Friday, October 30, 2009

Board Candidate Preferences?

Well, Speed/R-Five and Christine have gone public with their preferences.

Speed/R-Five: Patsy Green, Linda Johnson, Tom Walsh, Richard Brynteson
Christine: Mark Bomchill, Richard Bryteson, Tom Walsh, Sue Stavenau

Here are my current choices...
G2A: Tom Walsh, Linda Johnson, Richard Brynteson, Jim Oathout(?) (Changed to Sue Stavenau when filling in the oval... See Election Day Coverage for more info)

Rationale: Tom and Linda are solid, experienced and listen to all views. Patsy is just too liberal for my tastes. (Her efforts and experience would be great if focused exclusively on the LAC. ) Other than his aversion to tests, Richard and I seem to agree on taking a pragmatic balanced view.(and he takes a position, which is refreshing...) Jim would provide a somewhat contrarian viewpoint on the board and hopefully limit "group think" from just happening. (ie devil's advocate) Besides he gives the NE area a voice and may increase the district's credibility with those citizens.

So who do you support and why? Let's get over the 10 contributor mark this time !!!!

Candidates name and Info Link
Darlene Baker, Mark Bomchill, Richard Brynteson, Patsy Green, Linda Johnson, Jim Oathout, Andrew Richter, Beth Sharpe, Sue Stavenau, Tom Walsh, Brian Zirbes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RAS Useful Links

If you have not read yet, Speed needed to find a new service provider. Therefore the historical cross links in G2A to his site will not function once Power Blogs stops hosting his site. I plan to re-map the links when and if he is able to import his historical content to the new Typepad service.

Next question: Does anyone know who maintains 281 Exposed? Drop me an email if you do. I won't turn them in or anything... Just curious. I have met most of the people that participate in the blogs and most active school folk know who I am. The perspective makes it easier for me to communicate with them.

Also, I updated the candidate links with new endorsement letters, etc.

Speed - Final Endorsement
Speed -Third Endorsement
Speed - Meet the Candidates
Speed - Two More Endorsements to Go
Speed - Endorsement 2
Speed - Forum / Endorsement 1
Speed - Debate Question 2 (power blog)
Speed - Debate Question 1 (power blog)

DJ - Stat
DJ - The Divide
DJ - Charters

CS - Thank You (Though I missed it, Thanks for setting it up !!!)
CS - Speed Campaigning Scenes
CS - Speed Campaigning Rules

Sun - Debate Coach honored (Congrats DJ !!!!)
Sun - Voters decide...
Sun - RAS Enrollment Drops
Sun - RAS Insurance Premiums Drop
Sun - RAS Grant for Outdoor Athletics
Sun - RSI Policy
Sun - $53 million levy

TUE - Protecting Bad Teachers
281 Exposed - Meet the Contenders
281 Exposed - Charters
281 Exposed - Forum
281 Exposed - Union Label
281 Exposed -Seeking Accountability
281 Exposed - Vote Richter-Oathout

Monday, October 26, 2009

RAS Candidate Forum - Round 2

Mark your calendars and attend to learn more about the views of your candidates...

Wednesday Night - Link with Details

Only ~1 week left to make up your mind...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

RAS Demographics and Class Sizes

I wanted to spend some serious time reviewing these, in order to generate some deep and meaningful thoughts. Unfortunately time is tight and my yard needs raking.... So:

I would like at least 10 of the 160 of you to give us your thoughts...
(Please share your thoughts....)
Remember joining in the conversation does not hurt nearly as bad as getting a flu shot... And it is absolutely free and anonymous... And everyone is welcome, inside the district or out... All you need are opinions and thoughts !!!

RAS Demographics and Class Sizes
(Watch the "Y" axis scale... It does not always start at zero... So trends may look more alarming than they may be... However the demographics are definitely changing significantly)

RAS School Improvement Plan

I'll leave you with only one thought for the conspiracy theorists. If the district is hiding anything, I am not sure what it is ??? After a year of digging into the District, I have never hit a closed door or a lack of data.

