• The Bluejacket Way

  • Nate Rudolph

    Superintendent Nate Rudolph

  • Trust is about Keeping Committments

    Posted by Superintendent Rudolph on 12/2/2021

    December is an important month for school finances, and we are grateful for the community support that allows us to move into fiscal year 2023 in a stable position. Our school district referendum was approved with 63% voter support on November 2. And after three years of budget cuts, we are committed to responsible spending and oversight of the new funding. We will continue to work with the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee to ensure the funds are only used for their intended purpose.

    The referendum will provide $3.5 million annually — less than the $8.5 million cut since 2019 — and can only be used to hire/retain high-quality staff, reduce class sizes, expand career technical education and college readiness, and support student learning. Thank you to everyone who took time to learn about the issues and vote in November.

    Doing what we promised

    In the decision leading up to the referendum, the School Board made a commitment to reduce other tax levies to minimize the impact of the referendum. At the last School Board Meeting, the Board took the first step to do just that by refinancing and restructuring 2012 capital bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates and reduce taxes. For agricultural landowners this reduces the school district portion of their property taxes for 2022 and there is no additional cost associated with the passed referendum.

    In recent weeks, all property owners should have received their preliminary tax statements. Included on the tax statement was a sentence that said if our school referendum was approved, your property taxes may be different than the amount listed. For a property valued at $200,000 (other than agricultural land) the additional taxes will be about $144 per year. For your convenience, we have a tax calculator on our website for property owners to calculate their individual tax impact based on estimated market value. Please visit www.ehlers-inc.com/microsite/ci2021/

    We are hiring

    For the first time in three years, we are hiring with a positive outlook for continued employment instead of layoffs and budget cuts. Like many other businesses, our schools continue to be short-staffed following the pandemic. We have multiple positions open — bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, instructional assistants, and substitutes. We also have a need for before and after-school childcare workers, along with  other various community education jobs. Many of the positions require no previous experience and include training. We only ask that you believe in the potential of every student, every day.

    We are a community of learners. If you have a growth mindset and believe there is always something new to learn, if you enjoy lifting others up and helping young people discover their path, if you are optimistic about the future and want to serve your community, if you are responsible and believe in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, please consider joining our team. Our schools are the heartbeat of our community, and we are hiring!

    Cambridge-Isanti Schools is also actively recruiting among a very competitive teacher candidate pool. There is a teacher shortage, and it started long before the pandemic. In 1975, one in five college students majored in education. In 2016, fewer than 5% of college freshmen planned to major in education (according to the National Education Association). The top teacher candidates will be looking for communities that value education, are growing, and can provide job stability and mentoring during their early years in the profession. We can proudly say — that’s Cambridge-Isanti Schools. If you have a teacher-education major in your family, encourage them to contact us about student teaching and a potential future career as a Bluejacket.

    Strong Schools, Strong Communities

    Strong communities have strong schools, and the vote of support our district received on November 2 will allow us to remain active in local economic development plans by attracting workers with families who value a small town and want a good education for their children. Our community has a long history of excellence and a positive outlook for growth. It is indeed a great day to be a Bluejacket, and we thank you for your continued support.

    Comments (-1)
  • What’s at Stake for Cambridge-Isanti Schools?

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 10/21/2021

    Last week I answered a few questions related to the upcoming school district referendum. This week, I’d like to address the three biggest questions:

    1. If the referendum passes, how will the money be spent?
    2. Who will make sure the referendum funds will be used for student learning?
    3. What happens if the referendum does not pass?

    How will the money be spent?

    Since January, a Community Task Force has been studying our finances and their impact on students. They were very clear and direct in our need for additional funding, and urged the district to keep things simple. The legal language for the referendum is very direct and binds the district to a legal contract with voters.

    On the ballot, Question 1 states “Authorization to Hire/Retain High-Quality Teachers and Support Students.” If question 1 is approved, we will be obligated legally to hire and retain teachers, reduce class sizes and support student learning. That means we will purchase more classroom supplies, books and learning materials to support students in the new teachers’ classrooms, and we will provide additional support for students.

    Question 2 states “Authorization to Support Vocational Technology and College Readiness.” We will be legally obligated to maintain (avoid cutting) and expand vocational and career technical classes, and we will increase opportunities to earn college credits while in high school. We will add apprenticeships and provide training and mentoring to prepare graduates for success in careers and college.

