Thursday, April 30, 2009

Changing School Options

The district's recommendations were presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday, April 28. Here is a link to the recommendations made.

These changes will of course be a topic of discussion at our next PEN meeting, but this is a great place for online discussion about the impact that these recommendations could have on NE and the district at large. Just click on "comment" below and let us know what is on your mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

PEN Minutes: 4/20/09


April 20, 2009


Attendees: Dean DeGroot, Kalie French, Carla Steinbach, Debbie Nelson, Kimberlee Adams, Lloyd Winfield, Heidi Miller, Bridget Altmann, Rodney Nelson, Jenny Arneson, Mandy Larson, Macy Ashby, Penny Hinderaker, Kevin Reich, Laura McQuiston, Jill Davis, Jenn Bennington, Mike Iacarella, David Larson


Dean DeGroot has accumulated several theatre opportunities in the community for children and distributed a NE Community Theatre Information and Ideas handout. He also mentioned the currently existing Morris Park Players at Folwell.

Carla Steinbach, who used to work at Folwell, said that the Morris Park players did active fundraising for the school, as well as provide theatre opportunities.

Jenny Arneson checked with the Community Education staff at Waite Park and said that they should be able to coordinate a theatre program. At Waite Park, there is now summer programming, including some theatre classes through Sports Arts and additional morning classes.

Other existing programs were discussed, including Beacons (at NEMS), Park/Rec. opportunities, and Arts Literacy curriculum at NEMS, Sheridan and Marcy Open. After much discussion, the group came to the conclusion that there were two separate directions that should be pursued:

  • K-12 theatre programming, providing a pathway from elementary to middle school to Edison around theatre. (Giving kids and families more exposure to our schools)

  • Community theatre, with the goal of encouraging community involvement with our kids and our schools by using school space & theatre resources, perhaps during the summer, utilizing our arts-rich community. (The only officially designated Arts District in the City is in NE!)

Action Item:

Rodney Nelson volunteered to put together an inventory of current existing arts programming at all NE schools as well as some other city productions. A representative for each school will email a list to him at:

NE Community Theatre Subcommittee: Laura McQuiston, Macy Ashby, Bridget Altmann


Jenny Arneson will complete the application ($250). All NE school parade participants are included in this one PEN application. Edison will have a float this year, as will Waite Park. NEMS will take part as well. Jenny asks that all schools let her know exactly what they will be entering in the parade by May 1, Jenny must hear from the school, or they will not be included in the application. She has not heard from Pillsbury, and has only a verbal indication of participation from Sheridan to date.


Bridget is the collector of images for the DVD from each school. She has Edison kids working on it, and they will be visiting each site to gather audio and get a feel for each school. Please send your school's images to Bridget Altmann at:


We will have fewer magnets in the future, due to issues of equity and transportation costs.

Jill Davis reported from the board that a recommendation is due to them from the District on Tuesday, April 28. The board had a retreat yesterday, and settled on a goal of four types of magnets in the future (Open, IB, Montessori, and language Immersion) Curricular magnets are not the objective in the future. It appears that the board will be implementing a closest-to-home busing option only (K - 12), which will most impact the high schools. There may be some grandfathering. Jill reviewed the four core emphasis at the HS level via the redesign process (college in the schools, career/ tech, AP & IB) which began two years ago. The north half of the city will probably be minimally impacted by the district changes. Marcy Open, however, might be part of Area A, meaning it will be connected to Edison rather than South in the future. There is currently a split among board members about whether the district can/will sustain seven high schools. Jill is pushing for a standardization of language and content among programs at all schools in the district.

Conversations will be encouraged to connect the NE community with Edison. The final decisions of the board will be released during the last week of May. From now throughout May, the NE community needs to band together behind Edison. Jill needs us to email the Board members & District administration about our need for a high school in our community, as well as what we want to see at our high school. There is a perception on the board that there are not enough kids in NE to fill a school, and that the community does not care enough about Edison to send their kids to it.

