Column: District 518 board attends conferenceWORTHINGTON — All seven members of the ISD 518 (Worthington) school board and superintendent John Landgaard attended the 90th annual Minnesota School Boards Association’s (MSBA) leadership conference Jan. 13-14 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
By: Linden Olson, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — All seven members of the ISD 518 (Worthington) school board and superintendent John Landgaard attended the 90th annual Minnesota School Boards Association’s (MSBA) leadership conference Jan. 13-14 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This year’s attendance was the largest in several years, with many first-time attendees being members newly elected to school boards last November. Conference sponsors make attendance at the yearly conference free except for travel expenses, meals and lodging.
The theme of this year’s conference was “History in the Making.” The theme was chosen not only because it was the 90th leadership conference but also because school boards will be setting a new course for education in financially lean times.
Ross Bernstein was the opening speaker and linked the conference theme to learning the code of a champion for your district. The closing speaker was Dr. Howell Wechlser from The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. He told how schools could improve student success by improving the physical fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices of their students. While the audience was gathering for the closing session, the jazz ensemble from Spring Lake Park Schools entertained. They had an exceptional student vocalist.
Before and during the conference over 80 workshops, discussion subjects and presentations by students, vendors, education leaders and public officials were held on a wide range of education related topics. The topics ranged from legal issues facing schools to the future of school finance. Attendees choose topics that help them become better informed about educational matters and build skills that help improve the way they accomplish their work for school districts. They can also learn about board legalities such as conflicts of interest, the open meeting law and parliamentary procedure. They also hear about innovative programs that are working in other schools and ideas other leaders in education that are effective in improving student outcomes.
State economist Tom Stinson and state demographer Tom Gillaspy presented “Minnesota and the New Normal,” which laid out the financial picture for next few years. Some of the sobering figures about the huge job the Minnesota legislature will have in balancing the state budget over the next few years included the high probability that:
l Economic growth will be slow and in order to balance the state budget there will need to be a combination of tax increases and program cuts.
l Increasing numbers of retirees will have a significant effect on state budgets.
l Interest rates will rise.
l People will save more and consume less.
l The future will be more uncertain. Today there is a 5:1 ratio of wage earners to retirees, in 10 years it will be 4:1 and in 20 years 3:1. Annual health costs for persons 65 are older will be three times higher than that of people under 65.
All levels of government, including public schools, will have to adapt to the new normal, and some difficult decisions will need to be made.
Some of the gleanings from the Worthington attendees included the following:
l A school where the grading system truly reflects a student’s academic achievement. No credit is given for extra credit work or other grade inflators. If instituted state wide it could reduce a number of mandated federal and state tests.
l A grant-funded program that reduced prejudice in the schools and community.
l 3. The use of iPads in the classroom, much of the cost covered by reducing paper and textbook costs.
l 4. A large number of schools showed interest in the flexible learning year that Worthington is a part of.
As ISD 518 develops a new strategic plan, these and other ideas will be discussed to see whether they fit into the long-term education goals of the district.
Linden Olson is a member of the District 518 Board of Education.