NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA’s new location

I got an email earlier this week from Emily Monaghan, Vice Chair of  the Northfield Area Family YMCA board:

I have a story that might be fun for you to cover for Locally Grown Northfield involving a unique partnership between the Nfld High School DECA group and the Y.  Tomorrow night at 7PM the DECA students will unveil to the Y board of directors the "Future Home of the Nfld Y" sign that they designed/created that will be installed on the new Y property this coming Sunday.  We will meet tomorrow in the high school Woods (shop) room for the unveiling and a pizza party to follow.  Then, we will gather again at 4PM Sunday to install the new sign on the new property.

NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA
Julie Wolner is the business education teacher at Northfield High School (left photo, second from right) and staffs the Northfield High School DECA Club. She was the MC for the evening’s festivities.

NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA

NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA NHS DECA club creates a sign for the Northfield YMCA
The sign was installed this morning on the future site for the Y (east of Target on Honey Locust Drive), but it’ll remain covered until the unveiling ceremony at 4 pm Sunday.

Other links:

Update Nov. 19, 7:30 am:

Emily and Julie sent me these photos of the sign’s construction and installation:

Update Nov. 25, 8 am:

I’ve been sent additional photos of the sign’s dedication ceremony from last Sunday so I’ve put all the photos into an album. See the large slideshow (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Straw polls, resources, discussion on the school levy questions


The Northfield School Board is holding a special election on November 8 to replace the operating levy for ten years and renew the capital projects levy for ten years. See the District’s 2011 levy election web page. On that page are other links: Levy Costs | Levy Impact | Video Overview | Voting Information | Download a PDF copy of the District’s Levy Guide.

Also see Citizens for Quality Education (CQE). They are “a volunteer group dedicated to supporting Northfield Public Schools. CQE’s focus is to ensure passage of the Northfield School District levy referenda.” There is a CQE Facebook page.

The Nfld News has published 6 of a planned 8 articles about the levy election. They don’t make it easy to find them and the headlines for some make them sound like opinion pieces, but here’s what I’ve found thus far:

Levy-related opinion pieces in the Nfld News:
Nfld Patch:

Take your time to get informed, add your comments to the message thread attached to this blog post, and then weigh in on these two straw polls:

Update 11/8, 10 PM: I’ve closed both straw polls. You can view the results anytime.

Instructional technology in Northfield’s K-12 classrooms: Do we know its benefits enough to support the ten-year capital projects levy?

The New York Times is running a series of articles on the use of technology in K-12 education called Grading the Digital School. Thus far:

small classroomIt’s an issue that’s relevant to Northfield because the Northfield School Board is holding a special election on November 8 to renew both the operating levy and the capital projects levy for ten years.

Instructional technology (software, hardware, networking infrastructure, etc.) is paid for primarily with funds from the capital projects levy.

A year ago at the Oct. 11, 2010 School Board meeting, there was a Technology Plan update:

Director of Human Resources and Technology Matt Hillmann presented a status report on the 2007-2011 District technology plan, shared some examples of success/challenges/opportunities with District technology, and previewed the process for developing the 2011-15 District  technology plan.

The link to the PDF of 2007-2011 District technology plan on the Technology Policies page is broken fixed. And But there’s no information there about a 2011-15 District technology plan, process or otherwise.

From what little I know thus far, I’m inclined to support the capital projects levy for maintenance of the District’s facilities.

But I’m not sure I like including instructional technology in that mix, especially without knowing the District’s instructional technology philosophy, how much is spent on it, what impact it’s had over the years, etc.   All the capital projects levy page says is:

This funding would allow the school district to replace the instructional materials and technology necessary to maintain and support quality learning in each building.

I’d like to know more than that.

What is good character? Can/should it be taught in Northfield’s K-12 classrooms?

What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? KIPP Character Report Card

I’m intrigued by yesterday’s NY Times Magazine cover article: What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? A radical rethinking of how students should be taught and evaluated, by Paul Tough.

The accompanying page, Q. and A.: Can You Teach Character?, has a sample character report card, along with this list of the 24 character strengths identified in the book Character Strengths and Virtues, by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman.

In most societies, Seligman and Peterson wrote, these strengths were considered to have a moral valence, and in many cases they overlapped with religious laws and strictures. But their true importance did not come from their relationship to any system of ethics or moral laws but from their practical benefit: cultivating these strengths represented a reliable path to “the good life,” a life that was not just happy but also meaningful and fulfilling.

Six years after that first meeting, Levin and Randolph are trying to put this conception of character into action in their schools. In the process, they have found themselves wrestling with questions that have long confounded not just educators but anyone trying to nurture a thriving child or simply live a good life. What is good character? Is it really something that can be taught in a formal way, in the classroom, or is it the responsibility of the family, something that is inculcated gradually over years of experience? Which qualities matter most for a child trying to negotiate his way to a successful and autonomous adulthood?

Also mentioned in the article: Character Education Partnership, "the leading national advocate for character education. Our goal is to strengthen our communities, nation, and democracy by empowering teachers, schools, and school administrators."

