Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Problem w/ Intent

Well, last week I made an error and felt it worth withdrawing a post. I had listened carefully during meetings, thought carefully about what I had heard and then made the cardinal mistake.

I posted what I believed was someone's intent without actually talking to them.

Then, I was very happy that the individual called me on it. We talked and though I am not totally convinced that I was incorrect, there is enough question in my mind that I pulled the post. So, now I have taken the time to write down notes from recent RAS meetings. Hopefully with minimal editorial bias.

Thoughts regarding the Facilities problem, RAS budget problem or the INTENT problem are welcome?

Facility Divestiture Mtg Notes

~70 people attended the RAS Facility Divestiture Informational mtg on 28Jan10. I'll link to the presentation if it is posted. Until then here are some notes I took, please contact me if I am incorrect in any statement and I will correct it.

Charge to committee
  • Priority is for the best interest of the district
  • Goal is to optimize the financial return

Facilities deemed as Surplus/Opportunities

  • Olson and Pilgrim Ln Elementary can not be sold, awaiting Northport and Lakeview school build/renovate plans. Off short term divestiture plan for now.
  • Northport and Lakeview plan options:
  • 1. Demolish Northport and build new school on the site which is large enough to hold Northport and Lakeview students. Would require a capital levy vote.
  • 2. Complete major remodel of both Northport and Lakeview. Would require use of district capital and alternative funding. (ie levy w/o vote)
  • 3. Complete base remodel of Northport and Lakeview. Would require alternative funding, may be able to be done during Summers?
  • Time frame was uncertain. Rebuilding took take yrs due to the required capital referendum required. Various rules regarding when vote can occur. RAS would hold surveys to see if it was likely to pass prior to putting it up for a vote.
  • If 287 stopped using Hosterman, the building would not be worth maintaining just for the competition pool.
  • New Hope Elementary taken off divestiture list. Needed for parking, play fields, wrestling, other programs, etc.
  • No likely sale for Highview building, likely to be demolished. The church once looked at it, however did not pursue.
What goes into Sandburg?
  • Current plan would be the Highview program (currently in Cavanagh), Adult Education from Winnetka Learning Center, 18-21 yr olds transition student program.
  • These could move this Summer if 287 does not need the building. 287 program would only fit in Sandburg. They would not need that much space if they had smaller rooms, however the Middle school rooms are large so their program spreads out.

What about Cavanagh?

  • It is getting old and expensive (age, Hwy 81 work reqd, etc)
  • The ECFE/ECSE programs would likely be moved to New Hope Elementary
  • District low cost renovation when they moved the Highview program their.
  • Second minor fixup required due to a deal with the city.
What about Hosterman?
  • No plans regarding who will demolish it. (RAS or 287) Still being negotiated.
  • May need to upgrade the Sandburg pool to competition status? (no plan yet)
  • No detailed site plan regarding how bus garage or new ESC would fit on the site.
  • Some concerns that buses would primarily enter/exit to Winnetka Ave.
Other comments/questions
  • Poor market for selling properties that would be used for residential.
  • District/board are still unwilling to sell to any charter schools at this time.
  • One attendee expressed that the school is probably worrying too much about who or what the properties will be used for. This was the duty of the City Boards and Planning personnel.
  • Another lived near Hosterman and did not to look at a bus garage or the buses.
  • The Divestiture committee is expected to give a proposal to the board Spring/Fall 2010
My questions were:
  • If we do not put "For Sale" signs up on the properties, how will we ever truly know how much they are worth and who wants to buy them?
  • If we delay this longer and do not raise the capital for remodelling Northport and Lakeview by selling these properties, are we going to Alternative Financing to raise taxes / capital?
  • My points were acknowledged.
Small Groups:
  • The mtg then broke into smaller groups and discussed concerns regarding individual properties.
  • Opinion... It seemed most of the attendees were administrators, board members, Divestiture committee members or people that lives near a property in question.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meeting Notes 21Jan10

The black comments were posted in the PMS meeting minutes for 21Jan10. The comments in color were additional items I recorded in my notes. It was a casual open form with Dr Sicoli addressing about 12 parents. There were more questions and comments from the parents, however you'll get the gist. If you were there and see any errors, please contact me and I'll correct it accordingly. Thanks.

