Task force assembles plan

by Jim Boyle

Members of the Strategic Planning Task Force, which numbered more than 70 and were broken into three groups, forwarded a list of “Strategic Objectives,” and a series of four main strategies to the Elk River Area School Board and District 728 Administration on Monday.

Members of the Strategic Planning Task Force that turned out for Monday’s meeting to present their results to the Elk River Area School Board. The full group numbered more than 70 and included some board members.

The strategic objectives and strategies are spelled out below. The next step will be for the Elk River Area School Board to adopt the plan and prioritize what it will work on first.

Strategic objectives
By 2017 each learner will…

Choose to continually engage in experiences that benefit the community;

Intentionally choose to acquire and apply knowledge and skills consistent with their goals and passions;

Articulate their dreams and create and carry out plans to achieve those dreams.

To help students focus on stated objectives, there are hopes of developing a learner profiles and dashboards. These would be a tool to allow the district, students and parents to gather data, maintain artifacts and ultimately focus students in on their goals and dreams.

Greg Heinecke, a curriculum specialist, and Andy Hillebregt, a parent, walked people through a virtual tour of such software that could be put into use in the early childhood years and last through high school and beyond.

Graduates would essentially have a portfolio at the end of their high school career they can take to college and job interviews.

The dashboard would foster organization, communication and goal setting and gradually shift those responsibilities to students. Here is how the objectives are proposed to be carried out.

1. The strategic objective rubrics have been integrated into the District’s outcomes/standards.

2. District employees understand our strategic objectives and why they are important to learner success and how we will measure each learner’s progress.

3. Pilot programs for gathering data on learner progress have been implemented, evaluated and refined.

4. Students, parents and community understand our strategic objectives and why they are important to learner success and how we will measure each learner’s progress.

5.  A Learner Profile integrates data about student learning and is available in a user friendly format.

6. Data provides information on learner progress while guiding strategic decisions and collaborative efforts.


Here are the four strategic objectives in order.

Jamie Plantenberg-Selbitschka (at left) and Londa Chambers listened to the report. Plantenberg-Selbitschka was one of several community members to deliver part of the report.

Strategy No. 1

Mining for and cultivating leaders is on the radar of the Strategic Planning Task Force.

“Our future success is paramount on identifying and developing our future leaders,” said Rod Barnes, the school district’s director of labor relations and personnel services and member of the action team.

Here’s what the group reported out on paper about Strategy No. 1:

We will continually identify, develop and empower current future leaders to carry out our mission and strategic objectives;

Here is how Strategy No. 1 is proposed to be carried out.

1. Our Collaborative Leadership Team (CLT) has a shared vision of the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for successful    leadership.

2. Each member of the CLT has an individual leadership development plan and a process to track their growth over time.

3. The knowledge, skills and dispositions essential to developing student leaders (E-12) are articulated and integrated into district curriculum standards and are being taught through best practice instruction.

4. Our district provides leadership development opportunities for identified formal/informal leaders.

5. Our district collaborates with community members to create leadership development opportunities.


Strategy No. 2

Sara Weis, a parent and member of the action team, talked about the environment students learn in, whether its inside classrooms, outside classrooms and how that could look differently.

“What if we knocked down preconceived notions?” she asked.

In developing a list of results for objective number two, the group focused on seven key results.

She talked a lot about early education, and how opportunities for learning are so limited.

“The best intervention is prevention,” she said, noting the importance of preparing preschoolers for school. “This is the time in those children’s lives that they are able to learn the most, to consume the most and really gain an excitement for learning.”

She said its time to reach out to families and introduce them to our strategies, our missions and philosophies to actually bring them into the district and invite them in to become part of our district and future learning environment.

The group stated that all day every day is a critical addition to the district to not only close the education gap, but also to stop the flow of families in the district to other schooling options.

“We are losing kids right now because we don’t have this program in our district,” she said. “We will lose these families and they won’t come back.”

Meanwhile, the gap between students who are prepared for school and those who are not slows the entire education process down, stripping away opportunities to challenge kids who entered the system ready to learn.

The school district is also losing students as they get older and are choosing other educational options, something Weis called even “more troubling.”