In 2008, a national organization called the Character Education Partnership published a paper that divided character education into two categories: programs that develop “moral character,” which embodies ethical values like fairness, generosity and integrity; and those that address “performance character,” which includes values like effort, diligence and perseverance.

The CARE program falls firmly on the “moral character” side of the divide, while the seven strengths that Randolph and Levin have chosen for their schools lean much more heavily toward performance character: while they do have a moral component, strengths like zest, optimism, social intelligence and curiosity aren’t particularly heroic; they make you think of Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton more than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi.

I was wrong. Prayer walk at the Northfield High School was organized by student Maria Olson

In the discussion attached to my Sept. 1 blog post, Dan Clites organizes a prayer walk at the Northfield High School; it’s a Trojan Horse, two Northfielders pointed out that the prayer walk was organized by Northfield High School student Maria Olson.

Brent Bielenberg wrote:

I hesitated to write into this blog, but I did feel that there are some wrong facts in your reporting of the prayer meeting that need to be brought to light.

First, it was not Dan Clites, Rejoice!, or TN that organized this prayer walk at the school. It was a 16 year old junior girl who attends Emmaus that organized it. In fact, the same thing was done last year around the same time of year, also organized by her. She called me (I am the youth pastor at Rejoice!) a week before the date to ask if we would promote it via our email and our website. I believe she called other churches including her own and did the same. She told me it was opened to youth, parents and anyone else who would like to pray for the school. Afterwards, they were invited to her house for a bonfire. I was not there because I forgot (great youth pastor) but it also was not one of my youth leading the group and technically not a Rejoice! youth function.

The only connection she has to TN and Rejoice is that I went to school with her dad. Their family attends Emmaus and they have never attended a TN meeting. This is a pretty typical youth group activity in many cities throughout the US and world…

David Henson wrote:

Griff, I appreciate your blog but you are in left field here. The girl who organized the prayer walk this is a friend of my wife’s and very sweet. Her father has a campus mission to St Olaf…

In retrospect, I should have inquired further once I saw the video of the prayer walk posted on Northfield Patch. The accompanying text to the video got it right:

Maria Olson - Northfield Patch videoMaria Olson, a soon-to-be Northfield High School junior, organized a prayer walk Friday night that took place outside of the school.

Several members from various church congregations joined her in praying for the students, teachers and school in the coming year.

My apologies to Maria.

Dan Clites organizes a prayer walk at the Northfield High School; it’s a Trojan Horse

Update Sept. 16: See the blog post I was wrong. Prayer walk at the Northfield High School was organized by student Maria Olson.

Last week, Rejoice! pastor Dan Clites posted this on the church’s website (since removed):

THIS FRIDAY! DO YOU CARE ABOUT OUR SCHOOLS? Of course you do! So, let’s pray walk the grounds of Northfield High School and start seeing the spiritual climate change for our students, faculty and administration! THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 26th…meet at 7:00 pm sharp in front of the NHS Auditorium entrance. We will pray walk for 45-minutes. If you feel uncomfortable praying out loud— then just walk along in agreement! It will make a difference because the Bible says God hears our prayers!

I went as an observer and to take photos. Why?

Aug. 26, 2011 prayer walk at the Northfield High School Video on Northfield Patch - Prayer Walk for Northfield High School

In my Feb. 12 blog post, What is Transformation Northfield’s public agenda?, I pointed out the connection between Dan Clites and Ed Silvoso who believes that gay people are possessed by demons. 

For TN [Transformation Northfield] to be connected to Ed Silvoso and his organization is ominous.

Any message, direct or indirect, that homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals are somehow under the influence of demonic forces, is not only hurtful and destructive but dangerous.  It can have a corrosive effect on the morale of LGBT employees who work for the city and school district.

And for any LGBT youth in our schools who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity, it can exacerbate their pain, lead to depression, or worse.

It concerns me that some teachers and coaches who are members of TN might convey this belief to the youth they work with. And it concerns me that some of the youth involved with TN, who are urged to live their calling in the marketplace of school, could fall into demonizing other youth.

For Clites and Rejoice! to take a prayer campaign to the steps of Northfield High School is more disturbing than the prayer group in City Administrator Al Roder’s office at Northfield City Hall back in 2007.

I assume the prayers were generic/innocuous, judging from the video they posted on Northfield Patch. But for Clites to say that "We’re here to simply pray blessing and let God’s Holy Spirit move," is more than a little disingenuous. Judging from his writings and those of his mentors , his unstated belief is likely that demonic forces inhabit the building and some of the faculty, staff and students who are LGBT.

Clites’ philosophy appears to be consistent with dominionism, which was the focus of a Fresh Air show last week titled The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare (audio/summary here; full transcript here) .  Researcher Rachel Tabachnick was Terry Gross’ guest. Here’s an exchange about dominionism and ‘demonic principalities:’

racheltabachnickMs. RACHEL TABACHNICK: I would say the basic beliefs began with the idea of dominionism, and dominionism is simply that Christians of this belief system must take control over all the various institutions of society and government. They have some unusual concepts of what they call spiritual warfare that have not been seen before in other groups.