Action Item: Jenny Arneson will draft something and send it around for distribution to our various connections with the community.

Our natural diversity is an advantage, and something to be highlighted. Also, emphasizing the logical pathways from our community schools, to NEMS to Edison, and our expectation that we will have a community high school at the end of that pathway.

PEN needs your help! A few people are needed to step up and get involved with the planning process and commit to a role of leader. If you are on this e-mail list, you must have a passion for NE schools. Keep our efforts strong and get involved! Contact Dean about your interest: 612-789-9596 or email:


Jill Davis announced upcoming conversations scheduled to discuss the achievement gap between the community and the MPS District personnel and the Board of Education. Area A discussion will be at Nellie Stone Johnson on April 30, 6:00 - 8:30 pm. These discussions are for everyone. They will be conducted as small group "courageous conversations."

Fun & Events Calendar”: Each school will provide a listing of musical, sport, theatrical, and other fun events on one master calendar for the community. This listing of activities will now be both emailed on the present email list (over 170 names) as well as on Facebook and our new blog: . We are also asking each school to link to this blog from their individual school websites. Jenn Bennington is our wonderful webmaster. She can be contacted at: Jenn Bennington . If there’s an experience worth sharing, we’ll send it out ASAP!

Future Considerations/next meeting: Time: May 18, 2009: Edison HS: 6:30 – 8:00 PM.

We will likely be talking about Sports in the NE Schools—How to Bolster team efforts!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Waite Park Community School: Wine & Dine 2009

On Saturday, April 18, Waite Park Community School PTA hosted "Wine & Dine 2009" at the Italian American Club on Central Ave. NE. The event featured a HUGE silent auction, a wine raffle, a buffet including food donated by many Northeast restaurants, a meat raffle, and entertainment provided by Northeast singer/songwriter Alicia Corbett. The event was an enormous success, and raised over $7,400 for the school. The PTA uses profits from this event to fund field trips and special events, as well as school supplies for Waite Park students. Thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, volunteers and attendees for making this the most successful Spring fundraising event in recent history!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Edison Girls Going Places

On Tuesday, April 21 – Minneapolis-based Foster Klima & Company, LLC in partnership with the University of St. Thomas and the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America hosted the first Minneapolis Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Conference. Seventeen females from Edison attended the event that joined approximately 100 female students from middle school and high schools in Minnesota with 25 local women business owners, career executives, and entrepreneurs for activities and discussions that introduced the girls to the concepts of financial independence, entrepreneurship and business ownership. The event provided the girls an opportunity to meet with the women one on one to share ideas, experiences, and ask questions. In hopes of inspiring the girls to start their own business one day.

The conference also introduced the girls to the Guardian’s national Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program, which honors and grants $30,000 in cash prizes to girls ages 12 to 18 who demonstrate outstanding entrepreneurial abilities and service in the community. Prizes are granted to help winners and finalists save for college and continue their entrepreneurial pursuits. First place - $10,000; second place - $5,000; third - $3,000 and twelve $1,000.

Wendy Ballou from Pillsbury Math/Science/Technology received a grant for excellence in teaching and learning.

Wendy Ballou’s project, Sign Language for Families, will help hearing-impaired early childhood students and families learn to use sign language as a bridge in bilingual environments. Congratulations Wendy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 20 Meeting Agenda

Welcome/Introductions: 5-10 minutes (All)

Look at Community Theatre options: An Open discussion of how to link school-aged kids and the community with more theatre in the schools. All (45-55 mns.)

Get Ready for the NE Parade: June 23: Discuss steps for preparation: Jenny & others (15 mn)

Thoughts on MPS changes in Magnet Schools: A Brief Taking of the Pulse on possible implications in NE: no decisions made yet by MPS but what are your thoughts?—Dean & others (10 mn)

Announcements: (5 mn)

  • Area A Meetings

Future Considerations/next meeting: Possible speaker: Bernadeia Johnson, Deputy Superintendent, MPS

Time: May 18, 2009: Edison HS: 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Monday, April 13, 2009

From the Superintendent: Changing School Options Update

by Dr. Bill Green

Last week, we announced a change in the timeline for decisions related to Changing School Options, our plan to create a more effective, sustainable system for the future.