I think you probably need to spend more time with the District officials learning about the details... I don't agree with them occasionally, however I am not sure what needs to exposed that is not readily available to those who make the time to ask...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stress Mgmt and Funny

I ran across the following on a co-workers wall. I loved it, so I had to find and post it.

Apple Seeds: Stress Management

Apple Seeds

Enjoy !!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let's Get Ready To Rumble !!!

Don't forget !!!!

The League of Women Voters of Crystal-New Hope-East Plymouth will host a public forum for District 281 School Board candidates at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Education Service Center, 4148 Winnetka Ave. N., New Hope.

The 11 School Board candidates will introduce themselves and respond to
questions from the audience. (LINK)

The Legion was probably more fun last week, however this is pretty important and I hope you make time to attend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Supt Sicoli's Strategic Plan Thoughts

Here is an excerpt from Armstrong Parents Association's Minutes regarding Supt Sicoli's thoughts regarding the district's strategic plan. (minutes)

When asked about his thoughts on the Strategic Plan, Mr. Sicoli thought that the 24 goals were too many and the school board should focus on five priority areas. They will be presenting this at Monday’s school board work session. He felt they should talk more about implementation of plans. First would be comprehensive—telling everything they do. Second would be the changes/direction we are heading.

He thought the strengths in the district are the rigorous courses and choices that are available. The Fine Arts are something to be very proud of. He thinks the diversity is a strength. He finds the strong teaching and learning department and technology department appealing.

He feels the weaknesses in the district would be the shoring up of the science curriculum, finances and communication. He would like to see the staff included more in decisions. Mr. Sicoli feels the communication is more transparent than any other district. He thinks we need to work on the marketing of the district. He would like to change the way they do business and make decisions by having agendas and materials available in a more timely manner. He thought some decisions should be speeded up while others should be slowed down and not rushed in to.

I agree with him on most of these comments. (Priorities) However I am a fan of keeping all 24 goals visible with relative priorities. I am always concerned that only having 5 visible will lead to lower priority goals being compromised unintentionally without trade off discussions. With this in mind, sounds good !!!!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Updated Candidate Links

I updated the "Candidate Links" page with Sun Sailor:
- Candidate Statements
- Reference Letters

Access via "Candidate Links" link to the right

Saturday, October 17, 2009

District 281 School Priorties ?

Seems reviewing and discussing priorities again may be appropriate given the fast approaching election. Here are the priorities I have proposed in the past. (Criteria, Measures, see below) What priorities do you want the new school board members to support?

I believe the current board adopted the "everything to everyone" list. Which is what we asked for in the community meetings. At least during the meetings I attended, no one brought up "how to live within a budget?" or "what is more important, academic gap closure or orchestra/sports?". No, folks just described the things that were memorable from their childhood and therefore important to them. And when you add together the wish lists of ~1,000 "school focused" citizens who are willing to make time to attend strategy meetings, we get the "everything to everyone" list.

This is great if you do not have any fiscal constraints and you are succeeding at all of the items on the list. However, it does not work well in our current situation when trade offs are required. Where is the guidance to the administration when cuts need to be made? When push comes to shove, what really is important in our communities and our schools?

G2A's Proposal on School Priorities:

  1. All students graduate with the core knowledge necessary to pursue further education or begin employment at a typical American institution/company. (ie English reading, English writing, math, science, history, social studies, ~2 yrs foreign language, etc) (ie basic values, work ethic, citizenship, personal health, personal finance, etc)
  2. Student's are challenged in these subjects per their physical and mental capability. (ie special education limitations, standard, pre-college, etc)
  3. Basic broadening and appreciation experiences are provided. (ie basic art, basic music, typical sports, early language/culture awareness, etc.)
  4. Special skills and knowledge training is offered if all of the above are being met or exceeded. (ie 2nd language fluency, atypical sports, artistic expertise, etc.)In summary: We pay for schools to provide smart, balanced, productive, etc citizens in order to continue or improve the American way of life.

