An online engagement project for the Northfield Public Schools: getting feedback on the Transformational Technology proposal

The day after the ‘balanced calendar’ online engagement project for the Northfield Public Schools that I blogged about back in early January got postponed, I put my Wigley and Associates consultant hat back on and had a meeting at the Northfield Public Schools District office with Superintendent Chris Richardson and Matt Hillmann, Director of Human Resources and Technology.

Chris and Matt decided to use my online engagement services instead to get additional public feedback on the Transformational Technology proposal that’s now being considered by the School Board.

It’s happening on a blog that’s part of the District’s WordPress Multiuser platform:

Transformational Technology for Northfield Public Schools, ISD #659

Transformational Technology - Northfield Public Schools

 

Matt has been blogging about the project for nearly a year on Blogger and so we’ve imported all those posts into this new blog.  He presented the final draft of the proposal to the School Board earlier this week and the Board will likely vote on it at one of their February meetings.

Rob HardyRob Hardy has a comprehensive overview of the project with lots of links in a Northfield.org blog post titled Local Issue: iPads in the Schools.

Rob has also a post on his Learning Curve blog (“The Education of a Northfield School Board Member“) titled Transformational Technology Proposal: Paying for iPads.

And like the downtown parking management plan for the City of Northfield that I’m working on, this project with the District won’t happen here on LoGro.  So I’ve turned off comments here. If you’ve got questions about how it’s all going to work, see my blog post: How is the online engagement part of this project going to work?

The race for Northfield School Board: Cupersmith, Hardy, Iverson, Maple, Stratmoen

Dan Cupersmith, Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, Anne Maple, Noel Stratmoen  (Northfield Patch image)
It’s one month till the election and the race for Northfield School Board is between Dan Cupersmith, Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, Anne Maple, and Noel Stratmoen (top four vote-getters will serve).

If you’re looking for an online venue to discuss the race with your fellow Northfielders, this is it.

See the Northfield Patch article, Election 101: Meet Your School Board Candidates

Patch has compiled basic biographical information about this year’s five school board candidates. Click on their names for more information.

Northfield School Board hosts a reception honoring Chris Richardson, MN Superintendent of the Year

Supt of the Year invitation IMG_20120224_062300 IMG_20120224_062327
The Northfield School Board held a reception at the Northfield Golf Club last night honoring Chris Richardson for his MASA award as Minnesota’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year. See the Oct. 31, 2011 press release on the Northfield School District’s site for details on the honor.

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.

School Board Chair Ellen Iverson; teacher Kevin Dahle Master of Ceremonies, comedian, teacher Kevin Dahle IMG_20120223_183456 School Board Vice Chair Kari Nelson

Dave Neuger Matt Hillman, District Director of HR and Technology Jessie Montano, Deputy Commissioner, MN Dept of Education Paul Erickson, President of ATS&R (award sponsor); Chris Richardson, Gary Amoroso, Executive Director, MASAPaul Erickson, President of ATS&R (award sponsor); Chris Richardson, Gary Amoroso, Executive Director, MASA Chris Richardson, Minnesota’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year IMG_20120223_192025

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.

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.

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?

Should the Northfield School District partner with the YMCA on a facility on school property?

Northfield ISD 659Northfield Area YMCA

I’m undecided on the issue.  The School Board votes on Oct. 25. Background:

District: Northfield Public Schools Board of Education Hosts Open House and Information Session on YMCA Facility Proposal

YMCA:  Our Next Steps

School board member Kari Nelson: Board wants input on YMCA decision

School board member Jeff Quinnell: We’re NHS, not NYHS

School board member Mike Berthelsen: NHS, YMCA a worthy partnership

Nfld News: District hosts YMCA open house

Nfld News: Opinions strong on both sides of YMCA partnership debate

Northfield School Board election: Which seats are up? Who’s filing? Anyone? Anyone?

Northfield Public Schools ISD 659 I picked up a Northfield League of Women Voters brochure last week at the HideAway titled “Brief guide to starting your run for office”

I noticed that filing for the Northfield School Board is Aug. 2-17, and that 4 seats are up for election.

There’s no information about whose seats are up on Northfield School Board page nor on the LWV site. Anyone? Anyone?

Naming top test-takers: is it a helpful educational practice?

ipad-letter-sshotDept-admin-sshotNorthfield is on the front page of the Strib again today: Teachers broke law by posting top test scores. "In an advisory opinion, the Minnesota Department of Administration agreed with a parent who complained that posting her son’s test results in class for all to see was a violation of state law protecting student data."

I was informed about this situation earlier this year when the parent, Kathie Galotti, brought it to my attention, asking for my opinion about the situation.  I contacted her this morning when I saw the story and got her permission to post PDF’s of her letter to the Dept. and the subsequent ruling. I think there are still issues to discuss since the practice is evidently still continuing, albeit with parental permission of individual students.

Obama’s school proposals challenge the education establishment; what will Northfield do?

nea-obamaI wonder how Northfield’s public education leaders will react to President Obama’s $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" fund competition. So far, the NEA is not happy. Among other reasons, they really don’t like charter schools, a fact noted by the Sunday Washington Post editorial titled Charter Success: Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased (reprinted in the Strib today with the watered-down title More proof that charter schools work). More background: (continued)

Continue reading Obama’s school proposals challenge the education establishment; what will Northfield do?

Who should the School Board appoint to the open seat?

Northfield School Board, Dec. 2008 Ray Cox, Kathy Feltes, Julie Pritchard and Mitchell Sellner have applied for an open position on the Northfield School Board, recently vacated by Diane Cirksena. A subcommittee of the board has been interviewing the four reviewing the four’s applications and will make a recommendation at next Monday’s meeting. For more, see the Sept. 18 Nfld News story: Four apply for open school board spot. Who should the Board appoint and why?

School vending machines: time for a policy change?

Vending machines at Northfield High SchoolVending machines at Northfield High SchoolThe current issue of The Atlantic has a story titled Fixing Lunch that includes the problems associated with “crap food” in the vending machines in schools. The Northfield School Board apparently last changed the Wellness policy (PDF) back in May of 2006 (PDF) and directed the District Wellness Committee to develop new vending machine guidelines for the 06-07 year. It hasn’t been done, as far as I can tell. The vending machines in the photos are at the Northfield High School. (continued)

Continue reading School vending machines: time for a policy change?

Northfield school board approves settlement on a student lawsuit; what can we know about it?

legal image This was on the School Board Agenda on Monday in the Superintendent’s Report: “Resolution To Approve Settlement of a Claim Pending Against the School District.”  The Board approved the settlement. I phoned all the school board members tonight and reached three of them. All said they couldn’t comment, that I’d have to talk to the District’s attorney. I can understand the need for secrecy during negotiations, and data privacy laws would prevent the release of the student’s name. But now that the suit is settled, (continued)

Continue reading Northfield school board approves settlement on a student lawsuit; what can we know about it?

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