“Middle school students and high school students are looking for more class options, more opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, more challenges and more variety,” she said.

Here’s what the group reported out on paper about objective No. 2:

We will refine educational delivery services to meet the needs of present and future learners so they achieve our mission and strategic objectives.

Here is how Strategy No. 2 is proposed to be carried out.

1. We are continually implementing and evaluating instructional strategies, programs, and schedules to ensure they result in high levels of learning.

2. A research-based recommendation has been made to create an all day every day kindergarten program for every child.

3. All kindergartners attend all day, every day kindergarten with no fee assessed to parents.

4.  A comprehensive plan has been developed and implemented for early education designed to ensure that all students receive the foundational skills needed to be successful learners.

5. There is a process in place for identifying the knowledge, skills, and programming needed to prepare students for a continually changing world.

6. Research-based recommendations regarding the use of flexible scheduling to address the diverse needs of our learners are presented to the board.

7. Pilot programs related to flexible scheduling have been implemented and evaluated for efficacy and cost/benefit

8. A comprehensive plan for instructional technology is being implemented that addresses resources and infrastructure as well as training, integrated instruction, online learning, and accessibility for all learners.

9. A set of standards for professional learning has been developed and is being implemented so that high quality, differentiated professional development is delivered through multiple modalities.

10. The use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Response to Intervention (RTI) is enhancing the achievement level of all learners.


Strategy No. 3

Cory Franson, the District 728 Community Education program manager and action team member, said the group concluded a new name for the Elk River Area School District is in order.

“For there to be a sense of pride and unity throughout our district it’s very challenging for Zimmerman and Rogers students and families to  identify with the a district that’s referred to as the Elk River Area School District,” he said.

It has been proposed to develop a committee of staff, students and parents to come up with concepts of a new name and cultivate ideas before they are narrowed to a smaller list and something is selected.

Another major idea discussed at length was a one-stop shop welcome center instead of the 16 different locations with 16 different processes.

“A lot of time is spent at the buildings is the paperwork process, and we want parents and students to get an experience of what’s going on at the school,” Franson said.

Staff at a welcome center would be trained to sell the mission statement and help families understand what the district can do its for family. Under this plan, kindergarten registration nights would become kindergarten experience nights.

The welcome center could be centrally located with an occasional satellite trip to the ends of the school district.

Here’s what the group reported out on paper about objective No.  3:

Do whatever is necessary to create and sustain a culture in which all members of our community understand, support and contribute to our mission and strategic objectives.

Here is how Strategy No. 3 is proposed to be carried out.

1. District has a new name that unifies area communities in ISD 728 supporting our common mission.

2. The district continually shares its successes, instills pride and creates unity in support of the district mission.

3. The District has established and utilizing a centralized welcoming center for new learners that showcases our district and its diverse populations.

4. Community members are using the welcoming center and online materials as a point of entry to register students, understand our district mission and opportunities available to them.

5. All new employees show evidence of their commitment to the district mission

6. Community members are accessing resources and services from the greater community at the welcoming center.

7. District has integrated the support of the mission into the evaluation of the employee performance.

8. All employees demonstrate a commitment to living out the mission of the district in their daily work.


Strategy No. 4

The Elk River Area School District has 12,500 children so there are roughly another 25,000 parents, 100,000 grandparents and a community at-large that might be willing to help students succeed.

The last group to present suggests engaging parents and other adults even more than now will become increasingly important.

Another idea forwarded is  a community council that reflects the “cradle through retirement” gets established that understands the district’s mission to promote integrated community collaboration.

“Both ways we are collaborating and ways we can collaborate,” said Kathy Simonson, the manager of Early Childhood Family Education.

More than that, it is suggested that there is an organizational culture that values collaboration with parents and the community organizations and agencies to achieve the district’s mission.

Here’s what the group reported out on paper about objective No. 4:

Collaboratively engage all resources of our community necessary to achieve our mission and strategic objectives in ways that are mutually beneficial.

Here is how Strategy No. 4 is proposed to be carried out.

1. An organizational culture that values collaboration with parents and community organizations and agencies to achieve the mission of ISD 728 for all learners has been committed to and is continually being developed.

