The Forest Lake Area Schools and a local charter school, Lakes International Language Academy (LILA), have teamed to win an award for innovation in local government.

They are among 18 city, county and school programs being honored next month by the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Altogether, judges sifted through more than 100 examples of groups using innovative practices to improve local services, a university news release said.

According to an award entry submitted by Ross Bennett, the district's communications and governmental relations officer, the Forest Lake collaboration was a natural in that the charter school has roots in the district. Nearly 10 years ago, several district teachers and administrators helped found the school in response to local demand for a language immersion program.

The K-6 charter school started with Spanish immersion and later added a Chinese language program.

In the award entry, Bennett wrote that rather than compete, the district and the charter school realized that each had its own strengths and weaknesses, and that local students would benefit from cooperation between the entities.

Several years ago, LILA considered expanding to a K-8 or K-12 school, but after concluding the move might be cost-prohibitive, it worked with the district to create a path for sixth-grade graduates to continue their immersion studies at the district's junior and senior high schools, Bennett said.

"I'm not sure we would have had a language immersion program in our district if not for the much-needed push from LILA," Forest Lake schools Superintendent Linda Madsen said in a Dec. 6 news release.

Said LILA Director Cam Hedlund, "I can't imagine being able to serve our students the way we've been able to without working so closely with Forest Lake Area Schools."

The award is the second joint honor in three years for the district and the charter school. In 2010, they were commended by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools for "their unique and dedicated commitment to working together for the betterment of students," the Dec. 6 news release said.


Students seek shoes for world's poor

Special-education students in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District are collecting used tennis shoes in hopes of keeping them out of landfills and putting them on the feet of needy people around the world.

The local initiative is being organized by the multiple needs classroom at the district's Next Step Transition Program, which serves secondary students.

The "Green Sneakers" effort will run until Earth Day, which is April 22.

Drop-off sites include: Castle Elementary School, Skyview Elementary School, Webster Elementary School, Cowern Elementary School, John Glenn Middle School, North High School, Next Step Transition Program and the District Education Center.


ALC awards diplomas to first trimester grads

First trimester studies ended at the South Washington County School District's Alternative Learning Center with six students receiving high school diplomas during a Nov. 30 graduation ceremony. The graduates were Tony Adlehelm, Nick Castillo, Dylan Fligg, Brianna Grout, Nick Perkins and Vandell Thompson.

The learning center is at 8400 East Point Douglas Road S.