Strategic Plan Goal #3
Implement Innovative Programming
March 12, 2016
Dear Princeton Community,
I have been writing the past few months about a Strategic Plan. The School Board has approved the Mission, Vision, Core Values, District Goals and the associated Action Plans.
Here are the goals:
My article today is the third of five articles, to tell you about each of our goals.
The past two articles were about goals one and two in our Strategic Plan: Provide personalized instruction for every student. Prepare 21st Century students to be career and college ready. This time, I am writing about the third goal: Implement innovative programming.
Why is this a goal? Gone are the times when a family’s address dictates where they send their children to school. In order to keep our students from going elsewhere, we need to have innovative programs as an attractor.
We have slowed the trend of our students in our own district, going to other districts. This is very good news. Our forward-thinking School Board has supported many new initiatives during the past few years:
Implement Innovative Programming
There are two parts to this goal:
Analyze, align and prioritize school programs to meet District direction and goals to encourage collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity.
This step will begin in a couple of years. A process will be developed to determine what innovative programs need to be implemented. Student needs will dictate needed programming.
Ongoing support for new and existing programs.
This is the step that the District is currently operating. Supporting our new programs is the work that we are doing, as we have many new programs that need attention.
In an effort to keep our District competitive and student population growing, we have a recent history of implementing innovative programming. This has already begun to show results; student enrollment appears to be improving. We need to thank our current School Board for supporting these efforts.
Superintendent, Princeton Public Schools
February 21, 2017
Dear Princeton Community,
Since it is midyear, this is a good time to give you an update on our Strategic Plan goals. As you may recall, here are our goals for the next 5 to 7 years:
Provide personalized instruction for every student.
Our instructional model uses a framework, which helps the teacher and student to know the student’s progress towards competency. Professional development has continued this year, to strengthen the framework. Teachers had a deepening day, in which they selected the training that they felt they needed most. There was a technology day, in which teachers learned to use technology strategies to implement the instructional model. On March 14, teachers will work on learning progressions and activities that match learning progressions. Looking ahead, our District Instructional Leadership Team is working on a plan for next year, furthering our work with formative assessment.
Prepare 21st century students to be career and college ready.
There are four strategies for this goal:
Implement innovative programming.
The intent of this goal is to nurture the innovative programming that we have already put in place, helping them to become sustainable:
Guarantee creative and relevant digital learning.
Here are the actions that have taken place this year:
Improve communication and engagement with staff, parents, business and community partners in order to maximize student success.
As you can see, we have been very busy in our district, improving our services for our students. We certainly appreciate the support from our community and parents. Without that support, we would never have been able to progress as far as we have.
Thank you, Princeton Community!
Julia A. Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools
Welcome to Princeton Public Schools! Thank you for your interest in enrolling your child in our district!
In addition, If you are a family living outside of the Princeton School District, you must complete an Open Enrollment form.
After your packet is completed, please bring to the district office (706 1st St, Princeton) along with child’s birth certificate. Can also be brought to any of the schools within the district.
Early Childhood Screening is required for entrance into Kindergarten
Children who are five years old on or before August 31st, 2017 are eligible to begin kindergarten.
Any questions please call 763.389.6901
Statement on Bullying Prevention and the Investigative Process
At Princeton Schools, we take student reports of violence and/or harassment very seriously. Our top priority is to do what is best for our students, putting their safety first and ensuring that all students feel safe at school. We have a well-defined system of investigating all reports and a policy to guide us on the process. We know and understand that we cannot control what happens to our students outside of school hours. However, we do have resources on site to help students and families address issues that are impacting student learning and resources to help families struggling with challenging situations.
How we put safety first with students
Every situation that is reported has many different nuances that impact the actions we take. This is why an investigation takes place. After the investigation is complete, the District takes action that is reasonably calculated to prevent any inappropriate behavior from happening again. The District does not tolerate bullying or any other inappropriate conduct that has the potential to interfere with the learning environment or the ability of students to participate fully in school sponsored events and activities.
What we do within an investigation
There are cameras in our schools and on our buses that keep watch and document and inform us on how our kids are acting in our buildings and on our buses. We look at that video footage when a student alleges that something has happened at school or on the bus. Administrators also interview all students that are believed to have been involved in a situation. Administrators also ask to see cell phones, text messages, email messages, social media messages and photographs. Additionally, administrators talk to students individually in a private setting about what has happened. After this process, the administrators then confer with one another, decide what action should be taken and whether we should contact parents, the police department, or bring in other community supports. Appropriate disciplinary actions are considered based on the severity of the situation and upon the evidence that has been gathered.
