Friday, December 19, 2008

281 RAS Facility Meetings 1 & 2

I attended the Q&A of both meetings in order to better understand the actions being taken by the district. Also, I wanted to understand what the citizen's are concerned about during this time of change. Here are my thoughts regarding the meetings:
  • I was disappointed that only ~60 citizens showed up at each of the meetings. Seemed low given ~60,000 adult citizens in RAS community.
  • The presenters did a good job of describing what they have learned so far and the process that will be followed. (Material)(schedule)
  • During the 1st mtg, the questions and comments were primarily focused on clarifying what had been presented. There were a few questions regarding scenario creation criteria.
  • During the 2nd mtg, the questions and comments started out in a similar manner. However they somewhat shifted over to pleas for their local city, schools or programs. Some polite and proper, others not so much so.
  • Also, the most interesting event to me was when the crowd applauded a parent's comment that action should be taken quickly and as deep as necessary in order to allow the kids to get use to their new schools. And to avoid the year after year talk of future school closings. I think I agree.
  • The Admin also made clear that any "above planned" cost reductions will be put into savings. They are very concerned that the state funding increases will be zero in the near term, with the outside possibility of some reduction.
  • Finally, the Admin agreed there would be many factors considered in formulating and choosing the scenarios. (ie Pain{student density in schools}, Bldg renovation status, School locations relative to students, Transportation planning, Program fit in bldgs, Possible program expansion, etc.) They noted that who voted for or against the levy will not be one of the criteria.
Overall the meetings went well. Now the scenario creation is in the hands of the consultants and their teams. Let's keep them in our thoughts as they complete this important work...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shrinking Districts are Hard: Let's Work Together & be Rewarded

Here are some hard realities we need to face in District 281:
  • Student enrollment continues to decrease (fewer kids in the community)
  • State funding continues to decrease with enrollment decline
  • State funding pays for variable, fixed & overhead costs, therefore there is less money for teachers/supplies, buildings/technology & support/admin
  • Partially full schools drive excessive cost (ie interest costs, tie up capital, maintenance costs, heating/cooling costs, other costs and extra sets of admin, staff, cooks, busing, janitor, library, etc.)
  • Taxpayers are rightly demanding accountability and the elimination of waste.
  • Teachers, supplies & technology help students learn. Buildings, support and admin have a less direct impact.
With these factors and a desire to avoid the 5C's in mind, what should we do as a community?

I hope the pending District 281 Facilites review meetings are focused on teachers, supplies & technology, and how to ensure RAS can maximize the % of budget that is used on these. Please make sure you attend one of the meetings. (281 Facilities site)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life is Hard ! So Work and be Rewarded !!!

In "Life's Greatest Lessons" (Urban), one of his first lessons is that "Life is Hard". He does not say this to depress the reader, in fact quite the opposite. If life was simple, what would be the thrill of living? What would be our purpose? If we never faced any hardship, how would we really appreciate the good times and things in our life?

So given this simple truth that "life is hard", how do we avoid criticizing, complaining, comparing, competing and contending?

My advice is to start by really looking in the mirror and doing some deep soul searching. Only by truly understanding what you value and believe in can you move forward with a good rudder. Next, really evaluate where you are at in your life and accept responsibility for it. Then envision clearly your desired life and a rough path to get there.

By this time, you know your beliefs, where you are and where you want to be. Next is the hardest step, go back to that mirror or talk to your close friends to determine how your current actions and behaviors are aligned or not aligned with your beliefs or goals. Then envision clearly your "new life" and truly feel the benefits you will gain by behaving differently where necessary and taking the first step on your path. Since, "Life is Hard" it is critical that you keep the vision in place to help you through the challenging times.

By clarifying your values, goals & working towards them, I guarantee the 5 C's will be less important to you. This is because you will be seeing the results you desire and you will see the 5C's as just another distraction or waste of time. (ie keeping you from attaining your "new life")

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 Relationship Cancers to Avoid

If you want to gain the respect and friendship of others, and be much happier, here are:

5 Relationship Cancers to Avoid
  • Critcizing
  • Complaining
  • Comparing
  • Competing
  • Contending
By the way, this is hard at times, but it is so worth the effort... For more details: Stephen Covey "The 8th Habit" pg 135&6.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

RAS School Closings to Come

Well we made it through the referendum and are looking for a new Superintendent, now on to the new excitement. RAS needs to close more schools, this may surprise many of you since we just passed the levy and you thought life was good. However the student population continues to decline and RAS must shed the excess building/personnel cost in order to use our tax dollars efficiently.

District's Problem Definition

I am hoping that the citizens will look at the decision from the perspective of what is good for the whole RAS community and what is most cost effective for RAS schools/students. Unfortunately, this was not the case last year when folks fought tooth and nail for their local community schools.

As for my viewpoint: I want more RAS dollars in the classroom, not in buildings, unnecessary school staff, curriculum selection, & other "non-teacher/kid things". So sell all excess facilities and move the capital that is raised into classroom equipment. (ie smart boards, computers, etc.) And move the expenses that are saved into lower class sizes or higher teacher pay.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Constructive Feedback & Coaching

Since people typically do things because they truly believe their beliefs/behaviors are correct or justified, it is critical that we work hard to understand their perceptions/beliefs before approaching them. (ie question our own stories) This does not mean we need to agree with or condone their opinion or behaviors. We simply need to strive to listen and understand, and then approach them with empathy. This is the only hope for helping the recipient to sanction the feedback and not see it as an attack.

I spent years naively thinking that folks would be happy to hear my constructive feedback in the name of "improvement"/"excellence", however this was certainly incorrect. I made some folks very angry at me by offering unsolicited advice. Thankfully I learned better, I now only give feedback when it is requested or my "duty". Also, I adopted the following technique:

Feedback & Change Management
Remember to provide feedback/coaching and question rationale very carefully and with compassion, because the recipient's perception of the situation is likely very different from yours.
- Explain what can be improved (define)
- Explain what can be gained through improvement (sell)
- Provide potential solutions whenever practical (coach)
- Praise in public & coach in private......

For more detail see the book: "Crucial Conversations"

Friday, December 5, 2008

If a Business CEO ran Education

Speed's on a roll: here are some interesting perspectives from an ex-CEO:
Lessons from 40 years of Education "Reform"
And here are some interesting perspectives from readers:
Speed's blog regarding article

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Public Education in MN Video

Speed Gibson provided a link to an excellent video regarding the state of public education in Minnesota. It contains a great deal of perspective from different education experts. Please take the time to watch it.