Guest Speaker, Superintendent – Dr. Aldo Sicoli

  • There are approximately 12,000 students in the district
  • Parent & community involvement is “large” in this district
  • Not without many types of challenges
  • In the future, will be needing to reduce budget drastically, first by $1.6 million and then by $5.7 million
  • We are not alone in budget struggles; it is predicted that it will be worse before it gets better and this is a long-term issue
  • State may defer some Spring payments
  • Need committed parents, educators & School Board members

Opened up to Q&A discussion with parents at meeting:

What is the status of the vacant buildings in our district?

  • There will be a meeting to discuss this next week at PMS
  • 287 looking to buy some land on Hosterman site. Best to sell them the existing building site instead of dividing the parcel. (ie worth more) If it happens, 287 will likely need most of the Sandburg bldg while Hosterman is demolished and the new 287 facility is built.
  • Therefore the Winnetka and Cavanagh programs can not be moved into Sandburg until the 287 facility is complete.
  • Northport and Lakeview need remodel, zero, one or two schools may be needed to house students depending on which option is selected. Current options under consideration.
  • 1. Demolish Northport and build new school on the site which is large enough to hold Northport and Lakeview students. Would require a capital levy vote.
  • 2. Complete major remodel of both Northport and Lakeview. Would require use of district capital and alternative funding. (ie levy w/o vote)
  • 3. Complete base remodel of Northport and Lakeview. Would require alternative funding, may be able to be done during Summers?
  • Likely district will keep New Hope Elementary. Need parking for CHS. Use the building for CHS Wrestling. Use the playfields for other CHS sports. All RAS programs will not fit in Sandburg. May use NHE for some of them.
  • The Highview bldg near HS will need to be demolished. No other use identified.
  • Cavanagh and Winnetka are on hold until Hosterman / Sandburg issue is resolved. (ie can't empty them until Sandburg is truly available)
  • ESC/Bus garage relocation is on hold indefinitely. Ball is in Ryan's court to get rezoning work done/estimated. Ryan is hesitant in this economy. Besides, current ESC/Garage location is good/centralized.
  • Other issues is losing the competition swim pool that is in Hosterman.
  • Task force has monthly meetings and will deliver their report over the summer
  • Changes have a domino effect, when one program moves, it affects another, etc.

What is the future for Extracurricular Activities?

  • If balance is reduced at the rate predicted, Extra activities will likely be affected.
  • Extracurriculars may some day not be affiliated with the schools due to funding issues. However students of this generation deserve as good as we had.
  • Currently there is a fund balance of 3%.
  • Low class sizes and other factors have reduced the number of in school and out of school suspensions significantly at PMS. (~40% YTD)
  • MCA tests are being reviewed. A college task force is reviewing options: end of course exams, ACTs, etc.
  • Some groups are starting to work on national testing stds. Would be lower than current MN stds.
  • Class sizes will increase in the future

What is our district doing for PR?

  • Pointing out the positives, like both HS being in the top 100 in the nation
  • Provide a quality product and market it
  • Be creative with how we bring student back
  • RAS sent out a letter to RAS parents that left the district for other options. The letter invited them back to RAS.
  • Mtka spends to advertise in Movie theaters, letters, etc.
  • Some districts have a higher cap on levy due to when granted this when the law was passed.
  • Declining enrollment hard to manage financially. Lonny Smith the new Busn Director has some great ideas.
  • Previous district opened many magnet schools to keep and draw students.
  • Open enrollment helps districts. 1 in 7 in Edina are open enrollees. Great district.
  • Look at new programs (like STEM programs)

What are the top challenges you are facing?

  • Dealing with the achievement gap (priority not only for our district, but the nation)
  • Students do well in RAS, however high mobility makes it difficult.
  • MAP is better than MCA since the kids take it 2 to 3 times per year, and it monitors growth.
  • Other countries wish their students would be as creative as our students.
  • MAP testing is a useful tool/reviewing testing, etc.

