Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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Many School District 833 parents might wish that free all-day kindergarten would start this fall, but it won't start until the fall of 2014. South Washington County School Board members got an update on the planning process during a recent retreat. This fall, 65 percent of eligible children will be in all-day kindergarten classes that are offered free at Pullman and Pine Hill elementary schools because of their high percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, a federal definition of poverty.
Marsha Adou told fellow South Washington County School Board members and administrators Thursday she is not running for a third four-year term on the board. Adou, of Woodbury, said she’s proud to have served on the District 833 board, proud of the how far the school district has come academically and how well the district has managed spending. Adou is the first incumbent to announce a decision not to seek re-election.
School District 833 voters will be asked this fall to chip in more property tax money for local schools. Voters will see three school referendum questions on the November ballot that, if approved, will increase property tax revenue for school security, classroom spending, reserve funds and land acquisition for two future school buildings.
The District 833 School Board was expected this week to approve a proposal to ask voters for $6.88 million this fall for more school security, technology support, addressing class sizes and shoring up reserve funds used to balance past budgets. In discussing their options at a meeting last week, board members also appeared inclined to ask for an additional $8 million to buy land for another middle school and an elementary school that would be a response to current and future population growth in Woodbury and Cottage Grove.
Twenty-one students earned their diplomas at the District 833 Alternative Learning Center's graduation ceremony earlier this month. Three additional students were listed as graduating but could not attend, including one graduate currently in military basic training. During the ceremony, teachers spoke on behalf of each student and shared their plans for the future. Students finishing their education at the ALC are from all secondary schools in School District 833. Principal Mike Mahaffey and Superintendent Keith Jacobus congratulated the new graduates.
South Washington County Schools will see additional state funding for the first time in five years, but there is no consensus among District 833 School Board members on whether to pull back any of the $2 million proposed cuts for next year, School Board Chairman Ron Kath said following a budget discussion last week. The district faced a $6 million deficit for 2013-14 when it began planning the budget earlier this year.
With no action from the Legislature to give Crosswinds Arts and Science School to the Perpich Center for the Arts and reject School District 833's interest in acquiring it, parents of Crosswinds students and five legislators took their case to the East Metro Integration District School Board last week to try and stop the closure of Crosswinds on July 29. With an EMID decision to close Crosswinds, all of its tenured teachers and the principal already have found jobs in the 10 member school districts. Dan Larson, a Crosswinds parent, said no action by the Legislature was "devastating for us,"
When parents and friends gather in the New Life Academy gymnasium on June 2, they will honor 45 graduating seniors, including the top three students. Though the school keeps student data on class rankings, the information is not released to students, parents or colleges. Modest about the honor, Matty Steele, Michele Burzynski and Kolin Kiekhoefer, all of Woodbury, are happy to be the top three graduates.
A clear majority of residents would support a renewal of an existing property tax levy, according to a recent independent survey. The Decision Resources, provided to the District 833 School Board last week, found that 65 percent of those polled would back a levy renewal. The district plans to hold a referendum renewal this fall and has the option of renewing another existing levy, which expires next year, on the same November ballot. In addition to levy renewals, which would not alter the amount of taxes collected, the board will consider whether to ask for more money to operate schools.
The District 833 School Board has signed off on $2 million in budget cuts for the 2013-14 school year. The district plans to raise class sizes by an average of one student as it cuts 22.42 teaching positions, including some teaching specialists, to save $1.5 million. The board also approved increasing walking distances at secondary schools. The middle school walking distance will increase from 1 mile to 1.5 miles. High school students living less than 2 miles from their building won't have busing; the current high school walking distance is 1.5 miles.