Spiritual warfare is a common term in evangelicalism and in Christianity, but they have some unique approaches and unique spins on this that distinguish them from other groups.

GROSS: And that literally have to do with casting demons out of people and religions and…

Ms. TABACHNICK: They use this in terms of evangelizing. So whereas we might be accustomed with the idea of saving souls, of missionaries or evangelical work to save individual souls; they believe that they can, through this demon warfare, take control over entire communities, or perhaps nations or people groups, an ethnic group, a religious group and so forth, because they believe that they are doing spiritual warfare at this higher level against these demonic principalities, what they call demonic principalities.

See also last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine for a column by Bill Keller, executive editor, titled Asking Candidates Tougher Questions About Faith.

And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.

So this season I’m paying closer attention to what the candidates say about their faith and what they have said in the past that they may have decided to play down in the quest for mainstream respectability.

Clites and some of his followers have their own Trojan horse saddled up and galloping around Northfield, an unstated plan is to get more people (they already have two, Jeff Quinnell on the Northfield School Board and Rhonda Pownell on the Northfield City Council) elected to public office. The Northfield School Board is where they hope to affect public policy related to LGBT issues and probably others (intelligent design?).

Of course, I’ve got no problem with any group trying to affect public policy by getting elected. But tactics and transparency matter and I object to how Clites demonizes people (‘principalities of opposition’) and how he and some members of TN and Rejoice! aren’t transparent about some aspects of their agenda.

But then, what do I know?  According to Clites (twice in my conversation with him last Friday), I can’t be expected to understand these things because I’m an atheist.

Update 8:39 PM: I’ve amended the 3rd to the last paragraph above to read:

…an unstated plan is to get more people (they already have two, Jeff Quinnell on the Northfield School Board and Rhonda Pownell on the Northfield City Council) elected to public office.

The original version left out Rhonda Pownell, an oversight on my part.

Update Sept. 16: See the blog post I was wrong. Prayer walk at the Northfield High School was organized by student Maria Olson.

Remember those home medical remedies when you were growing up? Earl Weinmann needs your help

I got this email from Earl Weinmann yesterday.  Earl is director of Northfield Historical Society’s SCOPE (Student Community Outreach Program Experience) and also a Northfield Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Earl WeinmannI’m nearing completion of proofreading and editing the latest work by my 8th grade SCOPE students.  As a result of the past two years of research and writing, selected eighth grade students have written a book about the history of Northfield. 

This book (which will be published this fall) will be used as a textbook in the Northfield area elementary schools.  We have 42 chapters that go back to before Northfield was a town to projections about the future of Northfield.  In each chapter we have interesting tidbits or trivia in little boxes to accompany the text. 

I’m writing to you because, in writing the chapter on the history of Northfield Medical Care, my students had difficulty finding any "fun facts" to go with the text.  I was thinking that perhaps I could use Locally Grown to solicit long-time residents to contribute a "home remedy" that they were administered as a child growing up here (we talk about the reliance of home remedies in early medical history).  The idea is, hopefully, to have your contributors jot down a few of the more interesting remedies they were "subjected" to that we could include in the Medical History chapter.

I want to get this to the layout artist by September…so time is limited…but I thought it might be a fun for students to read what the locals had to do in the hopes of "curing" an illness or malady. Of course, it must be made clear that what they contribute would be subject to this publication.  I would like to use their names as well, unless they have an objection.  If you think this sort of inquiry is an appropriate use of your blog, please feel free to submit this appeal on your site. 

Got a home remedy story? Attach it here as a comment or contact Earl via email.

High school teacher Doug Bengston ends commencement speech with bible quotes and his beliefs about intelligent design

Doug Bengston (Northfield Patch photo by Angela Lauterbach)At Northfield High School‘s graduation ceremony on Sunday, math department chair and teacher Doug Bengston gave the commencement address. He was selected by the senior class. (Northfield Patch photo by Angela Lauterbach, used with permission.)

At the end of his speech, after citing the wonder of elliptical orbits and how they are used in everyday technologies, he said:

I don’t believe the earth, the planets, and the solar system just happened. I believe there is one overall. As you watch the miracle of a newborn baby, I don’t believe it all just happens.

So I tried to gain that inner contentment that only comes from the one above. He designed me, my brain, my heart, and all that I am. And all he’s looking for is love. I’d like to leave you with some verses from the good book that help explains my thoughts.

Bengston then quoted from the bible, including Psalm 46:10; John 14; and Corinthians 2.

I think Bengston was way out of line for including his beliefs about intelligent design and his supporting quotes from the bible. It seemed totally out of place and ruined an otherwise good commencement address.

I’m guessing most members of the School Board, Supt. Chris Richardson, and High School principal Joel Leer are not happy with Bengston for this but, alas, there’s been no public comment on it that I’m aware of.

