September 18 Meeting Highlights

September 18 Meeting Highlights

The minutes from the  September 18, 2023 meeting will be reviewed and approved by the School District 197 School Board at the Monday, October 9, 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 “administrative review of Policy 502” was removed from the consent agenda and moved to the main agenda.

The motion carried (7-0).

Comments to the School Board
No one was in attendance to provide comments to the School Board.

Administrative Review of Policy 502, Search of Student Lockers, Desks, Personal Possessions and Student’s Person
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, presented Policy 502, Search of Student Lockers, Desks, Personal Possessions and Student’s Person for discussion. Minor changes were recommended to the policy. Board member Vaupel asked the administration if they could track the search data in the district. Dr. Mau stated he would discuss this with building administration. He added that suspension data, which is tracked, often includes data regarding searches. Site and district administers collaboratively review suspension data on a regular basis. Chair Mansur asked if the second and third reading of the policy could be eliminated due to the minor recommended changes. Board members agreed.

The motion carried (7-0).

Discussion on Delaware Avenue Trail Improvement Project
Mark Fortman, Director of Operations, presented information as it relates to an upcoming trail improvement project along Delaware Avenue. Dakota County is planning for the extension of a multi-use trail along the east side of Delaware Avenue between Mendota Road and Marie Avenue.  The project improvements will 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 or early 2024.
An analysis was completed in 2022 to evaluate the most feasible way to extend a multi-use trail along the east side of Delaware Avenue.  The analysis included a review of 4 different options and a public open house to receive feedback on the options.  Representatives of Two Rivers High School were involved in development and consideration of the different options.  Upon receiving feedback from the public, reviewing overall project costs, and rating the options vs. the project goals, Option 4 was identified as the preferred option.  This option provides a continuous trail connection along the east side of Delaware Avenue; removes the shared left turn lane allowing for impacts to residential front yards to be minimal; accommodates a dedicated, safe pedestrian crossing at Two Rivers High School; and maintains the NB left turn into Two Rivers High School.
The final design phase of the project has been ongoing.  This included a traffic analysis and site observation visits at the school during AM and PM pick-up and drop-off time periods.  The intent of the site visits was to review traffic congestion at the high school driveways and evaluate if the proposed roadway changes would impact school operations.  Two site visits were performed during regular school days. Findings were that the
pedestrian crossing and roadway section changes would not worsen traffic congestion at the school driveways during busy drop-off and pick-up times of day.  The center left turn lane at the school driveways is maintained.   

Construction is expected to begin in 2024.  To minimize impacts to the school, the construction schedule will be between June and August when school activities are reduced with summer break.  Access to the school entrances will be provided at all times during the project.  Contractors will work with private utilities to coordinate any necessary relocations as a part of the work and will work to minimize any disruptions to service at the school.  A second open house will be held later this year.  Temporary and permanent easements will be 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 provide safe crossing to the high school.   This item will be brought back to the board for approval at their October 9, 2023 meeting.

Action Item – Adoption of Proposed 2023 Payable 2024 Property Tax Levy
Brian Schultz, Director of Finance, presented the proposed 2023 payable 2024 property tax levy information. School districts are required to review and preliminary adopt proposed tax levies by September 30, 2023. Proposed levies for school districts carry the option of levying the “maximum” versus a specific amount due to continuing updates by the Minnesota Department of Education. This “maximum” option protects school districts
whose levies may increase. Levying a specific dollar amount prevents further increases. Truth in Taxation statutes require a public hearing that can be conducted during regular school board meetings. The statute also requires that the date and time of the regular school board meeting when hearings are scheduled be announced at the time the proposed levy is certified. The regular school board meeting at which the Truth in Taxation hearing will be conducted is December 11, 2023, at 6pm at the Mendota Heights City Hall.

Overall, after two years of decreases, the district preliminary property tax levy is estimated to increase due to higher enrollment (which drives many of the levy calculations), shifts from state aid to taxes, and a lower debt service fund balance resulting in a smaller debt excess reduction on the levy.

The motion carried (7-0).

Action Item–Approval of Resolution to Close Open Enrollment for Grade 8 for the 23-24 School Year
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, presented a resolution that would allow the school district to close open enrollment for Grade 8 for the 2023-2024 school year.  Across the two middle schools, Grade 8 is 24 students over projection. The class size averages are at 31 which is the board’s parameter. It has been a long-standing goal of the school district to increase enrollment.  Current 2023-2024 overall enrollment across the two district middle schools is 39 over projection. The school district is 177 students over projected enrollment.