    Question 2 can only pass if Question 1 passes because as much as the Task Force values vocational-technical classes, they could not justify adding programs at the high school when the basics of how many students are in a classroom are unacceptably high.

    Who will make sure the spending is on learning?

    Last January, we expanded the School Board’s Finance Committee to become a Citizens Financial Advisory Council. Community business leaders joined to increase transparency, oversight and accountability. The Board commits to maintaining the Citizens Financial Advisory Council over the duration of the approved referendum authorization.

    In addition, the official resolution calling for the referendum specifically stated the funds will be used for student learning, hiring and keeping high-quality teachers, reducing class sizes, and enhancing career and college readiness. This language is in the title of the ballot question. This is a legally binding commitment by the School Board and is subject to independent financial audits.

    What will happen if the additional funding is not approved?

    After cutting $8.5 million over the last three years, we have cut all the fat and are down to the bone. We already know state funding (approved last June for the next two years) will not keep pace with inflation. Without new revenue, we can expect another $1-$1.7 million in reductions. This will be the fourth year of budget cuts; we can’t trim around the edges. The Community Task Force prioritized the following cost-cutting measures:

    Schedule changes at the high school and elimination of more electives

    Students currently register for 60 possible credits over 4 years with 52 credits required to graduate —16 are elective credits. With additional budget cuts, electives would be cut up to 75%. Cuts would impact career-technical education, family and consumer science, personal finance, business, world languages, art, band, choir, physical education, and electives in English, math, science and social studies. Such a change will likely impact K-8 options and schedules as well.

    Reduce academic support programs, those that provide a lifeline to students who are below grade level. Many of these federal or grant funded programs require matching funds from the district, and if district funds are eliminated grant funds will be gone the next year. This includes targeted reading supports, smaller group interventions and supports.

    Increased facility use fees to cover utilities and custodial services for groups who rent or use our buildings. Youth sports fees will increase, community education class fees will go up, scouts and other nonprofits who use our buildings will have to pay more.

    Eliminate more middle school activities and increase activity fees

    Some middle school activities have already been cut and combined with high school teams. More could be eliminated completely or fees would need to increase. This year First Bank and Trust of Cambridge donated $10,000 to avoid activity fee increases for students, and we appreciate their generosity.

    Eliminate specialty choice programs and reconfigure school grade levels

    Over the last two year, we eliminated the middle school year-round school (MN Center) and the year round schedule for School For All Seasons, but kept the students together with a focus on science and the environment. Without additional funding, this program can no longer be sustained. We’d also start to plan for reconfiguring grade levels and shifting some boundaries for increased efficiencies in administration, district supports, and transportation.

    Reduce Transportation with a Two-Mile Walk Zone

    State funding is intended to pay for transportations for students who live two miles or more from school. This will likely increase traffic congestion around each of our schools.

    Over the last three years, the district has reduced expenses by $8.5 million (on a $60 million budget). Budget reductions have resulted in larger class sizes, less individual attention for students, higher student fees, fewer teachers and staff, and reductions in critical support for students who struggle.

    We hope all voters will get the facts before you vote. Visit our website www.c-ischools.org/referendum. Call me with any questions you have.

    Thank you for your continued support of our students and our community.

    Comments (-1)
  • Protecting what it means to be a Well-Rounded Bluejacket

    Posted by Dr. Rudolph on 10/14/2021 6:00:00 AM

    Bluejacket Pride was plentiful during our All-Class Reunion in August and Homecoming a couple of weeks ago. Both events provided an opportunity for our entire community to show their school spirit and pride.

    In the coming weeks, our community will vote on the future strength of our public schools. Following a Community Task Force recommendation, we are asking our community to invest in students’ futures—our collective future—and preserve what it means to be a Bluejacket.

    After studying our district finances since January, a Community Task Force of 38 individuals recommended that the school district hold a referendum this year to fix a chronic funding shortfall.

    The Task Force dug into district finances and operations, talked to experts in school funding, and reviewed past budget cuts and their impact on students and learning. In April, they concluded that we are falling behind in meeting the growing needs of students and need more funding. Unfortunately, we do not have a voter-approved operating referendum like most school districts, and that is hurting children’s learning opportunities. After all, local funding is part of a three-legged stool for schools in Minnesota, and our local funding falls short.

    State funding has not kept pace with inflation over the last decade. Even this year when the legislature touted a historic increase - it was less than inflation. Most districts have a local voter-approved operating referendum to close the gap. Cambridge-Isanti does not.

