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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Lisa Demuth (R)

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Legislative update

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

I hope all is well as we prepare for Christmas and the holiday season. Here are some local and legislative jottings I want to share:

WOC Plantenberg funeral

Thank you to all of the people in our area who showed such great support for National Guard Warrant Officer Candidate Kort Plantenberg and his family in the wake of the recent local tragedy which took his life. The funeral which took place at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville was a heartfelt, memorable tribute. May this true American hero rest in peace and may his family find strength in prayer.

Congrats, Spartans, on football title

Congratulations to the ROCORI football team for recently capturing its second state championship with an overtime win against SMA. What a thrilling finish and what great memories those players and coaches – and the rest of us, too! – will have to last a lifetime. Nice job, Spartans!

Tours of area schools

As for legislative news, the House does not officially reconvene until Feb. 11, which means I have been spending much of my time meeting with people and groups back here in our area. In fact, I recently completed a series of visits to schools throughout House District 13A – eight schools in six school districts – all in the span of about one month.

Thank you so much to all of the people at these schools who graciously took time out of their day to host me and talk about specific issues they face. As a former ROCORI School Board member, touring the schools to get a first-hand look at the classrooms and see student interaction was a great experience and I gained some new perspectives.

Overall, the need for mental-health support and cross-subsidy funding was a topic in all districts. A bill I authored (H.F. 2476) is intended to increase the Special Ed funding. The proposal didn’t receive a hearing in the 2019 session and I will continue to carry this bill going forward.

Here are some notes I took from each of my school visits:

Kimball Elementary Principal Joel Timmerman (10/23):

  • Implemented a 1-to-1 ratio of Chrome Books or iPads.
  • Mental health is a concern for students and families.
  • Efforts to connect with parents though an internet safety night.
  • Positive relationship with Early Childhood Family Education classes.

Paynesville Superintendent Matt Bullard (10/23):

  • $16 million bond was approved for infrastructure, boilers, Career and Technical Ed. (CTE) @ the High School, 4 court gym & community center (fall 2021).
  • Safe Schools money for security cameras/entrance work. With permanent funding, they would add another social worker (currently have 1 FTE).
  • Enrollment is up by 25 this year. They are now at 950 students.
  • Shortage of starter homes impacting families and staff.
  • Special Ed. cross-subsidy of $760,000 of annually.

Kennedy Community School (PK-8)  Principal Anna Willhite, Assistant Principal Richmond Tweh, Assistant Superintendent Marsha Baisch, Director of Community Engagement & Communications Tami DeLand (& Sen. Jeff Howe) (11/4):

  • Community involvement with parents, foster grandparents, Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
  • Unique challenges of St. Cloud School District covering over 250 square miles.
  • Cross-subsidy – need full funding.
  • Positive atmosphere for students and staff.

Avon Elementary Principal Sue Jenkins & Building Leadership Team (11/11):

  • Kindergarten – play-based learning, personalized learning.
  • Lack of parent educators for Early Childhood Family Education.
  • Added an additional social worker with an Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services Grant (now have 2 FTE).
  • Mental-health concerns.
  • Great community support for the school.

Kimball High School Principal Nancy Bonnifield & students Ethan, Alex, Andrea, Lucy (11/11):

  • Half of the HS staff are on overload (6 hours per day).
  • Specific licensing is a challenge.
  • Great Youth Apprenticeship program – 5 students involved, 450 hour internship, paid.
  • Mental-health concerns.
  • Students appreciate the openness with teachers, google classroom is helpful, time management is still a work in progress.

Eden Valley Elementary Principal Rob Peterson (11/13):

  • Mental health – need sustainable funding.
  • Lunch accounts, 27% Free & Reduced down from 40% so they lost $200,000 in compensatory aid.
  • Inequity of property-poor districts.
  • Passed an $8 million referendum.
  • No track; football is played on a baseball field.
  • Elementary – 1 device per student; H.S. kids can bring their own device.
  • Great parent participation – 90% at conferences.
  • College In the Schools – 36 credits available.

Cold Spring Elementary – Trimester 1 Awards Celebration (11/22)

  • Recognizing 2 students per grade that were nominated for a Super Spartan Award based on excellence or improvement in academics, leadership and attitude.
  • Celebrate and encourage all students.
  • Work hard, play hard.

Paynesville Middle & High School Principal David Oehrlein, Elementary Principal Mary Holmberg (11/25):

  • First year with block schedule for H.S.
  • 1 social worker for district.
  • Innovation Center with many options for students M.S. & H.S.
  • Both Principals in their first year.
  • Elementary – great parent involvement.

Thanks again to everyone at these schools who shared with me some of their successes and challenges. It is fascinating to me how each school in relatively close proximity can face such different issues with unique characteristics. The information I received will be helpful as I continue working to do my best in representing the people of District 13A and I look forward to continuing this discussion.

Sincerely,

Lisa

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