Most Washington County-area school districts posted strong numbers last year when it came to graduating students on time, state figures show.

Leading the way among local districts in 2014 was the Mahtomedi Public Schools, where nearly 98 percent of students got diplomas within four years.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District sat at the lower end of the six districts serving Washington County. According to the state Department of Education, 81.2 percent of District 622 students graduated on time last year, which was identical to the 81.2 percent reported for students statewide.

In February, the 2014 graduation rates were made available for districts and for individual schools within each district. A closer look at individual high schools shows that students in alternative settings posted lower graduation rates. That comes as little surprise, however, given many of the students in local alternative high schools and area learning centers struggled previously in traditional schools and grew up facing tougher economic challenges.

The South Washington County School District saw some success at its alternative high school, however, with the four-year graduation rate rising from 29.8 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2014. That compared with graduation rates of 94.3 percent at Park High, 96 percent at Woodbury High and 97.1 percent at East Ridge High. The district’s overall graduation rate was 92.5 percent, up from 89.6 percent in 2013. Progress also was made in shrinking gaps for special-education students and Hispanic students, the district said.

“We do still recognize that there is still a great deal of work needed to ensure closure of the achievement gap, and are encouraged by the positive growth we saw overall in our 2014 graduation rates,” Brian Boothe, the district’s director of professional development and accountability, said in a news release.

Graduation rates for the county’s three remaining districts were: White Bear Lake, 89.3 percent; Stillwater, 88.6 percent; and Forest Lake, 82.6 percent.


Cottage Grove

Park High seniors complete IB essays

A group of Park High seniors recently celebrated completion of essays researched and written as part of their International Baccalaureate (IB) studies.

The school has seen growing participation in the IB program — now in its fifth year. Fourteen Park students earned an IB diploma last year, up from three students in 2012-13, the South Washington County School District said.

The program’s “extended essay” is a 4,000-word research paper written during a student’s junior and senior years. On Feb. 12, students gathered with parents and staff supervisors to share information about the topics they chose, the district said. They also explained what they learned through the process.

Aaron Pozzini, IB coordinator and English teacher at Park High, said in a news release: “This is a chance for students to conduct original research on a topic of their choice while gaining college level writing and processing skills.”

Essay topics included student takes on the political policies of Vladimir Lenin, the applications of “taxicab geometry” and the greatness of the Roaring Twenties — or, more specifically, the extent to which “the greatness that Gatsby strives for in ‘The Great Gatsby’ reflects the greatness of America during the 1920s.”

The student essays now will be assessed by outside examiners appointed by the IB program, the district said.



Elementary teacher survives award cut

For a third consecutive year, Mahtomedi Public Schools can lay claim to having a semifinalist in the annual Minnesota Teacher of the Year competition.

Cindy Moreim, a fifth-grade teacher at O.H. Anderson Elementary, was one of six Washington County-area teachers to survive the cut for the 2015 honor. Initially, Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, announced 123 candidates statewide, with 13 coming from local districts.

The South Washington County and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale districts both have two teachers still in the running. In South Washington County, Lanka Liyanapathiranage teaches language arts at Woodbury Middle School and Diane Munson is a fifth-grade teacher at Red Rock Elementary. In North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, Stephen Dombrosk teaches world history and religions at North High and Julie Swanson is a third-grade teacher at Cowern Elementary.

Rachel Steil, a language arts teacher at Stillwater Area High, also made it into the semifinalist ranks.

A 24-member selection panel is expected to meet again in late March to select about 10 finalists for the award. The Teacher of the Year is to be named on May 3.

Anthony Lonetree