Legislators hear from educators
By Jean Ruzickajruzicka@parkrapidsenterprise.com Legislators made a stop in Park Rapids last week to discuss workforce initiatives and development of community partnerships, to which the school is taking a proactive approach. Minnesota Speaker of...
By Jean Ruzicka
Legislators made a stop in Park Rapids last week to discuss workforce initiatives and development of community partnerships, to which the school is taking a proactive approach.
Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and State Reps. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, and Steve Green, R-Fosston, heard requests from Park Rapids school administrators and learned of initiatives underway and in the planning stages.
The development of Park Rapids Schools’ outdoor classroom was introduced to the legislators, noting the community is “ag-based,” although it’s not a predominant focus of education.
The school district is considering a more agricultural-oriented curriculum, superintendent Lance Bagstad said.
Hancock questioned if tax credits might come into play to bolster agriculture education.
“We’re trying to get school programs more acclimated to jobs,” Green said.
Secondary principal Jeff Johnson said the school is working with TEAM Industries on an apprenticeship program and building a relationship with RDO.
“Not every kid can handle algebra II,” Johnson said of students’ abilities.
“We need to interface education with vocational training,” Hancock agreed.
Vocational certification is an important piece to push forward, Johnson said, citing the school’s Certified Nursing Assistant program and other successful work study initiatives.
The emphasis on core subjects – math, reading and science – have “done a number” on elective programs, Bagstad said. “You won’t get the vocationally certified people anymore,” he said of courses taught at the high school level.
Four-year colleges are seeing poor placement rates, Green said, while vocational programs have been “left in the dust. Now’s the time to make an argument for vocational programs.”
“I think partnerships will be key,” Johnson said.
Century assistant principal Shawn Andress said the school is expanding its curricular scope beyond the traditional to include water studies and robotics, for example.
Bagstad advocated “allowing school districts flexibility in meeting the graduation requirements as they see applicable to their community needs.
“With flexibility, physics/chemistry and advanced algebra standards can be delivered in non-science/math classes,” he said. “Experiential educational opportunities and hands-on electives offer real world standards for learning,” he said, noting testing has become a “real issue.”
Bagstad expressed concern with a teacher shortage in several areas of education. Of the last six elementary openings, 30 applied, he said, drawing raised eyebrows.
“One of the first steps (the state) could consider is to revise the Minnesota Teacher License Exam to make it more realistic for folks to pass,” he told the legislators.
“The state should consider and embrace more alternative pathways to licensure,” Bagstad said. “Creating reciprocity with neighboring states would also help attract people to Minnesota,” noting out-of-state teachers face a nightmare when obtaining licensure.
He asked for access to alternative facilities funds, noting the largest metro districts can acquire the funds to maintain their buildings, but rural districts are not allowed access to the funds.
“We would like equitable treatment in this area,” he said, noting the 14-year-old Century School roof will soon need attention.
Bagstad suggested districts be given “local control over their learning year. Each individual district should have the right to work with their students, families and communities to create a school calendar that meets their needs.”
He asked for a formula increase, adding an additional $300 on the general education formula, per year, to meet state requirements and local expectations. “This would include preparing our students to be career and college ready, closing the achievement gap and continual progress toward meeting World’s Best Workforce goals.
“Schools do not need any added mandates with earmarked financial allocation or unfunded mandates,” Bagstad admonished.