Safety and respect comes first
In addition to imposing discipline, school officials take proactive measures to ensure that any students who have been victimized feel safe and are not further impacted. We want school to be a positive experience for every student. We want students to feel respected, listened to and heard. We want students to feel welcome and confident in knowing that inappropriate behavior that occurs in school will be addressed. In some cases, we rearrange schedules to avoid future confrontations, schedule check-ins with students on a frequent basis, assign extra staff to increase the level of supervision, educate students on the harm that can occur from bullying. We give students advice on how to handle confrontational issues and report bullying that occurs at school, on the bus or at a school sponsored event or activity. We address every student report of violence, abuse or maltreatment when we are made aware of it. Out of respect for the laws of student privacy, we are not allowed to share what we have done within an investigation. Unfortunately, this means that the public may only be able to see a single side of a particular situation.
In many situations we recommend outside resources around counseling or mental health issues to address any underlying issues that students may be having. We also consult with law enforcement and with local service agencies that can provide assistance with counseling, public health, social work and financial resources, depending on the situation. We look at the whole child. Again, we do not share this with the public out of respect for our students and in compliance with data privacy laws.
Some things are out of our control
The district does not have the authority to address matters that have not happened at school and unfortunately, we do not have the resources to protect students from conduct that occurs off school premises, outside a school function or activity, or does not involve school transportation. That being said, it is our job as a community to address and eradicate threats of violence, abuse or neglect. Within our schools we will do everything we can to address how a situation impacts our students at school by checking in with them, meeting with parents, making adjustments to school schedules, and providing families with resources.
We work at prevention and education
Bullying prevention is at the core of our curriculum and begins in preschool and goes through high school. In fact, as this letter is being written, there is an all-day bullying prevention presentation at the High School, attended by all our high school students. Our sixth-grade students attended the same symposium yesterday, and our seventh and eighth grade students will have a similar opportunity later in February. We adapt our policies and procedures as our society changes and as we reflect upon our procedures and behavior after every incident occurs. These conversations always start with “how will this impact our students” and “what is best for our kids?” We work hard to do everything in our power to help kids feel safe, welcome and comfortable and to ensure that we provide an environment that is conducive to learning. Please know that there are many, many things being done around our children’s safety behind the scenes.
Julia A. Espe
Here is our policy:
January 17, 2017
Dear Princeton Community,
As part of our Strategic Plan, I went to the schools to talk to our staff. My last two articles gave you a portion of the presentation. Here is part three.
One area of demographics identifies students who are impacted financially. In schools, we call this area Free and Reduced Lunch. The reason we try to identify students in these families is there is a direct correlation between students who have enough to eat and high performance in school. In other words, students cannot learn as well if they are hungry.
Our district as a whole has about 32% of our students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. We encourage families to sign up for this, for the benefit of the students.
We have two programs to demonstrate the correlation of poverty to struggling in school performance. The educational program we offer in Accurate Home Care (the care and treatment program in town) is called Education Options. The average of students in the Free and Reduced Lunch program in Education Options is 72.7%. The other program that shows this relationship between being economically disadvantaged and student learning is our new Area Learning Center. The average of students in the Free and Reduced Lunch program in the Area Learning Center is 70%.
Our district has focused staff development time, as well as individual effort, to implement our teaching map, which incorporates best practices in instruction. As a result, our students have increased in achievement every year, in math and reading, for the past four years. This is not the case for any of our comparison districts. In science, our third year saw a dip; however last year’s results continued in our stair-stepping up in student achievement.
We are very happy with our students’ success, and are working hard to help our students have similar results this year.
Our district’s enrollment has been slowly declining the past five years. Prior to those years, from 2010 to 2013, we lost close to 50 students per year. This is devastating for a district our size. The financial impact was nearly one million dollars in student funding.
Why did this happen? It was a combination of students open enrolling out of our district and fewer babies being born in our attendance area. The school board went to work, doing the hard work of budget adjusting, as well as looking for ways to keep our students in our district. We have decreased this number and now lose around ten students a year.
Using both local and state data, we found students were leaving to find districts that were performing better academically. Parents were also looking for more options for their high achieving students. We saw a trend of more and more students leaving our district to attend online schools. Using state data, we found two programs that parents sought the most in districts were STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Language Immersion programs.
Our board immediately established the “program initiatives” fund, in order to incorporate programs to retain and draw parents. This took some smart financial management on the part of our school board.
As a result, our district implemented the efforts of:
The trend was stemmed. We have fewer students going to other districts through open enrollment, and we have retained our own students. We have also attracted other students to come to our district.
I am proud of the strides our district continues to make. We are very fortunate to have a school board with a vision and the fortitude to make the right decisions to improve opportunities for our students. We are lucky to have the staff, teachers and administrators to do the hard work of improving incrementally, every year, every month, every day.
The next article I write will conclude the Superintendent Update.
Julia Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools
January 8, 2017
Dear Princeton Community,
As part of our Strategic Plan, I went to the schools to talk to our staff. My last article gave you a portion of the presentation. Here is part two.
