Stillwater-area public schools are on the move this fall

Corey Lunn

People often ask me, “What happens during the summer when students are not in school?”

My answer is always the same — some of the most important work we do happens during the summer. Here are just some of the things we’ve been doing behind the scenes to get our schools ready for students this fall:

We’ve renewed our focus on connecting with families and building stronger relationships with our students. To do this, 28 open houses and other back-to-school events were held in the days leading up to the start of school.

A total of 72 staff members, including 35 new teachers, were hired this summer to fill open positions.

We provided school-age care to 387 students this summer, and more than 3,600 students and community members took part in Community Education classes.

We removed late starts from the school calendar and have developed innovative new ways to provide our staff with high-quality staff development using technology and more traditional methods.

We welcomed new students to the district, and are excited to report enrollment numbers are higher than anticipated. That was significant. We had 703 students graduate in the spring and were only expecting 555 kindergartens this fall. We made up this difference and more by welcoming 8,476 students Sept. 4. This is an increase of 182 from our projections.

At this same time, we have also been busy downsizing our Central Services building — reducing more than $450,000 in staffing costs — and reorganizing to maintain efficiencies and better serve the public.

Here’s some other interesting back to school statistics from around the district:

703 students are registered for school age care and 225 children are enrolled in pre-school and early childhood classes.

617 student athletes are participating in fall sports.

On the first day of school more than 6,700 students were transported and buses covered more than 150 square miles.

4,872 lunches were served on the first day of school, with the number of meals served daily expected to increase throughout the year.

I can tell you that completing all of this is no easy task. Thanks to our dedicated and hard working staff members and outstanding parents and students we’ve had a great start to the school year.

The summer months are also a great time to reflect and develop plans for improvement in the upcoming school year. We have a great foundation to build on for this task. Stillwater Area Public Schools has a rich tradition of student success. Our students excel in academics, arts and athletics. Stillwater students consistently perform above state and national averages on achievement tests. Our district holds the longest consecutive streak of music superior ratings in the state (63 years) and has celebrated more than 55 state athletic championships.

As we honor our past we need to celebrate the present. We have many exciting changes in place for this school year including: Implementing what we believe is the first K-12 STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) program in a district of our size; adding a second elementary parent-teacher conference; opening a new early childhood family education center; implementing a new Language Arts and literacy program; under taking critical conversations regarding equitable staffing and resources for our school buildings; and forming study groups to develop recommendations aimed at improving our secondary and elementary programming.

These are exciting improvements to our district and they are leading the way for even more enhancements in the future. Our world is rapidly changing around us and our students are in need of an entirely different skill set than we are used to. As educators, we often talk about these new skills in terms of 21st century learning. We need to continue improving our schools and responding to the needs of our students. As we look to the future we will be embarking on a new process to replace Vision 2014 with a new strategic plan. A committee of community and staff members will begin this work later this month, and will develop a mission, objectives and strategies to pass on to action teams charged with identifying the work that needs to be done over the next five years. During this time there will be opportunities for many more community members to become involved. More information about our strategic planning process is available online, www.stillwaterschools.org.

With all of this focus on protecting resources in the classroom, developing 21st century learning skills, increasing efficiency, and continuously improving, Stillwater Area Public Schools is definitely on the move. Please stay tuned for the exciting results.

Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at lunnc@stillwater.k12.mn.us or by phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent by mail to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/subscribe.

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