STMA meets new Albertville Primary School principal

By Peg Craig

Contributing Writer

The St. Michael–Albertville School Board met the new Albertville Primary School Principal, recognized award winners, heard about progress on the strategic plan, approved the preliminary budget for the coming school year, and clarified policies on unpaid meal charges.

PRIMARY PRINCIPAL

John McDonald

John McDonald has been hired to serve as the principal of Albertville Primary School.

In the Big Lake School District he taught for 17 years, most of them as a first grade teacher. He then became Assistant Principal of the Delano Elementary School.

He sees this as his dream job and says he “looks forward to working with the staff, students, and families at Albertville Primary as well as the community of St. Michael–Albertville Public Schools.”

STUDENT ARTISTS

In other news, high school principal Bob Driver announced that three art students from STMA High School were recognized at Carnegie Hall, New York City, by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for their outstanding portfolio submissions.

He said “It was an amazing night. Having our kids recognized at that national level is awesome.” Students receiving medals were Katie Reeves for Ceramics and Glass, Josh Tutland for Drawing and Illustrating, and Teresa O’Sullivan for Painting.

STRATEGIC PLAN

In further activity, Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault reported progress in working toward the goals in the strategic plan for the district. The first goal is to “engage in continuous improvement of teaching and learning.”

Foucault reported that staff members are being trained to effectively use student data to measure and improve teaching, learning and achievement. The technology replacement cycle has been shortened from ten to five years to provide the resources teachers and students need. A team of administrators, faculty and staff has been formed to determine what teaching and learning needs can be met with technology and develop an implementation plan. Another group is looking at testing and assessment used in the district.

A second goal or strategic direction is to “engage in continuous improvement of student support systems and programs.” Work groups have been formed to “expand opportunities for high achieving students.” They are focusing on accelerating math in the middle schools. Kindergarten and preschool teachers and staff are looking for ways to improve kindergarten readiness. Other teams are working to implement state required suicide prevention training for staff and to plan for equitable educational opportunities for all students.

The next strategic direction is to “align people and organizational resources to sustain district success.” Foucault reported progress in this direction in reducing staff leaves and absenteeism, reducing legal and financial risks, and creating a way to continuously review and update district policies. The final goal is to “cultivate family and community connections and increase advocacy in support of the district mission.” Progress is occurring by providing more access to schools, facilities and programs in partnership with the community education department. Creative ways are being explored to share the new dome with community members. Tennis courts can be striped to also be used for pickleball. Superintendent Foucault has worked with Mary Kiffmeyer and others to change school funding to provide more equity for STMA and other districts. Last fall some of the districts bonds were refinanced to provide a half million in future savings. She has presented the board with budgets that are conservative, balanced and that have reasonable reserves.

The STMA School Board thanked her for her report. They also announced the results of the annual superintendent performance review. Their summary report states that they retain “a high degree of confidence in the overall leadership of the district superintendent and, in particular, the stewardship of the district’s finances.” They also support the district’s Strategic Plan and direct Foucault to use resources to continue the progress. They have advised Foucault “to continue to adopt a conservative and cautionary approach to budgeting and staffing by recognizing that the District continues to face funding inequity in the state funding formula and must prudently balance current and projected future spending.”

PRELIMINARY BUDGET

In other developments, the School Board approved the Preliminary Budget for 2017-18.

Some of the district revenue comes from property taxes, some from federally funded programs and some from athletic receipts and school fees, but the bulk of the income is from the state aid per pupil payments. That amount will not be known until classes begin in fall.

Superintendent Foucault thinks the new K-8 school in Otsego may cut into the number of open enrollment students from that area but hopes that providing busing for families outside the district boundaries will help retain students. The preliminary budget projects total expenditures of over $107.5 million and will be a balanced budget.

Part of the district’s expenses is the STMA share of the facilities maintenance budget of the Wright Technical Center in Buffalo. Eight school districts have shares in this facility. The STMA share for 2017, based on usage, is a little more than thirty thousand dollars, part of this amount will be paid by state aid under the long term maintenance levy. The board approved this payment.

UNPAID MEAL CHARGES

Lastly, the board brought the district policy on unpaid meal charges into line with state guidelines.

The policy “seeks to allow students to receive the nutrition they need to stay focused during the school day and minimize identification of students with insufficient funds to pay for school meals as well as to maintain the financial integrity of the school nutrition program.”

Students with outstanding meal debt will be able to buy meals with cash. The district may provide a courtesy meal for students who cannot pay cash. Efforts will be made to work with the parents to resolve the issue of unpaid charges. Negative balances may be turned over to the superintendent’s office for collection by legal methods permitted by law.