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Volume 63, No. 5




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March-April 2011

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Student Newspapers Feel Budget Pinch Keeping School Ag Education Strong


Superintendent Search Tips

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The purpose of the MSBA Insurance Trust Denise Drill (MSBAIT) is “to provide for its members 800-324-4459 and their employees and officials various forms of insurance, including any forms of permitted Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor group insturance, for the benefit of school 800-324-4459 districts which are members of the MSBA and to effectuate cost savings in the procurement and administration of such programs.” John Sylvester For more information about MSBAIT, visit 800-324-4459 Property, Inland Marine, and Crime Workers’ Compensation School Leaders’ Legal Liability Automobile



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Calendar MARCH 2011 8 .............Township Election Day (no meetings or activities 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.) 13 ...........Daylight Saving Time Begins 14 ...........Before Your Board Webinar (Public Participation at Meetings) 17–18 .....MASA Spring Conference 24 ...........MSBA Joint Legislative Conference



M AY 2 0 1 1 ASK MSBA John Sylvester, MSBA Deputy Executive Director

Articles 8









6 .............MSBA Phase III Orientation 9 .............MSBA Phase III Orientation 9–11 .......NSBA Convention, San Francisco, CA 12 ...........MSBA Phase III Orientation 17–18 .....MSBA Board of Directors’ Meeting 18 ...........MSBA Insurance Trust Meeting 21 ...........Learn @ Lunch Webinar (Following Up on Negotiations Strategy)



5 6 28 31

APRIL 2011

4–6 .........MASBO Annual Conference 16–30 .....MSBA Election Webinar with Secretary of State 19 ...........Learn @ Lunch Webinar (Bid Laws Dos and Don’ts) 19–20 .....MSBA Board of Directors’ Annual Meeting 25 ...........Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus Meeting 30 ...........Memorial Day (no meetings)

JUNE 2011 13 ...........Before Your Board Webinar (The 2011 Legislative Wrap-Up) 16 ...........MSBA Insurance Trust Meeting

The MSBA Journal thanks the students of Barnum Public Schools for sharing their art with us in this issue. COVER ART: Title: Listen With an Open Heart Kirsty Laflash, Grade 11



OFFICERS President: Kent Thiesse, Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Past President: Jackie Magnuson, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan DISTRICT DIRECTORS District 1: Kathy Green, Austin District 2: Jodi Sapp, Mankato Area District 3: Linden Olson, Worthington District 4: Betsy Scheurer, Hopkins District 5: Marilynn Forsberg, Spring Lake Park District 6: Kevin Donovan, Mahtomedi District 7: Roz Peterson, Lakeville Area District 8: Elona Street-Stewart, St. Paul District 9: Karen Kirschner, Mora District 10: Dana Laine, Frazee-Vergas District 11: Walter Hautala, Mesabi East District 12: Ann Long Voelkner, Bemidji Area STAFF Bob Meeks: Executive Director Barbara Lynn: Executive Assistant/Director of Board Operations John Sylvester: Deputy Executive Director Tiffany Rodning: Deputy Executive Director Greg Abbott: Director of Communications Denise Drill: Director of Financial/MSBAIT Services Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor: Associate Director of Management Services Sandy Gundlach: Director of School Board Services Bill Kautt: Associate Director of Management Services Grace Keliher: Director of Governmental Relations Katie Klanderud: Director of Board Development Gary Lee: Associate Director of Management Services Bruce Lombard: Associate Director of Communications Bob Lowe: Director of Management Services Kelly Martell: Director of Technology Cathy Miller: Director of Legal and Policy Services Sue Munsterman: MSBA Advertising Kirk Schneidawind: Associate Director of Governmental Relations Mike Torkelson: Elections/Management Services Specialist

Quotes of Note captures some of the more interesting statements MSBA staff have read in local, state and national publications.

Parents pleading for programs during budget cuts “It was difficult to sit there and hear all this when we know we have to cut $15.8 million. I believe in every single program and every single person we have in this district, so to see any of them cut is really sad.” Lakeville Chairwoman Judy Keliher

Adding requirements to charter school authorizers “It’s rather daunting, and I think that’s a good thing, given the history of charter school sponsorship. To be honest, in the 1990s, sponsors. . . largely signed on the line and went away.” Augsburg College Charter School Liaison Chris Brown

Achievement with small class sizes “One of the models Pillager has stayed with and I believe in is small class sizes. It’s been one of the hallmarks for what Pillager stood for. Smaller class sizes made a huge difference for us.” Pillager School Superintendent Chuck Arns

Starting the school year earlier for better test results “If a teacher is doing a good job and there is more time and more opportunity to learn, that should transfer to the test.” Winona Area Public Schools Superintendent Scott Hannon

Working with teachers in your district “Why do we live in a world where it’s cool to bash teachers in front of children and parents? I don’t understand that. What good does that do us? We ought to be happy we’re getting a pretty good bang for our buck.” Pierz Superintendent George Weber

Freezing teacher pay “Although preliminary statements of holding K–12 harmless have been stated, under these circumstances, I do not believe K–12 will be spared a funding reduction, considering the portion of the state budget K–12 consumes. Thus, a two-year salary freeze appears to be the better option.” Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Peter Grant

The MSBA Journal (USPS 352-220) is published bimonthly by the Minnesota School Boards Association, 1900 West Jefferson Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota 56082. Telephone 507-934-2450. Call MSBA office for subscription rates. (Opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent MSBA policy.)




Like most things in life, the longer you do something, the more complicated it becomes. As the Legislature worked to improve election law after the ColemanFranken recount, many laws were changed or added that will make this year’s election cycle more complicated. Bob Meeks The Legislature has MSBA Executive Director passed several laws that now require election clerks to establish absentee ballot boards to handle the process. Besides the extra cost of paying for absentee ballot board members’ time, many more hoops need to be jumped through for school district clerks having any type of election in an odd year. It is this additional cost and the extra legal hoops that have prompted many districts to move from odd-year elections to even-year elections. Back in 2005, we had 168 districts with elections in the odd year and 172 districts with elections in the even year. Five years later, our latest survey shows a mere 57 districts planning to have elections in 2011. Some of the districts most determined to stay in the odd-year cycle were calling MSBA late last year to see how they could switch to an even-year cycle. There are pros and cons to each cycle. In even years, districts obviously save a lot of money because the county handles the elections and the bulk of the cost, including paying absentee ballot boards and recount costs. But in even years, school board candidates can get lost in the political shuffle. With presidential elections and state elections, people may not even know who is running for the school board and either make uninformed choices (such as voting for a candidate who withdrew) or do not fill out the school board part of the ballot at all. In oddyear election cycles, board members usually have the election stage all to themselves. The media usually does a better job covering the race and informing people of the race because it may be the only race in town. However, the federal Help America Vote Act, passed by the federal

government a few years ago, brought bigger costs (for Automark machines) and more work requirements for school election clerks (such as public testing of equipment and new notices for electronic voting). Top that with new requirements from the state for ballot boards and recount processes, and odd-year elections have become much more complicated, time-consuming and costly. MSBA doesn’t advocate for either odd- or even-year election cycles. Boards know what works for them the best. And MSBA will be here again this year to go over all of the new election law changes for school districts having elections this fall and for those districts trying for bond or levy elections. Look for our webinar with the Secretary of State’s Office May 16–30. Make sure to tell your administrative assistant or election clerk about it. For those districts thinking they won’t need to worry about election changes because they won’t be having a bond or levy election until 2012, I also need to give a little warning. Once every 10 years, results of the census seem to catch school districts off-guard. In years ending in two – as in 2012 – the process of redistricting takes place. And because of that process, school districts will be very limited to when bond referendums or special elections can take place. So if your district is considering a bond referendum next year, you may want to schedule it for this year or be ready to go right away in 2012 before the election window closes. This year, the timeline for special elections is pretty wideopen. If your district doesn’t have townships and if your district or cities in your district aren’t having an odd-year election, you can hold your special election almost any time this year. But as for next year, there is a little-known statute (MS 204B.135, Subd. 4) that prevents special elections from happening 19 weeks before the state primary. Thanks to the Legislature moving the primary date into August, the 19-week blackout means special elections can’t be held after April 3, 2012. If your district has townships, the window is even shorter, ending Feb. 22, 2012. (There is another blackout of 20 days before and after township elections that still applies.) So if all this seems complicated, it is. That’s why MSBA is working with Secretary of State Elections Director Gary Poser to offer training for superintendents, assistants, board clerks and election clerks to make this election cycle a little easier with fewer headaches.




I Kent Thiesse MSBA President

Too often, we characterize “ag education” as being coursework to prepare young people for farming, or production agriculture, rather than considering the vast array of career opportunities and job openings that exist in AFNR. 6


I recently attended a special conference hosted by the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) titled: “Connecting the Growth Opportunities in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.” It was a great reminder about the large number of career opportunities that exist in the area of agriculture, food, and natural resources (AFNR). We need to make sure that the agriculture, science, and business curriculum and coursework in our secondary schools is enhancing the AFNR career opportunities for our students.

