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Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 16
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Earlier in the reconfiguration thread, people were speculating as to why this school reconfiguration task force was started in the first place. I thought I’d post what I know.

Earlier this spring, (last school year) I attended a school board meeting where they talked about the district being low in money. They weren’t low in money now but they would be in the future. They way I understood it, the reasons were:

1. enrollment was decreasing or at best it was flat so that meant there would be less money from the state in their per pupil money (its somewhere around $4500 per pupil).
2. there are increased costs associated with the improvements that are currently being made to the high school and middle school. I thought that it was like increased heating costs, electricity costs, maintenance, etc. Combine these two things: the fact that people are not flocking to the district and the increased costs of operating the district because of the additions, you have a money shortfall in the years ahead.

They wanted to help counter the money shortfall by implementing many cuts for this school year. They were trying to balance their budget. One of these was something some parents heard through the grapevine of combining two more classes at Hilltop to create another multiage classroom or they could lay off a teacher at Park and have one less class at Park for some grade, I think it was 2nd grade but I can’t remember. Other cuts that were talked about were cutting 9th grade Spanish (not sure if they did or not), decreasing school supplies and others. The board ended up getting rid of the extra classroom at Park and not Hilltop with the idea that they would revisit this issue with a “Task Force” at a later date. So, Park took the hit this time.

Over the summer they hired a person to facilitate this task force for $12000 for 10 – 2.5 hour meetings. And now they have a task force to talk about the issues. However, the reasons they said for the task force are: discrepancy between class sizes at Hilltop and Park (I think this might have something to do with the latest teacher contract one teacher can’t teach a huge class while another teaches a small class. I think this may be why they bus kids from LeSueur to Hilltop), declining enrollment and there may be one more.

Money is not mentioned but money is the root cause of this issue.

Incidentally, I was told more than once that if the board decides to leave Hilltop and Park as they are, the board will need to draft a referendum to pay for this because of the declining enrollment and because the middle school/high school will cost so much more to operate.

I guess the field of dreams way of operating doesn’t always work.

I do not know much if anything about previous task forces, previous issues, etc. I was told that the reason people may say “oh they’re not talking about closing Hilltop again?!” is because closing Hilltop was talked about in the past. I can’t say if it was or wasn’t but if it was, my bet is that is why people are asking about it now. Personally, if anyone asks me I tell them no and what they are talking about.

Money will always be an issue and I believe that is why this type of issue seems to come up every 2-3 years. I believe it will always come up and this will be a constant battle.

Joined: May 2004
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True Hendersonite
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I think that part of the disconnect between the two towns, the task force and the schools is the notion that this is a "constant battle". The goal of each side is and should be the same, to provide the best education that each party can to the children with the funding that is available to the district. However, that does not necessarily seem to be the goal nor the attitude that is heard from the residents of both communities.

I remember when Dave Johnson and the high school brought on the four-period day over 10 years ago at the High School and that seemed pretty radical at the time. I would consider that as well as joining the two communities together as 1 district to be the two biggest changes in the school, as well as two that had a positive impact upon the districts at large.

Also, if money is an issue with school districts I would consider who the people of the LSH district are supporting for Governor when they go to the polls in November, and would encourage everyone on this message board and the community at large to consider voting for a candidate who isn't afraid to say "we aren't allocating enough money to our public schools" and one that is prepared to RAISE TAXES and call a spade a spade when they do so. Yes, that means a vote for Tim Pawlenty and his party is probably not the best of idea if you want to keep 3 functioning schools in the LSH District in the long-term future. That is if we like the current set-up.

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Damn Governor.

Joined: Apr 2004
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Great editorial by Mr. Brenno in the Independent. Henderson has the population, the growth potential and the business community to support our present level of local education and I'm the one who finds it "incomprehensible" that others can't see why our community is concerned.
Let's just assume that the reconfiguration is allowed to proceed. All bussed students would go to LeSueur, and then reloaded, along with non-bussed LeSueur students, onto buses and transported back to Henderson, and at the end of the day the reverse process would happen. Now what will happen is the actual classroom time for students attending Henderson will be dictated by bus scheduling, not student needs. Any way you look at it, there will be less instructional time and more road time for students in the satellite school,compared to the base school. To say that more bus time and less instructional time is the best thing for our students is "incomprehensible" to me.
Another intersting concept, and a very relevant one I believe, alluded to by Mr Brenno is the open enrollment implications. How many more local parents will find it easier to drive their 3d,4th and 5th grade students to Belle Plaine or Sibley East than to drive to LeSueur. Presently if you stand on the Blakeley bridge on any school day morning you'll almost get bowled over by LSH district residents taking their school age kids to Belle Plaine. Will a reconfiguration slow this exodus, or if the best interests of our childrens' education is the goal, is sending them to a neighboring district best for them? Will reconfiguration attract any of these students back to our district?
Of course we all need to keep in mind that the best thing for the students is what it's all about, but let's remember that there are tradeoffs all the time. If the best thing for the students was the only driving factor (as it should be no doubt) we'd have more computers, more teachers,state of the art facilities, etc, etc, etc., We all know we strive for the best possible education within certain guidlines, be they financial, strategic or political.

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Maybe Jeff can post the editorial?

My thoughts are in line with Tom's. One of my first thoughts was how the local real estate agent would try to sell the concept to prospective buyers with young kids. I would venture a guess that most people would not find it attractive to send their kids here for K -2, then somewhere else for 3-5, etc. I would suspect the families on the fringe of the district would take a hard look at the alternatives. St. Anne's would probably be another alternative for others.

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My advice to the School Administration has always been to be careful with Hilltop. Henderson is the most fiercely Independent place you are ever gonna find and we will take care of ourselves. I am surprised no one has mentioned Charter Schools as it is pretty much a guarentee that it would be operating in the Fall of 2007. I find it incomprehensible that the School Administration is willing to squander the good will of an entire community. Again, this is a lengthly, drawn out process designed to exhaust every one involved. Every member of the community needs to focus on this.

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I heard mention of public feedback hearings, any dates on those yet? I think the entire community needs to be notified.

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Maybe we should have a public input meeting. Any interest? Doesn't make much sense to me to have an input meeting after the choices have been made.

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