    After careful consideration, the Task Force and School Board arrived at a straightforward, two-question referendum. It specifically requests additional funds to:

    • support student learning,
    • hire more high-quality teachers to reduce class sizes,
    • expand vocational-technical classes to support career and college readiness.

    As a bonus, if a referendum is approved, it will also bring about $500,000 in new state aid for our district. They say the state helps those who help themselves.

    I’d like to address three questions I’m often asked about this referendum.

    1. Why can’t we just spend within our means? We are. We have balanced our budget each of the last three years by cutting expenses. We have cut $8.5 million, slashed our curriculum supplies budget by 57% and eliminated 100 jobs from our payroll. We are losing good teachers to districts that have more stable funding. We have 38 students in classes at the middle school and high school. With class sizes of 38, each student receives 40% less individual time and attention from a teacher than in a class of 25.
      Our school district now ranks #311 out of 327 school districts in Minnesota in per-student funding. And we spend less per pupil than any other school district in the Mississippi 8 Conference. We will have to cut another $1 million to balance the budget next year, if the referendum does not pass, and continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
    2. Can’t you just cut sports and afterschool activities and stick to the basics We believe in a well-rounded education, and learning happens beyond the walls of the classroom. After school activities teach students discipline, responsibility and teamwork. They provide a sense of belonging—being part of something bigger than oneself. And activities provide students with a sense of purpose. Students learn to be accountable to their team and their coach or club advisor. Statistically, students who are involved in extracurriculars also earn better grades. In fact, of our teams/clubs and theatre groups, 22 have a 3.0 or higher cumulative group grade point average (GPA) and 14 are higher than a 3.5 team GPA. We want kids involved in activities and to be well-rounded.
    3. How can private schools educate students for under $6,000 in tuition and public schools cost so much more? The answer is private schools can’t. Private school tuition might be less, but “tuition alone does not cover the cost of a private education,” according to the school’s website. Gifts (large and small) bridge the gap between tuition and the actual cost of operating the school. Some costs, like transportation and student support services are funded through our public school district. With unpublished budgets, per/pupil expenses by private schools are unclear, but it is certainly higher than tuition alone. Private schools can also be selective in admissions and aren’t required to educate all students, which is the responsibility of public schools. We know that our C-I School’s general education cost per pupil is $8,225 which is significantly below the state average of $9,500. And we know that, after $8.5M of budget reductions, we are the LOWEST spending district in the Mississippi Eight Conference and one of the lowest spending school districts in the state of Minnesota.

    Our mission is to develop well-rounded students who become responsible citizens in our community. There are currently 40,000 good-paying jobs in manufacturing in Central Minnesota, and we need to expand vocational-technical classes that have been cut back over the years so our graduates are prepared for those careers. We need to lower our class sizes so students receive more individual learning and personal attention. We need to stop budget cuts, so we can attract and keep high-quality teachers and staff.

    Our children are the future of this community, and strong communities have strong schools. Our community faces critical workforce shortages, and if we want to attract young parents and workers into our communities, we need to provide a high-quality education for their children.

    In Minnesota, funding schools is a shared responsibility. The average school operating referendum is $865 per pupil; we are asking for $565 per student to support learning, hire teachers and reduce class sizes (in question 1) and for $121 per student to expand vocational-technical-career classes (in question 2). If both questions are approved, it will cost $12 per month on a $200,000 property. Visit www.c-ischools.org/referendum to learn the facts and test out our tax calculator to see your specific cost. If you have specific questions, please call me at 763-689-6202.

    Comments (-1)
  • A busy summer for students and staff

    Posted by Dr. Rudolph on 7/29/2021

    Did you happen to notice our CIHS Bluejacket Marching Band taking to the streets in the Isanti Parade and the Forest Lake Parade in early July? Our students have been working so hard to prepare for their parade performances. There is nothing like the sound of a marching band to bring joy to our local community celebrations!

    I’m excited to share that our summer programming is in full swing, with full participation rates following last summer’s restrictions. Thanks to an infusion of state funding targeted for these programs, we have more students participating in summer school, credit recovery, enrichment activities and other student growth opportunities. Knowing that this funding comes from one-time pandemic recovery funds that won’t be available in the future, we are making the most of our temporary boost to make sure our students are engaged and supported. It is so refreshing to see so many students involved in classes, as well as music, driver’s education, activities, and extended year services.

