School Board Update

January 2022

School Board Meeting Recap

Each month the board is presented with non-action and action items for their consideration. A few noteworthy items from this month's meeting are included here.


Items Approved by the Board


The full board agenda can be found here.

Big picture

Superintendent Update - Dr. Rudolph

As we continue to work through the day-to-day challenges that present themselves around pandemic guidelines and standards, this is also the time of the year when we begin to plan for the 2022-23 school year. District leaders are beginning to project enrollment which will drive staffing plans for next year along with the focus on reducing class sizes in accordance with referendum responsibilities. For the first time since beginning as Superintendent, we are moving into the spring without reducing budgets for the following school year. This will allow us to be able to shift some focus to strategic planning efforts and continue to engage our community about a vision for our district’s future. We also are planning for Kindergarten registration. This coming fall, we will welcome the Bluejacket class of 2035! It’s hard to comprehend what the world will look like in 2035, but we are committed to ensuring that our newest Bluejackets will be well prepared to succeed, lead, and serve! It’s the Bluejacket Way!

Administrative Services & Human Resources

By: Shawn Kirkeide


Community Education Director

We conducted interviews with potential candidates for the position of Community Education Director. We are pleased to announce that we are recommending to the board for hire, Christina Thayer Anderson. Christina is currently serving as our Interim Community Education Director, and we look forward to working with her in the future.


OSHA ETS

Over the past weeks, the HR department has been following the requirements of the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On January 4, 2022, HR emailed all employees the School Board policy, resources, and requirements of the OSHA ETS. Along with that information, we asked for the vaccination status of our employees. We began collecting this data and informing employees of the mask requirements. As of January 13, 2022, we were notified of the Supreme Court ruling which placed a stay on the OSHA ETS. Therefore we are no longer moving forward with the requirements of the OSHA ETS.

Finance & Operations

By: Christopher Kampa, CFA


Finance

This week, Moody’s upgraded the district’s credit rating from “negative outlook” to “stable outlook”. They cited credit strengths of prudent fiscal management, improved cash and fund balance, and growing enrollment. Moody’s stated the “[district] restored cash and fund balance after several years of decline and will likely stabilize at the improved levels because of its conservative budgeting practices.” While we believe that it’s important for our community and students to have a school district with a solid financial foundation, we know that this positive development did not come without sacrifice. Years of budget cuts have fallen onto the shoulders of our staff and we thank you for your resilience and effort to restore the district’s financial standing.


We wrapped up our FY2021 audit and will present the final results at the January board meeting. We had one of our better years in terms of financial results. Thanks to three years of budget cuts and federal COVID funding, we increased our unassigned fund balance from approximately $2.0 million to $5.0 million. The operating referendum will kick in next fiscal year. We will still be below average in revenue per student, but if we manage our funds wisely, we should be able to avoid further budget cuts; and can instead focus on building back our programming for students.


Transportation

We continue to struggle with staffing. It’s difficult to hire in this current environment, but we have added over twenty new bus drivers this year. Unfortunately, due to retirements and COVID quarantines, we are still under-staffed. The decision to switch to a two-tier system paid off as we are able to transport more students to school than we would have been able to under the traditional single-tier system. We haven’t been perfect and we want to thank our families and students for their patience and understanding.


Food Service

We have made a few necessary online changes due to program compliance requirements. Our new department website and menu planning system went online on January 1st. We are implementing a new daily production process to transition from physical documents to online data. This will provide us with greater metrics to optimize the financial performance of the department and offer meal options that are more popular with the student body.


Our first round of Minnesota Department of Health inspections has been completed for the year. We are very happy to report that there were no significant findings at any location.


Building & Grounds

Our custodial and grounds crews continue to do an amazing job preparing our sites for each and every day with the health and safety of staff and students as a top priority. Eco Engineering began the LED retrofit project at the High School. The crew made great progress in their first week. We will continue to bring bids to the board for our LTFM project. We will receive four bids in January for the high school steam-to-hot-water conversion/mechanical upgrades, building envelope (district-wide), equipment package, and the wastewater project at CMS. We will receive two bids in February for the CPIS HVAC upgrade/steam-to-hot-water conversion and controls package (district-wide).