KYMN has the full audio of the 2011 Northfield High School Commencement but here’s the 2 minute and 49 second segment of the end of Bengston’s address:


Update 06/08 10 am: Here’s a more complete transcription of Bengston’s remarks at the end of his address:

In that class, we studied topics with a solid mathematical basis. The mathematics are circles, parabolas, and ellipses didn’t just happen. It’s always been there. We just happened to discover the stability of what those elliptical orbits offer.

Consider the satellites and how we use them with our national defense. And, oh no, you wouldn’t be able to use your cellphone to call a friend on the other side of the planet.

I don’t believe the earth, the planets, and the solar system just happened. I believe there is one overall. As you watch the miracle of a newborn baby, I don’t believe it all just happens.

So I tried to gain that inner contentment that only comes from the one above. He designed me, my brain, my heart, and all that I am. And all he’s looking for is love. I’d like to leave you with some verses from the good book that help explains my thoughts.

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” In John 14, “Thomas, a disciple, asked, ‘How do we know the way?’ Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” And Paul in writing to the Philippians and to us Minnesotans [ph] in Chapter 2, “That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Class of 2011, be content with who you are, find the inner peace that will get you through every difficult time and have a joyous life.

In preparing this little message, I came across the quote from Maya Angelou in which she said, “I have learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Live the life you love, love the life you live and may God bless you. Thank you.

Mock crash shows the dangers of drinking and driving to high school students

drunk driving after a prom drunk driving after a prom
This smashed up vehicle is on display in Ames Park. Attached is a plaque describing what happened as a result of drunk driving after a prom. 

Graduation for Northfield High School is next Sunday, June 5, 2 p.m. at the high school’s Memorial Field.

Nfld Patch: PHOTOS: Mock Crash—"One for the Road"

mock crash photo album on Northfield Patch
On Tuesday, Northfield High School hosted a mock crash in which two cars collided. In the scenario, one driver was drinking. The driver made it out of the wreck unscathed, but two were dead and others were severely injured. The driver was later arrested for criminal vehicular homicide.

High school juniors and seniors watched the hour-long event as it went from the initial wreck to one of the passengers being put in a body bag. The event also had speakers discuss the issue of drinking and driving. Speakers included Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster and Kelly and Ron Landsverk of Faribault, whose daughter, Brittney, drowned last year after the car she was in went into the Cannon River.

Nfld Patch: VIDEO: Landsverks Speak About Their Loss to NHS Students

Nfld Patch: VIDEO: Northfield High School Mock Crash

KYMN: Staged crash shows effects of drunk driving

Nfld News: Mock crash shows reality of drinking and driving

Northfield Ballroom Dance Club Youth Team Dances in New York City

The Northfield Ballroom Dance Club (NBDC) Youth Team recently returned from New York City where they performed in ICONS, a show produced by Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith. The event was a fundraiser for the ASPCA, an organization very near to Melanie’s heart.

Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith help NBDC dancers, Olivia Paulsen and Merlin Paschall-Zimbel, with their "body rolls."  Tony Meredith, with NBDC dancer Melissa Niles on his back, shows the students how to add attitude to one of the dancer's tricks. Tara Jean Popowich from SYTYCD - Canada Season 2 Winner and Alex Wong from SYTYCD Season 7 Contestant talk with the NBDC dance students about their lives as dancers.  The NBDC team with Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith after coaching  
Melanie LaPatin, world renowned dancer and choreographer, best known for her work with the hit TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, invited the NBDC youth to perform in the ICONS show after receiving a message via Facebook about the group. The group performed a routine choreographed by their instructor, Lindsey Rebecca Hall, to a medley of songs celebrating icon, John Travolta. The first song, “Welcome Back, Kotter” (a foxtrot) was selected to start the dance since it was the theme music for the show that launched Travolta’s career. Other songs in the medley included “Staying Alive,” (a hustle) from Saturday Night Fever, “Born to Hand Jive” from Grease, and “Grease Lightning,” (a cha cha) also from Grease.

Northfield Ballroom Dance Club NYC trip photo album
(See my photo album of the trip or this large slideshow.)

The team left Minnesota on Thursday, leaving Northfield at 3:30 a.m. and arriving at the airport at 4:30 a.m. Even though it was far too early in the morning to be awake for most of these young people, they could not help be excited about the trip. After arriving in New York, the team took some time to familiarize themselves with the locations where they would be performing and rehearsing. The show was held at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, located at Hunter College, part of City University of New York, one of the oldest public colleges in the United States. The Kaye Playhouse is located on the east side of central park, north of the Times Square area about two miles.

After finding the Kaye Playhouse, the NBDC team went to Dance Times Square, the studio owned by Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith. The studio is located right in the heart of the Times Square area on the third floor of a building that was formerly a cabaret theatre.

The level of preparation in the production of this show was new to this team. On Friday the team spent a few hours at the studio rehearsing, with over an hour spent working directly with Melanie and Tony. The coaching was invaluable and resulted in instant improvements, particularly helping the students make the routine into more of a performance, by changing facial expressions, adding “attitude” to their cha cha, and making the body roll look more like a “dolphin.”