Minnesota currently has agriculture education (AFNR) programs in 187 school districts (out of 338), with 226 AFNR teachers, reaching about 26,700 students in grades 9–12, and an additional 5,500 students in grades 7–8. There are also 176 Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters in Minnesota high schools, with more than 9,000 total members. One of the biggest challenges facing public school districts is limited current and future funding resources. Tight budgets can greatly impact AFNR programs in secondary schools, especially if the AFNR courses are treated as “electives,” rather than being courses to meet science or other curriculum requirements, or being part of STEM initiatives that exist in some school districts. There are many innovative AFNR teachers who have worked with school curriculum leaders to integrate AFNR courses into the overall course requirements and student career development objectives within a school district. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the annual number of job openings requiring a college degree with expertise in agriculture, food systems, renewable energy, and environment will increase by 5 percent from 2010 to 2015. USDA projects that more than 54,000 college

graduates will be needed each year to meet this job demand -- with 49,000 qualified graduates available to meet this demand (29,000 of those graduates coming from AFNR programs). is a national website devoted to posting AFNR jobs and assisting students pursuing AFNR careers. Its survey found that most positions requiring a bachelor’s degree had a starting salary of $40,000–$50,000 per year, plus health care coverage and retirement plans, with some offering incentive bonuses. Some of the largest food and agricultural companies in the world are based out of Minnesota, and have many career opportunities available to college graduates. Of course, there are also many job opportunities available in regional centers and local communities throughout Minnesota that would prefer some AFNR training and coursework for available positions. Public school districts need to collaborate with area AFNR business and industry leaders to gain insights on how secondary school curriculums can be enhanced to meet future career opportunities and job openings. Public school leaders also need to work with 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities to explore ways to enhance AFNR offerings for secondary students. Too often, we characterize “ag education” as being coursework to prepare young people for farming, or production agriculture, rather than considering the vast array of career opportunities and job openings that exist in AFNR. There are going to be many future career opportunities for our students in food safety and quality, renewable energy, environmental issues, business management, and other areas. Enhancing AFNR programs in our secondary schools is certainly one strategy to help prepare our students for these future opportunities.

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Call C all or email us for for a personal personal and discr discrete ete assessment assessment of your your current currrent food fo food ser service vice followed follo followed by by our proposal proposaal with specific specific recommendations recommendations to to help you you b bee more morree succ successful. cessful essfull.



Superintendent Search Tips From the Pros Recruiters stress five main reasons for the decline in applications. In no particular order, they are stress, school board behavior, inadequate compensation, family disruption and privacy.

Title: Bubbles, Artist: Emily Thomsen, Grade 11

Michael Siggerud, Ph.D.


At one time or another, almost all school board members have faced the prospect of finding a new superintendent to manage their school district. Although many districts prefer to perform searches using their own skill and resources, a growing number have turned to consultants or recruiters to identify possible candidates, contact these potential leaders, encourage them to apply, and provide the district with a viable slate of candidates. A reason many districts have chosen to ask for outside help is because of an emerging trend: There are fewer applicants for vacancies that occur. The estimates vary, ranging from about a 30 percent drop to as high as a 60 percent drop in the number of applicants in comparison with similar positions a decade ago. Attractive superintendencies that frequently used to attract 50-60 applicants now may see fewer than 20. Of these, only a small fraction of the candidates will typically be suited for the job. The luxury of placing a few advertisements and watching the applications roll in appears to have become a thing of the past for many of us.



Stress. Recruiters tell us that the stress associated with the position of the superintendent is seen by aspiring leaders as a disincentive for applying. Increasing pressure to provide more and better services regardless of the financial difficulties of districts, the politics of high stakes testing, increasing paperwork and reporting requirements with fewer supportive staff to provide assistance, the complexity of school finance, unrealistic expectations of the public and the relative professional isolation of the position all play a role. School Board Behavior. The character or behavior of the school board in a given district is shown to affect the number of potential applicants. While politics, micromanaging, personal agendas or discord among board members may be discouraging for some applicants, a school board that functions professionally will be attractive. Job Security. The lack of tenure for superintendents in Minnesota creates a sense of vulnerability with many potential applicants. Because superintendents are “at will� employees, they can be easily terminated at the end of their current contract. Some potential applicants consider the political

arena that superintendents must successfully navigate too risky, choosing instead to remain in a setting that is more familiar and safe. Inadequate compensation. Even though your superintendent may be among the highest paid folks in town, compensation for superintendents is nevertheless an issue. Many potential applicants believe that there is insufficient difference in wages between a principal and superintendent to compensate for the added difficulty and responsibility. Important to remember is the cost associated with relocation, the risk associated with selling a home and purchasing another in the current market conditions, and the potential loss of a spouse’s income. Because licenses are not reciprocal, some potential out-ofstate applicants cannot be certified without significant additional investment. Many districts expect candidates will hold earned doctorates, which also creates a financial and time commitment for prospective candidates. Finally, retirement programs are not transferable from one state to another. Out-of-state candidates often find themselves to be facing significant reduction of their retirement income potential. Family Disruption. To obtain an initial superintendency, recruiters say that the applicants must be flexible in terms of location, and be prepared to relocate to a rural area if necessary. Many potential candidates will mention the disruption to their family as the main reason they are not willing to relocate, especially given the lack of stability in the superintendency. They cite the potential interruption of a spouse’s occupation, and the lack of school continuity for the children of candidates, especially in terms of membership in activities or sports teams. Especially in smaller communities, some see unrealistic expectations placed on the superintendent’s family and the pressure of constantly being in the public eye as an unfair burden. Privacy of candidates. The lack of privacy that results from Minnesota sunshine laws is discouraging to some applicants. Because the names of final applicants are public and potentially published, unsuccessful candidates may experience a politically awkward situation in their home districts. The laws also limit the ability of school boards who choose not to hire consultants to engage in discreet conversations with potential candidates.

When asked about recruiting strategies, consultants agree that there is now a greater reliance on

personal contact rather than “passive” advertising to attract potential candidates. If recruiters are going to produce a viable field of applicants for boards to interview, high potential applicants must be targeted and convinced to apply. An important part of the work of consultants is developing a profile of the hiring district to both attract candidates and find the best match for success. Most recruiters conduct some kind of needs analysis process within the school districts that employ them. This is used to determine which individual and professional qualities in a candidate would have the highest probability of success. This is also an opportunity to find ways to generate interest in the district. Although most still advertise, print brochures, build Web sites or use other means of making prospective candidates aware of vacancies, recruiters stress the importance of establishing a network of sources. These include former superintendents or other educators familiar with schools, the professional organizations as a source of contact, and other recruiters. Consultants stress the importance of utilizing their networks of colleagues and friends, association executives or other recruiters to identify promising applicants. They use the referrals as a starting point, and then carefully research the potential candidates before deciding to contact them. In order to be successful, all recruiters agree that personal contact is essential. Many use “cold call” techniques to encourage strong potential candidates to consider applying. Because of their research and groundwork, recruiters can match possible applicants with the needs of a school district. They can then tell these prospects that they have these desirable traits or qualities, and would be a terrific fit for a vacancy. Many feel honored or flattered that their leadership qualities are recognized. They also use this opportunity to get to know the prospective candidate better, to discuss career goals, answer any questions, and talk about the reasons this career opportunity would be beneficial to them, and identify any misgivings they may have. The consultants are also forthcoming with any challenges the next superintendent in that school district may face, and why their skill set will be a suitable match for district needs. Consultants who do national searches often rely on advertisements in the publications of national organizations or contacts with national professional associations to promote a vacancy. While national searches are typical of large firms, local consultants expressed reluctance to recruit outside of the Midwest. Obtaining accurate, detailed information on a candidate from greater distances is much more difficult without the benefit of a network of colleagues, and a devastating cultural mismatch may occur. Title: Serpent Vase Artist: Jule Fischer, Grade 10



Superintendent Search Tips From the Pros

Consultants cite the lack of reciprocity with licenses and retirement programs as further detriments to successful national searches. A strong, honest working relationship between the recruiter and the school board who retains him or her is essential to doing an effective search. Recruiters use district profile information they have developed as well as their experience and skill to help school boards develop realistic expectations of candidates. Because the school board members rarely have the time or expertise to make thorough examinations of potential candidates, consultants do that work for them, free of the constraints of sunshine laws or claims of prejudicial hiring practices. They allow the board to remain free from the complications or legal pitfalls associated with attempting their own searches, giving them the opportunity to be unbiased employers.