My advice is try to keep an open mind and beware how you filter what you hear. There are a lot of messages in this that I am sure will be used by the pro & con groups. I have provided a couple of links to blogs strings that are discussing this.
MN at a Crossroads (select broadband if applicable)

Speed Gibson - Prep Sports 2020
281 Exposed - Must Watch TV

Monday, December 1, 2008

Key to Resolving Issues: Listening

During my research I have found the following method described in different ways. It has shown up in marriage improvement books, self improvement books and business books. Yet it seems hard for people to apply it in everyday discussions. I have come to believe that if this were used more often, many of the conflicts we have would cease to exist.

The challenge is we need to learn how to stop listening to ourselves and planning our response for a period of time, and totally focus on what our spouse, kids, parents, friends, co-worker, supervisor, customer, etc is saying.... Of course, this also means we need to focus on what they are saying, and not what "we think" they are saying. This is challenging for most of us, especially when strong emotions are involved.

Two Steps to Achieving Synergy (Covey)

Would you be willing to search for a solution that is better than what either one of you (us) have proposed?

Would you agree to a simple ground rule: No one can make his or her point until they have restated the other person’s point to his or her satisfaction?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Principle Centered Result

Well, this is what the final result looks like, except much more legible. There are some real advantages to having spent the time soul searching and documenting my beliefs:

  • Changes were thrust upon me this year that stressed and frustrated me greatly, and by reviewing the document I was better able to put these into their proper perspective and relax.
  • I am by nature or nuture a workaholic, and keeping my roles/beliefs visible helps me to better maintain balance and live a happier life.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I use the balanced principles to help me look at the potential solutions from various perspectives. This always helps me generate a better solution.
  • The actions serve to keep me honest and working towards the life style I want to lead, rather than getting caught up in the day to day rush.
Like all other people, I fail often to live by the principles I profess. Yet having them defined and visible has definitely increased the accountability I feel, therefore it has done wonders for my thoughts and behaviors.

Finally, my belief is that this document is just a rough draft and will be under revision until the day I die. It took me until almost age 40 to understand what I really don't know everything. Now I truly believe that for the next 40 years I will continue learning and growing...


Monday, November 24, 2008

Setting Goals & Taking Action

Well, I had documented some general ideas regarding what I "do" as a person, and had defined what I believe in via "my Principles". However, since goals without a plan are just wishes... Now what?

Next I defined some key roles for each general task. As an example, for Serve & Submit I determined that I am a citizen, employee, volunteer, member, advocate and team member.

Then I asked myself: What specific actions do I want to take in the next 6 months to live in better accordance with "my Principles". For Serve & Submit, I figured I was weakest in the area of volunteering and giving back to the community, so I chose give blood regularly, support PRISM and support the District 281 referendum. I now keep these posted in front of me at work, and am doing pretty well on following up on my commitments !!!

My biggest failure is under Feel & Experience... "Learn to Dance" Seemed like something a husband with 3 daughters should get better at... I think I'll carry it into the next 6 months.

Friday, November 21, 2008

281 RAS Superindent Selection - Thoughts ?

What strengths & qualities do you want in our next Superintendent?

How should their contract be changed? (current contract)

How should the district improve communications to the public?

Speed's Superintendent string

Speed's Public Relations string

Befriend & Love, Serve & Submit and Lead & Mentor Principles / Values

From my perspective, these actions share common Principles. The following is what I came up with for:

Befriend & Love
Serve & Submit
Lead & Mentor

I use positive inner dialogue to bolster my self-esteem and self-respect. This frees me to nurture all individuals by being the caring, compassionate, thoughtful and kind person I truly am. (ie empathetic listening, understanding, concern, affection, protect, friends, family, affirm, support)

I strive to treat all whom I meet with courtesy, tolerance and cooperation, because everyone is part of the divine family and deserves my respect. No matter their religion, sex, culture, age or status. (ie justice, fairness, win/win, trust, open minded, honor autonomy of others, acceptance)

I came into this life with a special plan or purpose to help elevate humanity. I am responsible for successfully executing the plan and infusing my service with the creativity of my special God-given talents. (ie benevolence, leadership, community society environmental responsibility, interdependence, mentoring, contributing)

I choose to be optimistic, cooperative and enthusiastic, rather than a victim of my negative emotions, so I remain in control of myself and maintain inner happiness. The alternative would be to choose negative feelings, which would make my life infinitely more stressful and complex. (ie praise, affirm, appreciate, congratulate, collaborate, motivate, cheer, empower, positive)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Balance & Renew Principles / Values

The following is what I came up with for:

Balance & Renew
I maintain my trust and hope even though I live in the midst of uncertainty, because God pervades all things. Faith is my willingness to take the next step without fear or looking back, and yet have the patience to trust God and not try to force the results myself.

I choose moderation in all aspects, because it brings balance into my life and helps maintain my inner peace and true reality. The alternatives would be burn-out, stress and illness, which would hinder my productivity and creativity. (ie abstinence, temperance, emotional/spiritual/mental health)

I accept my present situation as a necessary part of a grander plan. This new freedom allows me to surrender my wants and desires and welcome whatever comes into my life. With this new awareness comes contentment and peace. (ie compliance, patience)

I maintain a feeling of calmness and concentrate on higher thoughts. By focusing on higher thoughts and actions, I am better able to connect with the divine. I also take the time to go within my heart, where I find my true self and creative energy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Feel & Experience Principles / Values

The following is what I came up with for:

Feel & Experience
I am grateful and appreciative for what life has given me. I think magnanimously and act generously because abundance is the universal reality, therefore what I give to life returns to me. (ie family & friends, home location, financial security, great job, personal successes, health, hobbies, experiences, prestige, recognition, pleasure, joy)

I maintain an attitude of unpretentiousness and modesty, and realize that God in his own way and time will reward me with whatever I need. As long as I rid myself of pride and maintain an attitude of gentleness toward all life. (ie questioning, humble)

I am alert to highly significant events that cannot be explained, because I then have an opportunity to go beyond the daily occurrences in my life. I am also receptive and have the courage to act on my inner promptings, thereby supporting my transformation into a higher self. (personal freedom/power, independence, creativity, experiences, spontaneity)

I choose a new understanding of my situation, because forgiveness is a conscious act that frees me from the damaging image of myself as a victim and dissolves the poison of resentment. This frees me to extend mercy and compassion to myself and to those who have wronged me, which reconnects me back to my real self.