    As you may know, on June 30, after a lengthy special session, the Minnesota Legislature passed the K-12 education funding bill. It will provide a moderate 2.45% increase to the basic education formula for next year and a 2.0% increase the following year. For Cambridge-Isanti Schools, that translates to approximately $900,000 next year and $700,000 the following year. Of course, we appreciate any funding we receive, but this falls far short of closing the funding gap that districts experience due to basic inflation, much less helping our Cambridge-Isanti School District recover from the last three years of budget cuts totaling $8.5 million.

    Over the last decade, education funding for rural Minnesota has been severely lacking. And, the difference between the highest funded districts and the lowest funded districts in our state is rising at an unacceptable rate. As we have reported before, Cambridge-Isanti Schools is in the bottom 7% in per-pupil spending and revenue following our three years of budget cuts.

    We have met with our local legislators and appreciate their understanding and advocacy. After meeting with Representative Brian Johnson, Representative Kurt Daudt, and Senator Mark Koran, we agreed that an increase on the basic formula was the best the Cambridge-Isanti Schools could hope for. After all, Cambridge-Isanti doesn’t receive many categories of specialized funding that other school districts receive. We agreed that more work needs to be done to bring more equalization aid to our district to address funding disparities from one community to another. While equalization was not included in this year’s budget, we are thankful for their partnership advocating for rural Minnesota school districts. 

    Our state is at a crossroads, and it is clear that local priorities will need local support. So, as we approach a new school year, we invite you to get involved in our local schools. Our young people are the future of our community, and they are counting on your support.

    This year, we are excited to welcome back volunteers into our schools and visitors to our events and student performances. We have an incredible community and incredible kids. We owe them an outstanding education.

    As your local public school district, we are dedicated to our community’s local values and priorities. Please don’t allow national news reports or social media posts to paint a broad-brush picture of what is happening in our schools. Come visit and see for yourself. Our staff are your friends, neighbors, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, coaches and mentors who have answered the call to inspire and teach our children.

    In Cambridge-Isanti Schools, our mission is to develop well-rounded, responsible, respectful, honest, compassionate and self-disciplined citizens who achieve at high levels as leaders. We work in partnership with families, staff, local businesses, employers, and community organizations to envision the future we want for our children.

    We are committed to local community values and priorities—inspiring every student, every day the Bluejacket Way!

    Comments (-1)
  • Forming a Committee Task Force

    Posted by Dr. Rudolph on 11/16/2020

    Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of our community members at backyard gatherings and park events. We want to thank every resident, volunteer and host who attended a gathering or welcomed us into your neighborhood to talk about school funding and the referendum. We appreciate your time, your understanding and your support.

    What I learned during those meetings and the November 3 election is that our community loves and supports our schools. People understood that our schools are significantly underfunded, and our budget challenges are real. Yet, now is not the right time. We understand that this is a difficult time for many.

    With rising COVID case counts, students in distance learning, and our hospitals nearing capacity, we are committed to supporting families—providing free childcare for essential workers, meals for children, access to internet and broadband and quality instruction for students. Our staff has shown strength and resilience in adapting as needed and our summer planning has allowed us to move between models. When we work together as a community, we are optimistic we will get through this historic time.

    As we embark on our planning for next year, we will need community members involved in the planning and decision-making. After all, you are the owners of our schools—and we have some difficult decisions to make, which will need community input.

    The budget challenges we’ve faced are not going away. Due to the current funding challenges, we will have at least a $1.7 million shortfall in the next budget cycle. After cutting $7.5 million dollars over the past two years, we are already one of the lowest spending districts in the state and the reductions that are needed will balance the budget for fiscal year 2022 only. Without a funding increase, we anticipate facing more than a $1.7 million dollar shortfall the following year, continuing until revenue or funding does change.

    We are in the process of assembling a community task force to address the District’s dire budget situation and plans for the future. We understand these are hard times. We need to support each other and work toward creative solutions. Our children’s futures depend on it. Right now, they need us to work together to create the best path forward.  Our students are the future citizens of Cambridge, Isanti and rural Minnesota. Let’s work together to find solutions.

    If you can share your time and experience to serve on the task force, please call our office at (763)689-6202 or email dist-communications@c-ischools.org. We need our best minds working together during these difficult times.

