October 9 Meeting Highlights

October 9 Meeting Highlights

The minutes from the October 9, 2023 meeting will be reviewed and approved by the School District 197 School Board at the Monday, October 23, 2023 meeting. For more information about meeting agendas and minutes, please CLICK HERE.

Action Item - Approval of the Agenda

The motion carried (7-0).

Action Item - Approval of the Consent Agenda

The motion carried (7-0).

Listening Session Report
No one attended the Listening Session.

Itzel Cervantes Cardoso is a School District 197 alum and served as a School Board Student Representative in her time at Henry Sibley High School. Itzel founded Ella Avanza, an organization to increase Latina participation in sports by creating accessible opportunities. What started as a one-day softball clinic with the Two Rivers softball team has turned into a partnership with the Minnesota Twins.


ALMAS (Anglos Latinos Motivados a Superarse) was recently awarded the 20th Annual La Familia Latino Heritage Award. This award is presented to leaders in the community who support and contribute to the success and growth of the Minnesota Latino community. This student group, led by Two Rivers teacher Rob Hanson, has been engaging the community for over 20 years with successful anti-tobacco actions at the legislative level, cultural preservation through their popular folkloric dance group and cultural events plus countless student-led community service initiatives. The following students were recognized: Lucia Mielke; Allison Chicas; Alexandra Montesino Rendon; Chris Allie.


Student Representative’s Report
Student Representatives LaRae Dodson and Samantha Villa presented their student report. Mendota Elementary hosted a successful fall festival. Somerset Elementary hosted a fall picnic for families. Friendly Hills hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month movie night (“A Million Miles Away”) in their gym. Heritage has about 200 participants on the Marine Team, a club where students learn how to take care of salt and freshwater animals. All schools in the district will have their parent-teacher conferences over the next 2 weeks. Fall sports are wrapping up. Cross Country will participate in the Metro East Conference championship recently placed third at the Roy Griak Invitational where they raced against 44 other teams from across the state. Girls Swim and Dive went five weeks undefeated and are placed second in the conference. Volleyball is currently first in the conference. Boys’ soccer had a strong season. Girls’ soccer had a strong season as well and recently celebrated senior night. Debate hosted their first varsity tournament this past Saturday. Tennis had a strong season placing 8 out of 16 teams for sections.  Fall Play rehearsals for Clue have begun. Homecoming was a huge success with 940 tickets being sold at the homecoming dance. National Honor Society did its annual blood drive in partnership with Memorial Blood Center. There were 65 donors making an impact as Minnesota is currently in a blood shortage. This week, there is an LGBTQIA+ Parent/Guardian Night being hosted at Friendly Hills which is a time for families to come together and ask questions, get resources, and communicate with other families about how to best support their students.

Superintendent’s Report
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, stated that today is Indigenous Peoples Day. The school district strives to honor the Dakota people and the many Indigenous cultures that are a part of the community. November is Native American Heritage Month. The school district recently hosted community events including Future Warriors Day at the elementary schools across the district. Future Warriors Day is a chance for high school
students to visit with the district’s youngest learners to make meaningful connections and share messages of pride, spirit, and teamwork. The ISD197 Educational Foundation hosted the Warrior 5K at Two Rivers where families and community members showed up and raised funds for the schools. Warrior Rally was held at Two Rivers High School which is a free, family-friendly event takes place every year to bring the entire school
community together. The Makers Market Craft Fair also took place that day where local makers, including district students, sold their arts and crafts. The School District 197 School Board voted unanimously to hold a referendum this fall to ask voters to renew and increase local funding to support student learning. There is a lot of information on the district website, and two information meetings will be held for the community to gather
more information and ask questions. Those meetings will be held October 12 and October 25 in the Two Rivers High School auditorium from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Superintendent Peter Olson-Skog was just named one of the recipients of the 2023 Richard Green Scholar Award from the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, which honors the scholarly work and professional development of Minnesota school leaders. Two Rivers High
School Principal Al Johnson was named Bethel University’s Alumni of the Year for 2023 for all of his great work at Two Rivers. Two Rivers High School has been awarded a spot on this year’s U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools list. Out of 927 high schools in Minnesota, Two Rivers is ranked in the top 10% based on test scores, access to and participation in college-level learning, graduation rates, and more.