Act & Role Model Principles / Values

The following is what I came up with for:

Act & Role Model
I align my thoughts, words and actions with truth and have the courage to act with sincerity and honesty. This strengthens me and my relationships. (ie, impartial, objective, open/full disclosure, honor confidences, meet professional and personal responsibilities, loyalty, authenticity, trustworthy, due diligence, no conflict of interest)

I work and strive towards self-improvement, because wholeness is not realized in a moment. I need the confidence to endure all situations in order to reach my goals. (ie diligence, initiative)

Self Discipline
I restrain my lower desires through determination. And through obedience to my higher self, I develop inner control and greater confidence. (ie health, behaviors)

Learn & Think Principles / Values

As I mentioned, and Covey's principles did not work for me as they were. I wanted them stated: as affirmations, so the related values or keywords clearly stood out, & roughly grouped by key activity. The following is what I came up with for:

Learn & Think
I work to be discerning and self-aware, so I can distinguish between beneficial and destructive things that I attract into my life. I need courage to take the next step toward wholeness by eliminating the negative desires that attract chaos into my life. If I do not curb my destructive desires, life becomes increasingly difficult. (ie personal development, wisdom, expertness, self renewal, vision, values)

I choose to see the beauty of the simple things in life and perfection all around me, instead of complexity and distortion. Therefore I retain the innocence and joy of life that uplifts me and reconnects me to my true inner self. (ie chastity, live now, notice)

Cause & Effect
I am accountable for my every thought, word and deed, and recognize the wisdom of restraint and being aware of the intentions of my actions. For every action there is an equal reaction. (ie karma, awareness, consequences)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Key Actions of a Person

Hopefully I have made a good case for being open minded and listening to different ideas/concepts/perspectives. Since I am going to spend a few days writing about how I created my "Principle Centered Life" diagram and how I use it on a regular basis. The experts had told me that leading a principle centered life was one of the keys to being happy. I looked at their examples and they simply did not work for me.

This is when I did some further research, self contemplation and brain storming. I decided there were 2 key things I did as a human being. The first includes things that I do "by/for" myself and the second is what I do "with/for" others.

The things I do "by/for" myself include: Learn & Think, Act & Role Model, Feel & Experience, Balance & Renew. These are key to my self awareness, continual growth, renewal, optimism and happiness. Without these my attitude could quickly slip to the dark side and take me with it.

The things I do "with/for" others include: Befriend & Love, Serve & Submit, Lead & Mentor. These are key to my remembering how truly fortunate I am to have friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc that I get to play and work with on a regular basis. These also remind me that with this opportunity comes a responsibility to behave well and give back actively to my community.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Confident people and the baseball bat !!!

I am reading an incredible book right now called "Life's Greatest Lessons - 20 Things That Matter" by Hal Urban. You may have noticed I recently added it to my best book list. It caught my attention in the book store because it was recommended by Ken Blanchard and Stephen Covey, two of my favorite "coaching" authors.

Mr Urban raises thoughts that are in alignment with my current string of blogs, so I thought I would mention them:
- Think with an open mind
- Think for yourself
- Think constructively

Now what does this have to do with confident people and baseball bats. Well as I have alluded to previously, I had a very poor capability to listen with empathy and an open mind until I turned ~40. Until then I was climbing the carreer ladder, expanding my circle of influence and succeeding at most things I took on. I was so smart, capable and successful that what I thought must be right !!!

Then within a 2 yr period I pushed myself too hard and suffered a severe panic attack, then over reached my circle of influence and seriously annoyed a couple of executives... Well, though you may not believe it. These were the best things that could have happened to me. They taught me humility, and enabled me to start learning and listening again. (also probably prevented a major coronary event someday) Then after seeing this similar thing happen to several others I coined the phrase:

"The more confident and successful a person is, the larger the baseball bat that will be required, to teach them humility and help them think & listen with an open mind." give2attain

This is why the Peter Principle is so true !!!

So, we can choose to be open minded and listen now or after the baseball bat hits, the choice is always ours.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is that what I really believe? Why?

"What we absolutely believe to be the "truth" was created mostly by chance/accident." (give2attain)

Rationale: You had no choice in where you were born, who your parents were, which religion you were initial taught, which schools you attended, who your first friends were, if you went on vacations, how you were punished, etc. Then by the time you were old enough to influence your attitudes, behaviors, friends, learning, etc, many of these were already set by your earlier conditioning/brain washing. Therefore,

"People do not see the world as it is; they see it as they are - or as they have been conditioned to be." (Covey)

The good news is this conditional/brain washed viewpoint of the truth is not irreversible, however overcoming it does take courage, effort and a willingness to really consider the sources/rationale/correctness of our beliefs. One simple series of questions I have learned to ask is:

Assuming the other party is rationale and honest, why do they see this situation differently than me?
If I were in their position, would I feel the same way?
With this new perspective, how can we find a common solution that meets both our needs?
With this feeling of empathy, how can I help the other person or group of other people?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Genetics, Environment or Pure Luck

About 9 years ago I was sitting in an MBA course with a bunch of bright accomplished folks when the Professor asked us what seemed to be a strange question:

What is the single most important reason for your success?

We of course being self confident, accomplished, smart, determined, etc professionals came up with the usual reasons. Our drive, intelligence, work ethic, etc... And maybe a couple of thanks to our parents... His answer was quite different:

You were lucky enough to be born in America !!!

His rationale is very valid. He had friends that were much smarter, more driven and skilled than him. Unfortunately they were born in the Soviet Union and therefore spent a significant amount of time in food lines. I have confirmed his rationale since by working with folks from several other developing countries.

The point of the story: sometimes we seem to forget that "those other folks" could have been us... I have become much more empathetic, since I came to understand this. Therefore I am willing to work harder to help and understand "those other folks".

By the way, this not a "get out of jail free card". I believe folks need to strive for improvement no matter their starting point, however I truly understand now that starting out in my highly educated upper middle class family made my climb a lot easier. It's amazing the power of gratitude, once you finally make a point to notice all of the things you have to be thankful for, then make a point to start sharing some of your good fortune with others who were not so lucky.

Start giving and volunteering !!! The pay back is HUGE !!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Principle Centered Life

I think Leslie's last comment speaks loads about the current state of mind, so I am going to take a couple of weeks to discuss a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and has nothing to do with our community politcs. This topic actually is very personal and unique to each and everyone of us. These are the principles and values that we each believe in and act upon in our daily lives.

I am a big fan of Stephen Covey and his work. One of his key concepts is that people should not center their lives around things. (ie children, spouse, fame, work, money, friends, etc) The rationale is that often when choices need to be made it will lead to conflict and unhappiness. For instance, the work centered individual will sacrifice the spouse/kids often to fulfill their sense of obligation to work. Another is when a spouse focuses all their attention/life around the children to the detriment of their own hobbies/life, or the marriage. Finally, we all know folks who become money/possessions centric. The alternative according to Covey is to identify the Principles you truly believe in and then begin making your choices with these in mind.