    The children in our schools today will face challenges not experienced during childhood since the Greatest Generation. They will be asked to perform in jobs not yet invented and to solve problems that they inherit. Growing up during a pandemic, they will learn the value of life, family and life-long learning. They will be more adaptable, tech-savvy and resilient.  Our students continue to inspire us to be our best every day...and keep getting better. In turn, we must continue to inspire them...Every Student. Every Day. We will get through this together. We are responsible and resilient —the Bluejacket Way. 

    Thank you, Cambridge-Isanti, for your continued support. 

    Comments (-1)
  • The Future Is In Your Hands

    Posted by Melanie Allen on 8/24/2020

    A year ago this week I joined the Bluejacket family, and have learned over the past year what a special community we have in Cambridge-Isanti. I am grateful for the strong community support of our schools. This is a community that values education and has high expectations for responsibility, self-discipline, respect, compassion and honesty—the Bluejacket Way.

    Over a long history, our schools have produced many local and state leaders, most recently including Brig. General Shawn Manke who recently was appointed to lead the Minnesota National Guard; Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy; Ryan Larson who was a top 10 finalist this year for Minnesota Teacher of the Year; and aspiring Olympian Char Morke, CIHS “19 — a state champion pole vaulter and a second-year Midshipman at the US. Naval Academy who continues to break records.

    With our College in the Schools program, last year’s seniors earned more than 1,200 college credits—saving more than $1.6 Million in college tuition collectively. And although we don’t have 2020 ACT scores due to COVID-19, we know those heading off to college in 2019 achieved an average ACT score of 23.7, exceeding the state average. With 60% of our graduates heading to college (in-person or online this fall), 40% are heading into our local workforce. Our CIHS certification programs prepare students to enter high-demand jobs right out of high school— as a certified welder or certified nursing assistant for example. We have 11 such career programs at the high school.

    Our graduates and alumni were the product of a well-supported educational program in Cambridge-Isanti Schools. The question we now face is whether future generations of Bluejackets will be afforded the same high-quality education that previous generations received. Our district is at a crossroads.

    Over the last two years, the district has reduced expenses by $7.5 Million. Recent budget reductions have resulted in the elimination of more than 90 staff. We have:

    • Reduced teachers at all levels, resulting in large class sizes
    • Reduced cleaning and custodial staff time
    • Reduced administration and delayed curriculum updates
    • Eliminated innovation, instructional coaches and instructional assistant positions
    • Increased student fees for activities

    Without additional funding, the district faces another $1.7 million in reductions for next year. We know the state has more than a $4 Billion deficit and we can’t rely on decisions in St. Paul to help our finances. So, parents and community members have encouraged the district to place a referendum on the ballot to maintain high-quality schools. A voter-approved operating referendum is the District’s only option for avoiding a third consecutive year of budget reductions and lay-offs.

    This summer the district surveyed residents to identify strategic priorities for the future. Lowering class sizes, increasing cleaning, and securing adequate funding were the top priorities. More than 60% or respondents said they would support additional taxes to fund our schools.

    Last week the Cambridge-Isanti School Board unanimously adopted a resolution to place an operating referendum on the ballot for November 3, 2020. We are taking a financially conservative approach to minimize the tax impact and stretch funding as far as it will go. We are asking for $25 per month on an average property (valued at $200,000)—less than $1 per day for 2021-2023, and an additional $15 per month beginning in 2024-2030. We have a long-term strategic financial plan, and we are only asking for what we need when we need it. We hope you will read the extensive information on our website at www.c-ischools.org/referendum

    It is also noteworthy that if we pass a referendum, we will qualify for additional equalization aid, and the state will pay $103 per student of the $800 per student that we are seeking. Combined the state and local funding would be an increase of $4 Million in annual revenue.

    Because we can’t hold large in-person meetings, we are asking neighborhoods, service clubs and other groups to please host small gatherings. Both Finance Director Chris Kampa and I will be available to meet with groups in the community to share information and to answer questions. Please call our office at 763-689-6202 to schedule a meeting. We will also be hosting a virtual meeting on Wednesday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m. Visit our website www.c-ischools.org/referendum for details.

    As we reflect on the last year for Cambridge-Isanti Schools, it’s been a year of growth and community support. We started the year with the excitement of homecoming and large community gatherings to celebrate our schools and community. Throughout the year we faced the challenges of the pandemic, distance learning, and redesigning how we do school. We did so with an outstanding team of committed educators and staff members. We faced a challenging budget situation and with your approval, we will have a responsible financial plan moving forward. We celebrated the Class of 2020, through a whole community effort, that turned out to be one of the most personalized graduations in school history. Now we’re asking our community to come together once again in support of future generations of Bluejackets. It is an honor and privilege to serve our community and partner with you to continue our strong tradition of excellence. Go Big Blue!