Number One Ambassadors
One of the parts of our action plan for Goal V (Improve communication and engagement with staff, parents, business and community partners in order to maximize student success) is to work on helping our staff to be our number one ambassadors. Research has shown this strategy results in retention in enrollment, and is another goal for us. In order to reach this, we are doing this:
The Work of our School Board
People do not realize all of the work our school board does. Besides attending all of our school board meetings (every first and third Tuesday night at 7:00 PM), they work diligently on these committees:
Each board member serves on about four of these committees, and they also prepare for each board meeting by reading all information for the meeting and asking questions to become fully versed. The board also reads the superintendent’s weekly update each Sunday evening, which keeps them up to date with daily activities and gives board members more context of the daily work in the district. Finally, board members listen to community members and contact the superintendent to either pass on good news or communicate with the affected parties to problem solve.
People don’t realize all of the good work our board members do! As an aside, our board will be learning (just like the students!) this month and next, as they attend MSBA’s Phase One and Two Workshops for new school board members, and board members will be attending the MSBA’s Leadership Conference where a group will be presenting a break-out session on our district’s referendum. Finally, our school board officers will be attending the MSBA School Board Officers’ Workshops in February.
Our District’s Geography
Most people do not realize how big our district is. We cover 235 square miles, in four counties, including parts of Benton, Isanti, Mille Lacs and Sherburne Counties. A majority of our students live in Sherburne County.
Our district includes three cities: all of Princeton, a slice of Milaca, and a part of Zimmerman. In addition, we have 10 townships:
Racial demographics for our district are: White 94%, Black 1%, Hispanic 3%, Asian 1%, and American Indian 1%.
We have 14% students in special education, 32% in free and reduced lunch, and .09% English Learners. Of the English Learners, our top five languages are Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Serbian, and Chinese. We have 454 students in special education, with our highest primary disability areas as Speech or Language Impairments and Emotional or Behavioral Disorders.
Our highest free and reduced populations in the district are in the Educational Options program at 72.7% (Accurate Home Care--our Care and Treatment in Princeton) and our new Area Learning Center at 70%.
The rest of the Superintendent Update will be the content for the next publication.
Working Together Is Success
December 4, 2016
Dear Parents and Community Members,
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The Princeton community has shown that this quote is our mantra. We have had many examples of this recently. Our community partnerships are making our schools even better!
New Primary School
With the new Primary School’s gymnasium, stage, cafeteria and library, we have seen an uptick of interest in rentals. We have extra facilities to be used, and that is happening. Many times, all of our schools are being used on evenings and weekends. This would never have been possible without the passage of our district’s referendum. It is a win-win for our community and district.
We have several community partnerships for grants that are in process:
Now that we have our new high school gymnasium in action, our video scoreboard is a big highlight as well! Thanks to many sponsors, we have a state of the art video scoreboard. In addition, we have a new scoreboard for John Harvey Field. Partnerships are with State Farm Insurance, Bremer Bank, Princeton Auto Center, Pizza Barn, Riverside Chiropractic, Princeton Agencies, Anoka Ramsey Community College, Midcontinent, Princeton Golf Course, Walmart and People’s Bank of Commerce.
Freshwaters United Methodist Church
The community may not be aware of this, but for the past two years, people from the Freshwaters United Methodist Church have been bringing in healthy snacks to our Primary and Intermediate Schools each Friday afternoon. In an effort to combat weekend hunger, these miracle workers have provided the snacks in bags that are discreetly put into book bags by our school social workers. It is hard to put a price on the difference that these good people have made in the lives of our little ones.
Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce
Our Chamber of Commerce has been an excellent partner with us in so many ways, including:
Learning and Living Committee
This committee, which was founded in the 90’s and continues today, supports our district with many activities supporting our students’ quest in making a plan for beyond high school. Whether they are matching up teachers with local business partners, bringing in guest speakers for students to learn about job opportunities, or teaching others about career pathways, this group epitomizes Henry Ford’s quote, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
These are just a few of the examples I am fortunate enough to experience every day. The Princeton community never ceases to amaze me. Kids are a priority here, and everyone wants to help our students succeed.
“Working together IS success” in Princeton, Minnesota.
Julia A. Espe
October 31, 2016
Dear Princeton Community,
Today I am going to share my plan for classroom visits. First, you need to know why I am visiting classrooms. Teaching and learning is the core business of schools. It is why we are in existence. Everything that happens in our district should support the learning that happens in the classroom. This includes my work.
The first goal in our Strategic Plan is about personalized instruction. This involves identifying clear and measurable goals for student performance. We call these Learning Goals in our district. Everyday, teachers articulate the learning goals for student learning. Our teachers have spent significant time and energy to develop learning progressions to reach the learning goals. They teach this progression to students, which helps our students to focus their learning. Teachers monitor students’ learning by checking in with them as they are learning.
