Bill Gronseth is the superintendent of Duluth Public Schools. Contact him at (218) 336-8752 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Every day thousands of Duluth families wake up and prepare to send their children off to school where we as educators are entrusted to help them learn and grow into successful young adults. When my children were little my wife and I woke them with a silly rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” followed by laughter, hugs and breakfast. I’m sure there are many children in Duluth that wake to similar traditions and family activities.
School leaders and administrators are focused on preparing for the next school year. Spring means budget planning: calculating projected revenues, expenses and enrollment; working to create a preliminary balanced budget draft; following legislative bills through the session and travelling to the state Capitol to share the importance of education funding.
Some of our community's best educational moments happen outside the classroom, when citizens come together to make learning fun and memorable for children. Recently, a group of people organized an "I Love to Read Day" event at the Gary-New Duluth Recreation Center. They invited Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Police Chief Mike Tusken, myself and others to read to students from Stowe Elementary. Children received books to keep, explored the inside of a police cruiser and had snacks while families learned more about the great things happening at the Rec Center.
This year marked the first time families with kindergarten students had an opportunity to enroll their children in Nueva Visión, ISD 709's Spanish Immersion program at Lowell Elementary. The decision to offer Nueva Vision was based in part on the success of the Misaabekong Ojibwe Immersion program developed two years earlier and on feedback from families. Research suggests participation in language immersion may contribute to academic achievement and that students exhibit greater problem-solving abilities, flexible thinking and advanced literacy and proficiency.
There are over 300 independent school districts in Minnesota. Each exists to educate the youth of their communities and strives to meet the unique needs of its students. By statute, each is led by a school board of elected officials.
We've been through some challenging times. We've seen and heard examples of intolerance across the nation, in our community and in our schools. Thankfully, there have been rays of hope shining through as well. In the midst of negativity and intolerant behaviors, messages and examples of inclusiveness and acceptance are breaking through. Recently, on a walk through one of our schools, I heard something that made me smile with hope: "Merry Christmas!" "And a Happy Hanukkah to you!"
The week following the presidential election was a rollercoaster ride for our schools. The climate and culture of our schools are a reflection of what's going on in society and so the turbulence and emotions surrounding the election found their way into our buildings. We're not alone. Schools across the nation are addressing a rise in intolerant behaviors related to race, religion, sexuality and gender identity that have increased since the election.
Recently we had the pleasure of helping host a community meeting at Denfeld High School organized by Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. She is traveling to districts across the state to talk about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as No Child Left Behind.
Back in the day, students might be discouraged from making and flying paper airplanes in the classroom. Not so in our new high school aerospace engineering and design course, where making and flying paper planes is an important way to teach lessons in aviation and physics.
The last days of summer vacation are flying by. With the back-to-school ads and preseason games, it's only natural that the minds of students and teachers begin to focus on the coming school year.