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Schools Are An Economic Driver For Our Community

Last month, I had the honor of attending the Isanti Mayor’s Day Luncheon. I want to publicly thank Mayor Gordon, Stephanie Hillesheim, and the City’s Economic Development Team. The event highlighted economic growth opportunities and all that is right with the City of Isanti. I want to also thank them for inviting me to talk about the partnership of strong schools and strong communities.

Our schools are owned by our community — the residents of Isanti, Cambridge and everyone living within Isanti County. And it’s a privilege to work in a community that values and supports our students, staff and schools.

Last year, more than sixty people in our community including parents, community members, staff and students, gave their time and talent to contribute to developing our District Strategic Plan. We met over a six-month period to reach agreement on our mission, beliefs, objectives and strategic priorities. I have seen firsthand how our community members come together with divergent perspectives to find common ground on behalf of all students and families. As a school district, we work in partnership with our parents and community to educate, inspire and empower every student, every day. And we are guided by our Bluejacket character traits: Honesty, respect, responsibility, self-discipline and compassion. It’s the Bluejacket Way. 

Our District Strategic Plan guides our decisions, attention, resources and priorities. We are focused on four specific outcomes, prioritized by our community: 1) All children and their families will have access to opportunities for early learning; 2) All students report a feeling of belonging within their school; 3) All students demonstrate annual growth toward goals; 4) All students graduate with a plan for their future. — This last one includes a plan to prepare for a career and a life in a rapidly changing world.

We will continue our focus on strengthening literacy and English Language Arts instruction. We are ready to fully implement Minnesota’s new READ Act and we are far ahead of many other districts in this work. Reading and writing are fundamental skills needed for all other learning.

We will also continue to enhance our C-I Career Pathways, which was a focus of the 2021 voter-approved referendum. We want our local employers to know that we look forward to working with many of you to provide mentoring, experiences, training and opportunities for our students to support and grow our local workforce.

We believe relationships are at the heart of learning and living. We are working to instill a strong sense of belonging for students and families. And most importantly — positive relationships allow us to challenge students beyond their own expectations, and support individual growth. 

When a teacher taps a student on the shoulder and says, “Hey, I think you have a talent for engineering or welding” or some other career, we ignite interest and build confidence. When we tell a student — we believe in you — they begin to believe in themselves. Just think about who impacted your life. Did a coach ever tell you — you are a leader? Did a teacher ever see something in you that you didn’t yet see in yourself?  

We have appreciated our strong partnership with our cities and county, as we work toward the long-term growth of our community. Our schools are an important resource and economic driver for our community, and we want them to be a point of pride for businesses attracting new talent to the area and for realtors attracting new families. 

We are also one of the county’s largest employers. The adults we hire to inspire and support our children every day make a difference in people’s lives. It is meaningful work. One of our referendum promises was to hire and retain high-quality staff. That has been a top priority. We have increased wages and improved benefits for all employee groups. We are maintaining a positive workplace culture of respect, appreciation, and gratitude. Our Bluejacket staff are all working really hard to provide the best possible education for your children because they care deeply about students and student success.

With the support of voters in 2021, we promised to lower class sizes, hire and retain more teachers, and protect our career and technical education programs. And we have followed through on those promises. In August 2022, we welcomed 85 new teachers, who filled new positions to lower class sizes, restored positions cut from 2019-2021, and replaced open positions due to resignations and retirements.  This August (2023), we will welcome 24 more new teachers to continue our efforts to reduce class sizes with a focus on middle school and high school. 

We are proud to report that 100% of the revenue approved by voters is being used as promised. So, thank you for that support. It is making a difference for kids. 

Our students' interests are as varied as their personalities. Each has their own goals and dreams. And in a rapidly changing world — that’s probably a good thing. So, our schools need to adapt too. 

The 2023-24 school year is about to begin and we couldn’t be more excited! Our fall Bluejacket athletes are working hard to prepare for another great season, new teachers are in the district this week, all staff will officially report back next week, and we will welcome all Bluejacket students back to school officially on the week of September 05. With a focus on our strategic priorities and character traits that keep us grounded, I am confident that our schools are well-prepared for the future— as we educate, empower and inspire students to their fullest potential. GO BIG BLUE! 


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