next meeting.

The public is invited to comment on this or any other issue at each meeting. The next meeting of the Chisago Lakes School Board is scheduled for 7 p.m., June 10.






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