To be attractive to potential applicants, school boards can enhance the appeal of their vacancy by being mindful of a few important points: • School boards who deport themselves according to high professional and ethical standards, and who work in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration, are appealing to potential candidates. On the other hand, quality candidates will avoid boards that bicker, micromanage, are not supportive or are otherwise contrary. School boards must do their part to minimize any stress associated with the superintendency that might be unnecessarily generated as a result of board behavior. • Considering the cost and necessity of moving, incentive packages proposed to attract potential candidates must be sufficient to outweigh the counterincentives associated with moving and the relative insecurity of the superintendency. Compensation must be sufficient to accommodate relocation costs, losses from real estate sales, potential loss of spousal income, or the higher cost of living associated with residency in certain areas of the state. • Salaries offered to school superintendents in the Midwest region are generally lower than other parts of the nation; to attract candidates from a pool that is not local, salaries must compete favorably with those offered in other sections of the United States. The compensation packages offered to out-of-state applicants must also satisfy the losses experienced by candidates with retirement packages from other states. Alternative, transferable retirement options or deferred compensation may help overcome this problem. • The impact on the private lives of families moving to a new town can be substantial. Finding ways to address the needs or concerns of an applicant’s family is



important. Be prepared to demonstrate why your community is inviting and attractive for the families of potential applicants.

While many school boards may find it hard to justify the expense of hiring a consultant to search for their next superintendent, recruiters point out several considerations that may not be initially obvious to many school board members: • The time commitment required for conducting a successful candidate search might be greater than originally anticipated. • Boards must obey the Minnesota sunshine laws, as well as other statutes concerning employment practices. Given the political risk assumed by potential candidates if their candidacy is revealed, many are more willing to explore possibilities discreetly with a consultant (who is not as restricted by these laws) than an actual public employer. Board members who attempt to recruit candidates on their own may face other risks, including charges of cronyism, bias, favoritism, or personal agendas, or the promotion of a candidate that does not reflect the common selection criteria of the other members of the board. • Most school board members do not have the benefit of a network of colleagues that will work with them to identify and suggest potential candidates. Recruiters rely heavily on their network of associates, many of which are current practitioners, to identify high potential applicants. They also frequently collaborate with other consultants and their networks to find the best candidates for a particular position. • Recruiters use various needs assessment techniques, such as surveys, group processes, or interviews to investigate the school leadership needs of a community. Using the results of this consensusbuilding process to create a profile of desired characteristics, consultants will work to find the perfect fit among potential candidates. • Some boards are highly collaborative while others are more traditional. Recruiters depend on their own experience and personal knowledge to predict who is likely to perform well with a given board. The “best fit” might not be a candidate with characteristics a board thinks they want, but rather a person with a leadership style that has functioned well for them in the past. Mike Siggerud currently is a member of the Moorhead School Board. Dr. Siggerud is a former vocal music teacher and administrator with the Moorhead Public Schools, and now serves as an adjunct instructor at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. This article summarizes the findings from a series of interviews of Minnesota recruiters conducted by Dr. Siggerud.

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Tony Sjolander, LEED AP 612/977-3500 -



The Write Stuff Advocates opine on the state of Minnesota high school journalism Title: Beth and the Wild Horses, Artist: Emily Thomsen, Grade 11

Bruce Lombard

In 2009, the sagging economy and ongoing ascension of online news had a hand in nearly 300 newspapers folding nationwide. As school boards continue to make difficult cuts during the current state budget crisis, could high school student journalism programs and newspapers follow a similar course? While there’s currently no hard data to suggest student journalism is in peril, here are some trends: ■ A 2007 study revealed 74 percent of high schools nationally had a student newspaper. ■ According to the California Department of Education, there are nearly 200 fewer high schools with journalism programs than there were 10 years ago – a 14 percent drop. ■ In a survey concluded in September 2009, the New York City High School Journalism Program found that only about 50 percent of high schools in the five boroughs of New York City had high school newspapers or journalism programs.

What about Minnesota? “I don’t think anybody has good data; the last survey that I know of was probably done eight or nine years ago at the University of Minnesota,” said Lynda McDonnell, executive director of ThreeSixty Journalism, an outreach journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas 12


that works with high schoolers. “The Minnesota Newspaper Association surveyed school districts. If I remember correctly, they found that about 53 percent of the state’s high schools (of those that responded) had some sort of student publication, but many times they were published infrequently.” Some anecdotal evidence hints that some Minnesota journalism programs are feeling the pinch from the state budget crisis. “Journalism programs are hurting just like everything else,” said Logan Aimone, executive director of the Minneapolis-based National Scholastic Press Association. “Not eliminated necessarily, but they have fewer travel funds or don’t have as much support in the way of equipment.” McDonnell said high school journalism programs and school newspapers have suffered for two reasons. “One is budgetary,” she said. “There are certainly more schools that don’t have a print publication, and if they are doing a publication they do it online. And secondly, I’ve heard teachers say the push to get back-to-basics for standardized testing has really harmed a lot of extracurricular activities, including high school journalism programs.” Aimone said he understands that school boards need to tighten their belts in such times, but finds it unfortunate for the students to feel the pinch.

“We’re seeing a lot of reductions in (student journalismrelated) travel as school districts are trying to reduce the money they spend in sending students to workshops and conventions,” Aimone said. “I recognize that is a necessity to balance the budget. Unfortunately, some of these opportunities are the kinds of things that really spark an interest in some students that may not find a place in other parts of the school curriculum or co-curricular activities. Our state convention or the national convention (which will be held in Minneapolis in November 2011) are the kinds of opportunities that are really exceptional, and hopefully as many students as possible get a chance to experience them.” Lori Keekley, an English and journalism teacher at St. Louis Park High School, said her school paper (The Echo) is functioning well regardless of any budget issues. “I haven’t (noticed any budget cuts) but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected,” she said. “I think the school sees the value of journalism and it doesn’t hurt that (New York Times columnist) Thomas Friedman is from St. Louis Park.”

Electronic age As with traditional newspapers, there has been a trend for student newspapers to produce on online edition. A 2009 Chicago Tribune article reported that several school newspapers in Illinois now publish online only. “These days, the pressures of tighter budgets, thinner papers and slumping ad sales are as central to the lessons of journalism as beat reporting and editing,” the report states. Aimone said the rise in online publications is fueled by two primary factors. The first stems from a lack of funding. “They make the choice to go online because their budget requires them to do so,” he said. “The cost of producing the printed paper has forced them to reduce the number of pages or reduce the frequency of publication. In order to have a publication at all they do it online.” Aimone said the second factor in increasing online publishing is to simply enhance or complement the print version. “(For example), maybe (the print edition is) produced once a month or every three weeks,” he said. “And then in between those editions they’re producing content online, maybe with their sports stories or a live chat or photo slideshows. There are ways of using the medium and taking advantage of things that can’t be accomplished in print.” McDonnell agreed more schools are using a combination of the two publishing mediums. “I don’t have any data, but my sense is that fewer high schools have print publications, or they print less frequently, and if they are doing work it’s more often online,” she said.

And there is an option for high schools that want to have an online publication, but can’t afford it. McDonnell said the High School Journalism Web site at hosts high school newspapers for no charge. “I bet there are two or three dozen Minnesota high schools that have their editions posted through that server,” she said. McDonnell’s program also trains Minnesota teens in journalism during summer camps and after-school programs. ThreeSixty operates an online magazine at and launched a quarterly print publication for and by teens in the fall. Teachers can request 30 or more copies free of charge by e-mailing Andrea Salazar at You can also find more student newspapers on the School Newspapers Online Web site. Eight of the 266 papers are represented by Minnesota schools. Keekley predicts online publications will continue to grow, but not overrun the traditional media avenue. “I do see more of the transition online but I am not sure it will take the place of print; not every student has access to technology equally,” she said. Keekley said her journalism class at St. Louis Park High started doing a print-online combination six years ago. “We’re doing the online and print edition out of one class, which is very difficult,” she said. “If you are doing it right, you are doing double the work with the same amount of kids you had before.” Keekley must be doing something right with her program. Last May, Keekley was named the 2010 Journalism Educator of the Year by the Minnesota High School Press Association. “It was wonderful,” she said. “I was nominated by Laurie Hansen (the student journalism adviser at Stillwater Area High School and the 2008 Educator of the Year) and I understand my students were also involved. That was very touching.” Keekley said the day-to-day working with the students is what she likes best about her job. “You are helping them produce something that they’re proud of. (You get to see) the reaction that they have when somebody comes up and says ‘I saw your photo, or I saw your design, or I read your story and I really liked it…’ Journalism is something I’ve always had a passion for and I’ve had quite a few students go through that have that passion, which is easily transferable (to other things).”