Last year I pledged to do 200 classroom visits, and I was able to complete these. I was so inspired by this time in the classrooms, watching our fabulous teachers in their element! This is how my visits went:
I visited classrooms randomly for 15 minutes per classroom--no prior notice. I collected evidence of whether I saw learning goals, learning progressions, monitoring of these, and students using them. If I saw any of these, I simply recorded Yes. If I didn’t, I recorded No. As a district, in 66% of my visits, I saw evidence of any of the above instructional practices.
I was very pleased with the results and the work of teachers in general. Incorporating the expected instructional practices takes intentional practice and effort on the part of teachers. As a superintendent, delivery of quality teaching, which promotes consistent student learning, is the challenge. Our performance as a system, looking and acting upon our strengths and needs, is one of my responsibilities. As I have written before, teaching and learning is rocket science. It takes the science of learning and the art of teaching, together, to help students to learn and remember what they have learned.
My plan for classroom visits for this year? I will again visit 200 classrooms, looking for any of the above instructional strategies. In addition, I will be looking for these high impact strategies from our teaching map:
I am looking forward to the visits again this year. I love to watch the adults, as well as the students, as we all learn to be even better than the year before! Please take a moment to thank our teachers for being role models of lifelong learning.
Julia Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools
Many Thanks to our Area Farmers
October 17, 2016
Dear Princeton Public Schools Community,
We have an awesome partnership in our district, which you may not realize. Our area farmers support us in many ways, and I would like you to know about how their support is turning into wonderful programs for our students.
The first part of this story is the mere volume of farmers who are supporting us. Forty-two farmers! These people nominated our schools for the Monsanto grant the past three years, and we were awarded each year! Here are their names:
What are the programs that benefited by our farmers’ recommendations? There are three projects that I will describe.
The Science of Food Processes
Our high school offers a course called Food Chemistry, which fulfills the chemistry science academic standard. This course helps students to realize the relevance of food preparation and chemistry. The grant allowed the district to purchase LabMasters and ChromeBooks, to innovatively enhance the learning students are receiving in the Food Chemistry class. Students are now able to easily graph their data, as they research the chemistry components of food. It allows students to hypothesize and gain current, relevant information that is not often in textbooks. Chemistry is a required course for all students prior to graduation, and this course, with the help of these resources, gives students the opportunity to learn the course content in a hands-on learning environment.
Enhancing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)--Middle School
The middle school was given a grant to assist the STEAM efforts. Specifically, the goal was to connect multiple classes to the community. Students worked in groups, in the STEM class, which is required for every eighth grader. In teams, the students worked on 21st Century skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and analyzing. To increase the quality of the experience, students were able to use technologies, which were funded by the grant. Equipment purchased included a Smart Board, a 3D printer, and four laptops.
Students determined needs in the community, identified potential clients, and contacted the businesses with whom they would like to collaborate. Then a design process began. Every eighth grader learned basic drawing skills, using the CAD program. Students then met with their clients to get feedback. Renovation of the design ensured, and detailed design proceeded. Students had a meeting with their class to share ideas and concepts. Next, budget proposals were made up. Finally, the students built and tested their designs. This continued, including redesign until the final product was finished. Once completed, marketing plans were written, and a Project Fair was implemented.
Imagine the work as a result of this process, using the technologies from the grant! Previously, students used materials such as toothpicks, cardboard, and paper and pencil for the projects. Far superior products were designed, thanks to the new equipment.
Princeton 21st Century Learning Makerspace--High School
The high school was awarded a grant that helped to create an environment for students to work with real tools and technology, in the implementation of a Makerspace. A Makerspace is a “do it yourself” place where students and adults come together to explore science, technology, art, math, engineering and more. This environment provides an area for project-driven, self-directed learning, nurturing the inventor in students.
Specifically, equipment was purchased to put in our new, referendum-supported Fabrication Laboratory. This lab is an integrated lab. Teachers sign up for space in the lab. It is not dedicated to one particular course. Teachers are encouraged to develop units of study in which “making” is the goal.
Specific outcomes from the use of this laboratory will be to improve digital literacy skills, while working in groups, which will build the community’s workforce capacity. Being competitive in the labor market is the ultimate outcome.
Besides the Monsanto grant, our local farmers contribute greatly to our students by allowing field trips to the farm and ever-present support to our FFA. It seems that they are constantly looking for ways to assist us, which helps every students to learn the value of farms being important in our community. Students are introduced to agriculture careers. Farmers aid us in many projects and competitions, giving students a real life view of the significance of farming.
As our students prepare for the 21st Century and becoming the world’s best workforce, we are grateful to the support of our community, in particular our local farmers, to help to catapult learning environments which heighten the quality of the students’ experience. Thank you to our local farmers! We appreciate that you have championed our district’s students, by nominating us.
Julia A. Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools