School briefs: Minority enrollment up across much of Washington County

  • December 22, 2012 - 6:25 PM

Five of the six school districts serving Washington County residents have reported increases in minority student enrollment, according to preliminary state Department of Education data.

The biggest increase was in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, which saw the number of minority students rise from 4,374 to 4,750 students, an 8.6 percent increase. Minority students comprise 44 percent of the district's population, state data show.

The second largest percentage increase was reported in the Mahtomedi district, the smallest overall in Washington County with 3,306 total students as of Oct. 1. Its minority enrollment rose from 283 to 305 students, a 7.8 percent increase.

Other districts reporting increases were South Washington County, from 4,314 to 4,524 minority students, a 4.9 percent hike; Stillwater, from 887 to 923 students, a 4 percent increase; and White Bear Lake, from 1,485 to 1,502 students, a 1.1 percent gain.

The only district to see its minority population fall was the Forest Lake Area Schools, which dropped 4.9 percent, from 489 to 465 students. Minority students comprise 6.9 percent of the district's population.

Statewide, total student enrollment declined 0.4 percent, but minority enrollment increased 2 percent, from 220,334 to 224,672 students.

Keith Hovis, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said recently that the state was working with local school administrators to fine-tune the numbers, which are to be finalized in February.

Enrollment is essential to school districts because much of their revenue comes from a state formula that allocates money on a per-pupil basis.


Band director named 'educator of the year'

Brent Comeau, band director at Woodbury High School, has been named Educator of the Year by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.

He is to be honored at the annual Chamber Gala at the Prom Center in Oakdale on Jan. 25.

Last month, chamber officials put out a call for nominees who they said must have at least three years' experience at a public or private school in Woodbury or Newport, and have indicated an intention to continue at the school. The educator also must play an active role in his or her community, the chamber said.

Comeau, described as the "Energizer Bunny" and a "master of multitasking," was nominated by fellow teachers and Principal Linda Plante, a district news release said. He teaches the symphony, varsity and concert bands during the school day, and marching, jazz and pep bands as part of the school's extracurricular activities.

"The best testimonial to the type of influence Mr. Comeau has on his students is the fact that most of his band students choose to commit to our high school band for the duration of their high school careers," one of his colleagues said.

His community work has included playing five concerts a year, including one for charity, as a member of the Encore Wind Ensemble. His instrument is the tuba. He also directs the school bands at community events in Woodbury, Cottage Grove and St. Paul Park.

"He has brought personal pride back," Plante said in the news release. "Our band is not just a musical group. Members are celebrities to the student body."


Unused school books now headed to Africa

The Stillwater Area Public Schools recently donated more than 50 pallets of books, or about 1,250 boxes worth, to the nonprofit Books for Africa.

Tom Warth founded the St. Paul-based group after closing his Stillwater bookstore in 1988.

According to the Books for Africa website, it is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent.

In a news release, the district said the books were not being used in classrooms and should be in the hands of readers of Africa rather than in "a warehouse collecting dust."


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