April 28 Administration will present its final recommendation to the Board of Education

May 26 Board of Education will formally vote on the plan

School Board members expressed a desire for more time to consider the many changes being discussed for the 2010 school year. Staff will be invited to learn more about the recommendations at school and community meetings in early May. Specific meeting dates, times and locations will be announced after spring break.

The current system is unsustainable both in cost and complexity. Efforts are underway to reduce busing and consolidate schools, programs, operations and administration. Planning is guided by values to maintain choice for families, encourage diversity district-wide and better promote equity across all schools.

Our district has repeatedly faced budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment, flat state funding and rising health care and energy costs. We would not be doing this work if we didn’t believe it is critical to building a foundation for academic achievement. We must right-size our system and invest our resources in the classroom. More information about Changing School Options, including a summary of community feedback received in February and March, is available on our homepage: I want to assure you that the work we are doing will continue over this next week and the months to come. We are seeking to make our schools better for our children, and we will do everything in our power to serve them and to increase excellence in our schools. Our final plan will leave no stone unturned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PEN Minutes: 3/16/09

PR DVD/video of the five schools: NE Jenny Arneson reported that steps were underway to identify contacts at all five NE schools, whereby, they would collect photos or other media and conduct onsite interviews with various individuals (parents/students/others).
In order to have uniformity, similar questions will be asked at each school. Media contacts at each location have been mostly identified, with some further follow-up planned.

The goal is to have the information gathered by spring break. If there are production costs, we are likely able to tap into our Waite Park PEN fund. Students from Edison HS will be assisting in the development process. Please contact Jenny for any ideas or if you’d like to volunteer in this area.

Community Theatre: With some of the elementary schools (e.g., Waite Park) having established music/theatre productions and NE Middle School soon to have their second production in as many years (March 26 & 27), it is felt that community theatre could be a next step.

Two possible thrusts were discussed: (1) “Summer Theatre for NE Kids”, which could be a Park & Rec/Community Education partnership with PEN and other community members, having a production in the summer time. (2) Community production with kids at Edison HS.

Macy Ashby would like to assist in enlisting key community folks to form a task force, which would plan action in this effort. John Vandermyde suggested a choreographer; several other individuals were named as possible contributors to a task force. Members agreed to contact people they knew and encourage them to take part in a brainstorming session during the next PEN meeting (April 20).

Action Steps: Develop Task Force: Identify key players, invite Tony Walker/Barb Kapella, identify one representative from each interested school. Pool names/contact information to Dean.

Website presence at each school: Laurie Lamberty was going to host PEN web presence, but hasn’t had the time, so Jenny was looking into Waite Park hosting, since they already have a system developed. A Web link through the WP website for each of five NE schools to access information about what PEN is and how to get involved would enable greater exposure. Penny Hinderacker developed an icon which can be used for the website as well as for a Facebook page for PEN, something Jenn Bennington has just recently completed. So far, 27 people have joined the PEN page, and you can too by going to:

Jenn would be glad to add you as a member. Contact her for more information.

Other possible steps:

Podcasting of PEN meetings?
Post school/Pen information on the Northeast Beat (
Create PEN business cards and PDF documents (Check with Penny H.)

NE School PR DVD/Video

The Plan

Create a DVD about the 5 NE schools in one. Play as a slideshow with a combo of still shots and perhaps 2-3 second video clips; voice-overs of staff, parents and kids talking about their schools.

Share this video in the community. Play at community events, parks and possibly elections. Send a copy to every realtor, elected representative. Link on-line to websites and YouTube.


Each school will appoint one person to collect a series of pictures – no more than 4-5 minutes worth. Moving video clips can add dramatics (such as drumming performances or kids waving), but the school should have that edited.