What do you see as strengths of our district?

  • Rigorous academic programs
  • Plenty of opportunities to be challenged
  • Are than a year’s progress in a year’s time
  • Diversity
  • Teaching, learning, technology
  • GREAT staff here, highly committed to student learning!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lighter Fare

These humorous definitions seem useful at times like this:

  • Rich - "Those that have more money than ourself...."
  • Overpaid - "Those that make more than ourself...."
  • Wasteful - "Those that spend diffently than ourself...."

Any others to add? What can we learn from them?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

RAS Financial Trouble

Some things to remember when looking at the linked worksheet:
  • $1 million = ~83 student drop at ~$12,000 per student (09/10)
  • $3.6 million = ~300 student drop at ~$12,000 per student (10/11)
  • The 10/11 student reduction is an estimate which could easily vary higher or lower. (ie guesstimate)
  • This is why schools are interested in enticing the students back to the district, or pulling open enrollees into the district.
  • This is variation across ~12,000 students, so though the numbers are big, the percent variation is fairly small. (300 kids = 2.5%)
  • $5.7 million gap = $5.9 million fund bal goal - $ .2 million forecast
  • As DJ pointed out: apparently ~$3 million of the gap created when the latest contract was signed. (G2A S and L) Now is this labor or mgmts fault... Either way, all of us will pay in the coming years.
  • This is operating dollars, not capital... Selling facilities will not raise funds that can directly offset this. Though, it would result in reduced maintenance, heating, etc expenses.
Since the active folks have seen this coming for 6+ mths, I wonder how shocked the majority of RAS citizens will be? (G2A Promises) Please reply with any other interesting things I am missing here. Thanks

Budget Reduction Announcement
Budget Adjustment Worksheet

RAS Facilites and Capital

Facilities Meeting

I had a long dissertation posted here regarding my perceptions about RAS plans, motives and philosophy. The reality is that you need to get to the meeting and judge for yourself.

Just remember things are moving slower than many would have assumed based on last January's meetings. Be prepared to hear what is happening... Then form your own opinions.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Difficult Conversations

As I have mentioned, I am a huge fan of a book named Crucial Conversations.
G2A Crucial Confrontations

Now thanks to a co-worker, I have found another similar book to promote. It is called "Difficult Conversations - How to discuss what matters most" by Stone, Patton & Heen. It is a relatively easy read with lots of examples and specific usable advice.

Any thoughts from the readers regarding what they have learned about holding those Difficult Conversations that many either "fight during or run from"? I personally believe that fighting / running only deepens the conflict over time. If you are delaying or reliving the same discussion with someone you care about, this is definitely worth a read.

Difficult Conversations - 3 Conversations
Difficult Conversations - Checklist
Difficult Conversations - Summary 1
Difficult Conversations - Summary 2
Difficult Conversations and Law Libraries

Friday, January 22, 2010

RAS Advocacy Trg

Well, I went to see Supt Sicoli speak at PMS. Similar messages to when he was at ZLE, however I'll post my notes in a couple days.

With that said, who attended the Advocacy training and what are your thoughts? Here is a link to the RAS Advocacy site if you are interested.

RAS Advocacy Trg Material

Thursday, January 21, 2010

LAC Legislator's Meeting

To address J's comment, the LAC web site include's the RAS 2010 Platform.
RAS LAC Legislator's Mtg
RAS LAC Web Site

I think I am going to PMS to listen to Supt Sicoli speak instead of learning about Advocacy. I'll take good notes....
PMS Agenda

Monday, January 18, 2010

RAS Important Dates

Mark your calendars for these interesting events.

First, learn why divestiture and program relocation is moving very slowly. And why Supt Sicoli thinks it should be slowed further. You should probably attend if you think these tasks should be expedited and not delayed.
RAS Divestiture Plan Advisory Committee Public Info Mtg
Jan 28th at 7 PM in Plymouth Middle School Media Center

Second, learn how best to inform and arm twist your local legislators. I am pretty sure this is intended to be used to raise school funding. However, advocacy is advocacy and it may be interesting for everyone.
LAC "How to" forum on Legislative Advocacy
Jan 21 at 6:30 PM at Winnetka Learning Center

For or Against: Get out there and get involved, these are 2 good opportunities.