Now, remember that financial and management transparency are base expectations. These can not be traded off and should be relatively inexpensive, therefore I do not list them.

Thoughts encouraged !!! What do you want the school district to look like in 3 years? If funding stays flat, what should go first, second, third, etc? What needs to be maintained and delivered no matter what?

Remember: have your friends google give2attain !!! The more the merrier, the better the ideas/discussion and everyone is welcome!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Poor Disappointed Dog

Well, the family and I are taking advantage of the MEA long weekend to visit Grandma and Grandpa just South of Canby, MN. The kids will get to play with the cousins and breathe some fresh country air... So why is this post called "My Poor Disappointed Dog".

Well, I typically take Cassie out pheasant hunting at this time of year. I love walking with her and watching her work. The only problem is that I am a very poor shot. Therefore she works very hard, scares up birds and I typically miss. Then she comes back to me with that look...

The upside is that she is very forgiving, and still seems to love me. Even if I can't hit the broad side of a barn. Thank heavens for dogs...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Fix District 281?

Here are some useful links that are worth watching.

I am weary of folks being critical and not offering actionable ideas. So I have posed a challenge on both Speed and 281 Exposed. Let's see where the comments go.

Speed - Achievement Gap
281 Exposed - Tyrrell quote

Please feel free to leave improvement ideas here if you have some. Remember the goal is to close the achievement gap without increasing the budget.... This is a brainstorming exercise, all ideas are welcome. Thanks

One correction: leaving things as they are isn't an option, it just isn't working...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Working Knowledge of MN School Funding

Last week I attended the following, and I whole heartedly agree that the LAC Education Forum was very successful and informative !!!!!

At first I thought Tim was talking too fast and that we would be done in no time. Amazingly he had enough content to fill up over an hour with interesting information. Approximately 40 people attended including 4 State politicians and quite a few board members / board member candidates from several school districts. Along with yours truly and many other interested citizens. Thanks again to the LAC members for setting it up !!!

"The Robbinsdale Area Schools' Legislative Action Coalition (LAC) hosted an event entitled, "A Working Knowledge of Education Funding is Possible!" Tim Strom, from the nonpartisan Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department and one of the most knowledgeable K-12 education finance experts in the state of Minnesota, was the presenter."

Presentation Powerpoint
Presentation Video

District 281 LAC Page
School Finance - Legislator's Guide
Last Years School Funding 101
Last Years MN Miracle Presentation

Any thoughts or questions ????

Thursday, October 8, 2009

RAS Useful Blog Links

Enjoy and comments encouraged

Speed - Unions No?
Speed - Death By Committee
Speed - Seven come Eleven

Sun: 11 File
Sun: Levy
Sun: RSIS Policy
The Voter Sept/Oct

281 Exposed - Candidate Events
281 Exposed - 11 file to run for school board
281 Exposed - 281 Officials Scramble

DJ's Tests, Tests, Tests
DJ's Financial Responsibility
DJ's Issues, Issues, Issues
DJ's No Endorsement

RAS School Board Candidate Links

Well no one asked to post, however here are the links. I'll correct and add as I find more.

Sun Sailor RAS Board Candidate Statements
District Candidate Link Document
District Election Site

Darlene Baker, Plymouth

Mark Bomchill, Plymouth – Endorsed by RFT
- Letter by Denise Loidolt
- Letter by Teacher's Union

Richard J. Brytnteson, Crystal

Patsy Green, New Hope – Incumbent, Endorsed by RFT
- Letter by Kami Aho
- Letter by Leesa Avila
- Letter by Tarnowski's
- Letter by Teacher's Union

Linda Johnson, Golden Valley – Incumbent, Endorsed by RFT
- Letter by Blonigan's
- Letter by Gail Vold Greco
- Letter by George Abide
- Letter by Teacher's Union

Jim Oathout, Crystal
- Letter by Chris Grace
- Letter by Dale Bartholomew

Andrew Richter, Crystal
- Letter by Chris Grace

Beth Sharpe, Brooklyn Center

Sue Stavenau, Plymouth

Tom Walsh, Plymouth – Incumbent, Endorsed by RFT
- Letter by Tom Ross
- Letter by Bruce Rader
- Letter by George Abide
- Letter by Teacher's Union

Brian Zirbes, Crystal.

