Following months of planning and community and staff input, the St. Michael-Albertville School Board unanimously authorized implementing full-day kindergarten beginning in fall.
The board also approved an editorial draft that will be submitted to the Star Tribune highlighting the school funding inequity issue.
Albertville Primary School Principal and district curriculum director Ann-Marie Foucault updated the board about the plan to offer full-day kindergarten, with much of the cost being funded by the state.
She said staff strongly supports the change, with input indicating that the full-day option would increase student achievement, helps close the achievement gap, is more cost effective (with higher return rates for the dollar), better prepares students for first grade, and results in healthier, happier children.
“We’ll see increased attention levels and social skills,” she said. “There will be a better (student) understanding of the school routine, with much more stamina during the work time and increased focus.”
The kindergarten recommendations include the following:
• Offer full-day kindergarten for all
• Work with families on a case-by-case basis to excuse their child from a portion of the day if requested
• Hire a full-time assistant principal with some teaching responsibilities
• Offer support services-EL, reading intervention, Special Ed, nurse, 504
• Transport all full-day kindergarten students to and from school
• House kindergarten students at the primary school
• Maintain class sizes similar to current kindergarten classes
Board chairperson Doug Birk said as the district moves on with the full-day option, that communication is still necessary.
“There is a great deal of misinformation,” Birk said. “As we move forward we need heightened communication. I’m still continuing to see some unusual characterization of our policy.”
Board member Jeff Lindquist thanked staff for taking the lead. “My sense is certainly a strong consensus among staff and a strong majority from our constituents,” he said. “This proposal expands opportunities within budget constraints.”
Birk added, “I’m very pleased how we maintained the process.”
Board members Birk, Lindquist, Gayle Weber, Jeanne Holland and Carol Steffens (member Drew Scherber was excused) unanimously adopted the full-day kindergarten recommendations.
In other news, the board discussed an editorial that will be submitted to the Star Tribune highlighting the district’s plight for a fairer school funding formula.
STMA consistently ranks near the bottom of all school districts in the state, in terms of equitable student funding. The district and its consortium of similarly low-funded school districts, Schools for Equity in Education, have been lobbying for greater attention to the funding issue.
“The time to ramp up is now,” board chairperson Birk said. “This is the political season. We need to get the message out so that it’s raised. There is a need to take some action.”
Birk shared with the board his editorial draft, which is expected to be co-signed by Education Minnesota (the teachers’ union) and the cities of Albertville and St. Michael. He said the editorial would be targeted for publication in February, right before the legislative session. Supt. Behle said he had discussed the piece with the Star Tribune editorial board, regarding “the significance of this piece at this point of time.”
Board member Weber had suggested the editorial specifically include comparative information between STMA on the low funding end and other districts on the high end. Other board members felt including such information might be more harmful than helpful since it could stoke grievances among the other named school districts and their legislative representatives.
“If we start naming schools then they’ll be on the defensive,” board member Holland said.
“I purposely avoided it,” Birk responded. “I didn’t want to create obstacles to the message.”
Board member Lindquist said the editorial needs to target a broader audience about a statewide problem that needs to be addressed, not just STMA’s problem.
The board ended up unanimously approving Birk’s draft as is.
In other action, the board:
APPROVED annual appointments. Board member Birk was reappointed board chairperson, Weber vice-chairperson, Steffens clerk and Scherber treasurer. Board compensation was increased from $3,500 per year to $3,600, with the chairperson pay up from $600 to $800. Crow River News was designated official district newspaper.