Any comments or things we should watch for at the meetings?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sun Sailor Irony

Last week's paper was interesting, these two were across the page from each other.

One in which an Editor is commenting that he thinks schools and cities should operate differently. This coming from a journalist was unique in its own right.
Sun Sailor Radically Rethink

And this one where Principals working as guest columnists advertise their "traditional" schools.
Sun Sailor Middle Schools are Excellent

What do you think? A funny alignment of the stars?

RAS Teacher Contract Settled?

Remember, this moves the steps/lanes. The teachers would actually see more than this. Let's hope quite a few of the more highly compensated teachers retire soon. Otherwise RAS will need to cut elsewhere to pay for this.

RAS Contract Confirmation
SUN Robbinsdale teacher's contract likely settled
WCCO Districts/Teachers Scramble
DJ's Letter to the Board
281 Exposed Contract
G2A Steps and Lanes
G2A When Reality Hits
G2A RAS Campaign Finance


Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Long Drive

Well Folks,
The wife, 3 daughters, dog and myself made a whirl wind trip to Madison, SD today to celebrate a rescheduled "Christmas" with my in-laws. The first date was cancelled due to the Christmas blizzards, and thankfully this week's snow was cleared just in time. Due to other scheduling commitments: we left Plymouth at 8 AM, partied from 12:30 to 5:00, and got back home at 10 PM. Well this made for a pretty crazy hectic day...

Then as we were nearing the cities the following song came on the radio. Now those who don't listen to country music will need to listen to get the significance. In summary though, when things are the craziest, it may be worth taking a few minutes to really enjoy it. I can assure you it made me smile and remeber that "these are the good old days"!!! (whichever phase of life you are in...)

You're Gonna Miss This - Trace Adkins

Friday, January 8, 2010

Let Education Reform Begin?

It looks like California is making some changes. What do you think:
  • Should Minnesota follow suit?
  • Should RAS support these changes?
  • Will this make a difference?
  • What is missing? Race to the Top
KGO Radio Gov Signs
SFGate State Ed Plan makes Parents Responsible
281 Exp Loan Sharks?
USA Today Educ Reforms

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eulogy Exercise: Methods

Well since I received no comments, I guess I'll take a shot at it... How can we:

Clarify the expectations of others and learn how they really think you are doing?
  • Humility is the key to achieving this. I keep running into a similar quote, latest was in Avatar. "A full cup can hold no more." You need to truly believe that "you do not know everything", and that "you can learn from them". If you believe you KNOW what your spouse wants, thinks, or feels, how can you truly listen and learn?
  • Now that you have some space in your cup, you need to really listen with an empathetic and focused ear. A test if you are listening well: "Can you paraphrase what someone just told you to their satisfaction?" Bonus points if you can truly feel why it is important to them...
  • Now you need to challenge your own personal resistances and bias. Humans often hear only the points that support their personal belief, and discount or totally block out things that "do not compute". It takes a dedicated and conscious effort to look at the dialogue through a different "frame" and look for feedback that supports an alternative belief system or hypothesis... It is scary to question our core beliefs and perceptions, however it is critical to do if the other party is important to you. What can they see that I am missing?
Balance meeting their needs, while being true to yourself and your principles?

