Austin Packer Bulletin - 0108
Volume 1, Issue 8
Upcoming Decision Important for District
As an Austin School Board member, I see firsthand the deep commitment of our faculty and staff to provide a quality education for our kids. I have seen this commitment from a personal perspective as well, with three children who attended Austin Public Schools and now two grandchildren enrolled in our district.
I am writing today about an important community decision that will impact the future of our schools – the Nov. 8 referendum to increase the school operating levy.
Austin Public Schools strives to provide students with the support they need to grow and thrive.
Students can receive extra support in academic subjects like reading and math, and participate in athletics, the arts, and numerous other extracurricular activities. They can explore options to further their education or get a closer look at potential careers. By the time they graduate from high school, many Packers have earned college credits or have had hands-on experience in technical careers.
Now, our school district is facing serious financial challenges. For more than a decade, state funding has failed to keep up with the rising cost of education. While we have done our best to effectively manage costs over the years, the district had to make some budget cuts in 2020 after voters declined to increase the operating levy. We were fortunate to have access to COVID relief funding to help reduce the impact of those cuts, but that funding is quickly coming to an end.
Next year, the district faces a $3 million budget deficit. Without additional revenue, our district will need to make additional spending cuts which will likely lead to larger class sizes and reductions in educational programming and student services.
To offset operational costs when state and federal funding falls short, hundreds of Minnesota school districts have turned to an operating levy to close the gap. For years, Austin has ranked lowest in the Big Nine, with per pupil general education revenue of $42.70. The Austin School Board is proposing to increase this from $42.70 to $512.70 per student. This proposed increase still places us in the bottom half of the Big Nine schools. By comparison, Albert Lea operates at $580.99 per pupil and Rochester has an operating levy of $878.89 per pupil. If approved, the new levy would generate $2.4 million per year, which would stabilize the district's finances. The proposed increase would cost an estimated $12 per month for an owner of a home valued at $170,000.
This is a community decision that will impact all of us. Visit AccelerateAustin.org to learn more about the referendum. Please become informed and get answers to your questions before you cast your ballot on Nov. 8. (ADH 10/14/22)
The Austin Public Schools operating levy referendum will shape the future of our district. Learn more about how it would impact your taxes! Visit AccelerateAustin.org/cost to find our tax calculator.
Elected to Work for our Kids!: Leathers Nominated for All-State School Board
Fellow APS board members have nominated Austin Public Schools' Board Member, Don Leathers, for All-State Recognition from the Minnesota School Board Association.
Mr. Leathers has served as a school board member for ten years in the Austin Public Schools. His extensive MSBA training and experience are helping Austin Public Schools make progress toward achieving our vision. One example of Mr. Leathers' dedication is in the MSBA Delegate Assembly. This is where Mr. Leathers has participated in what MSBA calls "…the most effective grassroots approaches of any of the interests represented at the state Capitol." Mr. Leathers also regularly engages in advocacy work at the Capitol and other state advocacy organizations.
MSBA will share the results of the state-wide nomination process in January. We salute Mr. Leather's public service and commitment to the Austin Public Schools.
2022-2023 Student School Board Representative
The Student School Board representative helps keep the board up-to-date with what's happening at Austin High School while also sharing concerns and helping find solutions from the student perspective. One of this year's student school board representatives is AHS junior Nawras Zaki.
Affordable Connectivity Program
What is it?
The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC program that helps connect families and households struggling to afford internet service. The benefit provides:
- Up to $30/month discount for internet service;
- Up to $75/month discount for households on qualifying Tribal lands; and
- A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
Who is eligible?
A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
- Participates in any of the following assistance programs:
- SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
- Participates in any of the following Tribal specific programs:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or Tribal Head Start (income based);
- Participates in the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider's existing low-income internet program.
Two Steps to Enroll
- Go to AffordableConnectivity.gov to submit an application or print a mail-in application
- Eligible households must apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan. Contact your preferred participating provider to select an eligible plan and have the discount applied to your bill. providers may have an alternative application that they will ask you to complete.
Call 877-384-2575 or visit fcc.gov/acp
Nominations for 2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year are now open!
The Minnesota Teacher of the Year program, now in its 59th year, is the oldest and most prestigious recognition program in Minnesota to honor excellence in education. The program chooses one teacher to represent Minnesota's thousands of excellent educators. You can nominate an Austin Public Schools teacher here.
Together We Make a Difference
What is Together We Make a Difference?
Educational leadership organizations from across the state have committed their support to an action plan that is designed to provide the opportunity for all students to attend school, learn and participate in safe and respectful environments free from racial, gender, and religious harm. The Together initiative is based upon the foundational belief that student participation and elevating their voices in this work is paramount to its success.