General Links
- Letter by Todd McIntyre

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life and the 8th Habit

Here are some useful graphics from an excellent book. "The 8th Habit" by Stephen Covey.

Hopefully these teasers will generate some comments and get folks to read more of Covey's work.

I hope my next post will be on RAS stuff, however work has been pretty chaotic of late !!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Leaders: Serving vs Self Serving

Time for another book report. This book is called "The Secret - What Great Leaders Know and Do" by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. I bought the book because I love pretty much anything I have ever read by Ken Blanchard, not knowing that this was regarding a topic near and dear to my heart. That topic being Servant Leadership.

Ken almost always partners with someone new for each book. Then they collaborate and write an incredible, and short, fiction book that teaches powerful messages in a enjoyable and memorable way.

If you are unfamiliar with the terms, I have no doubt you are familiar with the concepts. There are 2 primary ways to lead and manage people, and most of us have a history with both. The first is often known as Directive, Top down, Authoritative, "my way or the highway", "I am the boss so I make the decisions", etc. Often this method is used by people that think they are smarter than their subordinates or are busy "self serving" their own interests. Typically the subordinates do as they are told to keep their jobs (provide their hands), however they often withdraw their creativity, passion, energy, head and heart to the minimal acceptable level.

The alternative is known as Supportive, Collaborative, Servant Leadership, etc. In this paradigm the Mgr, Spvr, Leader, etc's primary role is to set SMART expectations, guide and enable. They understand that the only way to maximize success and truly get 100+% out of the followers / partners is to win their hearts, and then their heads and hands. This is especially critical in our current knowledge based economy.

Ken and Mark propose the following:
  • See the Future
  • Engage and Develop Others
  • Reinvent Continuously
  • Value Results and Relationships
  • Embody the Values
First, you must be willing and able to see the destination. How effective would a trail guide be that did not know where the group was ultimately going during the trip, or where the camp sites were along the way???

Second, you need to recruit and select the right people for the right job. Then you need to do whatever it takes to engage their hearts, heads and hands.

Third, you must be willing to continuously ask how am I learning and growing as a leader? What am I doing to promote the same in others? Are we working to reinvent the systems and processes? Are we reinventing the organizational structure when it is necessary?

Fourth, you need to focus on both getting results and developing excellent relationships. Both are critical to be successful over the long term.

Fifth, you must walk the talk if you want people to trust and follow you !!!!

As always, read the book because they explain it much better. Second, do you think my belief "that Servant Leadership is super" is mistaken because it is too soft and impractical !!! Or is it the only way to compete effectively in our rapidly changing business, social and political environment !!! Thoughts and comments encouraged !!! (Ref Type X, Y, Z)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

To: RAS 281 School Board Candidates

Free Advertising Space for ALL Candidates
If you have a message regarding why citizens should vote for you and what you want to accomplish as a Board Member, I am happy to work with you to post it on Give2Attain.
Or if you have a web page, facebook site, etc. I will happily provide a link.
Get your message out there NOW!!!
Only 33 days Left of the Campaign!!!
The advantage: Easy access to 140+ of the most active RAS citizens/administrators, they can post comments/questions and you can post comments/answers !!!!
The disadvantage: Your positions and views will be clearly documented for ever... (for better or worse)
Write to me at if you are interested. I am open to all political, religious, etc affiliations and am maintaining my neutrality during the campaign. (at least til I know more...)
By the way, no negative campaigning will be allowed. (ie see G2A Rules)