C-I School District receives good news on $10 million bond sale

Even though a winter storm was brewing outside, Cambridge-Isanti School Board members were flashing smiles upon learning the results of the district’s $10 million bond sale during its Feb. 20 board meeting.

In November 2013, district voters approved a $10 million bond referendum that will be used to fund the most critical safety, security, repairs and maintenance issues across the district.

Superintendent Ray Queener said the district received 10 bids for its $10 million bond sale. He explained that because the winning bidder, Wells Fargo, gave the district a premium on $405,998, the actual bond sale will be $9.565 million.

Queener said the district anticipated an interest rate of 3.75 percent; however, Wells Fargo gave the district a 2.92 percent interest rate.

He explained when the district went out for the bond referendum in November, the anticipated tax increase on a $125,000 residential home was $19 per year. Due to the better interest rate, the tax increase will be $15.75 per year on a $125,000 home for 20 years.

“This is good news for our taxpayers, as the tax impact is not as much as we anticipated,” Queener said.

Winter weather makeup 

Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Truebenbach explained that because the district has had school closings due to winter weather, the board needs to address calendar adjustments to make up the missed time.

Truebenbach cited state statute that explains public schools need to provide a minimum of 425 instructional hours for kindergarten, 935 hours for first through sixth grades and 1,020 hours for seventh through 12th grades.

He noted the statute states there is no direct financial penalty for providing fewer instructional hours or days than required in statute, and the local school board is responsible for determining whether or not any canceled school day is made up at a later date.

Following discussion, the board approved:

• Having April 21 as the designated makeup day for its traditional calendar students.

• Putting three “placeholder” dates on the calendar for senior students to make up 18 hours of instruction time. The board explained High School Principal Mitch Clausen and teachers will work with the senior students to develop an independent study project or portfolio that the senior students can do on their own time and have completed by a determined date.

• Putting June 6 and June 9 as “placeholder” dates for teachers to report to make up missed time. However, the teachers will be allowed to individually work on and develop plans to make up the missed time.

• Since the district had another weather cancellation Feb. 21, teachers will have a half work-day and half in-service day March 10, and students will report for an instructional day March 11.

• In the event another weather cancellation happens after March 11, June 5 would be an instructional day for traditional calendar students, and April 22 would be an instructional day for year-round programs.

Student petitions to bring art back in the schools

Maria Gleason, a fourth-grader at Cambridge Intermediate School, spoke to the board about reinstating art education in the schools where it was cut due to budget constraints.

Maria has started a petition and has made a YouTube video explaining her efforts. She said she got the idea after watching the movie “Saige,” which is about a girl who doesn’t have art in her schools and helps bring it back.

Maria said she has always had an interest in art because she enjoys being creative and drawing.

“I feel all students should be able to learn and experience art education,” Maria said. “Art can help students to listen, follow directions and use their imaginations. Not all students enjoy reading and math, but like to be creative, and if they had art class, it could help motivate them in all that they do in school.”

Maria said she would like to experience art class before she attends middle school next year.

“If we need more money to fund it, my friends and I are willing to help start fundraising,” Maria said. “If we don’t have extra rooms for an art class, we could have the teacher come to each room. This is a class that we have been missing out on, and we don’t want to anymore.”

Maria has been encouraged by the number of people who have signed her petition and watched the YouTube video.

For more information on the petition and to view the video, visit https://www.change.org/petitions/cambridge-mn-school-district-bring-art-education-back.

Strategic planning update

Truebenbach explained a group of 26 people, representing all different backgrounds of the community, met for several hours Feb. 6-8 for a strategic planning session of the district.

After the sessions, the group came up with belief statements, mission statements, parameters, objectives and strategies for the school district.

Truebenbach said the next phase involves the creation of action plans for the nine strategies that were identified during the first planning session.

Each action team will be led by a facilitator who will guide them in this process. Action teams will kick off at 7 p.m. March 18 at Cambridge-Isanti High School in the Performing Arts Center.

Truebenbach encourages community members to volunteer for an action team. The goal is to obtain 20-25 volunteers from the communities for each of the nine strategies.

An action team application form and more information on the strategic planning process is available on the district website at www.cambridge.k12.mn.us. Applications are due by March 3. Interested persons can also call the district office at 763-689-6188 for more information.

Jon Pederson, who serves as pastor at Cambridge Lutheran Church, was part of the initial planning session.

“A lot of energy and a lot of great discussion went into this session,” Pederson said. “We have a great opportunity here to gain support in the community and make some great steps.”

Isanti Intermediate teacher Dave Blanchard spoke highly of the planning session.

“We had a lot of energy in the room with the initial planning sessions and we have an opportunity to carry it forth,” Blanchard said. “Through this plan, we hope we can make some tremendous strides in the district. We feel the five character traits of the district — compassion, respect, responsibility, self-discipline and honesty — were exemplified in the process. All of us at the table were from different backgrounds and belief systems and worked together.”

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer was a part of the planning process and gave the district credit for beginning a strategic planning process.

“You really do have some tremendous people working in the district,” Wimmer said. “ As far as our objectives, we need to figure out where we want to go with this. The objectives I want to highlight include, ‘each student will own their own individualized plan for learning and for life,’ and ‘each student will be positively engaged in their communities and throughout their lives.’ Once we get our students out there, we need to make sure they become productive members of society.”

Truebenbach said everyone at the meetings had a chance to voice their opinion.

“The planning document we came up with is a true reflection of the community,” Truebenbach said. “I was a little nervous at the beginning of this, but we all came together and we did just that — we all come together.”

Queener thanked district staff and the planning members for their efforts.

“I think of this process as a 400 meter relay — our goal is to get off to a great start, and now the planning team is passing the baton off to the actions teams, and then it will be up to our school building leaders to make the action plans come to life,” Queener said. “The next phase of this with the action plans is to allow more people in the community to become engaged and involved. We are looking for an exciting kick-off for the March 18 event. So far this process has far exceeded my expectations and the efforts of the planning team, as well as the students involved in this process, has been a great team effort and I’m excited to keep the process moving forward.”