Continue reading Northfield Ballroom Dance Club Youth Team Dances in New York City

Photo album: Northfield Chess Team

David Ludescher, assistant chess coach at Northfield High School, invited me to play chess against members of the Northfield Chess Team today. I barely know a rook from a bishop so I took photos instead.

Physics teacher and chess coach Rebecca Messer was orchestrating the event.  Other adults in the photos: Greg Sumner, occupational therapist for the middle school and high school and the assistive technology specialist for the district; Matthew Rich, fellow attorney with David at Grundhoefer and Ludescher.

See my album of 23 photos, the large slideshow (recommended), or this small slideshow:

I just discovered that Rebecca Messer had sent me photos of the 2009 Northfield Chess Team at the state championships that I never published. Some familiar faces:

NHS & NMS Chess Team State 09 NHS Chess Team State 09 NMS Chess Team State 09

Photo redux: Rock ‘n Roll Revival

Alas, I didn’t make to the dress rehearsals this week for Northfield High School’s Rock ‘n Roll Revival show, "Reelin’ and Rockin’." Shows are March 11, 12, 13, 17, 18 and 19 and there are a few tickets still available according to Tom McKown. See:

My photo albums from 2009, 2007, and 2005 below:


Above: 3 albums from 2009


Above: 2 albums from 2007

Above: 2005

Photo album: Northfield Ballroom Dance Club spaghetti dinner fundraiser and show

The Northfield Ballroom Dance Club‘s Youth Formation Team held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Northfield Ballroom last night and put on a dance show afterwards. (See this blog post for background on the group.)

See the album of 18 photos, the large slideshow (recommended), or this small slideshow:

Northfield wins State Girls Class 2A gymnastics title again

Nfld Patch (story and photos): Northfield Gymnasts Hit 150, Defend State Crown

All season long, the Northfield gymnastics team has been in search of its goal score of 150—on Friday night in the state Class AA championship meet, the Raiders got it when they needed it the most.

In scoring a 150.4 on the floor of the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion, Northfield edged runner-up Roseville by just three-tenths of a point to claim its second-straight state title.

MSHSL090444GymnasticsNfld News:  State champs, yet again

Nfld News video

Star Tribune

Pioneer Press: Northfield beats Roseville by 0.3

MSHL results PDF:

2011 State Girls Gymnastics results

Hey kids, you too can be a video blogger like Charlie Kyte

Jen Winterfeldt, Youth Development Coordinator for Northfield Public Schools Community Services, invited me to speak about my career to a group of Northfield Middle School students yesterday,  part of an after-school program she runs at the Northfield Middle School Youth Center. Ruben Alvarez, ELL (English Language Learner) teacher, hosted me in his classroom, equipped with an interactive whiteboard which I got to use for the first time.

Griff Wigley at Northfield Middle School Griff Wigley at Northfield Middle School Charlie Kyte 'At the Capitol' video
As I was getting ready to speak, I got a tweet from Charlie Kyte, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) and former Northfield superintendent, alerting his Twitter followers to a new blog post, "At the Capitol" w/Charlie: Budget standoff looming, that includes a video of him speaking to the camera in front of the official portrait of former MN Governor Jesse Ventura. 

I was going to play the video on my smartphone for the students (center photo) but I decided that their interest in the budget battle was likely to be marginal.

Something Democrats and Republicans can agree on: Move public notices to the web

In yesterday’s StarTribune: Time may be right to move public notices to the Web. Governments want to save cost of running them in newspapers. Opponents say public will be harmed.

The law requires notices in newspapers of board proceedings, tax levies, forfeited properties, financial statements and project bids. Against the rising tide of Internet use, many see dumping newspaper notices as a cost saver whose time has come.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has introduced a bill to let local governments skip the papers and publish such notices only on their websites. Drazkowski, who is leading a GOP charge against several state mandates, said using websites will help jurisdictions make up for cuts in state aid. "This is a way to allow local governments the freedom and flexibility to do the best job they can," he said. The bill has six sponsors, including Bloomington DFLer Ann Lenczewski. It has not been introduced in the Senate.

Public NoticeBill Name: HF0162. "Political subdivisions authorized to publish proceedings, official notices, and summaries on their Web sites in lieu of newspaper publication."

Anyone know how much the City of Northfield, the Northfield School District, and Rice County pay the Northfield News to publish public notices every year?

The schools are closed. Um, why?

Northfield Schools closed
We got maybe 7 inches of snow. It stopped snowing at about 7 pm last night. There’s no wind. It’s 25 degrees. The mist is not an issue since the streets and highways are slushy with salt.

And yet, school was cancelled this morning.  I don’t get it.  But I think it would be helpful if the rationale was included with the announcement by those who make the decision.

What is Transformation Northfield’s public agenda?

Agenda, Feb 10, 2011 Northfield Marketplace MinistryTransformation Northfield: Praise and Worship breakfastI attended Transformation Northfield‘s monthly Praise and Worship breakfast (called Northfield Marketplace Ministry) Thursday morning in the lower level of the Archer House. (I requested and was given permission to attend as an observer.)

I’m  interested in the group because part of their mission involves local public institutions (cities, public schools). But it’s not clear to me what that mission exactly entails and how they go about trying to achieve it.