Journalistic merit Aimone said that journalism programs positively impact more than just the direct participants. “I feel strongly that schools benefit a lot from journalism programs, not just for the kids who are involved in the school paper and the school yearbook, but for everyone,”



he said. “You see the kinds of things that can happen, whether it’s letters to the editor or coverage of good stories of teenagers doing great things, talking about what’s going on in their lives and the issues that they face. I think that adds a lot to the fabric of the school community. It’s really important, just like sports and music and school plays and all those other things that makes a high school experience what it is.”

The Write Stuff

Aimone adds: “I definitely feel for schools that are making ends meet any way they can, but I hope they recognize that journalism programs in any form are really valuable.” McDonnell said that student journalists absorb many skills from the process of reporting.

McDonnell adds that students get excited about journalism because “it is a way into the world” for them. “They have important stories to tell,” McDonnell said. “One of the reasons we started this online magazine is that there are not many ways to tell it to the public in a responsible way. We are denying teens an opportunity to practice those rights in a meaningful way. I think it’s unfortunate that many schools don’t have that opportunity.”

“We always tell (our ThreeSixty) students it gets you out of your own head,” she said. “You have to learn about research, about focus, about asking questions, about organizing material in a logical way, about writing in a way that’s appealing to an audience.”

Gopher State greats

McDonnell said her students say they don’t get much experience in their high schools writing very lengthy or complex pieces.

Keekley already mentioned St. Louis Park High School’s big name, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Another Minnesota native, David Carr (a private school product), also works for the Times as a media and culture columnist.

“I think this is one of the costs of the emphasis on standardized testing,” she said. “To do it (journalism) well, you have to do all those things well. This is where student journalists and the students who consume the media they produce learn and practice the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and finding the limits of responsibility, privacy and good taste. Those are really important issues. The stakes are real in high school and it’s unfortunate that’s one of the things that gets lost when the student media is little more than daily announcements.” Keekley seconded McDonnell’s sentiments on the First. “One of the most important parts (of student journalism), in addition to covering your school, is teaching students about the First Amendment,” she said. “What I would love to see is responsible journalism without prior review.” Keekley also recognized the teamwork aspect of student journalism. “Students write for deadlines,” she said. “When you’re late for a deadline in an English class, it’s different in journalism because you have other people (who depend on you). If you miss a deadline (for the school paper) it impacts other students in your class negatively.” Keekley said that teamwork component will stay with her students long after they finish school. “They always go out with understanding on how to work as a team, how to work with adults, how to work


with other students and how to truly work on that team…and they can take that anywhere and be successful,” she said.


Minnesota’s schools have a strong tradition of turning out their fair share of print and broadcast journalists.

Some other notable Minnesota-born journalists include: ■ Harrison Salisbury (1908-1993): Attended Minneapolis North High School. Won multiple Pulitzer and Polk awards while reporting for the United Press and the New York Times. ■ Harry Reasoner (1923-1991): Attended West High School in Minneapolis. Worked for Minneapolis Times and CBS radio, and founded TV news magazine “60 Minutes.” ■ Aaron Brown: Attended Hopkins High School. Former broadcaster for CNN. Currently hosts program on public radio and teaches at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. ■ David Bloom (1963-2003): Attended Edina West High School. Worked as NBC’s White House correspondent. Died suddenly at age 39 while covering an American infantry division during the Iraq War. ■ Michele Norris: Attended Washburn High School. Worked for ABC News, wrote for several prominent newspapers and currently hosts “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio. McDonnell’s ThreeSixty program is already in the process of trying to add to that prestigious list. “Over the last seven or eight years, we’ve had seven of our students go to work in newsrooms either here in

the Twin Cities or elsewhere in the country,” McDonnell said. ThreeSixty Journalism’s mission is to “bring diverse voices into journalism and related professions by using intense, personal instruction in the practice and principles of journalism,” and to “strengthen the civic literacy, writing skills and college readiness of Minnesota teens.” McDonnell, who worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a reporter and political editor for 20 years before taking the ThreeSixty job in 2002, said her program works with a couple hundred high school students a year. “We do summer camps, after-school programs, some school partnerships and an online magazine,” she said. “We serve a whole range of students, but our particular focus is an outreach to those with low income and people of color.” McDonnell noted that any student from any school district in the state is eligible to take part in the program.

Related links National Scholastic Press Association ThreeSixty Journalism High School Journalism School Newspapers Online Minnesota High School Press Association

Aimone’s National Scholastic Press Association provides journalism education services to students, teachers, media advisers and others throughout the United States and in other countries. Aimone is a product of high school journalism himself. He was a member of his Washington state high school’s newspaper and yearbook staffs, and also taught journalism at the secondary level for 10 years. Keekley – who started out teaching high school journalism in her native Indiana – also had a stint at the National Scholastic Press Association before landing the job at St. Louis Park.

Futurama Aimone said he is hopeful about the future of high school journalism. “I hope the future is one in which journalism is really strong in every school and where schools recognize that having that kind of a forum for students to express themselves, for them to not just practice their writing skills but also practice their civics, is a bright future,” he said. “But I can’t predict the future so I don’t know what it entails. Who thought just a few years ago we would see services like Facebook and Twitter? None of those existed a decade ago. Who knows in 2015, 2020 or beyond that what we’ll have? Will everyone have a portable device? I don’t know.” Aimone said there is a place for a school newspaper and a journalistic school yearbook in every school. “I think that those schools that support journalism definitely have a rich student life, and that is a way to showcase not just the writers’ or the photographers’ or the designers’ talents, but also the story of the schools – the good things, the struggles, the happy and not-as-happy moments that make up school.”

Title: Silva, Artist: Hans Halverson, Grade 12

Bruce Lombard is MSBA’s Associate Director of Communications. You can reach him at



Title: The Good Ol’ Days, Artist: Zackery Slater, Grade 12


Stakeholders help maintain agriculture education’s relevance


Fact: The number of family farms in Minnesota has dropped drastically over the past three decades.

Bruce Lombard

As a result, the number of students participating in agriculture education programs is going by the wayside in Minnesota’s public schools, right? Well, that’s fiction, actually. Presently, 187 agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) programs are offered in Minnesota’s secondary schools. That’s up from the 182 AFNR programs around during the 2005–06 school year, but down from 254 in 1985–86. The numbers from 1985–86 would suggest a decline; but Joel Larsen, an agricultural education specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), thinks otherwise.



“That is not the whole story,” Larsen said. “Remember, there have been many school consolidations during and since the mid-1980s. Fiftyfour school districts have consolidated since 1985.”

In addition, the number of students who have taken agriculture-related programs has risen considerably despite the drop in programs. In 1985–86, the student sum was 12,766. In 2008–09, that number had risen to 27,942. Larsen said the Sparsely Populated Agricultural Education in Minnesota (SPAEM) program has helped reintroduce agriculture programs in several northwest Minnesota schools during the past two years. Larsen and his colleagues – in and out of the MDE – across the state are working to keep agriculture an essential component of Minnesota’s public education system. Larsen is joined in this mission by advocates like Kent Thiesse, the new president of the Minnesota School Boards Association and one of the state’s leading experts on agriculture; Natasha Mortenson, teacher and head of the Morris Area School District’s Agriculture Education Program – a program recognized as one of the best in the state, and most recently, the nation; and Al Withers, a longtime employee at the

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and a proponent of impacting younger students through the promotion of ag literacy. Larsen, Thiesse, Mortenson and Withers represent just a sampling of the myriad people working industriously to stress agriculture education’s importance and maintain its relevance. “Many times when we think about ‘ag education,’ we only think about farming or production agriculture,” said Thiesse, a Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School Board member. “We do not think about the fact that the agriculture industry encompasses all food and fiber production, manufacturing and distribution, as well as a rapidly growing renewable energy industry in the United States. We need strong ag education for career development, as nearly 20 percent of the jobs in Minnesota are related to the broad definition of the agriculture industry.” Thiesse currently serves as the vice president and agriculture loan officer for MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal. In 2003, Kent retired from the University of Minnesota Extension Service, after a 28-year career as an extension educator in agriculture and 4-H youth development. Agriculture has always been a big part of Mortenson’s life, too. She grew up on a farm in Benson and later became a state officer for the Minnesota FFA Association (formerly the Future Farmers of America). As early as ninth grade, Mortenson knew she wanted to become an agriculture teacher. Now she is going on her 10th year as an ag teacher at Morris Area, and is also the treasurer of the Minnesota Association of Agriculture Educators (MAAE). Mortenson said one of the biggest challenges her field of teaching faces is to stay relevant within the educational system. “A lot of people look at career and tech education and don’t necessarily think it’s important in a lot of schools,” she said. “That’s where a lot of the fight is, fighting to keep it. To me, in a state that’s so agriculturally based, I don’t know how people could get rid of it.” Withers grew up in the farming community of Jackson and held several jobs in agriculture, working for local farms, nurseries and the AGCO Corporation. As the director of Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC), a program under the MDA, Withers is on a mission to help promote agriculture literacy, chiefly among elementary school students. Withers publishes two agriculture education magazines – the “AgMag” and the AgMag Jr.” – and several other resources to help enhance the agriculture IQs for K–12 teachers and students.