Community Education

By: Christina Thayer Anderson


Preschool Enrollment & Registration

While summer planning is in full swing, it is our fall Preschool Registration kickoff that is rapidly approaching. This year, Preschool registration will open on February 15. This is earlier than past years and is intended to ensure families know about our district choices at the same time they may be receiving information from private centers. Our classes and programs offer half-day, full-day, and classes from 2-5 days/week - all designed to provide options for families that will meet their student’s needs and work with their schedules.


We will send a postcard to all homes within the district with students that would be age-eligible for programming as well as have updated information on our website and in our upcoming brochure. Currently, our enrollment numbers have rebounded to 87% of our highest participation pre-COVID. We are serving 403 students in our preschool programs right now.


Facility Use Task Force

This group will meet again at the end of January. With the greatest questions and concerns related to rental rates, we will first review different classifications of facility users and what groupings are appropriate. Next, we will review rates and determine if a proposal to change current rates is necessary. Additionally, we are currently reviewing when building monitors and custodial teams are needed to support facility user groups. These are extra expenses incurred by the user, and also can be challenging to staff in our current staffing shortage. Working in partnership with Director Kampa and our insurance provider, we are determining what is required to keep our buildings open to the community in safe ways.


Grant Funding for Adventure Center

I am excited to share that the Adventure Center program has been receiving additional funding through the Workforce Stabilization Grant provided through MN DHS. This is a monthly grant process that requires employers to dedicate 70% of the funding to increases in wages and/or benefits. This has provided us the opportunity to increase hourly wages for our direct-service staff in all Adventure Center Programs.


This month they announced additional funding available to certified preschool and school-age programs through the One-Time Supplemental Stabilization Grant process. These grant funds are not required to be used on wages and/or benefits, and can be allocated for use on COVID-related expenses and additional program planning. All of these funds, as well as child care assistance for qualifying families, are available to the program due to annual maintenance of their certification status.

Teaching & Learning

By: Dr. Brenda Damiani


Professional Development

The Department of Teaching and Learning has been planning for the January 18 Professional Development Day. Licensed staff will have the opportunity to choose sessions that meet their needs and the needs of student learning. Content and grade-level teams will collaborate regarding standards and curriculum to meet the needs of students during the second half of the school year. This collaboration time will allow teachers to examine student data and plan for future instruction.


MTSS Training

A team of district and building leaders will participate in the Minnesota Department of Education Multi-tiered System of Support (MnMTSS) funded training beginning in February. MTSS is a systemic, continuous improvement framework for ensuring positive social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and academic outcomes for every student. District leaders are also participating in MTSS training through the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. The teams will evaluate current practices and align district processes to current research and best practices.


LETRS Training

Cambridge-Isanti K-5 Intervention teachers and academic coaches will participate in Minnesota Department of Education funded LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training. LETRS teaches the skills needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language. We are excited about this opportunity!

Student Support Services

By: Julie Williams


Updated Quarantine and Isolation Guidance (MDE)

The district COVID Committee meets regularly to review COVID data and any updates from MDH and the CDC. The CDC recently updated their recommendations for isolation and quarantine when sick or exposed to COVID-19: Quarantine and Isolation. This week, MDH updated If You Are Sick or Test Positive and Close Contacts and Quarantine. Additional MDH guidance and materials will be updated to align with CDC over the coming days.


This updated guidance does apply to K-12 school settings. Refer to:


Additionally, CDC has shared the rationale for the change with FAQs on CDC: What We Know About Quarantine and Isolation.


The COVID Committee met the week of January 10 to review the guidance and started implementing the shortened quarantine and isolation protocols for staff. MDH is in the process of updating their website. The committee will meet the week of January 17 to determine changes to quarantine and isolation protocols for students. If the committee decides to move forward with updated guidance, this will be shared with staff and families.