See my concerns at the bottom of this post.

Local public officials who have acknowledged (there may be others) their involvement with Transformation Northfield (TN)  include:

Jack Hoschouer Rhonda Pownell Jeff Quinnell

Dan Clites Brett Reese
Leadership of TN is coming from Rejoice! Lutheran Church pastor Dan Clites and Northfield businessman Brett Reese (Archer House, Rebound Enterprises, Northfield Automation Systems, Northfield Real Estate Fund).

In January, Rejoice! Lutheran Church pastor Dan Clites wrote a column for the Alliance of Renewal Churches titled God’s Heart for City-Nation Transformation. Citing the city of Elk River, MN, Clites wrote:

Marketplace miracles, like those in Elk River, are occurring every day all around the world. Focused on Jesus’ calling to “make disciples of all nations…” the heart of Harvest Evangelism is birthed from Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10. He is instructing his followers how to effectively evangelize a city and a nation with the biblical purposes and principles of God…

From this core group who share a heart for Northfield, we have invited various other marketplace folks from around town to join us in a Bible study created by Greg Pagh, the lead pastor of Christ Church in Otsego, MN. The study is called “Faith Beyond Belief.” I have used it as a small group teaching tool for both my congregation and for local business people, government servants and school officials outside my congregation!

The goal of TN, according to its page on the Rejoice! website, is:

To see the cities of Northfield-Dundas serving the kingdom of God! That’s the goal of Transformation Northfield! Inspired by the movement of the Holy Spirit in Elk River, Minnesota, and other cities around the globe, a group of Northfield Christians are coming together on a weekly basis for a movement of the Great Commission. The biblical goal is to constantly pray over the city in order to bring the transforming faith of Jesus Christ into all corners of the marketplace (our schools, government, businesses, homes and neighborhoods)…

Is it working? Indeed, we are already seeing the fruit of marketplace ministers serving in their various spheres of daily influence. People are getting excited about living their faith like never before. They are establishing and taking responsibility to lead all sorts of new kingdom ministries; everything from prayer walking the neighborhood streets, to building playground equipment on the school grounds, to running for various local government and school leadership offices, to one business owner dedicating his business as a “kingdom company” for the Lord’s work.

TN is part of a larger movement, according to Clites:

I am now networking with Ed Silvoso and Harvest Evangelism, attending both the international and North American conferences. I didn’t go by myself, though, instead I have taken dozens from Northfield with me so we can all catch and grow into the vision!

Ed SilvosoHarvest Evangelism founder and president Ed Silvoso was the featured speaker at the annual Northfield Prayer Breakfast in April, 2007.  Silvoso also heads up the International Transformation Network (ITN).

Transformation - Change the Marketplace and Change the WorldIn his book, Transformation: Change the Marketplace and You Change the World, Silvoso tells the story (p. 165-170) of  how a Filipino taxi driver named Joey, after attending a seminar on transformation, intervenes in the life of the manager of a bar who “… was a homosexual who doubled up as the pimp for 35 prostitutes. He was also a drug user and a drug dealer, the latter a practical necessity to subsidize the former.”  After many days of Joey’s ministering to and praying for the manager, “the manager invited Jesus into his heart.”

Consequently he took his new convert to the beach and immersed him three times, once for each person of the Trinity since he had also ready that it had to be done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As soon as the now ex-gay man came up from the waters, he was struck by the power of God, evicting the demonic forces that had controlled him for so long and rewiring his psyche correctly to enable him to feel like a man again.

This YouTube video shows Silvoso telling this story at a conference. In a letter to the editor of Honolulu Civil Beat, he states that the bar manager “… is married and a pillar in his community.”

My take

Since the 2007 incident when some TN members were allowed to pray in the office of then City Administrator Al Roder, I’m not aware of anything that TN members have publicly said or done that in my judgment, is inappropriate.  I’ve engaged with Jack, Rhonda, Jeff and Brett in a variety of civic and business-oriented activities over the years and they seem to be as community-minded as I am.

But my radar is up on TN for three reasons:

1. Public policy problem-solving and decision-making

Stephanie Klinzing, former mayor of Elk River, MN wrote on the Harvest Evangelism site back in 2004 (the article has since been removed but she’s quoted here and here):

We have also discovered that I have spiritual authority in the city as well as civic authority. I have stood, in the spirit, against things that I believe God does not want in my city, and I have also opened, in the spirit, the city gates to things that I believe God wants in the city. This has had powerful results.

It seems to me that for a public official to assume that he or she knows what God wants and doesn’t want for a city, it makes it less likely that they’ll be open to other points of view, be willing to negotiate, be willing to admit mistakes.

If Jack, Rhonda or Jeff have beliefs similar to Klinzing’s, they need to be confronted if and when those beliefs get in the way of constructive public policy problem-solving and decision-making.  (Klinzing was defeated in her bid for re-election last fall and is now blogging here.)

