4/25/2013 12:13:00 PM Chisago Lakes Board begins to look at referendum possibilites
Student representative Molly Sandstrom (front middle) was joined by the school board, superintendent and representatives from Minnesota School Board Association in accepting her scholarship from the MSBA.
by JEFF NORTON
The Chisago Lakes School Board floated ideas and discussed possibilities for the potential of an operating referendum to be on the ballot in November.
Although the whole board seemed to agree that there is a need for a question to be on the ballot this fall, there was a spirited debate about whether there would be one question or two questions and how much the district should ask for. Currently, the district is funded $391 per pupil, and the board agreed that is basically the bare minimum they can get by with right now.
“We need the minimum funding, but anything over that is risky,” outgoing Superintendent Mike McLoughlin said. “If you don’t get that bottom number, it’s going to be dangerous.” Lori Berg took the other side of the fence, however. “If we’re going to get voters out, we don’t always have to shoot for the minimum,” she said.
The tipping point is whether the referendum will feature two questions. The debate comes down to if the board just lists one question on the referendum and puts it over the minimum, they run the risk of it failing and they lose their current funding. But, the last time there was a referendum, there were two questions listed and the first one, for the minimum funding of $391, passed, while the second question asking for more money over what was being reauthorized, failed.
Supt. McLoughlin and board chairman Mark Leigh agreed that whatever the approach may be, the district needs to be ready fairly soon. “We need to be ready to give people numbers and we need a well thought out approach,” Leigh said. “We need to factor in enrollment. We are being dishonest with ourselves if we don’t talk enrollment.” Leigh is referring to the fact that the school is slowly losing students, therefore some think reduced funding is appropriate. “People aren’t dissatisfied with the district,” McLoughlin added. “There are just fewer kids and we aren’t being funded for the downsizing we’ve done. Students have gone down, but it’s not keeping up.”
Board member Tom Lawlor and incoming superintendent Joe Thimm wanted to focus on how the district could really turn out the ‘yes’ voters. “We need to market it to everyone,” Thimm said. “You won’t change the ‘no’ voters, but we have to convince people that we are doing the right thing.” Lawlor agreed, saying, “We need to be able to turn out the people that will say yes.” McLaughlin cautioned the board, however, if they shoot too high and lose the funding they currently have. “The $1 million is the difference between a four-day school week and a five-day school week.”
The board scheduled a working session for Tuesday, May 7 to discuss the referendum in more detail. The student representative on the board, Molly Sandstrom, received a $3,000 scholarship at the meeting. She is one of only two people in the state who received the MSBA Student School Board Scholarship. Chisago Lakes High School Principal Dave Ertl, who recommended Sandstrom for the award, said of the senior, “Molly is willing to go beyond expectations and move into areas that extend her knowledge base. When a need for our building was seen, she didn’t hold back, but approached it with a social justice viewpoint.” “All of the students that applied are high-achievers,” said MSBA President Walter Hautala, who was on hand to present the scholarship to Sandstrom. “Every one of the students who applied deserves recognition. They are going to make a huge difference in our future. These kids are really the cream of the crop.”
There were a few changes in policy for the Activities Handbook. The biggest shift came in the attendance policy. Previously, a student needed to be in attendance by the beginning of their third block class to be eligible to participate in that day’s practice or games. With the change, the rule remains the same for practice, but to participate in games, the student must be in attendance all day. Any exceptions must be approved by Activities Director Neil Fletcher. Also, with the move to the Mississippi 8, there may be some late nights for teams that go into extra frames and then have a long drive home. Fletcher added to the handbook that any team that arrives back to Chisago Lakes High School after midnight may be excused from first block the following morning.
The Middle School is jumping on a plan to provide an outdoor class at the site. Tom Tengwall, Pat Collins, Pete Lawrence and CLMS Principal Jodi Otte are spearheading the project that will provide a space for up to three classes at once. The students will gain knowledge in a natural environment, do hands-on activities, develop an understanding, appreciation and respect for the environment, and develop high level thinking skills, she said. The project will be funded by donations, building capital money and school activities/fundraisers. The school has raised over $4,000 already.
The district received 33 applicants for the Taylors Falls Principal job that opens when Thimm becomes the superintendent. The hiring committee would like to begin the interviewing process on April 30. But, the process won’t involve all 33 applicants. “It’s a good group,” McLoughlin said. “But there is some ambitious applicants with no time in the saddle, so that cuts the pool considerably.”