A dual desire to stabilize school funding while pursuing a new vision for student learning is likely to find the Stillwater Area Public Schools seeking $1,495 per student in voter-approved funding this fall.
As expected, school board members on April 11 signaled an intention to ratchet up a levy that now raises about $1,000 per student annually.
The request, still subject to fine-tuning by the board in August, will appear on the November ballot and is being increased in an effort to prevent future shortfalls and to help enact the district's new "Bridge to Excellence" strategic plan.
Last month, Bill Morris, president of Decision Resources Ltd., told the board that a survey by his firm showed that 56 percent of the people interviewed supported or strongly supported a proposal to raise about $1,495 per pupil per year.
While the board agreed to pursue that amount, it decided against seeking the money for 10 years, which Morris recommended, and instead sided with Board Member George Hoeppner's proposal that the levy run for eight years.
Hoeppner, in turn, backed off his preference for a levy of $1,436 per student. He provided data about median incomes in three communities — Oak Park Heights, Bayport and Stillwater — in an effort to ease taxpayer burdens.
Board Chairwoman Kathy Buchholz said in a statement that she believed the levy plan was the first "solid levy investment proposal" to be put forth by the district since she joined the board. In 2011, voters rejected each of three levy proposals on the November ballot, including one that would have raised $1,465 per pupil.
District spokeswoman Carissa Keister said last week that the district plans to create an online forum for people to ask questions about the levy proposal and offer feedback.
Robotics adviser wins area chamber honor
The Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce tapped a Park High School robotics team adviser as its first "community innovation award winner" during an annual education awards banquet April 12.
According to the chamber, Jim Huber spends an average of 45 hours per week, for several weeks, to assist the team as it prepares its robot for competition. He also uses his vehicle and trailer to get the robot to meets and back.
Typically, the chamber has given education awards to teachers and school support staffers, but it opted to honor Huber for being a unique individual who it deemed difficult to overlook, a South Washington County news release said.
Last year, the Park High School robotics team joined forces with teams from Prior Lake and Stillwater to win the Minnesota State High School League's inaugural state robotics tournament.
Fundraiser to be held Monday
The South Washington County Schools Education Foundation is hosting a "Taste of South Washington County" event on Monday in the Woodbury High School cafeteria.
Proceeds from the event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., go to support innovative education programs in the district, a news release said.
Local businesses will provide food, and high school jazz bands will perform.
A silent auction also is planned, according to a flier for the fundraiser, which is available on the district's website.