In addition, each school will have one person create audio clips of people talking about their school. This should be done with individuals talking into the computer and saved as an audio clip; about 4 people should be interviewed. Suggestion: interview parents during upcoming family events.

One person will collect these mini slides from all the schools and produce into one format. We might use NRP funds from Waite Park to pay for DVD copies.


To unify the video, the following questions are suggested when interviewing others about your school:

* What do you like about your school?
* What’s special about this school?
* What’s unique about this school?

It is not necessary to indentify the voices on the video.


* Individual schools should be done gathering their photos and audio clips by spring break (April 2)
* The compiled video will be done by the end of April to be shown for spring school events
* We ask every school to show during one spring event (i.e. carnivals, award/scholarship banquets, etc.)

Change in Leadership in 2009-2010:

Dean announced that after 4 years of leadership with PEN, he was stepping down from this role at the end of the school year (in June/July). He will continue to be involved with PEN, but time constraints and the need for new ideas/energy are needed for PEN. The group requested that Dean provide a job description and that members divide duties up. Several folks volunteered to take certain roles. Dean encouraged the group to establish 3 primary leaders and a core team for agenda planning, brainstorming, and mobilization of the work.

PEN needs your help! A few people are needed to step up and get involved with the planning process and commit to a role of leader. If you are on this e-mail list, you must have a passion for NE schools. Keep our efforts strong and get involved! Contact Dean about your interest: 612-789-9596 or email:


March 25: Arts & Entrepreneurship at Edison HS: Mike Iacarella is leading a discussion about pathways and areas of strengthening Edison HS. Dr. Green will be present.

“Fun Calendar”: Each school will provide a listing of musical, sport, theatrical, and other fun events on one master calendar for the community. The “Fun Calendar” has been used in the past, and I’d like to have it utilized more. If you have an event or experience worth sharing, I’ll send it out ASAP! If there is a fun event at your school, please contact Dean:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

From Rep. Diane Loeffler

Thanks for all of your hard work on so many fronts for the future of education in our city! As you may have noted in the news, the budget targets the House released last night protect education (early childhood, k-12 and higher education) from cuts in addressing a historic deficit. When so many other programs must be cut drastically (up to 8.5%), that was a major concession to this area. For example, in health and human services we have 5,000 people with developmental disabilities on waiting lists for community services, 650 people with traumatic brain injury on a wait list, and hospitals and other health providers laying off hundreds of staff and hoping they won't have to close major departments. So everything's "bare bones" in this era and there are no easy places to cut. The House budget is based on raising $1.5 billion in additional tax revenues - we will propose to do it in a progressive way as much as possible.

Wanted to pass on a few links for your review and consideration.

There wasn't a meeting in N.E or S.E. on the proposed changes for middle schools and high schools. I'll provide the link to the slides on the MPS website. It shows Edison with the second smallest enrollment projected for 2013. Not having seen the presentation, it is easy to misunderstand, but one slide seems to indicated that 74% of area high schoolers would have to change high school under a scenario that would move students back to the closest high school. I hope before enacting it they do some market surveying to make sure we don't loose those kids to other options (the suburbs, charters, private schools, etc.) and the projected savings never materialize and the student counts continue to drop. Other options mention closing one or more schools. On what basis will they be chosen?

Another proposal was to move high school start times to 7:30 a.m - Lots of adolescent brain research shows that is not a good idea. (That research was highly touted when the later high school start times were adopted). Lets give our kids all the advantages possible since many of our kids still struggle with the performance standards. The transportation budget shouldn't be allowed to distract from achievement goals.

Here's the link to the MPS choice options info re: middle and high schools. Note this material is in the second column and the middle school/high schoool choices start at slide 20 of 31 slides. (just above Submit feedback - coming soon - hope it's soon - Administration recommendations are due mid-April).

I found this student's article on Edison's restart concerning. Please take the time to absorb one student's reporting and the quotes from staff. It was published on Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Thanks again for your dedication. These aren't easy times at either the state or local level. May wisdom and well thought through analysis of the options guide us through these tough times.

Diane Loeffler