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Joined: Sep 2006
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LSH Elementary Configuration Review Task Force
Meeting Summary
October 5, 2006

Task force charge

To address ongoing challenges and concerns related to elementary classroom sizes at Park and Hilltop, and reflecting the LSH School District's vision of a unified focus on high student achievement,≈ the LSH School Board has commissioned formation of the LSH Elementary Configuration Review Task Force. The charge of this community/staff task force is to identify configuration options and conduct a thorough, systematic and objective comparative study of various elementary grade-level configurations based on maintaining Park and Hilltop elementary schools into the future; and to reach group consensus on a recommended two-community elementary configuration plan for implementation beginning in the fall of 2007. The task force is charged with developing a recommendation that acknowledges the continuing use of our two existing elementary sites.

Present: Maria Aguilar, Jean Berg, Bill Bjorndahl, Kristi Drent, Stefanie Eischens, Henry Endres,
Ginny Huntington, Dave Johnson, Stephanie Laabs, Kathy Leary, Deanne McConnell, Monica Meyer-Javens, Anne Murray, Sara O≠Brien, Vic Pengilly, Megan Schwarz, Faith Sohns and Rosanne Tesch

Also present: Linda Schroeder

Absent: Alicia Madson

The meeting began at 6:10 PM.

Tour of Hilltop: Bill Bjorndahl conducted a brief tour of Hilltop Elementary for all task force members who arrived early.

Welcome to observers: Dave Johnson welcomed five visitors who were able to observe for 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the meeting before leaving for another meeting. He explained the purpose of the configuration study and reinforced the fact that any recommendation would include the continued existence of two community elementary schools. He reiterated some of the specifics of the task force's formal charge statement as they
pertained to some of the comments made on the Henderson website. Copies of the task force's formal charge statement were distributed to visitors before they had to leave.

Options list: The task force reviewed and expanded on a preliminary list of possible elementary configurations to be considered. This preliminary list was designed to incorporate all possible configurations (including the configuration currently in place) that should be reviewed and compared in this study. The preliminary list did not include any "back-and-forth" configurations, such as K, 3, 5 at Park and 2, 4 at Hilltop, and the group agreed that it should not.

The list of options to be considered and compared includes the following (numbered randomly):
Opt. Hilltop Park Notes
1 preK and K- 5- preK and K-5- Existing (w/out grade 6 students in fall 2007)
2 preK and K-1- grs 2-5- preK + 2 grades at HT; 4 grades at PK
3 gr 4-5- preK and K-3- 2 grades at HT; preK + 4 grades at PK
4 preK and K- gr 1-5- preK + 1 grade at HT; 5 grades at PK
5 grade 5- preK and K-4- 1 grade at HT; preK + 5 grades at PK
6 (preK-K) + gr 1-2- (preK-K) + gr 3-5- 2 grades at HT; 3 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
7 (preK-K) + gr 4-5- (preK-K) + gr 1-3- 2 grades at HT; 3 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
8 (preK-K) + gr 1- (preK-K) + gr 2-5- 1 grade at HT; 4 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
9 (preK-K) + gr 5- (preK-K) + gr 1-4- 1 grade at HT; 4 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites

Developing assumptions list: The task force discussed assumptions for the process, which would help to guide the development of a recommendation. The group also briefly reviewed a portion of the 2002 facilities recommendation, which indicated how that group's final recommendation reflected the assumptions.

The group began by reviewing and discussing the assumptions developed and adopted by the 2002 facilities task force. After modifying, combining, eliminating and adding assumptions to the list, the group agreed on a list of assumptions for this task force process (listed at end of meeting summary).

Developing and discussing considerations/factors for comparing options: The task force discussed a variety of considerations or factors to serve as the framework for reviewing and comparing various configuration options. These considerations reflected information shared at the previous task force meeting, discussion among task force
members, and questions raised by task force members. For the sake of manageability, a list of 46 individual considerations were grouped into 11 categories. These categories will serve as the basis for reviewing and assessing the nine configuration options that the task force will be discussing. The task force will consider how
various configuration options affect the following 11 areas:

1. Education and student achievement
2. Social development of students
3. Equity and balance related to class sizes
4. Staff effectiveness and use of human resources
5. Student placement and assignment for equity and balance
6. Parent involvement
7. Community preferences and goals
8. Equity of facilities and ability to support program needs
9. Flexibility for current and future change
10. Open enrollment considerations
11. Cost efficiencies to promote fiscal stewardship

Gathering educational research: Dave Johnson explained that the school district is working with the Department of Education at Minnesota State University at Mankato. University staff are gathering educational research related to the various configuration options and considerations that the task force will be reviewing and
discussing. An overview of the results of this study will be presented to the task force during the meeting on October 26.

Discussion of the overall task force process, individual public concerns and communications efforts: The task force spent some time discussing individual concerns publicly expressed from a few district residents about the purpose of and even the existence of this task force. The group talked about the nature of these concerns; the need to clarify some of the inaccurate information being shared; and whether to modify the process or the
sequence of steps in the process.

