Building a new bridge

Daniel Meyer, left, an eighth-grader at Stillwater Junior High School and member of Boy Scout Troop No. 125, accepts a certificate of appreciation from ISD 834 Superintendent Corey Lunn at Thursday’s school board meeting. Meyer was honored for organizing a food and donation drive for Valley Outreach as part of his Eagle Badge project. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Daniel Meyer, left, an eighth-grader at Stillwater Junior High School and member of Boy Scout Troop No. 125, accepts a certificate of appreciation from ISD 834 Superintendent Corey Lunn at Thursday’s school board meeting. Meyer was honored for organizing a food and donation drive for Valley Outreach as part of his Eagle Badge project. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

School board hears strategic plan details

There’s another bridge under construction in the St. Croix Valley. And like the St. Croix River Crossing project, it will take years to finish.

Only this bridge won’t use steel and concrete to cross a river. Instead, it uses a strong education tradition to meet the changing needs of students in the 21st century.

The Independent School District 834 Board heard a report on the district’s new five-year strategic plan titled “Bridge to Excellence.” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ray Queener and Communications Director Carissa Keister presented the plan at Thursday’s board business meeting.

Queener and Keister the strategic plan focuses on four areas: personalization of students’ education; having teachers know each students’ passion; getting the community to nurture and meet students’ social, emotional, physical and academic needs, and making schools safe and welcoming learning environments for students and staff.

“This plan will set a direction for us,” Keister said.

Queener said even the plan’s name was chosen to be “unique to Stillwater.”

“This bridge is our path from the past to our future. We talk about a five-year plan. But it starts this year,” he said.

Keister said the first two years of the plan are set with years three through five more “flexible.”

“Year one is a really aggressive, a real comprehensive plan,” Queener said.

Year one highlights include developing a new, modern curriculum that is about “teaching and learning,” Queener added.

“Year two is where you really see the structure,” Keister said.

Year two highlights include incorporating students’ culture and life experiences into lessons; world language and art-design classes in elementary schools; expanding STEM to include art and design’ embedding technology in classroom learning, and expand volunteer opportunities for residents.

Queener and Keister said years three through five of the plan include “finer” details and “finishing touches” on the plan.

Queener said implementing year one of the plan costs $1.2 million, with the funds coming from repurposing existing resources. Year two has the highest cost, $3.6 million, with $2 million in new annual costs, he added. Year three costs $785,000, year four $1 million and year five $690,000, he noted.

The average annual cost in years two through five is $2.4 million, Queener said.
Although board seemed pleased with the strategic plan, several admitted none of its proposals would be implemented if voters reject the operating levy renewal this fall.

In other business, the board:

Learned district employees will see a 6.5 percent increase in their health insurance rate through the district’s self-insurance plan.

Director of Administration Services Cathy Moen said the increase helps the plan retain about a $1.4 million fund balance.

Moen said the district would continue its online “anywhere clinic” but discontinue a little-used nurse line.

And Moen said the district’s on-site clinic at Stillwater Area High School will open next month.

“Our construction is on target. We expect to do a soft opening May 1,” she said, adding that a public grand opening is planned for mid-May.

Approved the hiring of Nate Cox as new Oak Park Elementary School prinicipal. Superintendent Corey Lunn said Cox was selected from 120 applicants through detailed and rigorous process, adding that Cox has experience improving schools and school coaching.

“He is an organizer and a leader,” Lunn said.

Cox replaces interim Oak Park Principal Ginny Kruse, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.

Presented a certificate of appreciation to Stillwater Junior High School eighth-grader Daniel Meyer for his work coordinating a food drive that collected about 45,000 pounds of food and $175,000 in donations for Valley Outreach.

Meyer, a Boy Scout with Troop No. 125, organized the food drive as part of his Eagle Scout badge project.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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