Well, I got to this point and became somewhat stumped. I mean what exactly are Principles and how do I define them well enough to live by them? Luckily, I got some help at TeachingValues. (google is amazing...) So, I started with their version and modified them until they fit me.

Just a note: a principle by definition is respected and very similar across cultures, whereas the expected values/behaviors within a principle may change significantly depending on where you are. An example, integrity is respected in all cultures however what truthfulness is varies greatly. (ie white lies, brutal honesty, cultural norms, etc.)

The image to the left is my high level diagram that I will be discussing over the next 2 weeks. Please feel free to comment. I love learning from other folks different perspectives.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Funding & Anonymous Comments Accepted

Hits are still good, however comments are slow, so I am going to start allowing comments from anonymous parties. Not sure why it should make a difference to folks, however I am willing to remove any perceived barriers to open dialogue.

I apologize in advance for any inappropriate comments that are left here. I'll start blocking them again if problems arise. Hopefully folks will use proper decorum...

Interesting funding discussion though I am still unsure what the point/issue is... Possibly, people fund things that matter to them ??? Possibly, those with the most motivation, drive and money have the best chance of swaying public opinion ??? Not sure where the surprise is... Seems like USA politics to me... (originating site)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Visions, Strategies, MGPPs & SMART Goals

A group of us are discussing Speed's concept of a TERM paper on his site. The challenge I believe we will run into is determining what is viewed as value added by the RAS community. (ie worth paying for, purpose of the school, etc)

District 281 and the RAS community worked hard to create a vision document this year. The concern I have is that per the listed priority and goals, the community agreed they want the school to offer everything to everyone. (ie flexibility, student specifc curriculum, excellence, arts, sports, academics, closing the achievement gap, etc)

One exercise we do at work to prioritize the customers wants is to give each member of the customer focus team 10 dollars, and ask them to distribute the money amongst the goals/features as they see fit. They can place them all on one or distribute them as they wish. This helps us develop trade off curves. (ie keep the valued features and leave off the non-valued)

Now I know we did something similar during the RAS vision meetings and am interested in finding out how the participating community members weighted the 24 goals. 1A through 2D most interest me, since this is where most the budget resides. (ie developing children into adults) How would you rank these? What would you give up so another could excel?

Here are 2 other useful acronyms to study: SMART Goals & MGPP

They are not as scary as they seem: imagine the Vision is to climb a mountain. The MGPP will be where you plan to set up camp each night. The SMART goal would be when you plan to reach the camp each day.... By the way, it does not have to be perfect and it can change when immovable obstacles are encountered. However, the Vision, MGPP, & SMART goals keep you heading in the right direction and let you know how you are progressing. Whereas goals with no measures will not tell you if you are making progress.

I believe it will be critical to develop an MGPP and yearly SMART goals in order to track the progress. This helps maintain accountability and focus.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

281 Referendum Passes: Now the Work Begins

Well, I am happy and relieved to report that 281 Referendum Q1 & Q2 passed in a general election year. This should reassure folks that a large number of citizens participated in making the decision. (ie not a minority in an off year vote)

Question 1 Yes = 30,083 No = 24,490
Question 2 Yes = 28,552 No = 25,913

Now what concerns me is that a large portion of the community felt this was a poor investment. (ie 24,490 people) Now you can't please all the people all the time, however this needs to improve. My interpretation of this large number is that:
  • The school district needs to do a better job of collaborating with the community, informing the community and increasing the transparency of their strategy, plan/priorities, expenditures and results.
  • The school district absolutely needs to ensure all 281 schools meet the AYP academic measures. The citizens have set this as JOB 1 for schools by adopting No Child Left Behind. (ie this come before sports, art, music, humanities, electives, etc)
  • The citizens need to dedicate more time collaborating with the district, clarifying their expectations regarding the District/schools and really learning about their community schools
  • The citizens need to volunteer within the schools. This is critical to developing empathy and trust. Besides, with our aging population, there is no excuse that struggling students don't have a mentor/tutor to help them. (kid learns and adult gets to share their knowledge)

By the way, "The Big Stink" from Freedom Dogs and I have a disagreement going. He believes that 281 (ie public education) is a monopolistic bureaucracy that has pushed the citizens out of it. I believe that the citizens got too busy chasing the dream, and stopped helping out the community schools. I sincerely hope the district and it's citizens prove us both wrong in the coming year.

Thanks again to all the folks that helped give the district/community breathing room !!! Now let's all work together to improve the RAS/community relations and help our kids succeed !!!

As always, my statements are pretty opinionated on purpose. (ie too drive discussion) So make comments and straighten me out. (I have been wrong before and will be wrong again. ) Or help me understand how you feel the district could better meet your needs. I would like to combine the comments and present them to RAS and the community.

Either via the blog or at

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : 281 CARE at it again

Why would anyone trust CARE 281 again? Right to Lie blog Why would any trust worthy party sue for the right to lie?

281 CARE using Robo Calls today? Breaking the law?

Minnesota 325E.27
No one can use or connect an ADAD to a telephone line unless the (1) person called has knowingly or voluntarily requested, consented to, permitted, or authorized receipt of the message (defined to mean any call regardless of its content); or (2) message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains the consent of the person called before the message is delivered. The prohibition does not apply to messages (1) from a school district to a student, parent, or employee; (2) from callers to people with whom they have a current business or personal relationship; or (3) advising employees of work schedules.

A civil penalty of up to $ 25,000, injunctions against future violations, and damages

Monday, November 3, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : 3 Crazy Weeks !!!

About 3 weeks ago I entered the very interesting world of blogging and it has been a great experience !!! I have been able to have more open discussions with people of different viewpoints than I would have believed possible. Below are links to the most active blog strings I participated in.

However, I do have one favor to ask. If you enjoy this blog, please get involved and add comments. Drop me an email if you want help learning how to add comments. ( Or see these instructions.

Though I have an almost limitless number of viewpoints and ideas to blog about. (ask my wife, family, friends & co-workers...) I will be much happier and learn more if you challenge me or add your perspectives. That is why I am choosing to continue blogging after the vote.

Now the benefits for you: Where else can you state your opinions totally anonomously and have hundreds of people read them? Also, I am a self & wife certified continuous improvement junkie who will be discussing some really unique concepts. (all for free... reference links provided...)

So thanks for the time you have given me and remember to VOTE tomorrow. If you have made it through my blogs and the linked strings, I think whatever choice you make it will be the right one.

Speed Gibson blog string 1
Speed Gibson blog string 2
Speed Gibson blog string 3
Speed Gibson blog string 4
Freedom Dogs blog string 1 *
Freedom Dogs blog string 2 *

* To see comments at Freedom Dogs: select "Got A Bone To Pick?"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : 281 CARE at it again

Well, I still don't get it. 281 CARE again publishes a 2/3 truth and allows no one to correct it with comments.