Ag Programs by the Numbers In 1985–1986 there were 254 AFNR programs serving 12,766 students, with an FFA membership of 11,414. In 1995–1996 there were 192 AFNR programs serving 19,811 students, with an FFA membership of 8,820. In 2005–2006 there were 182 AFNR programs serving 19,659 students, with an FFA membership of 8,850. In 2010–2011 there are 187 AFNR programs

2008–09 Data AFNR enrollment in agri-science courses for credit toward graduation Total – 4,175

Male – 2,432

Female – 1,743

Defined as Animal Sciences, Plant Sciences, Natural Resource Science, and Biotechnology. Concentrators (defined as AFNR students who have completed 240 hours of instruction or more) Total – 10,045

Male – 6,777

Female – 3,268

Total enrollment in AFNR Courses (may be duplicated) Total – 27,942

Male – 19,079

Female – 8,836

ANR Enrollment by AFNR Pathways Animal Systems Total – 8,667 Plant Systems Total – 8,266 Agri Business Systems Total – 5,500 Natural Resources & Environmental Systems Total – 5,431 Power, Structures & Technical Systems Total – 8,753 Food Products & Processing Systems Total – 5,410 Data provided by Joel Larsen, agricultural education specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, and Julie Tesch, executive director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council. reminding everyone of the bigger picture. We’ve got a whole society out there that isn’t part of agriculture. The only way you’re going to help them be part of agriculture is to integrate it into K–12.”

The “AgMag” is produced and distributed three times each school year and is geared toward fourth-, fifth- and sixthgrade students. The primary target of the “AgMag Jr.” is first-graders. Withers plans on publishing two issues of the “AgMag Jr.” for the 2010–11 school year.


“Society wants to box agriculture into ‘that program’ down the hall in the high school,” Withers said. “I’m always

“The biggest challenge facing agriculture education is the tight funding situation that exists in most public schools,

Like a lot of “non-core” subjects, many agriculture programs have to contend with the annual budget chopping block menace.



along with a shortage of highly qualified teachers in agriculture,” said Thiesse. “Due to the tight funding, and the stringent requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, many school districts have either reduced or eliminated secondary agriculture education programs, because those are ‘elective’ courses that are not part of NCLB.”

Keeping School Agriculture Programs Strong

Agriculture education programs are staying ahead of the NCLB game by offering science and economics credits in their courses. “Schools are focusing on academics versus career and technical education,” Larsen said. “If career and technical education courses are to continue, they must provide academic credit or enhance student learning and student achievement.” Larsen said that academic credit in science is offered in about 67 percent of Minnesota agriculture-related programs, while credit for economics is offered in about 10 percent of the programs. “There are many academic standards that feed right into what we are doing (at MAITC) like life science, earth science, geography and those sorts of areas,” Withers said. “We try to make our materials fit to the standards.” Mortenson said that being able to offer science and economic credits is a great benefit for agriculture education. “Ag programs are pretty lucky that they can offer science and economics credits,” she said. “NCLB doesn’t focus on career and tech education, it’s pretty limited. The science and economics credits have helped us stay relevant with NCLB and those standards.”

CONTEXTUAL HEALING Withers said his primary focus at Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom is to provide contextual learning opportunities to K–12 teachers and their students. “We’re not asking teachers to stop everything and teach agriculture,” he said. “We’re asking them to use agriculture as a vehicle for learning geography, history, science, the environment and reading. We’re really all about integration and using agriculture as a vehicle for learning for real life.” Withers said that his aim is to help K–12 kids and teachers become literate about where their food comes from and how agriculture is a vital part of society and their own daily lives. “Those are the underlining principles of Ag in the Classroom and agriculture literacy,” he said. He and his Ag in the Classroom colleagues across the nation develop curriculum and classroom materials, conduct workshops and offer grants to help K–12 teachers become more comfortable bringing agriculture into their classrooms. “We’re not trying to create farmers and we’re not charged with developing anybody for a career track,” he said. “We’re simply providing contextual learning using agriculture.” Withers integrates agriculture-related themes into several subjects, whether it be into geography curriculum or into a DVD presentation on renewable energy. “We target different subjects to try to turn the teacher on to wanting to teach agriculture in the classroom,” he said. “Maybe that bulb will go on in some students. Regardless, all of them will have a little better understanding about agriculture’s importance.”

Mortenson said having agriculture classes offer those credits has also helped reduce the big class size numbers for the standard science and economics courses. She also acknowledged the considerable downsizing and cutting of agriculture-related programs across the state. “A lot of programs that are still in existence have fewer teachers,” she said. Mortenson said she teaches overload classes, some with as many 25 students. “Class sizes are big but you have to use the same amount of resources, which is difficult in tech education when you are dealing with a lot of supplies and lab work,” she said. “Ag ed prides itself on hands-on activities, and that is difficult with the tight budgets.” Mortenson said her school district is very committed to utilizing Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom materials. Morris Area’s first-graders use Ag in the Classroom every single month.



Title: Cowgirl Missy, Artist: Emily Thomsen, Grade 11

Withers said that 95 percent or more of the K–12 kids are his targeted market for Agriculture in the Classroom. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where’s your future in impacting learners,” said Withers, hoping that more agriculture leaders “get out of their box” and grasp this concept. “If everybody wants more public awareness and everyone wants more literacy, what better way to grow than (reaching out to) 95 percent of the K–12 kids?” he said. “Quite frankly, one of the challenges over the years is that for many principals and K–12 teachers, when they hear the word ‘agriculture,’ it results in two things: they’ll say ‘I don’t teach agriculture’ or the elementary principal will grab the materials and say ‘This looks great…I’ll make sure to get it to our ag teacher.’ I tell them, ‘You know what, none of that is written for the ag teacher. Look at our magazine: it’s all about Minnesota geography, history and science…and it’s for your sixth-grade teacher to use in the Minnesota unit.’”

AG ADAPTS Mortenson has experienced some changes in agriculture education over the past 10 or 15 years, with the most notable being its push toward science. “The biggest change is agriculture becoming very sciencebased, with genetically modified crops and food science,” Mortenson said. “It wasn’t like that when I was in high school; it was much more production-based (back then). I feel like I teach a lot of science. I’m able to offer a few of my classes as science credits.” Mortenson said agriculture education is something that’s needed to fill in space for students who don’t necessarily thrive in their core classes. “(Those students) are able to take the concepts they learn (from agriculture education) and use them in a hands-on way. I feel that we are essential to students’ success, especially those students who are interested in technical careers or agriculture. I want them to see that agriculture is not just farming. We’re here to enhance and support the core classes, which is just as important as having those core classes.” Mortenson said she tells students there are an abundance of career opportunities out there for the taking, such as professions in marketing, food science and product development, among others. “There are so many job opportunities in agriculture. I’m concerned that we are obviously not the focus right now in education.”


The Best of the Best Joel Larsen, agricultural education specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, ranks the best ag programs in the state Small schools AFSA (Academy for Science in Agriculture), KerkhovenMurdock-Sunburg, Mountain Lake, Randolph, Russell-TylerRuthton, Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Tracy Area, Wabasso, Westbrook-Walnut Grove. Medium-sized schools Belle Plaine, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Jackson County Central, Kingsland, Morris Area, New LondonSpicer, Perham-Dent, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Redwood Valley, Sibley East, Waseca. Large schools Foley, Forest Lake Area, Grand Rapids, Hutchinson, Marshall, New Ulm, Princeton, Red Wing, Stillwater Area.

manufacturing aspect of it is a huge part of agriculture,” she said. “There are several robotic applications in food production. They need to have people that can run, fix, set up and program robotic arms. There are a lot of job opportunities in that realm.” Along with building robots, Mortenson and her students also helped construct the school’s first greenhouse. The greenhouse will be used primarily for student crop production, both hydroponically and in soil. “I want to teach the kids as many ways to garden on their own, so they can figure a way to do their own gardening, no matter if they are in Minneapolis or Morris,” she said. The students’ produce will either be donated to the school’s food service program or sold at the local farmers’ market. “It’s a great project,” she said. “Agriculture is wide open for kids.” Mortenson said that the FFA is another integral part of agriculture education. “These FFA kids are able to take what they learn in class, go and do career development events, and compete and show their skills,” she said. “It’s all career-based. FFA members learn leadership development, which is so important for their careers in the future. The involvement they experience is amazing and it connects them to the community.”

LENDING A HAND So, what can school board members do to boost agriculture education?

Agriculture education is much more than just cattle and crops. Mortenson, for instance, also teaches robotics and electronics in the classroom. Her students learn electronic design, soldering, electrical wiring and robotic programming. The students build robots and program them to perform tasks.