What Has Happened?
Nearly 1,500 high school students representing 150 MSHSL member schools have attended one of seven regional World Cafés as part of the Together We Make a Difference initiative. Students who attended a regional event participate in activities and/or athletics, are leaders or emerging leaders in their school communities and desire to be a catalyst for positive change. At the World Café regional events, students from different schools engaged with each other and had robust conversations that focused on building camaraderie, removing barriers, and holding themselves and others accountable to high standards of conduct and respect for all.
What Is Next?
Students who attended a regional Together We Make a Difference event will be invited to a State Conference to be held in late November/early December in the Twin Cities Metro area. The state conference will be a time when students will analyze and synthesize the data gathered from the regional meetings. The conversations and information created at the state conference will be shared with the sponsoring education associations and partners to be used to formulate a new path forward. (MSHSL correspondence)
Thank you to the AT&T Foundation for their generous donation of $15,000 to the Austin Aspires Digital Navigator program.
The Digital Navigator program is a part of the Aspires Leaders of Tomorrow (ALOT) program and helps to close the digital divide by providing education to youth and families on how to access the internet, utilize various online tools, and improve digital literacy. Through the program, a Digital Navigator is housed within Austin High School as a support to students to help them overcome technology challenges and provide technology access, training, and resources.
Millions of students across the U.S. are affected by the digital divide and do not have reliable internet or a computer at home to complete their homework, including students in need at Austin High School. The $15,000 AT&T Foundation grant is part of the company's $2 billion commitment from 2021-2023 to help bridge the digital divide by connecting students to skills, resources, and opportunities for success in school and in life.
Help Improve Austin's Parks and Trails
The City of Austin is currently updating the City's Comprehensive Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan. The City is asking for help from the entire Austin community to help develop your plan and is currently seeking input utilizing an online survey.
Please take a few minutes to complete a survey! Your feedback is crucial as it will help our community create goals and policies to guide Austin's future growth.
Thank you for your time and thoughts!
In this week's Alumni Spotlight, we catch up with alumnus Diana Ramirez Avalos.
Are you an alumnus of Austin Public Schools? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
We're excited to hear about your accomplishments and are eager to share your successes and advice with our current students, families, and the Austin community. Please take a few minutes to complete the quick questionnaire at https://www.austin.k12.mn.us/district-resources/alumni-spotlight regarding your current position and your career trajectory.
Thanks, and we look forward to hearing all your wonderful stories!
At Austin Public Schools, our mission is to inspire, empower, and accelerate every one of our learners, and we know that the only way for us to reach this goal is through the efforts of all our incredibly hard-working staff.
In this week’s Staff Spotlight, we’re highlighting Austin High School art teacher and girls soccer coach Jake Levisen.
"Jake is a really great teacher, both in the classroom and on the field. He inspires his students and athletes to improve, push themselves, and be better every single day. He’s an awesome role model and teacher for Austin!"
If you’d like to nominate an outstanding Austin Public Schools staff member for our weekly Staff Spotlight, please take a moment to fill out the form at https://www.austin.k12.mn.us/district-resources/staff-spotlight. It only takes a minute and can truly make someone’s day. Thanks!
The World's Best Workforce committee is established by Minnesota law to provide parents and community members' involvement and input with respect to school programs and curricular offerings.
- This committee consists of parents, community members, teachers and administrators.
- Meetings occur every other month from 4-5:30 at AHS conference room.
- World's Best Work Force is the primary link in involving the community in the systems accountability process.
- Persons interested in serving as committee members may contact Teaching and Learning, 460-1912, for further information.
Please visit our WBWF site for more information.
Superintendent Coffee and Conversation
Please consider joining Superintendent Page at the Coffee House on Main, 329 Main Street North, for Coffee and Conversation!
November 2 - 11:00 – 11:30 AM
November 7 - 7:00 – 7:45 AM
November 29 - 7:00 – 7:45 AM
December 7 - 10:00 – 10:45 AM
January 5 - 7:00 – 7:45 AM
*Dates are subject to change
Or you can contact me at email@example.com or call 507-460-1900 to schedule an appointment.
Wed, Nov 2, 2022, 11:00 AM
329 Main Street North, Austin, MN, USA
In The News
- How One School Is Beating the Odds in Math, the Pandemic's Hardest-Hit Subject
- Why America Needs More Men Working in Health Care and Education
- Dress code policies can make schools less equitable and safe
- See Austin Public School's policy here
- Eat or pay tuition? Many community college students are forced to choose. But colleges can help.
- Online school put U.S. kids behind. Some adults have regrets.