Action Item-Approval of Delaware Avenue Trail Improvement Project
Mark Fortman, Director of Operations, and Bryce LeBrun, Dakota County Regional Manager, presented information as it relates to an upcoming trail improvement project along Delaware Avenue. This information was presented in detail at the September 18, 2023 School Board meeting. Dakota County is currently planning for the extension of a multi-use trail along the east side of Delaware Avenue (CSAH 63) between Mendota Road and Marie Avenue.  The project improvements will also include a pedestrian crossing enhancement near the southern driveway at Two Rivers High School.  Dakota County was awarded a $600,000 regional solicitation funding grant from the Metropolitan Council to construct the trail and safe crossing improvements for construction in 2024.  The project is currently in the final design phase and is anticipated to go out to bid later this year/early 2024.
An alternatives analysis was completed in 2022 to evaluate the most feasible way to extend a multi-use trail along the east side of Delaware Avenue.  Upon receiving feedback from the public, reviewing overall project costs, and rating the options vs. the project goals, a preferred option was identified.  The preferred option includes shifting northbound and southbound traffic west by eliminating the center shared left turn lane (except
at the school driveways).  Eliminating the center shared left turn lane allows for additional space along the eastern side of Delaware Avenue for trail construction.  The preferred option provides a continuous trail connection along the east side of Delaware Avenue; minimizes impacts to residential front yards by removing the shared left turn lane, but maintains the NB left turn into Two Rivers High School; and accommodates a dedicated, safe pedestrian crossing at Two Rivers High School. Construction of the improvements is planned for 2024.  To minimize impacts to the school, efforts will be made to constrain the construction schedule for the project to begin in June and end in August when school activities are reduced with summer break.  Access to the school entrances will be provided at all times during the project and staff anticipate construction of the driveways in halves to maintain access.  The administration is currently working with private utilities (power, gas, fiber, etc.) to coordinate any necessary relocations as a part of the work and will work to minimize any disruptions to service at the school.  Additional details on construction will be available later this year when a second open house meeting will be offered.
Because of the widening to the west that is necessary to construct the trail improvements, temporary and permanent easements are necessary along the Two Rivers High School property.  These easements will allow for reconstruction of the existing trail, driveway entrances, and property regrading for drainage.  Dakota County and the Cities of West St. Paul and Mendota Heights are looking to partner with the school district to provide these easements to construct the trail improvements and safe crossing to the high school.  Details of the partnership, including a Waiver of Compensation, was presented. As part of the partnership, the administration requests that the Board authorize the administration to approve easement-related changes as needed, provided they are consistent with intent of the project as described.

The motion carried (7-0).

Update on Social Emotional Learning Continuum of Student Supports
Sara Lein, Director of Special Services, presented an update on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Continuum of Student Supports. SEL is integrated into a continuum of academic and social/emotional/behavioral supports which are available to ensure that all student needs are met. School District 197 partners with 360 Communities and Ellie Mental Health and Associated Clinic of Psychology for various services. The Family Support Workers from 360 Communities provide access to basic needs, help navigate county and community resources, assist families with goal planning for school success and promotes parent engagement. The Mental Health Therapists from Ellie Mental Health and Associated Clinic of Psychology completes diagnostic assessments to determine needs in the areas of emotional and behavioral challenges at school and home; provides ongoing individual and family therapy to meet long-term goals; serves as a bridge between the student, family and school; and makes referrals to more intensive outside mental health programming as needed.

Site Report from the Early Learning Center
Laurie Hume, Assistant Director of Early Learning, presented a site report from the Early Learning Center (ELC). The ELC offers the following programs and services either at the ELC or Pilot Knob STEM Magnet School:

  • Community Preschool/School Readiness (children 3 years to pre-kindergarten)
  • Early Childhood Family Education (families with children birth to 6 years)
  • Early Childhood Special Education (families and children birth to 6 years)
  • Screening (children 3 years to pre-kindergarten)

Points of Pride include a new addition is complete (2 additional classrooms; therapy space for students birth-3); all school food drive for Neighbors, Inc. where students sorted and counted the items; and the end of year celebration had 300 families attending. Looking ahead, additional outdoor space will be added; a Family Support Worker will be hired through 360 Communities and will be aligned with K-12; and a grant was awarded for retention of ECSE staff.