Why is 281 CARE misleading folks by only showing 2 of the 3 graphs ?

On the upside, they did link to the source . (Coal'n of Mn Busn) The 2 shown graphs depict declining enrollment and increasing state revenue. (ie faster than infaltion?) The third unshown graph shows that property tax revenues have been flat.

The assertion is "It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a SPENDING problem!" Here are the 2 questions I have for Ron:
- What cost of living adjustment index was used, and is it applicable to schools? (Indexes)
- Why did he not post the third graph?

On a side note:
281 CARE sent in a cryptic finance report again. It says they spent $806.89 and had revenues of only $375. The only listed donor is Ron as usual. So the usual question remains: Who is funding 281 CARE and Exposed, why do they hide and what is their agenda?

So don't let the mysterious 281 CARE and 281 Exposed folks sway you without some additional research. I advise Speed Gibson and Freedom Dogs, they at least let others try to sway them/correct any comments they make.

By the way, 281 Exposed jumped on the bandwagon and only showed 1 graph. (typical...)

Vote YES on 1 & 2

Saturday, November 1, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Have Faith in People?

I've found that many vote no people seem like theory X folks... Whereas I am a huge theory Y fan, especially with people working within their chosen carreer. And I have almost never been disappointed, since my employees and team mates want to achieve and accomplish things for intrinsic reasons. (good work makes them feel good)

Theory X vs Theory Y

So my thoughts are: Do you really believe teachers, librarians and administrators went to work in the public schools thinking they were going to make their fortune on the back of the tax payers? Or do think these folks really want to help the kids and community?

Of course, after spending time with these "education" folks, and looking at how some people in our community mistreat them, how most of them are paid, and the stress/uncertainty of their jobs... Well, in my opinion they either really like educating kids and helping the community, or they are crazy folks who like suffering... I think the first...

So please help our passionate caring educators by voting YES on 1 & 2

Remember: you usually find what you look for... good or bad... (ie RAS & blind spots)

Friday, October 31, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : In God we trust ?

I need help from folks who are smarter than me, so please comment on this one...

First some background, I have absolutely no patience for lazy uninformed voters. If you do not know the issue, don't vote. However, if you have looked into the details, then vote your beliefs !!! That is the advantage of living in America vs some friends of mine who live in China.

As for the issue I need help with: repeatedly I hear two groups of people say the stupidest thing:

I am going to vote no because I don't have kids in the system.

The first group are the religiously devout parents who have placed their kids in private parochial schools because of their values. Now I can't speak for Jewish, Muslims or other religions, however I am pretty familar with Christianity. So imagine Jesus saying: let all the children come to me... Oh except those kids that don't attend my school... Or better yet, the good Samaritan who only helps kids from that "parochial school". In summary, if you truly are religious then remember that those "at risk" kids that your school tax dollars go to are GOD's kids. Now start living by your religion that emphasizes charity, benevolance and caring for all the kids in your community. (ie not just those within your segregated school)

The second group are the "empty nesters" whose kids have graduated. Now let me think, who paid for the schools while you were "free loading" off them !!! The schools are public institutions like roads, parks, libraries, etc that are there for the public good whether you use them or not. You as a citizen are responsible to make sure schools are adequately funded.

Now if you spend some time in the schools, talk to your board/admin members or do some other solid research, and still disagree with the referendum. Please vote no. However, don't shirk your responsibility to the USA by saying:

I am going to vote no because I don't have kids in the system.

I have done my research and am Voting YES on option 1 & 2. Now make 3 hours between now and next Tuesday's vote to learn about the district and kids that have been entrusted to your care before casting your vote !!!

Just a note: make sure you also research the environment/arts issue, since not voting on that is a no vote.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : What is Success ?

Wayzata School District Report Card
Wayzata School District Demographics
RAS District Report Card
RAS District Demographics
Relative Funding Graphic

Have I got a treat for you today. If you have not been to the MN Dept of Educ website, their database of school information is impressive to say the least. You can slice and dice schools and their student bodies in a hundred different ways. Typically the vote no folk will direct you to the RAS District Report Card in order to show how badly the district is failing...

Well that is not my goal today. In fact I am going to make the argument that RAS is actually performing as or more effectively than the Wayzata School District. Arguably one of the best districts in the State.

First you will notice that Wayzata scored 88.2% on the AYP, and RAS scored 84.2%. (sounds bad for RAS right) Well, now let's look at the demographics and funding for each.

Wayzata: LEP: 2% SE: 8% F&R Lunch: 12% APY att: 96% GR: 97% Local funds: $1572
RAS: LEP: 12% SE: 12% F&R Lunch: 38% APY att: 95% GR: 96% Local funds: $ 848

In summary RAS attains almost the same attendance and graduation rate, even though they start with ~3,600 more children that are in the F&R Lunch category, and ~1,300 more children that start school barely speaking English. In summary, RAS is delivering incredible results given the relative demographics and funding !!!

Now, how does demographics impact the RAS test scores, since Wayzata does have better test scores:
RAS Math Proficiencies:
F&RL: ~39%
No F&RL: ~70%
LEP: ~48%
No LEP: ~60%

RAS Reading Proficiencies:
F&RL: ~44%
No F&RL: ~80%
LEP: ~35%
No LEP: ~70%

The reality is RAS has more challenges and less funding. So Vote YES on 1 & 2 to at least reduce the funding gap. Ideally, we would give more !!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : The RAS and Blind spots

Ok, this time we are talking about a different RAS.

The Reticular Activating System, Blind Spots, and how they relate to listening, obtaining info, evaluating info and having open productive dialogue was to be my topic of the day. However, I was lucky to find a site that had done the work for me. (see link below)

RAS & Blind Spot Info

I participated in the referenced Pacific Institute training at work and found it very informative. Then I had the opportunity to read the following book "Leadership and Self Deception" by "The Arbinger Institute". I very very highly recommend it for everyone, not just "Leaders". The name is misleading because it simply describes how humans think in an interesting story with a real plot. (also, it is a short and easy read)

So, how does this relate to the "other RAS" issue. Well since I have started exchanging blogs and having discussions regarding the topic, I am amazed how entrenched each side is... No wonder there is limited progress when everyone is filtering any words, graphs, data, etc for only information that supports their viewpoint. Also, as soon as the tone becomes "US" and "THEM", the passion and filtering becomes stronger. Then real listening and dialogue stops.

Now a note from my personal history. Being a nerdy engineer who is taught to evaluate things with data, I thought I was very rationale and quite unbiased. It took a lot of inter-personal conflict and strain with others before I sanctioned the bias that was innate within me and the negative power of blind spots.. You may be more self aware than I was, however I think some self contemplation can help anyone's relationships and ability to be more productive in working with others.