2. A community council that reflects “cradle through retirement” has been established that understands our mission and facilitates an integrated community collaboration to help us achieve our strategic objectives.

3. An integrated database of community resources and partnerships is being maintained and updated regularly.

4. Parents of E-12 learners are active partners with ISD 728 staff in assuring high student achievement for all.

5. Parent and community literacy collaborations are created to: a. increase literacy outcomes for children birth to grade three b. provide enriching literacy opportunities for all learners c. create specific literacy intervention volunteer opportunities.

6. A system of career planning and career pathways (which includes the full spectrum of work-based learning opportunities) is in place for all ISD 728 community learners.

Core values
We believe that…

All people have value;

Valuing and respecting differences strengthens the individual and the community;

People thrive when they feel connected, supported and affirmed;

Everyone can learn;

Hope inspires and empowers;

Lifelong learning is essential for personal growth;

Change is an opportunity for growth.

We will not…

Adopt any new program or service unless it is…

Consistent with our Core Values and contributes to our mission;

Accompanied by the alignment or reduction of current practice.

Task force included wide and varied walks of life

Core team members
Jeffry Anderson, student

John Anderson, parent

Lora Arnott, director, Special Services

Hailee Athman, student

Steve Barone, strategic plan facilitator

Mark Bezek, superintendent

Dolly Bina, manager, Employment Services

Charlie Blesener, director, Community Engagement (ex-officio)

Dusty Bredlow, The Bank of Elk River

Joel Brott, Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department

Jane Bunting, school board member

Hannah Gibson, student

Elizabeth Golden, Community Education Advisory Board member

Kristin Hanson, parent

Jana Hennen-Burr, assistant superintendent of educational services

Jack Hines, Decimet Sales

Curt Hinkle, youth minister

Bill Hjerstedt, teacher representative

Judy Johnson, prevention specialist

Bob Kluntz, Elk River Police Department

Mike Matter, Zylstra Harley-Davidson Inc.

Jason Paurus, principal, Rogers Middle  School

Jamie Plantenberg-Selbitschka, pParent

Tim Rybak, manager, Custodial Services Operations

Kari Sampson, principal, Westwood

Kristen Schrader, parent

Tom Sterneman, pastor

Jessica Stockamp, parent

Holly Thompson, school board member

Gail Weber, teacher representative

Action team members
Heidi Adamson-Baer, principal, Hassan

Rod Barnes, executive director of labor relations & personnel services

Terry Bizal, principal, Elk River High School

Monte Bloom, teacher, Zimmerman Middle/High

Michael Daugs, teacher, Westwood

Cory Franson, Community Education program manager

Tiffani Glew, teacher, Rogers Elementary

Ryan Johnson, teacher, Rogers High School

Melissa Jordan, coordinator of integration

Alyssa Klein, parent

McKayla Kroll, teacher, Twin Lakes

Sandy Langer, Parent

Kristen Larson, teacher, VandenBerge Middle School

Brian Menth, manager of purchasing

Carolyn Mitzuk, teacher, Elk River High

Kristine Niznik, parent liaison, Rogers Middle

Paul Olson, teacher, Salk

Ruma Padukone, parent

Megan Reppen, teacher, Lincoln

Sue Romane, assistant principal, Rogers High School

Tricia Sanford, curriculum specialist

Kathy Simonson, Community Education ECFE/School Readiness/ECS manager

Tami Soens, counselor, Zimmerman Middle/High

Debra Utsch, ECSE, teacher, Handke Center

Lisa Van Eps, parent

Sara Weis, parent

Gabriela Win, teacher, Rogers High

Melany Wynn, parent

Measurement team members
Greg Heinecke, curriculum specialist

Andy Hillebregt, parent

Bruce Jean, assistant principal, Rogers Middle

Pauline Knox, Community Education operations manager

Nikki Nordmeier, ECSE speech, Handke

John Olson, teacher, Salk

Pete Pouliot, teacher, Zimmerman Middle/High

Ena Rasmussen, teacher, Rogers Middle School

Joe Samek, manager of technology

Phil Schreifels, principal, Rogers Elementary

Barb Schwab, teacher, Parker Elementary

Joe Stangler, director of research and assessment

Darren Wolf, assistant principal, Rogers High School