    Comments (-1)
  • Adaptability. Personal Responsibility. Community Support.

    Posted by Dr. Rudolph on 7/20/2020

    Fall Planning is Underway

    As August approaches, our Cambridge-Isanti team is diligently planning for the future of our district. We currently have about 20 sub-groups working on the planning process to develop the three plans required by the Minnesota Department of Education. Next week, we look forward to the Department of Education providing clear direction for our return to learning in one of three formats

    1. In-person learning for all students
    2. Hybrid model considering capacity limits and social distance restrictions by the state
    3. Improved distance learning

    As a district, it is our sincere hope that we will be allowed to return to in-person learning for all students. We know that children learn best when they are face-to-face with highly qualified educators. If conditions do not allow us to do so, we will be prepared to implement the hybrid or improved distance learning contingency plan required by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Department of Health.

    We are also preparing to pivot between all three plans at the direction of local or state health officials throughout the school year. We understand that reopening schools is critical to healthy child development, our community and the future of our local economy. Moving forward, we will carefully balance the priorities of health and safety, quality education and social-emotional health and well-being for all. We will again survey families about their plans and needs after the Governor makes his announcement next week.

    C-I Schools Online Option

    Earlier this month, C-I Schools announced a fully online option for students in grades 6-12. Before COVID19 disrupted our lives, our Innovation Teams in Cambridge-Isanti had been planning to launch a new online option - to provide a hometown choice for students currently enrolled or considering enrolling in a Minnesota online program or charter school. We are fortunate to have a number of specially trained leaders and teachers who have substantial experience in online learning. C-I Schools online option is partnering with Edmentum/Plato, one of the nation’s leading online curriculum platforms to offer this new online option. It will include interactive lessons, real-time and pre-recorded instruction and full support of our school counselors and specially trained teachers. Families interested in this option may sign-up on our website at C-ISchools.org.

    Long-range Priorities and Planning

    We are optimistic about a post-pandemic future for our students. And this is a critical time for planning. In a rapidly changing world—where there are new discoveries in health, science, math and technology every day—what is most important in preparing our students for the future? What is important for our students to know and be able to do in the future? We invite every citizen to go online and answer ten questions at www.c-ischools.org/future  or call 763-689-6188 Mon-Thurs 8-4 p.m. We are also working with Morris-Leatherman to update our community survey, which was done last in 2016.

    Over the last two years, our district has reduced expenditures by $7.5 million. Because state funding has not kept pace with rising costs over the last decade, our district will need to continue to reduce budgets and services each year due to the structural deficit. As one of the lowest-funded districts in Minnesota, we receive $1,200 per pupil below the state average. Why is this? In Minnesota, school funding is a shared responsibility among local, state and federal funding. Most school districts have a local operating referendum, and our board has resisted asking our community for additional support until it is absolutely necessary. We are at a crossroads, and we need to plan for the future. What are your priorities for our schools? We’d like to know.

    Our community has a long history of supporting our local schools and we are filled with gratitude, particularly for the support during the disruptions of the last year. We are optimistic about the future and believe the collective wisdom of all residents will help us plan. We appreciate your time and thoughtful consideration of our survey questions, please go to  www.c-ischools.org/future to share your feedback.

    Comments (-1)
  • End of the School Year

    Posted by Melanie Allen on 6/22/2020

    What an extraordinary school year it has been. We are filled with gratitude for the incredible community support we have experienced this year.

    Looking back to our Homecoming game last fall which drew thousands, to our recent year-end celebrations, this is a community that celebrates its children, families and each other. We could not be more proud!

    On June 5, our community came together to celebrate our extraordinary Class of 2020. We want to specifically thank the cities of Cambridge and Isanti, Police and Fire Departments in both communities, East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC), Herman’s Bakery, Affinity Plus Credit Union, East Central Energy, Common Ground Church, and countless other local businesses, organizations, and individuals who came together to make our nontraditional graduation ceremony an extraordinary one.