After lengthy discussion, including individual task force members each "weighing in" at the end of the discussion, the task force agreed to the following:

1. Include the task force charge statement (first paragraph) in the next meeting summary and post it
on the district website; this charge statement communicates that both elementary schools will remain as elementary schools, and that any recommendation will be based on the continued operation of two community elementary schools.

2. Continue to communicate that the process includes opportunities for updating district residents and hearing public feedback from them. The preliminary scheduling of public feedback meetings (in late November or early December) will remain unchanged. The meetings will not occur until the task force has gathered information and discussed options. This part of the process is expected to begin October 26.

3. Continue to communicate that observers are invited to attend all meetings, review meeting summaries, and talk with task force members individually outside regular meeting times.

4. Continue the task force's commitment to open communication of the process, while recognizing that this commitment cannot be a one-way process. Meeting summaries will continue to be distributed, and observers will continue to be welcomed at all meetings. Beyond that, the responsibility for taking advantage of these communication efforts should shift to all interested district residents.

The result of each individual of the task force weighing in was that everyone recommended continuing the process as planned. Individuals indicated that they support the process; that it is "responsible","healthy" and "valuable" to commit to evaluate and re-evaluate educational practices from time to time; that the goal is to
review practices primarily in light of what's best for students; and that a thoughtful process can prove to be of value to the district in many ways.

The meeting was adjourned just before 9:00 PM.

NEXT MEETING:
Thursday, October 26, 6:30 PM
Park Elementary in Le Sueur (Library/Media Center)


Guiding Assumptions of the LSH Elementary Configuration Review Task Force

The task force's recommendation will:

1. Reflect the outcomes of a thorough, systematic and objective comparative study of various elementary grade level configurations based on maintaining Park and Hilltop elementary schools into the future (as directed by the formal charge to the task force).

2. Be the result of an open process that encourages observers to attend task force meetings; makes meeting summaries available to interested district residents; encourages residents to talk with individual task force
members; and includes an opportunity for district residents to attend a public information meeting to hear from the task force about the process and options considered, and to provide feedback to the task force at that time.

3. Provide an educational environment for all students that encourages individual student success, both educationally and socially, and fosters high student achievement.

4. Address student educational needs first and foremost, followed by staff and community needs and preferences.

5. Reflect the commitment of two communities (Le Sueur and Henderson) and surrounding townships to doing what's best for all students while striving to strengthen the future viability and unity of the district as a whole.

6. Recognize the individual needs, preferences and goals of the Le Sueur and Henderson communities as one of many criteria for making districtwide educational and facilities-related decisions.

7. Recognize that school facilities, including their condition, location and configuration, are a significant factor in attracting new families and industry considering relocating to the Le Sueur-Henderson School District.

8. Strive to address the variety of educational program needs at both elementary school facilities.

9. Allow for flexibility in addressing the future space and educational needs of a district with a currently stable or slightly declining enrollment, while also allowing for the possibility of enrollment growth in the Le Sueur-Henderson area.

10. Allow for continuing use of school facilities, programs and resources by district residents of all ages, from preschool children to senior citizens.

11. Allow for long-term flexibility, to the extent reasonable and possible, in support of changing educational approaches and delivery systems in the future.

12. Demonstrate responsible and cost-effective ongoing use of increasingly limited school funds and staff resources, thus helping to meet annual budgets, minimize budget cuts, and maintain the district's financial health and stability.

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"The group talked about the nature of these concerns; the need to clarify some of the inaccurate information being shared;"

Can someone relate just what inaccurate information that has been shared on this website?

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I can only speak for the first 15 minutes of the meeting (perhaps there was more) but Dave Johnson said something to the effect that the task force is not going to "twist the arms of the 5 Henderson residents" to make them agree with what the rest of the group agrees to at the end. This was in reference to something Keith Swenson said about the consensus process.

While this twisting of arms statement is essentially true, a sheet that was given out at the beginning of the task force process says:

" "Consensus" from Websters

-general agreement
-group solidarity in sentiment and belief
-collective opinion
-the judgement arrived at by most of those concerned

Consensus

I believe I understand your point of view and you understand mine.

I feel this process considered appropriate facts and feelings, included appropriate members and was done in a fair and open way.

I accept and support the process outcome and will provide proactive leadership to achieve desired results.

Source: Unicom; Nygaard/Jaeger facilitation team"

I think the task force members needed to sign something to say they agreed to this and to respect others.

The way I understood it was that the task force members will not vote to come to an agreement. It's a little less formal than that. Everyone will get to talk but in the end when the task force makes a recommendation to the board, everyone needs to agree to what that is. Some people may not agree with it but since they've agreed to the consensus process they need to agree to this.

Linda wanted to come up with a statement that said something like, "the task force unanimously agrees to ..."