2.  Rejoice! Pastor Dan Clites

Clites had this to say about those who opposed Rejoice! Church’s plan to move the Cleland family graves as part of their expansion plans:

As mentioned in our December 5th worship service, we have recently come against principalities of opposition (Ephesians 6:12).  Why should we expect anything less?  When a church serves in the Light of the Holy Spirit, darkness will not like it.

Most of the opposition has come from a local family that doesn’t want us moving the Cleland grave site 50-feet and into the northend cemetery.  They believe it is disrespectful to the dead. Our Building Team believes the most respectful and historic thing to do is gracefully move the remains and the headstones so they are not in the way of our important expansion.

Clites puts his actions above reproach because his “church serves in the Light of the Holy Spirit,” whereas those who disagree are labeled “principalities of opposition” and “darkness,” clear references to the devil. (See my Dec. 14, 2010 blog post and subsequent discussion for more.)

This tactic, if deployed in the public sphere, can be even more polarizing and disruptive to constructive public policy problem-solving and decision-making.

3. LGBT issues

For TN to be connected to Ed Silvoso and his organization is ominous.

Any message, direct or indirect, that homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals are somehow under the influence of demonic forces, is not only hurtful and destructive but dangerous.  It can have a corrosive effect on the morale of LGBT employees who work for the city and school district.

And for any LGBT youth in our schools who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity, it can exacerbate their pain, lead to depression, or worse.

It concerns me that some teachers and coaches who are members of TN might convey this belief to the youth they work with. And it concerns me that some of the youth involved with TN, who are urged to live their calling in the marketplace of school, could fall into demonizing other youth.

Conclusion:

Jack, Rhonda, Jeff and Brett: I applaud your civic engagement.  Please be on the alert for how elements of TN might be inadvertently detrimental to the Northfield community that I know you love.

The school district unveils a new website, built with WordPress

About a year ago, Northfield Public Schools superintendent Chris Richardson accepted my offer to meet with him so I could explain why the District’s website sucked big time.  He took copious notes, and his eyes did not seem to glaze over. But I seriously doubted anything would come of it.

Heather Kuchinka and Matt HillmanImagine my delighted surprise when two District staffers, Administrative Support Assistant Heather Kuchinka and Matt Hillman, Director of Human Resources and Technology, signed up for my online WordPress for Noobs course. They then revealed that they were about to unveil a new District website, based on WordPress, constructed by Daniel Edwins, WordPress guru at Neuger Communications Group.

Last week,  gave Heather and Matt gave me a preview and during the meeting, Chris stopped by to toss around some lingo, something to the effect of "We’ve got a boatload of RSS feeds and our permalinks are the prettiest around." You rock, Chris!

Northfield School District websiteToday, the District portion of the revamped site is up, and according to this news item (note that pretty permalink), "In the coming months, we will be rolling out new individual school sites in an effort to mirror the updates made at the district level."

They’ve set up a feedback page with a form on it, but I hate that.  I can’t learn from the feedback from anyone else, nor can I read their reaction to the feedback. So if you’re a fan of public feedback and conversation-as-a-path-to-public engagement, post your feedback in a comment here and I’ll see if I can twist their arms to join us.

School district facing $2.4 million deficit; considering $700k in cuts for next year

Northfield Schools Superintendent Chris Richardson posted this letter on the District’s website yesterday.

Superintendent-Chris-RichardsonWe believe that the combination of lower revenue and inflationary expenditures will result in a $2,400,000 structural deficit (expenditures exceeding revenues) for 2011-12.

Richardson finances letterEven with the purposeful spend down of $1,666,000 of our District fund balance to the minimum recommended by our auditor, our review shows that our revenue will not equal the expenditures that have been forecast for the 2011-12 year. If no other action is taken, we anticipate a deficit of approximately $705,000 at the end of the 2011-12 school year that would further reduce our fund balance below a prudent minimum level.

In order to balance our revenues and expenditures and avoid further reduction of our fund balance below the recommended minimum, we believe we must cut approximately $705,000 from the 2011-12 budget.

For more, see:

Nfld News article: Budget Crunch: Schools face staff cuts

Nfld Patch article: Northfield School District to Draw on Costly Financial History to Deal With Likely Budget Cuts

Nfld Patch article: Northfield School Board Prepares for Cuts in State Aid

Even if you exercise, it may not matter if you sit too much

Griff's officeSince the late 80s, I’ve stood at my computer much of the day because of low back pain. But once that pain subsided (see this blog post on what I did), I’ve been spending more time sitting in the chair on the right than standing at my desk on the left. Bad idea. A blog post published yesterday on Scientific American’s site is startling: Can sitting too much kill you?

There is a rapidly accumulating body of evidence which suggests that prolonged sitting is very bad for our health, even for lean and otherwise physically active individuals.

… both lean and obese individuals, and even those with otherwise active lifestyles, are at increased health risk when they spend excessive amounts of time sitting down.

… sedentary time is closely associated with health risk regardless of how much physical activity you perform on a daily basis. Further, it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary. Thus, to quote researcher Marc Hamilton, sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.

