October 23, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
Over the past six months, I have met with the five city councils that make up the school district, as well as the Chamber of Commerce to give a State of the District update, including information on referendum spending. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the upgrades, improvements, and programing that is happening as a result of the referendum.
In the area of school security, entrances at the high school and middle school were updated, security cameras were added at all the school sites, and a visitor management system (Hall Pass) was implemented throughout the district. The Hall Pass system checks the government issued ID of any visitor against the National Sex Offender Registry and the district’s restricted visitor list. Approved visitors receive a one-day visitor badge with their photo on it.
In the area of class size reduction in the elementary grades, two teachers were added at the Primary, one teacher at Lakeside, and one teacher at Taylors Falls Elementary. One of the district’s goals is to keep class sizes consistent throughout the district, and in an effort to reach that goal a new teacher was added to TFE to lead a combined 4th and 5th grade classroom, lowering class size in the 4th and 5th grade overall.
In the area of program improvement, health and art classes were added to the middle school; art, music, and language arts were added at the high school; music time was added at the Primary; and a 3-5 grade Science Specialist was added – shared between Lakeside and Taylors Falls. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs were expanded, including 6th grade in the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program and adding PLTW classes at the high school. Additionally, a new K-5 reading program (Reading Wonders) was adopted.
In the area of technology upgrades, four technology integration specialists have been added to work collaboratively with teachers - finding applications and tools, and training teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. The tech integrationists work directly with teachers to make their work in the classroom more about students and less about finding the technology tools they need. Infrastructure improvements for wireless have also been made across the district to support technology use.
All in all, the referendum funding restored some of the programs that were lost to budget cuts and allowed for the implementation of some new programs to move our district forward, meeting the needs of students today and in the future.