    The Class of 2020 is truly extraordinary, not only for the grace and perseverance that they have shown over the past several months, but also for their tremendous talent and success that they have achieved. Among the many individual and team accolades this year, CIHS seniors earned 1,291 college credits through our College in the Schools program. That's a collective savings of about $1.6 Million in college tuition for this graduating class. We had six students identified as Valedictorians with a 4.0 G.P.A., 15 AP Scholars, 128 Honors Students (61 Honors with Distinction), 57 National Honor Society Inductees, and 203 scholarship recipients through Dollars for Scholars. We recognized numerous conference champions, section champions, state contenders and even world qualifiers. This senior class also included many record setters, participants in global experiences, and the Minnesota State High School League State Academics, Arts, and Athletics (AAA) award winner. The Bluejacket class of 2020 has demonstrated great success in the classroom, in music and arts, on the courts, gyms, and fields, and throughout the community.

    Graduates who are planning to go directly into the workforce—about 35% of the class—will be exceptional contributors to help our local businesses and economy rebound. They are creative, tech-savvy, problem-solvers, and doers who have an outstanding sense of responsibility and work ethic to help our community thrive.

    We also have six graduates who have committed to serving our country. Stepping forward to serve in the military are Alexander Wimmer, Julian Kelly, Cameron Kuhlman, Edward Madsen, Romeo Nordquist, and Hanna Ball. We thank them in advance for their service.

    To our staff, we say thank you! Cambridge-Isanti Schools has provided the Class of 2020 an outstanding education since they began their school journey with us. Our educators, instructional assistants, custodians, food service personnel, bus drivers, administrative assistants, administrators, and others have all played pivotal roles in their growth and success.

    As we look forward, our District faces significant challenges in maintaining the excellence our community has come to expect. Over the last two years, our district has faced significant budget reductions, resulting in staff lay-offs and increased class sizes and co-curricular fees. With Distance Learning, we are stretching our technology systems beyond their design and capacity. Undoubtedly, the disruption and isolation brought on by the pandemic will bring added challenges when students return to school. And the unknown about next year is forcing districts to plan for multiple scenarios as directed by the Minnesota Department of Education.

    We are at a crossroads and in the coming months, we will be engaging with community groups and surveying residents to identify our strategic priorities for the next few years. We rely on the state for 84% of our operating budget, and the state is facing a significant budget deficit. We are among the lowest funded districts in Minnesota (#304 out of 330), and receive about $1,200 less per pupil in total revenue than the state average. Our current budget trajectory is not sustainable. I hope you will take the time to reflect on how our schools and community can adapt for a rapidly changing world, and please provide feedback on how we might invest our resources in the future to meet the needs of our students.

    It is said that crisis reveals society to itself. The pandemic has revealed our community to be resilient, adaptable, and committed to its children and youth. Our students represent the future vitality of our community. I’m confident that our collective commitment and problem-solving will ensure a strong school system and strong community for the future. We are in this together, and we look forward to our partnership, the Bluejacket Way!

    Comments (-1)
  • C-I Schools: Moving Forward Together

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 5/21/2020

    As educators, we’ve dedicated our life’s work to children and education, so I’ve always felt schools were important to not only educate our students, but to serve our community. The past months have challenged us to do just that.

    Over the last eight weeks, our food services team has provided 110,000 meals for children in our community. Our teachers have held more than 250,000 virtual connections, in addition to countless phone calls and outreach with families who don’t have reliable internet access. Our Distance Learning plan has been guided by a genuine love of children and learning: relationships before rigor, grace before grades, patience before programs, and love before lessons.

    As adults, thinking back on our own experiences, did we learn much from people we didn’t trust or respect? The answer is likely not. As educators, we want our students to know that C-I teachers and staff are advocates for their future and that we truly care about our students and families. It’s about connections. It’s about community.

    On June 5, we are looking forward to graduating an incredible senior class! We will record a drive-up ceremony and replay graduation on YouTube in the coming weeks; please tune in. We’ve known that our C-I seniors are a special group of students who have made it their purpose to care and lead. They have experienced tremendous accomplishments during their K-12 years in Cambridge-Isanti Schools. More recently, we’ve learned some additional lessons about them:

    1. We are graduating self-directed, resilient problem-solvers who are helpful and committed to our community. They have faced uncertainty with persistence and resolve.

    2. They are self-reliant but know how to ask for help when needed. They see an interconnectedness—a sense of community—that many adults discover much later in life.

    3. They know their futures hold complex challenges, which only life long learners can solve. We are #InThisTogether will be a guiding principle that calls them to serve their friends and neighbors.

