From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Alejandra Matos, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Mpls. school start times may change but not for elementary schools

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: March 4, 2015 - 12:00 PM

Start times will remain the same for elementary schools in Minneapolis next school year, but changes are possible at middle and high schools.

Minneapolis Public Schools announced the results of its parents survey late last week, saying parents overwhelmingly prefer start times between 8 and 8:30 a.m., and dismissal times between 2:30 and 3 p.m.
School start times in Minneapolis vary widely, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

"Although start and dismissal times will remain the same for elementary schools, we are still considering making changes for middle and/or high schools in order to lengthen the school day and offer students more academic options," district officials said on a statement on the district's website.

Over 8,000 parents, students and staff members responded to the district's start time survey. 

East metro district chooses new leader

Posted by: Anthony Lonetree Updated: February 26, 2015 - 5:11 PM

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District has settled on a choice for its next superintendent.

The school board voted Wednesday to enter into contract talks with Ryan Laager, executive director of curriculum and secondary education for the Stillwater Area Public Schools.

In a statement, Board Chairwoman Theresa Auge said that Laager "was selected for his proven innovation in student learning, broad range of K-12 knowledge and community outreach experience."

He is to succeed Patty Phillips, who steps down at the end of June.

District 622 is the most diverse among those serving students east of St. Paul. According to state data, 50.4 percent of its 10,603 students are minority group members.

The district, a leader in offering free all-day kindergarten, has faced financial difficulties. On Feb. 17, the board approved $8 million in budget cuts and adjustments for the 2015-16 school year. The district said in a news releast that it's had to make significant cuts in eight of the past 10 years.

Nicole Hayes appointed to Anoka-Hennepin school board

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: February 26, 2015 - 4:42 PM

Nicole Hayes, a long-time volunteer for the Anoka-Hennepin school district, has been appointed to the school board to fill the remainder of the term of Scott Wenzel who died unexpectedly in November.

“I’m honored and I’m humbled,”Hayes said of her appointment. “And while I’m excited, I’m also aware and understand the tragic circumstances that led to this appointment.”

Until her appointment earlier this week, Hayes was the volunteer services coordinator at Coon Rapids High School, but resigned her post to assume the seat on the board. Before that, she held the same post at the River Trail Learning Center for four years.

She also spent a number of years as the chairperson of the Riverview Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, and has spent a number of years volunteering at various Anoka-Hennepin schools and booster clubs.

Both of her children attend Champlin Park High School.

“As a parent, you come into this large school district, and you can be skeptical — how can a district this size serve my children? But it’s been fantastic, all the way through,” she said. “The schools and community — they’re fabulous.”

Hayes will serve out the duration of Wenzel’s term on the school board, which goes through the end of the year and said she intends to run for re-election in November. Wenzel, who was a teacher at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul, had served on the school board since 1996, serving as vice chair and clerk during his tenure.

Burnsville district passes both technology and building levies

Posted by: Erin Adler Updated: February 25, 2015 - 11:47 AM

On Tuesday night, voters in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district approved both a $2.5 million-per-year technology levy and a $65 million building bond, both by sizable margins.

Preliminary counts show that 63 percent of residents voted in favor of each ballot question.

The technology levy funds will be used to update technology across the district and provide staff and infrastructure support, while the building bond will be used to fund a $52.5 million high school addition, allowing the district's freshmen to join grades 10-12 at the high school. Sixth-graders will also move up to middle schools.

Superintendent Joe Gothard said he was happy to hear the news, but had a hunch that residents were on board with the proposals.

"I think based on what I had heard ... it did feel like there was a lot of support being reported. It was all about who got out and voted, and yesterday I think they showed that they supported it."

Passing both questions will increase property taxes on an average-priced, $200,000 home in the district by about $144 annually.

The support "just showed that there's really a lot of pride for our schools in this community," Gothard added. "We see this as a way to say to the community that we are committed to building and maintaing great schools for our students."

Minnesota high school graduation rate rises to 81 percent

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: February 24, 2015 - 10:29 AM

Graduation rates in Minnesota improved from a year ago, according to the state's Department of Education.

More than 81 percent of high school students graduated on time in 2014, compared to 79.8 in 2013. 

The state has seen modest gains in graduation rates since 2011, according to MDE. By 2020, the state wants to see completion rates top 90 percent. 

“It is incredibly heartening to see our graduation rates continue on an upward trend,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “Over the past four years, we have doubled down on our efforts to better support students on their path from K-12 to career and college, and these data show it is working."

See individual district results here.

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