As always, thoughts are welcome and encouraged !!!

And as always Vote YES for Option 1 & 2.

Monday, October 27, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : 67% to Instruction

Please note that Speed Gibson raised a good question and 281 Exposed posted it on their site. I have found the following answer, however I don't think 281 Exposed will expose the truth in this case. They will continue to publish their half of the story. So for your review and comment. VOTE YES on Option 1 & 2

Speed's 67% comments

My response
Speed, Please reference pg 69 of the 08/09 Budget . Just above the graph on pgs 67-69 the district goes into great detail as to how they generated the numbers. The percentages are slightly different than the flier, since they used the preliminary audit report(07-08).

As for your interpretation that this includes "every" tax dollar.(Operating &Capital) There exists a "working definition" difference between yourself and the district. The flier is associated with the Operating referendum and therefore when the district is describing "How Robbinsdale Area Schools uses your tax dollar", they are describing only the use of the Operating funds. (General & Transportation)

If you want to determine what percent of the total revenues that is spent on "Instruction", we would need to divide the Capital dollars into the 4 categories and then divide by the total. My rationale is without classrooms, offices, libraries, maintenance shops, etc that meet building codes, there will be very little instruction, support services, facilities or administration taking place.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Public, Charters, Private

So who does provide the most bang for our buck ?

My co-workers and I were discussing this and came to a consensus that student success has more to do with the child and parents than the school type. Here is one story to help you understand:

My friend mentioned that a child was having problems in a public school. The mother moved the child to a private school and the child is doing much better. So we asked my friend how this happened and learned that the new school required the parents to sign a contract. The contract in this case states that the parents will limit screen time for the child, ensure the child completes their homework, work with the school to manage behavioral issue, etc. (This was a significant change for the child and parents) The school does have some different teaching techniques, however he was unsure of class size, cost, specific techniques, etc. Failure of the parents or child to meet the requirements of the contract would lead to expulsion... And possibly lead to the child being enrolled in public schools again. The moral of this story is: make sure you are not comparing apples and watermelons...

From the research I have done, often the private and charter schools get only students and families that value education and are willing to work for it. (ie bind them with contracts) Also, sometimes the private and charter schools will turn down the other "higher cost" students. (ie poor test scores, poverty, behavior issues, home problems, ESL, special needs, etc) They have a valid reason in that they are not properly equipped to manage these issues, whereas our public schools are. (when we fund them)

In summary: The RAS public schools are likely doing a better job than we give them credit for, given the diverse student and parent groups they are working with.

Remember to check details when comparing Performance and Cost.

Thoughts? VOTE YES on Option 1 & 2

Friday, October 24, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Stan Mack Retires and Vultures Circle

Well its official, 281 Care is the more respectable of the vote no "non-blogs". (ie both of them make vague unsubstantiated accusations and then prevent readers from commenting)

Though I believe Stan was considering a change after 9 years of service in our challenging district. I also believe he truly cared enough about our kids and neighborhoods to "fall on his sword" in order to give the referendum a better chance of passing. So our Superintendent acts with honor, and both these sites continue the "slam our schools" rhetoric. And still offer no specific improvement ideas. Worse yet, 281 Exposed replies with insults, sarcasm and negativity. (see below)

This leaves me wondering, why do we citizens continue to reward people who make attack ads !!! We say we want positive issues based discussion and yet we reward the tabloid guys again and again !!! Thoughts?

281 CARE
Read the MN Sun Post’s article announcing Superintendent Mack’s retirement from District 281.
We commend Superintendent Mack for finally making the decision to leave District 281 (for the good of the community, he should have communicated his retirement earlier than two weeks before the election). We hope that the school board takes this opportunity to accelerate a move toward improving the leadership within ISD #281. However, this is only one part of the changes that will need to be made in the leadership within the District.
The community will be watching VERY CLOSELY what the school board does over the next few months.

281 Exposed
It hasn’t been a joy for us, Supt. Mack. I suspect this announcement is a last-ditch effort to help pass the referendum. We’ll see if it makes a difference, as many on the school board are are also blame for the mess we’re in (Patsy Green is at the top of the list). The search for a competent replacement is on. Our schools deserve better leadership.

Thank you Stan Mack for your efforts over the years !!!
VOTE YES on Option 1 & 2

Thursday, October 23, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : CARE281 Letter

Well folks, here are the questions/accusations that Ron posted on the 281Care blog site. The ones that he would not let folks comment on. They have been restated to be more polite for this open letter to the 281 board, however they are openly antagonistic and leading. I'll give you my responses and open it up for your comments. VOTE YES on Option 1 & 2

"To Board Members,
As I and others are talking with the RAS community, some questions are coming up many times;
1.) Why is RAS asking for a 7 year referendum, when your projects from the Director of Finance at the July meeting show that a $15/month increase will only last for 3-5 years? They are not seeing any answer on the website or in other materials.
2.) Is the Superintendent’s contract, which ends on June 30, 2009, being extended or is a search for a replacement going to be started? Is there any information on this item available?
3.) Why has RAS over the last 4 years negotiated to give its employees total increase of 11% at the same time the MN Legislator give the school district about a 11% total increase in its basic funding? It appears that RAS expected that all other cost in the District were going to increase by 0%. How can this be explained?
Can you point them to an answer to these questions? If you can provide answers to these questions that are being asked in the community, I would appreciate providing RAS’s replies. Thanks.
Best Regards,Ron Stoffel"

My Answers / Opinions
1. Why not make it a 7 year referendum? Do we really want the district expending our money and time going through this again in 5 years if costs are lower or revenue is higher than the assumptions? I want them focused on teaching kids and operating the district!!! The reality is the district is making assumptions regarding state funding, cost of living and many other variables that are outside of anyone's control. If you want to stretch this levy to 7 years: make sure you vote for option 1 & 2 !!!

2. I am not sure what Ron has against Stan Mack, however if Nov is some form of a due date then his question is relevant. I just wish Ron would stop using negative generalities and give some specific ideas regarding what he thinks Stan should be doing differently.... From what I have seen and heard, Stan is absolutely dedicated to the neighborhoods & kids in this district. (possibly to a fault)

3. 11% over 4 years would be about 2.75%/yr. This appears to be aligned with the SSA's COLA. Per one of my ealier entries, we citizen's get what we pay for and the market sets the acceptable wage. If your company does not raise wages with the market, the most capable employees will move to greener pastures and your company will fail/flounder. In this case, failing to keep the best teachers is not acceptable.
A company can hold wages for a short period as long as they can offer their employees hope of an upturn. Unfortunately as we have seen, raising school revenues in 281 is very challenging and the employees know it. So I believe the district is therefore better off small slow consistent increases.

