I’ve been a bit of a laggard here on LoGro lately. For years, I’ve had something new on the blog everyday but in the last month, I’ve only had a few new posts/week and have not been very active in the comment threads.
I’ve created a new blog called Engage Citizens as I’m shifting more of my Wigley and Associates consulting work to helping local units of government (state, cities, counties, townships, school districts) use online tools and services to—you guessed it—engage citizens.
At the Jan. 14, 2013 Northfield Board of Education meeting, 26 parents, students and community members spoke with concern about the proposed change to the school district calendar structure for 2013-14. The board voted unanimously to stop consideration of a more balanced calendar for the 2013-14 school year. They directed the administration to recommend a 2013-14 calendar in an upcoming meeting based on the traditional academic year with an after-Labor Day start. In addition, the board requested that administration develop a plan to more deeply engage our community in a discussion about what kind of academic calendar will most benefit students in the future.
Instead, I worked with the District to manage the online engagement for the Transformational Technology proposal which was approved by the Board on Feb. 12.
I’ve now been hired by the District to manage the online portion of a community discussion about school calendars.
I told them to get their hair done for the meeting and that we’d also be practicing to use our index fingers for tablet use. As you can see from the photo, my coaching was more than marginally effective.
And like I blogged back in December about my contract with the City of Northfield, this contract will change the nature of my blogging here on LoGro about the School District, i.e., my relationships with the District’s leaders take priority over my public opinionating about them or the District. And I now have a conflict of interest when it comes to opinionating on District-related matters.
If I blog about anything related to the District or its leaders, the tone of my blog post will be along the lines of “Here’s something interesting. What do y’all think?” Essentially, my role will be more of a moderator. The opinionating (praise or criticism) will have to come from all of you.
High School teacher Kevin Dahle was the Master of Ceremonies and spiced things up throughout with his comedian routine, eg, "I’d like to thank the decorations committee for the wonderful country club theme" and "When the reception is over, please follow last in-first out protocol for your departure" and "The cake is sponsored by the MN legislature but you can only eat 60% of it now with the rest available…" Clever guy, that Kevin. Even Dave Neuger got into it: "Chris is a wonderful person, hard working, extremely talented, respected by… um… ah…. let’s see… help me out here, Chris, I’m having trouble reading your handwriting." None of those are exact quotes but close enough.
Unfortunately, I only had my crappy smartphone camera to use for photos and as you’ll see, it doesn’t do well indoors.
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.
Imagine 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!
Today, 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.
We 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.
Even 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.
In 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.
A Northfield, Minn., middle school teacher faces a felony assault charge after prosecutors say she bit off part of a man’s ear during a drunken altercation in a St. Paul greasy spoon early Sunday. Susan Mukuhi Mwarabu, 30, of Rochester, Minn., was charged Monday with third-degree assault — inflicting substantial bodily harm — after the 4 a.m. incident at the Uptowner Cafe at Grand Avenue and Lexington Parkway.
The District’s options are limited when it comes to its employees’ behavior when they’re not on-duty. But it sure would help to have Richardson and Pesta making some statements to let taxpayers and parents know how they’re approaching this problem.
Northfield Schools opted to NOT dismiss school early yesterday when an intense snowstorm began hitting the area at around 11 am. Northfield News reporter David Henke posted this comment to the discussion thread on the snow emergency article where some folks were complaining: (continued)