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90 Days In

It’s been almost 90 days since I accepted the invitation to join the Cambridge-Isanti Schools leadership team, and I am energized by the passion for learning among our students and staff. There is strong community support for our schools. Everyone I have met shares the same value of providing the best possible education for every student, every day.

In my visits to our schools and out in the communities, I have seen first-hand that our success is grounded in our core values of honesty, compassion, self-discipline, respect and responsibility – the Bluejacket Way.

We’ve had a strong start to the school year. Our enrollment continues to grow, with approximately 4,960 students enrolled this year, and our vibrant schools continue to attract families into our communities. Our staff are committed to building strong relationships and meeting the unique needs of students. 

We had an extremely high turn-out for Homecoming, and our high school continues to be a cornerstone of our communities. I was incredibly proud of our students last Friday when attending the Veterans Day tribute to honor all who have served to protect our freedoms. Our students understand the importance of service and that freedom is not free. We honor and thank those who have served.

Like many businesses and government entities, our school district is in an era of significant change. Last year, the district cut $4.5 million – more than 5.5% – of our total budget. We are one of the only districts in Minnesota without an operating referendum to supplement the state and federal funding we receive. We are asking our staff to find new efficiencies and do more with less. At the same time, we have unprecedented expectations for student learning.

In the coming months, our leadership team and school board will be taking time to assess our current state and plan for the future. Based on earlier feedback from parents and staff members, we will be taking a look at our transportation system. 

We currently run one round of bus routes for all students in the district, while other districts may use the same bus for two- or three-tiered routes each way. We will be looking into efficiency, fairness, time on buses and transfers to see if there might be a better way. 

We will be surveying parents and staff later this month, with a report due to the board by the end of December.

Our district has been granted pro bono research by St. Cloud State Professor Emeritus’ Dr. Roger Worner and Dr. Kay Worner for a comprehensive assessment of our enrollment, finances, facilities, staffing and operations. They have worked with dozens of districts in Minnesota and will provide an expert third-party perspective to lay the groundwork for future planning. 

I had the opportunity to work with both leaders in my doctoral program and find them extremely experienced and reputable. We are so grateful that they are willing to complete the work at no cost to the district as a part of their generous commitment to community service.

Learning about the district, our communities and your expectations for our students and our schools is my top priority for the year. I promise to work diligently, communicate openly and make myself available to our staff and communities. I trust we can engage in open and respectful communication when challenges arise, and I welcome your feedback. 

In Cambridge-Isanti Schools, our mission is to develop well-rounded individuals who excel in leadership, achieve at the highest levels and are responsible citizens. We will only achieve our mission in partnership with parents and our communities. I look forward to our work together.

This article also appeared in the County Star

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