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Students in Jenelle Krech’s all-day kindergarten class at Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul prepared for a lesson on shapes.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

St. Paul voters approve $39 million levy for city schools

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON
  • Star Tribune
  • November 7, 2012 - 9:23 AM

Two out of three St. Paul voters on Tuesday agreed to send $39 million to city schools, continuing an excess levy for new technology and early childhood education including all-day kindergarten.

"I am thrilled," Superintendent Valeria Silva said. "I am so thankful to the voters of St. Paul; they really trust us. ... They're behind us. They know our kids are the future of the city."

In unofficial results, Ramsey County voters also elected two new commissioners to the seven-member County Board, replacing one retiring incumbent and another who lost in the primary.

The school levy proposal had been somewhat controversial because it sought to both renew an existing $30 million voter-approved levy and juice it up with $9 million for technology upgrades.

But the levy had the unmitigated backing of Mayor Chris Coleman and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, who view the money -- especially for early childhood programs -- as key to closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

Silva praised the broad community support as exemplified by some 600 donors to the levy campaign.

Funding for all-day kindergarten and preschool programs would have been in jeopardy without the levy renewal. The new levy will be in place for eight additional years.

The district did not specify which programs would have been surrendered if the referendum failed, only that cuts would have been dramatic.

Silva also is pushing technology as a means to help a highly diverse student population learn anytime and anywhere. Technology will help the schools tailor instruction and help to students individual needs, including multiple languages.

"It is going to be absolutely fantastic. I am invigorated," she said after the results came in. "The work starts tomorrow."

Silva said the district has a framework, but now must put details on a plan that involves teachers, the community, students and district management.

She envisions struggling students being able to revisit course work and view videos electronically, and high school students taking classes in the morning, working an internship in the afternoon and taking online courses at night.

Students would have 24/7 access to electronic textbooks and interactive quizzes. Parents could track children's homework.

Ramsey County Board

In unofficial results in Ramsey County, First District voters decided to send Wells Fargo vice president Blake Huffman to downtown St. Paul to take over for Commissioner Tony Bennett. He defeated scientist and lawyer Frank Mabley. Both men live in Shoreview.

Bennett held his seat representing the district in the northern part of the county since 1997 and sought re-election this year, but came in third in the primary. Both challengers took aim at Bennett's big push for a Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills.

Huffman is a Shoreview City Council member who aggressively opposed the stadium.

Former state Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, a Roseville DFLer, held a healthy lead over former conservative radio host Sue Jeffers of New Brighton for the Second District seat vacated by the retirement of Commissioner Jan Parker.

Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, who represents the Seventh District, appeared to be holding off a challenge from Dennis Dunnigan. Both live in White Bear Lake.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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