The author of the SCIAM blog post, Travis Saunders, has a 5-part series on sedentary physiology on the Obesity Panacea blog. See also: Feb 2010 NY Times, Stand Up While You Read This! by Olivia Judson;
April 2010 NY Times, Room for Debate: Is All That Sitting Really Killing Us?

This has implications in the fight against obesity and makes me wonder if those in charge of Northfield area schools (K-12, colleges) are considering the implications of this research.

See: Stand-Up Desks In College Station School Fighting Obesity

stand-up desks in school"We separated the children statistically, who were in the overweight or obese categories, which according to the CDC, is greater than the 85th percentile in weight for their age-range,” says Dr. Benden. “We looked at the children in the standing classrooms and the same types of children in the seated classrooms which are ultimately the target of this effort, and they were burning 32% more calories than their seated peers."

Dr. Benden says the stand-up adjustable workstations come with stools and are fit for each students’ size and needs. The work stations also have dual foot rests, which Benden says, makes ‘standing’ at the desk more comfortable and easier on the feet. Not only does it make standing more comfortable, it also helps to alleviate pressure from the lower back. Which the study revealed, over time, improves posture… The study additionally reveals, students’ who use the desks are not only helping to burn calories, they are also improving stamina while building a stronger attention span. Research has also proved those adults who use stand-up desks can lose up to 20 pounds in a year!

Northfield public employee pensions: What are the facts? What needs to be done?

PensionCrisisImage2

The StarTribune’s Erik Wieffering had a column on Sunday titled Cheap talk won’t solve crisis over pensions

Local and state governments across the country face potentially ruinous pension and benefit costs. Too bad so many political leaders have decided that the best way to solve the problem is by making public-sector employees Public Enemy No. 1.

In Monday’s NY Times: Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions

Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

Nov. 11 Time magazine:  Teachers’ $500 Billion (and Growing) Pension Problem

Teacher pensions may not sound like a sexy or even high-profile issue, but keep reading: they’re threatening the fiscal health of many states and could cost you — yes, you — thousands of dollars. And, like the savings-and-loan crisis at the end of the 1980s or the current housing-market mess, insiders see big trouble ahead in the next few years and are starting to sound warnings.

I don’t have any details on the pensions for employees of the City of Northfield, nor for the employees of the Northfield School District.  So let’s crowdsource the facts while we discuss what needs to be done, if anything.

Surgeon General: Just one cigarette can harm you. City of Northfield: Buy it from us.

Last week saw many stories in the media like this one from USA Today, Just one cigarette can harm DNA, Surgeon General says:

Smooth ReaperEven brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco, the first such report in four years.

While the report, out today, focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.

Unlike (many? most? all?) municipal liquor stores in the Twin Cities area, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store continues to sell cigarettes, hundreds of dollars worth every month, for an annual profit of aboutf $5,000/year.

I last whined about this policy in August of 2007 (Should the City of Northfield be selling gateway drugs to its citizens? Alcohol, yes. Tobacco, no) and before that in January of ’07 with a faux news post, Northfield Hospital board opts for cigarette revenue.

I really don’t understand why the Northfield Hospital Board, the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use (MTF), the Northfield School Board, and other local organizations concerned with health and youth chemical issues don’t pressure the Northfield City Council to get out of the tobacco business. Don’t they take ClearWay Minnesota‘s campaign We all pay the price for tobacco seriously?

Superintendent Chris Richardson: He’s not a real doctor!

Superintendent Chris RichardsonIn a town with a thousand PhD’s, nobody refers to or addresses any of them with ‘Dr.’ or ‘Doctor.’ 

But for some reason, KYMN (example here) and the League of Women Voters of Northfield (example here) use it with the superintendent of schools. The Northfield News used to do it (2008 example here) but appears to have discontinued it.  I was glad to see that Northfield Patch did NOT do this last week in its first district-related story. Not even the school district itself does it, sticking instead to "Superintendent Richardson" in its minutes, though some school board members have a tendency to address him as ‘Doctor’ during the course of a board meeting.

I have nothing against Chris Richardson or the previous Northfield District superintendents, but IMHO, only medical physicians should be addressed as ‘Doctor’ or have the ‘Dr.’ in front of their names. Why treat superintendents as if they’re somehow special?

Our local college presidents (one has a Doctor of Philosophy/PhD, the other a Juris Doctor/JD) don’t get the Doctor/Dr. treatment from KYMN (example here). Not even former school superintendent Charlie Kyte (example here) does. So if they don’t, then neither should Richardson.

How about it, Jeff? How about it, Jessica?

Is there a Benjie in your home or classroom? A message for parents and teachers in a town of academic high-achievers

A friend pointed me to this poignant essay by David Marcus in last week’s NY Times: A Father’s Acceptance: His Son Won’t Be Following His Ivy Footsteps.

david_marcusAt the time, I was a fellow at Harvard. Soon after, I did a brief teaching stint at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. I secretly hoped my son would go to one of those Ivy campuses. Maybe I saw that as the seal of approval for my parenting – my boy in Cambridge, or Hanover, or Providence.

Benjie demonstrated, by his nature, that he had other plans.

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