Thiesse said the first thing school board members and administrators must do to support agriculture education is to understand the breadth of today’s multifaceted agriculture industry and the future career opportunities that exist for their students.

“This is important for the students to learn because the science and technology behind planting crops and the

“The science and business aspects of agriculture offer very good opportunities to interlink agriculture education MARCH/APRIL 2011


curriculum with STEM initiatives within secondary school coursework,” Thiesse said.

“Ag Mag Jr.” is being used in approximately 300 schools for first graders.

Withers said he has been exhibiting his materials for school boards for more than 20 years. “A lot of school board members are also involved in agriculture,” he said. “They want to see some movement and want their teachers doing more agriculture-related instruction.”

Withers said that the Anoka-Hennepin School District has placed MAITC in their fourth-grade curriculum. “They have 120 fourth-grade teachers; it’s all part of their curriculum,” said Withers, noting that he personally worked with the district’s curriculum review committee to gain program acceptance.

Keeping School Agriculture Programs Strong

Mortenson said school boards can take advantage of the science and economics in their curriculum to enhance their core subjects and support agriculture education. “Not every kid is interested in the same thing; we can’t put every kid in a bucket,” she said. “School boards have got to give kids options and utilize those ag programs or any tech ed program to offer their classes for science credit because kids are learning in a different way from a different perspective. Sometimes that’s what it takes for it to click for them.” Mortenson said school board members just need to simply provide support for teachers and kids in their agriculture programs, such as allowing them to do activities locally or go to out-of-town contests and conventions that allow students to grow. She added that school districts that don’t have agriculture programs should try find ways to work together to share programs and teachers in order to find ways to give kids opportunities. “Our school board in Morris is just amazing. I couldn’t ask for a school board that supports me any more than they do,” she said. “That’s been important to the success of our program.” And the Morris school program has definitely had its share of success. On December 1, 2010, Morris Area High School was one of only six agriculture programs nationwide that received the National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Middle/Secondary Agricultural Education Program Award.

AG IN THE CLASSROOM IN YOUR CLASSROOM Withers said any teacher can request any quantity of Agriculture in the Classroom materials free of charge by calling him at 651-201-6688 or by visiting The Web site includes convenient online order forms for school teachers and leaders.

All materials for MAITC are also online as a download option for teachers and students. Anything that Withers develops at the MDA is consistent with the academic standards. Withers hopes his efforts continue to bolster agriculture literacy among younger students and to tackle what he perceives to be a troubling trend – that most current teachers and students have a general lack of understanding about agriculture. “Twenty years ago, there were a lot of elementary school teachers that came from the farm,” he said. “They knew a little bit so they were comfortable if they wanted to do a farm unit. Now you have a whole bunch of teachers that didn’t come from the farm. We have to provide better materials or more training for them to even want to bring it into the classroom and be comfortable with it. Doing more in the area of teacher education is Minnesota Ag in the Classroom’s No. 1 priority.”

RESOURCES Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom National Agriculture in the Classroom Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council Minnesota FFA Bruce Lombard is MSBA’s associate director of communications and can be reached at

A random day could have Withers filling orders for such school districts such as Murdock, Inver Grove Heights, Burnsville – and South Orange, New Jersey. Withers said they distribute to a number of out-ofstate schools. He added that the growing homeschool market has become another destination for his free materials. Currently, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade teachers in 540 Minnesota schools are using the “Ag Mag.” The 20


Title: Kailee Jo, Artist: Cassandra Anthony, Grade 11

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Title: Vase with Roses, Artist: Katie Fetters, Grade 11


Jerry Robicheau

Ten Constructs for School Board Governance & Reform

The call for reform in our educational system is nothing new. There have been calls for some form of educational reform during the last several decades. It would be quite possible to align much of the educational reform movements to what was evident at the time in American society; for example, Sputnik and the need to push for more science in the ’50s, social justice and individual freedoms in the ’60s, world awareness in the ’70s, economic issues and global competiveness in the ’80s, standards and accountability in the ’90s, and 10 years into the 21st Century a strong resurrection of a call for the need to have more teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Further, as the demographics of our schools have changed there is yet another reform initiative: the need to close the achievement gap for students of color. This initiative, although associated mostly with urban school districts, is a reform relevant to all districts. None of the above reform initiatives have been completely replaced by a new one. Instead it seems as if the voices of the new ones are louder than the reform that was popular at the time. Moreover, much of a new educational reform movement can be associated with changes in the state and national political climate. It is not the intent of this article to argue the merits of these reform movements. Most, if not all, would have



some relevance in our educational system. THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL BOARD IN EDUCATIONAL REFORM With all these calls for reform, we school board members are in the quandary of wondering if we are truly the last bastion of local governance or a governing body reacting to the latest call for educational reform – a call that usually comes with limited if no new resources. It is no wonder we school board members have difficulty understanding our role. Much of the literature addressing school reform is focused on the role of building leadership and effective classroom teaching. Absent, however, in much of the literature relating to educational reform efforts are the role and responsibilities of the school board. This absence could possibly be attributed to the fact that there is uncertainty as to what our role is. Some might argue that a school board is more of an impediment to school reform than a supporter or initiator. They might offer, as support of their position, that school boards spend a disproportional amount of time on budgets, labor relations, implementation of policy that is driven by state and federal requirement, and other management issues. It should be pointed out that, as important as these functions are, the questions

remain to many: Are they the most important priorities and how are they related to reform efforts? Sustained educational reform requires a systems approach. This systems approach will require that as school board members we examine our roles and how we govern. We need to consider the paradigm we govern under, and what needs to be changed to effectively institute changes in how we deliver education to today’s and tomorrow’s students. School boards have unlimited power to implement change. We are elected by our communities to do so. I believe we are empowered to institute change. A self-assessment of how a school board governs and addresses change is critical in an environment of educational reform. It appears logical to conclude we cannot govern in the same old way; we need to change our paradigm. I am proposing we consider how we look at systemic change and how we approach our governance. The ten constructs listed below are posited as a way to change that paradigm. TEN CONSTRUCTS FOR SCHOOL BOARD GOVERNANCE IN SCHOOL REFORM In an effort to assist school boards in their governance during the educational reform initiatives, ten constructs are offered for consideration. These constructs are applications for good governance and could be a guide for the school board during these challenging times today and in the future. The constructs are not listed in priority order. They need to be considered as a whole. Construct one is no more important than construct 5. Conversely construct ten is no less important than construct 3. These constructs are my reflection and collected knowledge from more than 40 years in public education as a teacher, school administrator, superintendent, college professor, and school board chair. I do not profess to have any special insights. My purpose in offering these ten constructs is to share a perspective gained from years of observation, research and readings, and most recently participation on a school board. MSBA offers inservices on these governance roles, and includes these constructs in its Phase Orientation training series. And though many boards use a majority of these constructs, it is always good to review them. Further, it is to hopefully initiate a dialogue about what the role of school boards is in school reform efforts. Construct 1: We need to govern ethically. We need to be the moral compass of the district. We will need to embed ethical standards in all policies approved. Moreover, we need to examine the ethical and moral purpose of any mandate we are asked to implement. If it does not meet an ethical standard we need to challenge that mandate. We need to examine the policies we are approving to determine if they will benefit all students and to understand what social justice will be accomplished. We need to see that the good of the whole and not the privilege of the few are addressed in every school board action. Construct 2: We need to govern collaboratively. The leadership and operation of the district can no longer be “us versus them.” The operation and decision outcomes need to

be a reflection of “all of us.” There is too much at stake not to be collaborative. Stakeholders need to be at the table to hold a proactive discourse on what is in the best interest of the students. This collaborative governance must include parents, students, teachers, staff, and community. No one government agency can function in isolation from the other governmental agencies. Collaborative governance will and should result in more proactive outcomes. Along with collaboration is empowerment. We need to empower our stakeholders to be partners in this process of school reform. Construct 3: We must keep the focus of all decisions on addressing student achievement. In education there is nothing else. All decisions and recommendations must have as their foundation to answer the following question: How will this improve student learning? To frame decisions in any other framework or anything less would be a disservice to students. This focus on student achievement includes how the achievement gap can be addressed. It is not just an urban issue. It must be a statewide initiative. Construct 4: We need to govern strategically. We need to have a “road map” addressing how to proceed and what is needed to improve our educational system. School boards must establish goals and action steps to achieve those goals. Once we set goals and action steps, we need to follow that road map in striving to address student achievement. Schools are a series of parts of a whole system. Finance, enrollment, personnel, curriculum/instruction, and facilities are the components of the whole system. They cannot function separately, as they are interconnected. An action taken in one part of a system causes a reaction throughout the whole system. Governing strategically forces the school board to think systematically. Consequently, this road map must include all parts of the system and what role each has in improving student achievement. Construct 5: Individually and collectively, we need to be the voice of education. Our voices need to be heard locally, at the state level, and nationally. We need to be the voices to gather support to ensure that education reform is not just a new “political movement.” We are elected officials and therefore must be politically active. Our collective voices do influence the educational agenda. Our voices are the voices of students, parents and the community we represent. Construct 6: We must be responsible and not just accountable. It is our obligation to take responsibility for the policies we set and ask administration to implement. With responsibility comes accountability. When we as school board members are held responsible to work toward educational reform, we will also be accountable. Construct 7: We must think entrepreneurial. We need to think and govern creatively and innovatively. It is time for us to consider how we can work differently, more effectively, and more efficiently. We need to approach governing by knowing that the status quo, however effective it was in the past, is not good enough in today’s environment. A new way can often and should lead to a better way. Construct 8: We need to be culturally competent. MARCH/APRIL 2011


