District 196 faces financial hardship, loss of seasoned veterans in 2011
by Jessica Harper
Financial hardship struck the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District while it also lost several longtime workers and leaders in 2011.
Early on in the year, the district struggled to balance its budget and was forced to make numerous deep cuts.
No one was safe: 107 teachers were laid off as part of budget-balancing efforts.
The School Board unanimously approved laying off 93 nontenured teachers in March as district officials looked to slash $3.5 million from the 2011-12 budget.
More layoffs came in June as 14 tenured teachers were let go and 11 more were given partial leaves of absence.
But the district’s decision to lay off tenured teachers had more to do with changes at the middle school level than its budget constraints, said Tom Pederstuen, director of human resources in District 196.
In January, the School Board unanimously approved shortening its middle school schedule to six periods in an effort to boost student achievement, particularly in math, and save money.
Eliminating two class periods is expected to save an estimated $1.76 million each year.
In addition to cuts, the district looked to borrowing as a way to balance the books. The School Board approved opening a line of credit last summer and a $15 million aid anticipation loan.
This was the first time the district opened a line of credit.
State statute allows school districts to borrow up to 95 percent of their average monthly expenses.
For District 196, this is $24 million.
A bit of good news
School officials felt some relief in July upon hearing that District 196 will receive additional funding.
The state promised the district an extra $50 per pupil this school year and another $50 per pupil in 2012-13.
This amounts to $1.5 million each year in additional revenue.
District 196 also will receive $2.96 million in compensatory funding starting in 2012-13.
Legislators passed the one-time money for 20 districts with the largest enrollment aside from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
District 196 is expected to receive the largest sum of this money.
The district also expects to receive $1.63 million in literacy aid for 2012-13. The aid is based on literacy achievement of third- and fourth-graders.
This additional aid enabled district officials to avoid seeking a new operating levy referendum.
The district received some more good news when it received results of a standardized science test.
Students in the district exceeded the state average in science test scores.
The percentage of District 196 students who scored proficient or better on the science portion of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-Series II was higher than the state average, according to results released by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The standardized test assesses whether students are proficient in reading, math and science.
The science portion is given to students in fifth and eighth grade, and in high school.
Students in District 196 also scored better on the ACT than the state average.
Struggling to make AYP
Though District 196 excelled on some tests, it didn’t make the grade by federal standards.
For the second consecutive year, District 196 was cited in 2011 for not making Adequate Yearly Progress under the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The school district was far from alone as standards rise each year in hopes of achieving 100 percent proficiency among students. Half of Minnesota schools did not make AYP, according to the state Department of Education.
The release of 2010 U.S. Census data in 2011 revealed that District 196 doubled in the past 10 years.
Students of color account for 24.7 percent of the school district’s population, which falls in line with the state average of 24.3 percent.
Additionally, 85 different languages are spoken in the district, including varying dialects of the same language.
This past year the district also lost decades of experience.
In May, longtime music teacher Judy Sagen retired from Eastview High School.
Sagen served as a choral teacher for 36 years in the district and developed a passion for working with students during that time.
She began her career in 1975 at Valley Middle School in Apple Valley.
From there, Sagen spent the next 12 years touring the district’s choral departments – moving to Apple Valley, Eagan and then Eastview high schools.
Though she retired from the district, Sagen continued to pursue her passion for music by starting a community choral group and overseeing student teachers at the University of Minnesota.
Sagen’s retirement was followed by the retirement of Westview Principal Karen Toomey, who spent 20 years in the district.
Toomey had spent 16 years as the elementary school’s principal.
She came to the district in 1991 as the coordinator of special education services.
After a few years in the district, Toomey accepted a position as principal of Westview Elementary in Apple Valley.
Toomey was replaced by former Glacier Hills magnet coordinator Tami Staloch-Schultz.
By the following month, District 196 lost another longtime employee.
Jim Brandl retired last year from his position as the district’s director of community education. He served in that position for only three years but worked in public education for three decades.
Brandl started his career more than 30 years ago as a substitute teacher in District 196, spending much of his classroom time at Rosemount Middle School. He switched to the district’s Community Education department in 1975, serving as coordinator for five years.
In that position, Brandl worked closely with the adult basic education program.
He left the position in 1980 to become director of Community Education for Wayzata Public Schools for 28 years.
In 2008, he became District 196’s interim and then full-time Community Education director, replacing Ram Singh.
Brandl was replaced by longtime community education employee Khia Bruse-Brown.
In the summer of 2011, the district bid farewell to longtime School Board Member Kevin Sampers.
The Eagan resident spent more than half his life in the school district and stepped down in August to focus on his startup business.
Sampers began attending District 196 as a first-grader and was among the first graduating class at Apple Valley High School in 1978.
Decades later his three daughters graduated from the district.
Sampers was elected to the School Board in 1993. His time on the board coincided with a period of rapid growth including the construction of several new schools such as Dakota Ridge.
Upon his resignation, Sampers was replaced by Gary Huusko, who was appointed by the School Board to finish Sampers’ term.
Jessica Harper is at firstname.lastname@example.org.