Site Report from Branch Out
Rachel Johnston, Special Education Coordinator, presented a site report from Branch Out. Branch Out offers 3 areas of transition – independent living; jobs and job training; and post-secondary education. Points of Pride include student Gabriel Khattavong who is the first Branch Out student to become a teacher’s assistant at Dakota County Technical College; students read 208 books for pleasure over the course of the year; and student
created and led clubs. Looking ahead, new legislation changed the age of transition services to 22; extended school years services were revamped and refreshed; a new salad bar was donated and is being utilized for healthier food choices; and getting more students into jobs.

Second Reading of Policy 613, Graduation Requirements
Cari Jo Drewitz, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, presented a second reading of Policy 613, Graduation Requirements. A first reading was presented on September 18, 2023. Policy 613 governs the graduation standards that Minnesota public schools require for a high school diploma for all students. This policy was last reviewed in June of 2020. Since that time, there have been some changes to state standards as
well as changes to state statute. Minor changes were recommended based on changes to state statute.
Following the board discussion on September 18, 2023, the following additional changes were made:

  • Under VI, Graduation Credit Requirements, a description was added to explain the difference in graduation requirements based on when students enter grade 8.
  • Under VI, Graduation Credit Requirements, a section was added for students entering grade 8 in the 2023-2024 school year.

This will be brought back for a final reading on October 23, 2023 via the consent agenda.

Action Item-Approval of the 2022-2023 World’s Best Workforce Annual Report and the 2023-2024 World’s Best Workforce Annual Plan
Cari Jo Drewitz, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, presented the 2022-2023 World’s Best Workforce Annual Report and the 2023-2024 World’s Best Workforce Annual Plan for approval. The school board is required to hold an annual public meeting to review the district’s progress towards achieving student achievement goals, plans and strategies for improving curriculum and instruction. This meeting was held on
September 11. Per Minnesota Statute 120B.11, “a school board, at a public meeting, shall adopt a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan to support and improve teaching and learning that is aligned with creating the world's best workforce.” The school board meets this requirement (and others detailed in 120B.11), primarily through three actions.

  1. The adoption of a long-term Strategic Framework. The board adopted its current framework in the spring of 2020. The three focus areas continue to be:
  • Establish a district-wide system of social-emotional learning and support
  • Build equitable systems and support throughout the district
  • Increase E-12 opportunities for career exploration and preparation

2. The adoption of the Annual Report which analyzes progress toward the goals of the Strategic Framework in the prior school year. This was presented to the board in detail at their September 18 work session.

3. The adoption of an annual Strategic Implementation Plan including specific actions intended to continue advancing the goals of the Strategic Framework. This was presented to the board in detail at the September 18 work session.

The motion carried (7-0).

Action Item-Approval of Resolution to Close Open Enrollment for Grades 1, 10, 11 and 12 for the 2023-2024 School Year
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, presented a resolution that would allow the school district to close open enrollment for Grades 1, 10, 11 and 12 for the 2023-2024 school year.  Two Rivers High School is currently more than 100 students over enrollment projections for the 2023-2024 school year. Four of the district’s five elementary schools are within a few students of going over enrollment parameters in Grade 1. Current 2023-2024 Two Rivers enrollment is 1,656. While the district typically loses some students between now and the end of the school year, enrollment will still be well over pre-pandemic numbers at the high school level.

Administration has anticipated some of this growth and staffed for it.  Closing open enrollment will allow administration to better manage these classes.  This closure would not affect School District 197 residents from enrolling in any of these grades. In an effort to manage enrollment, administration proposed closing Grades 1, 10, 11 and 12 to open enrollment for the remainder of the school year.  This is regular practice among several Minnesota school districts.  It is allowed under Minnesota Statute 124D.03.  A school district may close open enrollment at a grade level if the number of open enrollments at that grade level is more than 1% of the total enrollment.

The motion carried (7-0).

Action Item-Approval of Resolution Appointing Election Judges for the November 7, 2023 General and Special Election
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, presented a required resolution appointing election judges for the school district’s November 7, 2023 General and Special election. The election judges will serve at the designated combined polling locations and act as clerks of election, count the ballots cast, and submit the results to the School Board for canvass in the manner provided.

The motion carried (7-0).


The motion carried (7-0).