Besides, if the state did give 11% additional funding for the school's total cost. Then compensation can go up 11% and other costs can go up 11% since they are both part of the total. Not sure what his point is...

281 Referendum YES281 : Commenting is Fun & Easy

Though it is enjoyable to watch many things, often it is much more fun, rewarding and memorable to be an active participant. Therefore take a minute to get a Google ID and start commenting. ( Google is the only entity that will know who you are !!!!

Though I will definetly VOTE YES on Nov 4th, I do not pretend to have all the answers. Based on my comments and questions, you may wonder why I am voting Yes. The purpose of this new blog site is to generate dialogue regarding "Self Awareness" and "Community Involvement". Regarding the vote, from my perspective you are a great citizen and community member if: you really spend time learning, look at the different perspectives, consider how you are balancing community/personal advancement, understand why "you" are choosing yes/no, and get out to VOTE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Discipline in the Classroom

A Brief Lead In
Below is correspondence I had on Speed Gibson's blog ( ) regarding Discipline in the classroom. This is a critical point because the better the students behave, the fewer distractions and interuptions. Potentially the district could provide better test scores for fewer dollars. (if only all the kids would be polite, engaged, interested in learning, respectful, etc., all the teachers were natural versatile orators and all the parents held their kids accountable for their behavior, homework, etc.) I think this is harder said than done in our culture where many believe: "our problem/behavior is their fault" and "if you hold me accountable, I will sue you", what do the readers think ? Remember to Vote Yes on Option 1 & 2.

My Initial Question / Opinion
Question though: What are your thoughts for maintaining discipline in a class with 35 middle schoolers, with let's say 15% that really don't want to be there and have no concept that teachers are to be respected. In the old days schools called and parents responded, teacher's were allowed more latitude, troubled kids dropped out, etc. Now with some parent's blaming the schools (instead of sweet Billy...), school staff being scared to so much as look funny at a child due the risk of being sued, and no more letting these kids drop out/fail. My opinion is discipline is easy to say and hard to maintain. (I know one technique is in school suspension, which just requires another teacher for the troublesome few)

Answer / Opinion from Another Individual
About discipline, I'm no expert but I think I have a keen sense of the obvious that, unfortunately, education bureaucrats have not.
1. First is to put enough CONTENT in classes that everyone is challenged to keep up with the material. Idle hands ARE the devil's playground. Closely following is a teaching technique that engages, rather than expects them to quietly listen to the teacher read the book.
2. The school must have a real discipline policy that is clear, thoroughly communicated and routinely (but not rigidly) enforced. Zero tolerance policies are stupid, as are efforts to "appreciate diversity" that favor disruptive students.
3. We must get back to the notion of "social norming," of allowing the kids who are in the class to ostracize the offending students and "bring them into line" with better behavior.
4. There must be some real consequences for incorrigible students. At least one district has a special school for such students, with bars on the windows and teachers specializing in discipline problems. Parents are often find such involuntary transfers a convincing argument for instilling respect in their children. Others find it in the other school.
5. Lastly, we have to EXPECT it. Teachers should be offended when respect isn't given, after confirming that they aren't causing the problem by disrespecting the time of their students.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

281 Referendum YES281: 281CARE & 281Exposed

I'm frustrated. Both the 281CARE & 281Exposed sites show themselves to be blogs, which means people can comment regarding the information and opinions they present. Unfortunately they are censoring comments that are allowed to appear. My comments go to a mediator and then simply disappear.

I have written and asked for permission to reply with comments, and received no reply from the Blogsters. So: who are they and what benefits are they looking to attain by magnifying the district's few faults ? I have never seen any positive ideas for improvement from them, just the sowing of strife and distrust. (like we need more of that in our community/world)

One thought I have had is that they are landlords or business owners that want to keep property taxes down no matter what the cost to our community. Who else would put this much time and effort into fighting a ~$20/mth tax increase that helps kids & community?

I am straight forward with my beliefs, agenda and open to opposing views. I wish they were.

Please Vote YES for Option 1 & 2 on Nov 4th and ignore 281CARE & 281Exposed until they open their Blogs to opposing views and propose some improvement ideas. (ie other than fire everyone and say NO...)

Monday, October 20, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Teacher/student Ratio Matters ?

A Brief Lead In
Below is correspondence I had on Speed Gibson's blog ( ) regarding why maintaining low teacher to student ratios is "critical" or "unimportant. (see link for continuing dialogue) Of course I like my opinion, what do the readers think ? Remember to Vote Yes on Option 1 & 2.

My Initial Vote YES Question / Opinion
Please help me understand your belief that teacher to student ratios do not matter in post elementary classrooms. I am certain I can find research on both sides of this argument, however a quick theory test I use is to take them to extremes.

According to your statement: 100 students in a classroom with 1 teacher would learn as much with equal depth of understanding as 2 students in a class with 1 teacher. Given the same alloted time this makes no sense to me. In the 100 student class the likelihood of interuptions is higher, chance of identifying disruptive students is lower, time for answering individual questions is lower, ability to adjust for learning styles is lower, etc. Whereas with 2 students, disruptions would be low, you can identify the source of disruptions, questions can be answered, etc.

I believe that ratios do matter greatly, however they can vary significantly based on: maturity of students, students desire to learn the subject, complexity of subject, student capability, etc. My oldest child is in 8th grade pre-AP math at PMS in a class with 40 students. Though there is not much time for questions and the classroom is packed, the students want good grades and therefore the class is tolerably manageable.(ie good thing I have a background in math to help answer the questions...) However, I would not wish 40 non-motivated 8th graders on my worst enemy. Just 4 goof offs can turn the classroom into a zoo and waste most of the lecture time.

Just a note, my wife helped me understand one of the key factors that drives up the ratios in the common classes. Between the typical students and the special needs students is a group of students that require a lot of extra help. These students often end up in very low ratio special classes to try and help them overcome whatever challenges they face in their lives. Of course this is an uphill battle since often the kids don't have academic or adult support outside of the school. However a good social conscience and No Child Left Behind require we make an effort.

A Vote No Opinion
Sorry, "Give", but you are not allowed to take the class size discussion to extremes, because those do not need to be studied. In reviews of the thousands of studies on this subject, the only conclusion that can be reasonably supported is that class size matters ONLY below third grade. Below about 16 kids, even kindergartners do not show improvement. Above third grade, you must stipulate certain common sense upper limits: that the students must physically fit, that there must be enough other facilities (such as chemistry lab benches-- thus the "purpose specific classroom inventory") and that discipline be maintained. What you will not find a study to prove is that going from a class of 28 to a class of 26 (the district's numbers) has any significant effect on student achievement, and it is therefore NOT worth another few million taxpayer dollars to achieve.