    Schools have a responsibility for graduating the next generation of leaders: in business, in government, in non-profit and in civic life. And in the Class of 2020, I am confident we have exceptional leaders for the future.

    As a new superintendent, the past months have provided some reflections for me as well:

    1. Our Cambridge-Isanti staff would do anything for our community; they are your neighbors and friends. They have demonstrated compassion and grace, while pulling out the best in each of their students. In tough times, we come together.

    2. Our community deeply supports our students. ​It has been overwhelming to receive a groundswell of support for our seniors, for our schools, and our district. Our most recent Dollars for Scholars success is one of many great examples of this support. Our students are the beneficiaries of the Dollars for Scholars Committee’s dedication and the generosity of our community.

    3. Together, we can do amazing things! Last week, we assembled a community advisory group to think about how our school district can help local businesses jump-start our local economy. We are happy to support local businesses through our communication channels or through community service and are beginning to look into creative ways to help. Please reach out if you have an idea, or if we can be of assistance.

    Looking forward, we have permission from the Department of Education to resume limited summer programming, under strict health and safety guidelines. We are looking into various options and will continue to plan accordingly.

    This pandemic has forced school districts to innovate and problem-solve under ever-changing and unpredictable timelines. In reflection, I am so proud of the work that our teams have done. We will need to continue to think creatively about our future. We recognize that reopening our schools is significant for our students’ education and necessary for the vitality of our community and economy. We are committed to working collaboratively with community leaders, parents, and citizens to do so.

    Twenty years from now, we’ll look back on Spring 2020 and realize its historical significance. It has offered us an opportunity to serve each other and support all in our community, the Bluejacket Way.

    This article also appeared in the Isanti-Chisago County Star.

    Comments (-1)
  • In this Together, The Bluejacket Way

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 4/8/2020

    We could have never imagined 30 days ago, the incredible disruption that our families, our schools, our community, and our world would face. I am so thankful for the strong, resilient community we have in Cambridge-Isanti. We are indeed in this together.

    In the past weeks, we have seen incredible energy and drive from our school staff as they pivoted to a distance learning model. We ramped up to deliver meals to children across our community and mobilized our organization for emergency childcare following the Governor’s Executive Order. As our local city, county, school, and hospital personnel have met, I have seen leaders ready to work together— whatever we may face.

    We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know it is essential to focus on child development during uncertain times.

    I shared with our staff last week that our economy may slow, and our school buildings may close, but there is one thing that will not stop: the growth and development of our children. From age three to age 18, our children are at their peak social, emotional, physical, and intellectual brain development.

    The stories children hear will shape the narrative of their lives. The developmental relationships we build will give them the security and confidence to imagine a better future. The experiments they conduct, the discovery skills they develop, the curiosity we nurture in them will lay the foundation for future problem-solving. Most importantly, the connections that build in their brains today map a future of who they will become.

    As educators, we have to focus on the positive and healthy development of our children. So, as our team embarked on distance learning last week, we have asked each of our teachers and staff to prioritize relationships and connections. We want every child to know that we love them and will always support them. Learning doesn’t happen if children are not confident that they are safe and cared for.

    Learning doesn’t happen without a relationship.

    As a school district team, we look at challenges as opportunities. How can we emerge from this pandemic as a stronger community? How can we help our children learn to cope with and overcome adversity? How can we continue to nurture their curiosity and creative problem-solving? How can we help them discover their passion, dive deeply into their areas of interest, and ignite a lifelong love of learning?

    As distance learning began last week, we focused on reestablishing relationships and routines. We are making sure that children have the food they need, access to learning materials, and a human connection with their teachers (via phone or internet).

    Last week, we saw a primary student introduce her class to baby chicks that just hatched at her home. We have seen our middle school students initiate #CIHearts on display—posting blue and white hearts on their home windows as a sign of the Bluejacket Pride. And we saw a Riverside Academy student celebrate graduation during the shutdown.

    When the dust settles on this generational moment, we will be an even better school district. Better at relationships because we have prioritized intentional connections with kids and families. Better at using technology to enhance learning and connections. Better at expressing gratitude and appreciation for a safe, caring, and supportive community for children to thrive.

    Thank you, Cambridge-Isanti, for being strong and supportive. #InThisTogether #BluejacketWay.

    This article also appeared in the County News Review.

    Comments (-1)