Ten Constructs for School Board Governance & Reform

Demographics in our schools have changed and will continue to become more diverse. School boards need to appreciate the dynamics this presents in the classroom. As policy makers we need to provide the tools teachers need to teach in a multicultural learning environment. This is also necessary in addressing the achievement gap. Construct 9: We need to govern transparently. Decisions and positive discourse need to be held in public, and the public must understand why a decision is made. Transparent governance will engage more stakeholders in the ownership of improving our educational system. This is more than operating under the Open Meeting Law requirements. It requires ongoing communications – inviting and engaging the community into a “school board world.” It means educating the public on the intricacy of the operation of the district. It means putting material in understandable language. Construct 10: We must govern as a team of the whole board and the superintendent. Individual voices can be and are contributors to the public discourse. However, it must be in a constructive manner. Maverick voices on the school board without support can sometimes lead to disenfranchisement of the community and divisiveness among the board. With this divisiveness comes dysfunction. With dysfunction

Title: Untitled, Artist: Kirsty Laflash, Grade 11



come incomplete decisions and attempts to advance individual agendas -- none of which will advance the improvement of our educational system. CONCLUSION: These ten constructs for school board governance are offered as a way to place us school board members in a leadership role in educational reform. School boards must be a strong voice in the conversation on school reform. These ten constructs will give us the platform for our voice. Of course, with any proposition there are no guarantees of success. However, it is too critical a time for school boards not to take a positive step, and challenge and change the way we “do governance” and move into a new paradigm and consider the ten constructs. If we do not change the way we govern, we as a school board have nothing to lose, but our students do! Jerry Robicheau serves as chair of the Faribault School Board and is a professor of educational leadership at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He can be reached at, or

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MAKING January 13-14, 2011 Minneapolis Convention Center More than 1,500 school leaders gathered at the Convention Center for MSBA’s 2011 Leadership Conference. Here are some memories that we captured. Enjoy!




A Above: Members of MSBA’s 2011 All State School Board are: (seated) Cathy Miller of North St. PaulMaplewood-Oakdale; June Hendrickson of Hibbing; Jane Hamre of Fertile-Beltrami; (standing) Kevin Dahlman of Dassel-Cokato; Kenneth Anderson of Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart; Judi Brandon of Mankato Area; and Michael Domin of Crosby-Ironton.

Above Left: General Session speaker Ross Bernstein showed how boards can be the coaches that turn their students into champions.

Right: Kent Thiesse of Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial was named the new president for MSBA at Friday’s Closing Session, taking over from Past President Jackie Magnuson of Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan.

Above Right: New Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius greeted conference attendees.

Below: MSBA’s three sessions of 20-minute Round Tables drew the largest attendance ever to hear 16 different speakers on various topics Friday morning.




Above: Singer Rachel Szurek and the Spring Lake Park Jazz Ensemble brought the conference crowd to their feet with their rendition of “At Last.”

Above: Students from Watertown-Mayer took time after their workshop on bullying prevention to tour MSBA’s exhibitor area and check out the school bus display. Below: It was a packed room to hear from Minnesota Department of Education Finance Director Tom Melcher on the funding situation for schools. Above: Friday keynote speaker Howell Wechsler talked about the links between nutrition, health and safety and their effects on learning. Below: Como Park High School Marine Corps JrROTC from St. Paul Public Schools started off the Leadership Conference General Session by presenting the colors.



MSBA’s VENDOR DIRECTORY MSBA’s Vendor Directory helps connect school districts with the products and services they need. The directory is always at your fingertips. You’ll find it printed in the back of every Journal magazine as well as on the MSBA Web site at Most listings in the Web version of this directory include a link so you can head instantly to a Web site or e-mail address. The directory includes everything you need to know to contact a company quickly—phone numbers, fax numbers and addresses—in an easy-to-read format. If you have a service or product you would like included in this directory, please contact Sue Munsterman at 507-934-2450 or Actuary Hildi Incorporated (Jill Urdahl) 11800 Singletree Lane, Suite 305 Minneapolis, MN 55344 952-934--5554, Fax 952-934-3027 Van Iwaarden Associates (Jim Van Iwaarden) 10 South Fifth Street, Suite 840 Minneapolis, MN 55402-1010 612-596-5960, Fax 612-596-5999 Architects/Engineers/Facility Planners Architects Rego + Youngquist inc. (Paul Youngquist) 7601 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 200 St. Louis Park, MN 55426 952-544-8941, Fax 952-544-0585 ATS&R Planners/Architects/Engineers (Paul W. Erickson) 8501 Golden Valley Rd., Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55427 763-545-3731 Fax 763-525-3289 Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A. (Judith Hoskens) 201 Main Street SE, Suite 325 Minneapolis, MN 55414 612-379-3400, Fax 612-379-4400 DLR Group KKE (Jennifer Anderson-Tuttle) 520 Nicollet Mall, Suite 200 Minneapolis, MN 55402 612-977-3552, Fax 612-977-3600 GLTArchitects (David Leapaldt) 808 Courthouse Square St. Cloud, MN 56303 320-252-3740, Fax 320-255-0683



ICS Consulting, Inc. (Pat Overom) 5354 Edgewood Drive Mounds View, MN 55112 763-354-2670, Fax 763-780-2866 INSPEC, INC. (Fred King) 5801 Duluth St. Minneapolis, MN 55422 763-546-3434, Fax 763-546-8669 MSBA Playground Compliance Program (in partnership with National Playground Compliance Group, LLC) (Tim Mahoney) PO Box 506 Carlisle, IA 50047 866-345-6774, Fax 515-989-0344 Paulsen Architects (Bryan Paulsen) 209 S. Second Street, Suite 201 Mankato, MN 56001 507-388-9811, Fax 507-388-1751 Perkins + Will (Steve Miller) 84 10th Street S., Suite 200 Minneapolis, MN 55403 612-851-5094, Fax 612-851-5001 TSP, Inc. (Rick Wessling) 18707 Old Excelsior Blvd. Minneapolis, MN 55345 952-474-3291, Fax 952-474-3928 Wold Architects and Engineers (Scott McQueen) 305 St. Peter Street St. Paul, MN 55102 651-227-7773, Fax 651-223-5646 Athletic Sports Floors/Surfacing MSBA Playground Compliance Program (in partnership with National Playground Compliance Group, LLC) (Tim Mahoney) PO Box 506 Carlisle, IA 50047 866-345-6774, Fax 515-989-0344

Attorneys Kennedy & Graven Chartered (Neil Simmons) 200 South Sixth Street, Suite 470 Minneapolis, MN 55402 612-337-9300, Fax 612-337-9310 Knutson, Flynn & Deans, P.A. (Thomas S. Deans) 1155 Centre Pointe Dr., Suite 10 Mendota Heights, MN 55120 651-222-2811, Fax 651-225-0600 Pemberton, Sorlie, Rufer & Kershner, PLLP (Mike Rengel) 110 N. Mill Fergus Falls, MN 56537 218-736-5493, Fax 218-736-3950 Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A. (Kevin J. Rupp) 730 2nd Ave. S., Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55402 612-339-0060, Fax 612-339-0038 Construction Mgmt. & Products Bossardt Corporation (John Bossardt) 8300 Norman Center Drive, Suite 770 Minneapolis, MN 55437 952-831-5408 or 800-290-0119 Fax 952-831-1268 Contegrity Group, Inc. (Pete Filippi) 101 1st Street SE Little Falls, MN 56345 320-632-1940, Fax 320-632-2810 Donlar Construction Company (Jon Kainz) 550 Shoreview Park Road Shoreview, MN 55126 651-227-0631, Fax 651-227-0132 ICS Consulting, Inc. (Pat Overom) 5354 Edgewood Drive Mounds View, MN 55112 763-354-2670, Fax 763-780-2866

Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. (Mark Phillips) PO Box 158 Circle Pines, MN 55014 763-786-7711, Fax 763-786-2650 MSBA Playground Compliance Program (in partnership with National Playground Compliance Group, LLC) (Tim Mahoney) PO Box 506 Carlisle, IA 50047 866-345-6774, Fax 515-989-0344 Educational Programs/Services Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind (Linda Mitchell) 615 Olof Hanson Dr. PO Box 308 Faribault, MN 55021-0308 800-657-3996/507-384-6602 Fax 507-332-5528 Employee Assistance Program (EAP) The Sand Creek Group, Ltd. (Gretchen M. Stein) 610 N. Main Street, #200 Stillwater, MN 55082 651-430-3383, Fax 651-430-9753 Energy Solutions Johnson Controls, Inc. (Arif Quraishi) 2605 Fernbrook Lane N., Suite T Plymouth, MN 55447 763-585-5043, Fax 763-566-2208 Financial Management MSBA-Sponsored Administration and Compliance Service (A&C Service) Administration and Compliance Service (Paige McNeal, Educators Benefit Consultants, LLC) 888-507-6053/763-552-6053 Fax 763-552-6055 MSBA-Sponsored Lease Purchase Program Tax Exempt Lease Purchase Program (Mary Webster, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC) 800-835-2265, ext. 73110 612-667-3110 Fax 612-316-3309

MSBA-Sponsored MNTAAB (MN Tax and Aid Anticipation Borrowing Program) MNTAAB (DeeDee Kahring, Springsted, Inc.) 800-236-3033/651-223-3099 Fax 651-223-3002 MSBA-Sponsored P-Card (Procurement Card) Program P-Card Program 800-891-7910/314-878-5000 Fax 314-878-5333 MSBA-Sponsored (Jim Sheehan, Ann Thomas) Sheehan: 952-435-0990 Thomas: 952-435-0955 PaySchools (Patrick Ricci) 6000 Grand Ave. Des Moines, IA 50312 281-545-1957, Fax: 515-243-4992 PFM Asset Management, LLC MSDLAF+ (Donn Hanson) 45 South 7th Street, Suite 2800 Minneapolis, MN 55402 612-371-3720, Fax 612-338-7264 Food Service Products & Services Lunchtime Solutions, Inc. (Chris Goeb) 717 N. Derby Lane North Sioux City, SD 57049 605-254-3725, Fax 605-235-0942 Taher, Inc. (Monique Navarrette) 5570 Smetana Dr. Minnetonka, MN 55343 952-358-2188, Fax 952-945-0444 Insurance Minnesota School Boards Association Insurance Trust (MSBAIT) (Denise Drill, John Sylvester, Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor) 1900 West Jefferson Avenue St. Peter, MN 56082-3015 800-324-4459, Fax 507-931-1515

Playgrounds MSBA Playground Compliance Program (in partnership with National Playground Compliance Group, LLC) (Tim Mahoney) PO Box 506 Carlisle, IA 50047 866-345-6774, Fax 515-989-0344 Roofing Four Seasons Energy Efficient Roofing, Inc. (Darrell Schaapveld) 1410 Quant Ave. North Marine on St.Croix, MN 55047 651-433-2443, Fax 651-433-2834 Software Systems PaySchools (Patrick Ricci) 6000 Grand Ave. Des Moines, IA 50312 281-545-1957, Fax 515-243-4992 Skyward, Inc. 868 3rd Street South, Suite 101 Waite Park, MN 56387 800-236-7274 Technology PaySchools (Patrick Ricci) 6000 Grand Ave. Des Moines, IA 50312 281-545-1957, Fax 515-243-4992 Transportation Hoglund Bus Co., Inc. (Jason Anderson) PO Box 249 Monticello, MN 55362 763-271-8750 North Central Bus & Equipment (Sandy Ethen) 2629 Clearwater Road South St. Cloud, MN 56301 320-257-1209, Fax 320-252-3561 Telin Transportation Group (Jamie Romfo) 14990 Industry Avenue Becker, MN 55308 866-287-7278, Fax 763-262-3332


! "##$%"&$'&'& ) MARCH/APRIL 2011


Advertisers ATS&R...........................................................................Page 21 DLR Group KKE ..........................................................Page 11 Four Seasons Energy Efficient Roofing, Inc. .............Page 30 Kennedy & Graven Chartered ....................................Page 11 Knutson, Flynn & Deans, P.A. .......................................Page 2 MSBA Board Training..................................................Page 32 MSBAIT...........................................................................Page 2 MSDLAF+ .....................................................................Page 21 North Central Bus & Equipment ...............................Page 29 Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A. .................................Page 25 Skyward, Inc....................................................................Page 7 Taher, Inc........................................................................Page 7


2009 & 2010 Best Print Publication by the Minnesota School Public Relations Association Cited for “Comprehensive Coverage” “Impressive Student Artwork” Brought to you by YOUR MSBA




TOUGH ISSUES AROUND NEGOTIATIONS Q: Should the school board communicate with the public about negotiations? Yes. Not only are negotiations sessions public meetings under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), specifically, Minnesota Statute (M.S.) 179A.14, Subd. 3., but also school boards are negotiating with public tax dollars. John Sylvester Consequently, members MSBA Deputy Executive Director of the public have the legal right to attend all negotiations sessions and are entitled to know how their taxes are being spent. MSBA advises districts to provide their own regular negotiations updates to the public from the initial bargaining proposal by the union throughout the process until final ratification. Doing so has historically been beneficial to management because the public is not surprised and tends to support management positions; because such transparency often results in the initial union proposals being more realistic; and because the union’s members, also being members of the public, are provided with all the information instead of only selected bits and pieces. The most common methods are updates to the full school board at its regularly scheduled meetings, and updates provided in regular school district publications to the public. The school board should be cautioned, however, to be certain that it is communicating only the facts and that no editorializing is taking place. Q: Are negotiations sessions public meetings? State law says, “All negotiations, mediation sessions, and hearings between public employers and public employees or their respective representatives are public meetings except when otherwise provided by the commissioner” [of the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS)]. In addition, if the full school board, a quorum of the school board, or a committee of the school board is negotiating for management, the sessions will be open under the Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML). However, the OML does permit school boards to close meetings to discuss “negotiations strategy” relative to bargaining units certified by the BMS (M.S. 13D.03). Thus, while a school board can close meetings to discuss negotiations strategy pertaining to the teachers’ bargaining unit (or the principals’ bargaining unit or the

paraprofessionals’ bargaining unit, etc.), it cannot close to discuss strategy pertaining to negotiations with the superintendent and any other employees who do not belong to organized bargaining units. Without question, the Minnesota Legislature intended for collective bargaining to be done “in the sunshine.” Q: What negotiations services does/will MSBA provide its member districts? MSBA makes the following resources and services available to assist member districts during the negotiations process, but, due primarily to its overriding focus on local control, MSBA will neither provide negotiators nor urge its member districts to settle at certain amounts. • MSBA staff are available for consultation. More than 30,000 calls/e-mails are answered by MSBA staff each year. • The MSBA Service Manual provides member districts with model Master Agreements for all employees. These model agreements provide sample language to be used when developing proposals as well as when responding to them. • The MSBA Management Services Newsletter is provided electronically each month and is available in the “Members Area” of the MSBA Web site ( Numerous articles over the years have dealt with issues pertinent to negotiations. • “PEERNet,” MSBA’s comprehensive database, and MSBA’s “Green Sheet” teacher salary settlement data are also both available in the “Members Area” of the MSBA Web site. • MSBA offers two negotiations training opportunities each odd-numbered year. MSBA’s “Bargaining Basics Seminar” is specifically designed to familiarize beginning negotiators with the bargaining law and PELRA, and to offer a review of basic collective bargaining strategies. And “Area Negotiations Seminars” are designed for more experienced negotiators and provide a great deal of relevant and valuable data and information. • MSBA offers to analyze existing Master Agreements for a fee. This service is aimed at helping school district negotiators craft sound agreements by reviewing those documents from a strong management perspective, by pointing out strengths and weaknesses, and by providing suggested changes and the rationale for making them. Please do not hesitate to take advantage of the expertise of Your MSBA staff and the resources and ser vices MSBA provides.





1900 West Jefferson Avenue, St. Peter, MN 56082-3015 ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED

MSBA Board Member Training

Phase III Orientation: Building a Better Board Why attend Phase III? • Good governance doesn’t just “happen.” It takes training and experience. • We urge our students to be lifelong learners. Board members need to lead by example. • MSBA’s Phase Orientation Series is the foundation of a board member’s governance training. • Sessions provide networking opportunities so you can meet your colleagues and learn from each other. • Strengthen board consensus-building and decision-making skills.

Phase III sessions are scheduled for April 6, April 9 and April 12. Please visit for locations, program details and registration information.

MSBA Journal: March-April 2011  

The 2011 March-April Journal Magazine

MSBA Journal: March-April 2011  

The 2011 March-April Journal Magazine