STMA hears that M-8 conference sets alignment; School board won’t approve busing Towne Lakes students

The St. Michael-Albertville School Board heard that the Mississippi 8 Conference has settled on 10 schools for competition beginning in 2013.

M-8 CONFERENCE

Activities director Brian Benson was present with a report about his department.

He noted that the M-8 Conference is set for realignment with the addition of Chisago Lakes. The conference will also consist of Rogers, Buffalo, Monticello, St. Francis, North Branch, Princeton, Big Lake and Cambridge-Isanti.

These teams will begin play in 2013, whereas next year the conference will be smaller with six total teams.

Benson also reported on an update about STMA activities, including: nine athletic teams finished as M-8 conference champions, girls cross country, girls basketball and wrestling teams advanced to state; girls swimming, boys cross country, boys swimming, wrestling, boys/girls track advanced individuals to state; mock trial was M-8 conference champions; one-act play received a star performance at the M-8 festival; the math league competed at state; and Business Professionals and speech advanced students to national competition.

He also commented about sportsmanship issues. He said STMA surveyed officials about students, coaches and athletes and that the results were very positive.

TOWNE LAKES

In other news, supt. Jim Behle came back to the board with a recommendation about a busing request for the Towne Lakes neighborhood of Albertville.

Many parents from Towne Lakes were present at the meeting.

Towne Lakes is located within the Elk River School District and has 86 open enrolled students at STMA. Towne Lakes parents were requesting the district add a busing route to their neighborhood.

"In the end I recommended we not provide transportation to open enrolled students," Behle later said. "The board agreed we shouldn’t get into it."

Behle noted that the district would pick up open enrolled students if their parents get them to one of the district bus stops. He said this practice is common among other surveyed districts.

District-wide STMA has 464 open enrolled students. More than half come from northern Albertville/Otsego. Behle said the average cost of transportation is $280 per student but that if the district charged neighborhoods like Towne Lakes it would still not recover the actual transportation cost.

"Even if we charged, it would only cover 30% to 40% of the route costs," he said.

He said the families want a better drop-off site and that the district would look into that.

LITERACY PLAN

In other news, the board heard that STMA is receiving a total of $400,000 from the Literacy Incentive Aid program funded by the state.

With the funds STMA will hire 4.75 full-time equivalent staff positions specifically for reading specialists in the elementary and middle schools.

"The goal is for all students to be readers by third grade," Supt. Behle said, in addition to closing the achievement gap. "It’s a very good program."

In other action, the board:

APPROVED the federally mandated lunch price increase tied to new nutritional requirements. Lunch prices will be $2.20 for kindergarten through grade four, and $2.35 for grades five through 12.

FINALIZED the district’s strategic plan vision and strategic directions. The district’s vision is to be in the top 15% of all Minnesota public school districts. The old goal of being in the top 25% was achieved.

-Compiled by Aaron Brom

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