STMA hires new position to work with special education services

by Peg Craig

Contributing Writer

The St. Michael–Albertville School Board met to discuss staffing changes, award certificates to students in the arts, and recognize weeks to honor staff groups.


The School Board approved the job description for Curriculum Coordinator. This job is being redefined and is already filled by Shari Ledahl. She will be “responsible for providing leadership and training for the implementation, planning, coordination and evaluation of district-wide curriculum at all grade levels.”

The Board also approved the job description for the new position Director of Special Services. The director’s primary task will be working with special education services in cooperation with the Special Education Cooperative. But the job will also include general oversight of district health services and attention to the thirty one district students who are currently homeless.

Federal funding will be available for about half the cost of the position.


In further news, middle school choral directors Annie Grafstrom (MS West) and Tina Lajko (MS East) presented their award winning choir students to the STMA School Board.

When the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) announced the participants for the 4-5-6 grade All State Honor Choirs, STMA had the highest representation of any school district in the state. Each student auditioned at their school and Grafstrom and Lajko submitted song files of the best auditions to the state committee. Generally a school can have up to five students in each choir, but because of the excellence of their audition recordings, the ACDA committee selected an extra five boys from STMA for the 4-5-6 grade boys’ choir. Both schools reached the cap of five students in each of the girls’ choirs.

The concert for the fifth and sixth grade choirs was May 6 at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church of Mahtomedi and the seventh and eighth graders performed last fall. The students work on the honor choir music with their directors and at home and then come together for a day of rehearsal with an evening performance.

In their announcement Grafstrom and Lajko thanked the STMA School Board for “your support of STMA choir programs and your role in making prestigious, high-potential opportunities like this accessible to our students”. They added “Excellence has definitely become the tradition for STMA choirs”.

The middle school music program has been growing. General music is required for all fifth graders but choir and band are optional for grades five through eight. Even though choir is not required, both schools have seen exceptional growth in their programs over the last several years. Due to the high enrollment in choir classes, the school board recently approved the addition of choir staff at each school. Instead of just one choir teacher in each building, there will be two full-time choir teachers in each school. Band programs at each school will also be receiving additional staffing due to similar growth.

The choirs from each middle school give concerts three times per year. Students who have a greater interest can also be part of an extra-curricular select choir that meets before school.

Students who received certificates for their participation in the All State Honor Choirs were Jaxson Bean, Kaci Brannan, Maverick Kneefe, Carson Libby, Avery Litke, Caleb Matheson, Jacob Sterk, Noah Demo, Audrey Kanu, Natalie Alwin, Evan Dombeck, Aidan Hanson, Carter Kephart, Eleanor Klym, Emily Mueller, Daniel Powell, Olivia Reggin, Jack Ronyak, Nathan Schwarz, Belle Aydt, Drew Bushard, Holly Christman, Tyler Moreland, Leah Taszarek, Karlee Brannan, Hannah Hughes, Chloe Finnerty, Brittney Schoen, Kyle Brandberg, Ellsie Covert, Louis Godlewski, Gabriella Haines, Ren Hamann, Julia Huetteman, Bryce Purrier, Alix Bushard, Livia Dombeck, Hannah Hodge, Nolan Montcalm and Rand Matheson.

The school board also gave a certificate to Megan Kucera who received the 2017 Future Art Education Spotlight award from the Art Educators of Minnesota. This award is given “to acknowledge graduating seniors who have demonstrated a high level of artistic, academic, leadership, and interpersonal relationship skills and to encourage students to pursue a career in visual arts education.”

Megan was nominated for this award by STMA High School art teacher Kari Halker-Saathoff. Megan had to submit an application and an essay on what Art Education meant to her. She was also honored at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at a Youth Arts Month ceremony in March. She received a gift certificate for art supplies.

Halker-Saathoff said, “Megan is one of the kindest students that I have ever had. Megan is constantly looking to help others by either helping them with their art or volunteering in numerous activities in the area. Megan is talented in so many areas that she is truly a ‘Renaissance Woman.’ Megan has made me proud to be her teacher.”

Megan plans to become an art teacher.


In other news, at the end of the school year is a good time to recognize various staff groups in the district. School Board Chair Drew Scherber read several proclamations which were then adopted by STMA board. National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12 with May 9 designated as National Teacher Day. The board “strongly encourages all members of our community to join with it in personally expressing appreciation to our teachers for their dedication and devotion to their work”. School Nutrition Employee Week is May 1-5 with School Lunch Hero Day on May 5. The board “expresses its deep appreciation to these valuable employees and commends their good work on behalf of children and families in the district”. In recognition of School Nurse Day on May 10, the board “offers gratitude for school nurses who contribute to our local communities by helping students stay healthy, in school, and ready to learn”.


During the period for visitor comments several local construction union representatives address the meeting and advocated for local participation in the various construction projects resulting from the bond referendum. They stressed that groups with solid apprenticeship programs will give quality work. Following their usual practice, the board did not reply to the presenters except to assure them of a fair bidding process.

The STMA board approved a contract with Augsburg College to provide opportunity for their social work students to have a field practicum in the district. They also renewed the districts membership in the Minnesota State High School League which regulates interscholastic athletic and fine arts events.