School year off to great start

This past Tuesday (Sept. 4) was the first day of school for more than 12,660 Elk River Area School District learners. On the whole we came as close to having a picture-perfect start to our 2012–2013 school year as is possible. Quite honestly, in my more than 30 years as a public educator, this was the best opening day that I have ever been a part of.

There are many thanks to go around…

•To every parent and guardian who is entrusting with your learner, thank you.

•To every bus driver who ensured every child was transported safely, thank you.

•To every cook who made a heart-healthy meal, thank you.

•To every custodian and maintenance crew for spotless facilities to learn in, thank you.

•To every staff member whose behind-the-scenes work is critical, thank you.

•To every learner who came to school excited and prepared for success, thank you.

•To every teacher who will educate, inspire and empower all of our learners, thank you.

I chose to do my field trip the first day. I watch every school from Rogers to Zimmerman and in-between. As I watched learners of all ages enter their schools, I beamed with pride at the welcome they received. Every teacher and staff member I saw was excited and warmly greeted every boy and girl with enthusiasm. To paraphrase a popular marketing line, it “was priceless.”

The first day of this school year also marks the beginning of a new chapter in our history. Thanks to the collaboration of community volunteers, we are implementing our new Strategic Plan. This “road map to the future” clearly prescribes our priorities through 2017. This year our goal is to accomplish nine of the 35 total initiatives. The “One Mission, Seven Core Values, All Students” plan is a community initiative, meaning we believe our communities will support us with the full implementation of this important plan.

And to support implementing the plan, we will need our community’s support. Our School Board approved two questions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The first is a renewal of an existing levy; with voter approval school district taxes will not increase.

The second is a new request and addresses our Strategic Plan initiatives of free all-day, everyday kindergarten, increased technology, a broadened curriculum and continued operations. It is important to note for the second question to be enacted, the first question must pass.

Although we are award-winning financial stewards, even with passage of one or both questions, it will be necessary to make budget reductions ranging from a “best case” scenario of $2 million to a “worse case” of $12 million. These reductions will be felt beyond the classroom and our schools. Study after study shows quality schools equals quality communities, so our hope is as with the development of our Strategic Plan, we will collaboratively work together so that all of our learners receive the best possible early childhood through graduating senior experience.

We are off to a great school year, and so I ask you to not only become a partner in our success, but also to say “thank you” to those who teach by shaping the futures of our diverse learners, who are working to accomplish their dreams. Together, all of us are and will positively contribute to our local and global communities. — Superintendent Mark Bezek, Zimmerman (Editor’s note: Bezek is the superintendent of schools for the Elk River Area School District)