  • I believe the answer to this is documenting your principles clearly, keeping them in front of you, and striving to meet them. This provides an absolute grounding point and compass that guides your beliefs, behaviors and actions. Also, it will help to define the important people in your life. (ie those eulogizer's that truly matter)
  • The principles also help you to balance your commitments to the "important" people. And they help you behave more consistently, which is appreciated by most people I interact with. (ie they know what to expect)
  • Finally, the principles will guide your behaviors and warn you before you go too far astray.
Avoid misleading yourself into believing you are "better" than you really are? (ie self awareness, facing reality, etc)
  • Like topic 1: pay attention to "ALL" feedback, especially that which disagrees with your belief... Then question what it means.
Changing or living by your beliefs, behaviors and actions to really earn the desired words?
  • Everyday is a new day and you have free will !!!! What happened previously may have created habits, been good/terrible, etc. However, today is new and you are free to create new habits, behaviors, beliefs, actions, etc. The challenge is that you really need to want your life to be different and you need to be willing to give up chains that tie you to your old life.
  • One technique is to use daily affirmations to sway your subconscious into believing that the change has already occurred. (ie I feel empowered when public speaking because it gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge with others.)
  • Make full use of the "pause point" that occurs between when someone does or says something that ruffles your feathers, and you take action, reply, etc. During this time you are creating a story from your perspective, force yourself to question the story's validity. Also, remember your principles during this time and let them guide you to the best response. Thereby avoiding escalating the situation by saying or doing something you will regret.
  • Remember that rarely is anyone out to get you. Since they are focused on themselves and their needs, just like you are.
  • Finally, you will fail sometimes !!! Make a plan to accept it quickly, brush yourself off, and start again ASAP. Creating new life long habits typically does not happen the first time.
Thoughts? What did I miss?

Monday, January 4, 2010

RAS Response to Intervention & Audits

They discussed this RTI topic in quite a bit of detail at the RAS Board meeting. What do you think? Is this something new and good, the "same old same old" with a different name, or a slide to the dark side?

RAS Response to Intervention Presentation
National Center on RTI
Wiki RTI
RTI: The Cons

They also covered the Audit report
RAS Audit Report Presentation

Thank heavens for web hosting and a big monitor !!! I am writing this as I watch/listen to the webcast !!! amazing ....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Eulogy Exercise: The Problem

Let's say that you did the eulogy exercise as I recommended and gave some serious thought to what you would want your spouse, children, grand children, friends, employer, community members, religious leader, etc to say about you during your funeral. This means that you now have a list of phrases in mind. For example, Bob was an(a):
  • excellent husband and father who loved, respected, provided for, etc his spouse and children.
  • dynamic and creative employee who achieved results and helped his fellow co-workers
  • wonderful friend who you enjoyed being with and could count on in your time of need
  • charitable and devout man who honored his civic and religious responsibilities, and lived by his religious convictions
  • successful businessman that people respected greatly
  • free spirit that seized opportunities to experience life
  • and on, on and on
This is a great start, however I am sorry to say that this is the easy part. Most of us know what our terms of "success" are, the challenge is understanding what success looks like through the eyes of the other people. For them to say those words, "they" need to perceive that your actions earned them. (ie not your belief...) Here are some examples of what can go sorely wrong when we deceive ourselves and/or don't look at the issue from the "eulogizer's" point of view:
  • The husband that works 60+ hrs/wk to provide for his family when they want him home for supper at night.
  • An employee that works on many excellent tasks and gains results that are not valued by his employer. Or the employee that micro-manages or interrupts his peers while trying to help them.
  • A guy who had fun with "friends", however he was frustrating to be around and they were too polite to say anything.
  • The citizen who thinks voting once every 4 years is being a good citizen.
  • The parishioner that goes to church every Sunday, yet turns his back on the needy in his community or does not honor other religious values during the week. Or gives a "healthy" 3% when everyone else gives 8%.
  • A businessman that is feared by his employees or succeeds by questionable means.
  • A gentleman moves from one activity to another without completing or committing to any of them.
In all of these cases, the individual can fool themselves into believing they are "living right" and earning the kind words they desire. However, I don't think the eulogies will be what he expected... Overcoming this is incredibly difficult, because it requires us to really face our vices/virtues and what others expect from us. And then we need to balance this against our core principles.

At this point I was going to give some ideas on how to manage this problem, however I would like to hear my reader's thoughts on how to best:
  • Clarify the expectations of others and learn how they really think you are doing?
  • Balance meeting their needs, while being true to yourself and your principles?
  • Avoid misleading yourself into believing you are "better" than you really are? (ie self awareness, facing reality, etc)
  • Changing or living by your beliefs, behaviors and actions to really earn the desired words?
Remember, you set the goals in the first portion. Now do you want to refine them or really live up to them? Thoughts?


Wishing you and yours the very best !!!