My Vote YES Response / Opinion
Since the simplified discussion does not appeal to you. Please provide links to a few of these studies and their results. (or drop me an email at Given my background in research and statistics I would like to review them and understand the studies/topic better. Til then, I still think fewer kids equals less disruption and better teacher student interaction. (most people think 10 in a Sunday school class is a handful. and they'd squirm at 20. and they can not even imagine 30 to 40) By the way, I found the "discipline can be maintained' factor most interesting. I think this is one of my key arguments for reducing ratios.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : School's Role in Community

When and why did the schools take on the role of parent in many cases?

If the public wants to hold them responsible for this role, why are citizens so hesitant to fund them?

A brief story: I know a fairly conservative family with 2 children that continue to struggle in school. For many years we have listened as the parents blame the school district and teachers for this problem. However, when my wife asks about ensuring homework is completed, obtaining tutoring, parent/teacher collaboration, having me tutor them and other activities the parents mumble something and change the subject quickly.

Unfortunately, I don't think this story is atypical and in many situations I am sure it is worse, since these folks seem to maintain a pretty stable dual low income home My wild guess is that this situation or worse exists for 15+% of the students. (1900+ students) So given my assumption and the premise of "No Child Left Behind", the school district has been given responsibility for not only teaching information and concepts. But developing the students sense of being responsible and functional enough to learn the information and concepts. Along with this comes counseling kids through academics, behavior issues, basic respect, dependency, pregnancy, abuse and a host of other challenges.

Now I am not sure what happened to holding parents accountable for being parents! However if we expect to hold the school's accountable for being teachers and parents, then we need to Vote YES to options 1 & 2 to ensure they have the funding to succeed.

So the next time a vote no person explains the large sum of dollars that are in each classroom, please politely ask them to hold all parent's accountable for sending kids to school that are ready and able to learn. Then the money can be moved from social service work to education. Until then both need to be funded for "No Child Left Behind" to succeeded.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Class Size Matters

For a moment, envision yourself as a teacher in a class with thirty 7 year olds. Think of the Sunday school class you taught, your kids parties, your grand children... Would it be challenging to maintain control and teach them?

Now, imagine 2 of these children have special needs ranging from autism to ADHD, and you have only a part time Educational Assistant. Now, throw in a couple of kids with home generated behavior issues. How would you do it?

This is why low ratios and adequate staffing do matter, and this is roughly the current reality in my second grade daughters class. The teacher is a saint as far as I'm concerned and we need to support her by voting yes on option 1 & 2.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : School Funding vs COLA/CPI)

In a business finance course, I asked an instructor why college and school costs seem to increase at a rate that is higher than the "Consumer Price Index" or "Cost of Living Adjustment". The answer, though intuitive was still interesting to me. In summary: It is very difficult to make person to person interactions more productive.

In specific, CPI & COLA are average price change measures. They are made up of hundreds of goods and services that increase/decrease in cost at different rates. The productivity can be continually increased in the areas of manufacturing, data processing and others, which reduces the CPI & COLA. However, this is not the case with teaching children. Since we have not yet found a way to program them with knowledge and social skills, learning still needs to be done through individual attention given by families, teachers and interaction with their peers. Therefore, educational costs will increase faster than the CPI/COLA.

So I calculated RAS revenues as increasing by 2.7%/yr since 1996. (1996:~97mil, 2007:~130mil) Then I adjusted for a more realistic 4.3% to determine what their revenues should be ~$155 mil, in order to provide an equivalent quality of eductation. Then I reduced it by 10% ($15 mil) due to there being fewer students in the district. This leaves a gap of $10 mil in 2008/9 that grows with time. And this assumes that "No Child Left Behind" had minimal cost impact, which many people would argue. (ie stds have increased) Please Vote YES for option 1 & 2.

Monday, October 13, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Fuzzy Crystal Balls

The question of why Robbinsdale Areas Schools needs the increased levy when there are still several years remaining on the 2001 levy is often raised. This is followed by an accusation that the district personnel must be poor planners.

The reality is that between the slow growth rate of state funding and the large cost increases we experienced over the last 5 years. (ie fuel, electricity, food, etc.) (see links) The district did not have a chance of reading the crystal ball accurately. Just as many financial experts recently failed to over a much shorter time frame.

Finally, the district will always be forced to err on the low side. As the community showed in 2007, if the district asks for the full amount it faces an uphill fight. Therefore, the RAS district reduced the amount and is trying again. Which will likely begin the cycle if state funding languishes and costs increase.

Please Vote YES for both Options 1 & 2. This is what is needed to slow the cycle.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Competitive Wages and Test Scores

One of the hot topics that is continually raised by the "vote no" contingent is the "high wages" earned by the district employees. Typically this is tied to the poor district performance with regard to schools meeting the "no child left behind / AYP" criteria.

As for the wages, we all realize that the market sets the wage level, not the school district. If the school district wants average to above average employees, it needs to provide average to above average compensation. (wages/benefits) Simply, we tax payers get what we pay for...

As for the latter, "no child left behind / AYP" is a very good concept for driving accountability that is inherently flawed. Many of the best schools in Minnesota have failed to meet the criteria, especially those with a diverse student population. Typically these schools have not been able to overcome the challenges provided by impoverished, non-English speaking and special needs students. Ironically these districts need more funding to overcome these community challenges, yet the punishment is funding reductions. Also, these communities have the hardest time passing operating referendums due to the lower income neighborhoods being resistant to additional costs.

Finally, please dig deeper into the test results. The test results for students outside of these categories are equivalent or better than most districts. As for the impoverished, non-English speaking and special needs students, their programs need funding increases, not cuts, so please vote YES on Nov 4th.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

281 Referendum YES281 : Is Your Glass 1/2 Full or 1/2 Empty

Recently I have been reading blogs that seem to be focused on tearing the Robbinsdale Area Schools community apart. They are focusing on the extremely rare "problems" within the district instead of helping to generate ideas for improving our district and community.

As the father of 3 children currently attending district schools, I have been lucky enough to actually spend time volunteering at an elementary and a middle school. For the most part, I have found concerned and hard working administrators and teachers who are striving to teach our children. And rarely have I seen the much touted "wasteful spending". Typically the classrooms are crowded, the equipment is getting older fast and the libraries are somewhat limited in size & content.

So before sanctioning the comments of people who want to promote distrust and ambivalence in our community. Please stop by and visit your community schools. Better yet volunteer a few times and I assure you that it will help you understand the challenges our modern public schools face and the reasons why voting Yes on Nov 4th is the right thing to do for our community and the kids.