Administration has anticipated some of this growth and staffed for it.  However, the growth has surpassed expectations.  In middle school, this causes the most challenges at 8th grade due in part to the number of singleton classes like AVID, advanced math, and Spanish for Native Speakers. Some of the 8th grade classes are at or over 31 students. The district has not yet surpassed the School Board parameter of no more than 25% of
core classes over 31 but if enrollment continues to grow, the district could be faced with that reality. It is very difficult to add 0.2 FTE teaching positions this time of year. Closing open enrollment will allow administration to better manage these classes.  This closure would not affect School District 197 residents from enrolling in Grade 8.

In an effort to manage enrollment, administration proposed closing Grade 8 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 (6-0).

22-23 World’s Best Workforce Annual Report and 23-24 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. Minnesota school districts are required to develop a World’s Best Workforce Annual Report and summary report. Districts need to post their report on the district website and submit their summary report to the Minnesota Department of Education by December 15 of each year. 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 annual public meeting was held on September 11, 2023 from 5:00–6:00 p.m. Per Minnesota Statute 120B.11, school districts must approve a plan to develop the world’s best workforce which is part of the district’s strategic framework process.

Additionally, per Minnesota Statute 120B.11, school districts must approve a plan to develop the world’s best workforce which we have made part of our strategic framework process. The current strategic framework was approved by the school board in June of 2020. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, input was gathered from a variety of committees and focus groups to develop implementation targets for the 2023-2024 school year. 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

The Annual Plan and Annual Report will be presented at the October 9 meeting for Board approval.

Proposed 23-24 Superintendent Goals
Superintendent Olson-Skog presented the proposed 23-24 Superintendent goals. Most of the superintendent's goals are detailed in the Strategic Implementation Plan. Again for 2023-24, the proposed superintendent's goals will include all the district wide implementation targets/goals.

  • Goal 1: The superintendent will oversee the implementation of operational plans in support of the strategic plan.
    • Goal 1a: The superintendent will oversee the implementation of operational plans in support of the social and emotional learning focus area.
    • Goal 1b: The superintendent will oversee the implementation of operational plans in support of the equitable systems and support focus area.
    • Goal 1c: The superintendent will oversee the implementation of operational plans in support of the career exploration and preparation focus area.

Two additional goals focus on the upcoming referendum:

  • Goal 2: - The superintendent will oversee the communication of the two requested levies.
  • Goal 3: - Based on the referendum's outcome, the superintendent will oversee the budget planning and/or adjustments for the 2024-25 school year as required within the parameters of board policy and in alignment with the strategic framework.

Both board committees provided input into the goals. The planning committee reviewed the implementation targets. The results committee reviewed the feedback provided by staff members on the superintendent's performance to ensure it was represented appropriately in the superintendent's goals. The proposed goals will be brought back to the October 9 meeting for Board approval.

First Reading of Policy 613, Graduation Requirements
Cari Jo Drewitz, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, presented a first reading of Policy 613, Graduation Requirements. 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.

  • Under III, Definitions, “academic” standard has been changed to “required” standard and removes “the arts, career and technical education, or world languages” from #2 of letter D.
  • Under VI, Graduation Credit Requirements, under credit equivalencies, “agricultural, food, and natural resources” has been added to #1 and #6 has been added related to ethnic studies courses.
  • Under VI, Graduation Credit Requirement, under credit equivalencies, language was added about ethnic studies courses.

More significant changes were recommended for students entering grade 9th grade in the 2024-2025 school year:

  • Four credits of social studies with the addition of required “ethnic studies” state standards
  • Three credits of science with the replacement of “one elective credit” in science to “one credit in a course meeting the earth and space science standards”
  • Add ½ credit in personal finance
  • Minimum of six elective credits

One other additional change was recommended:

  • Under VII, Graduation Credit Requirement, under D, would remove or school districts may choose to develop their own standards.

Minor changes to the draft policy were recommended that will be discussed during the second reading on
October 9, 2023.

First Reading of Policy 509, Enrollment of Nonresident Students
Peter Mau, Assistant Superintendent, presented a first reading of Policy 509, Enrollment of Nonresident Students. The district’s current policy was reviewed against MSBA’s model policy and minor changes were recommended.

  • Some headings were changed in the district’s policy to match the model policy
  • Item B was added under III, Open Enrollment Process related to reporting to MDE of those denied permission to enroll
  • Under IV, Basis for Decisions, C-Applications, more was provided due to recent legislative changes
  • Under IV, Basis for Decisions, D-Lotteries, language was simplified to align with MSBA’s model policy
  • Minor updates have been made to the legal references

This will be brought back to the October 9, 2023 board meeting for a second reading via the consent agenda.


The motion carried (6-0).