Linda did say that in a couple of task forces she's been on, a couple of members of the task force absolutely did not agree to whatever it was. She said what she had to in those cases was to change the statement to say "the task force agrees to ... with two dissenting votes."

So, there is an out for those that don't agree with whatever the consensus is. But I can only imagine the fight you'd need to come up with in order to stand your ground and not cave in to the majority.

Personally, I think Keith's statement was right.

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They're still at it. Article in the Independent suggests that people think that Hilltop will be closed. It was never mentioned on this site, I believe this is a tactic to shift focus from the real plan. Henderson residents need to know about the possible negative impacts of the configuration options being pushed by someone, and they need to be able to communicate these concerns. This forum is doing a great job, but do we as locals need to call a public hearing to be able to voice our concerns?

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The task force summary is citing multiple scources of feedback - not just what has been said here. A couple of children at school have asked when Hilltop is being closed. So where did the children get that information? I don't know. It is a HUGE concern to the task force.

In late November early December the task force will hold public feedback meetings. Watch for the dates. Once the task force has something to present about the various options, they will schedule the public meetings.

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Maybe the local public needs to give input on what we will accept before this process gets to far down the road. 12,000 bucks is a lot of money to spend if the public is not going to accept the findings.

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Tom, I think you're a great advocate for Henderson. However, some of the opinions expressed on this site about the quality of education/ability to know the teachers in the school/ect. have little do with where ones children are attending school. Those ideals come down to parents getting involved in their school from the get-go, and that can be done in Le Sueur or Henderson with minimal effort. I fear some of those opinions rest in an unrealistic assumption that because something is different that it has no value.

Preserving Henderson as a town will come down to much more then having a K-5 grade school in it. The charm of Henderson's downtown alone in my opinion makes it a much more intruiging town to live in then a town like Le Sueur where the downtown was destroyed by a now nearly defunct mall. If Henderson continues to have a K-5 school, that's great. But shifting either Park or Hilltop away from that model would have an impact on both towns, which could be positive or negative. All options that do not entail either school closing nor a back-and-forth between grades should be considered.

I do not know where the inaccurate information about the task forces plan is coming from, is it Henderson, Le Sueur, or residents from both towns? Whether other agendas are at work, who knows...but again, the important thing in my opinion is keep best interests of the kids at the forefront, and I don't always see that happening on this site, which is unfortunate.

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"Maybe the local public needs to give input on what we will accept before this process gets to far down the road. 12,000 bucks is a lot of money to spend if the public is not going to accept the findings."

What if the local public does not accept the finding? Will the plan not be put into action? Let's be honest, there have lots of school-related decisions made that the local public has disagreed with, but that didn't stop them from happening....

I agree with Keepin' It Real, I think that this issue runs alot deeper than the current debate about grade configuration. There has also been an "us vs. them" mentality between the two towns, a mentality that I believe is stronger in those that did not graduate from the consolidated district. I am an LSH grad and while I admit there were a few drawbacks to the consolidation from a student's perspective, there were many benefits.

I also agree with Keepin' It Real's comment that the preservation of Henderson will not depend solely on the k-5 school. Many people were concerned about the loss of the high school, but look at how Henderson has grown in that time. It's been ten years since I've left and I'm amazed everytime I go back at how the town is developing...the 2nd bank, Bittersweet, all the new homes. I would think that Henderson is more attractive now to new residents than prior to the consolidation. And I admit no one would want the younger children to spend more time on a bus, but even with the trip between the towns, that bus ride is shorter than in some other districts when you figure the traffic in metro areas.

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Can some explain in detail what options 2 through 9 are? I've applied my barnyard degree, HHS degree, and my U of M, Morris degree and neither of them seems to help.

Opt. Hilltop Park Notes
1 preK and K- 5- preK and K-5- Existing (w/out grade 6 students in fall 2007)
2 preK and K-1- grs 2-5- preK + 2 grades at HT; 4 grades at PK
3 gr 4-5- preK and K-3- 2 grades at HT; preK + 4 grades at PK
4 preK and K- gr 1-5- preK + 1 grade at HT; 5 grades at PK
5 grade 5- preK and K-4- 1 grade at HT; preK + 5 grades at PK
6 (preK-K) + gr 1-2- (preK-K) + gr 3-5- 2 grades at HT; 3 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
7 (preK-K) + gr 4-5- (preK-K) + gr 1-3- 2 grades at HT; 3 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
8 (preK-K) + gr 1- (preK-K) + gr 2-5- 1 grade at HT; 4 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites
9 (preK-K) + gr 5- (preK-K) + gr 1-4- 1 grade at HT; 4 grades at PK; preK/K at both sites

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In response to Jessica's comment on the bus ride -sending the kids to Le Sueur might increase the time on the bus but it can't make the pickups any earlier. My kids go to Hilltop and get on the bus at 6:37 am. Once the bridge is replaced on Rush River, they will go back to a 6:50 am pickup time.

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