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
Princeton Mock Trial had a great showing this year. Both teams went undefeated in regular season competition, and both advanced on to sub-sections. Princeton White advanced to the state competition where they went 1-2. This was the first time in the past decade that the Mock Trial program has advanced to state. Anders Wold was named as an All-State witness and Avery Pomerleau was selected as an All-State attorney.
The PHS Speech team is an activity where students get to explore a variety of styles of performing and delivering both prepared and extemporaneous speeches to an audience. There are 13 categories that students get to participate in. This year, the speech team has traveled to meets of various sizes, usually 20-30 different schools, and 400-600 speakers. The team has had good showings at all of our meets, but their hard work and dedication really came through night at the Mississippi 8 Conference meet. Princeton had the most Conference Champions (4) of any school in the conference, and tied with Cambridge for the most All-Conference speakers (5 - Places 1st & 2nd). This is Princeton's 4th Conference title in Speech in the Mississippi 8.
Dear Princeton Community,
I just read a book that I wish all people in communities could read. It was written by Peter Block, and the name of it is Community: The Structure of Belonging. It could be a required read for all community leaders. It could be required reading for elected officials and business owners as well as principals and teachers.
This is the premise of the book:
As time goes on, people are more and more isolated. Our country’s culture contributes to this situation with the emphasis on individualism, which is ironic since the world is “smaller” with the effects of globalization. People have instant contact through texting, information through the internet, opinions representing every facet of life, and other technologies. And yet people feel isolated. Too many people feel they do not belong.
This is a society problem. People want to feel a sense of belonging, where they are the owner or creator of the community. What defines a community’s well-being? The quality of the relationships between its members. Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone,” terms the quality of relationships as ‘social capital.’
As I read this book, I recognized how valuable PBIS is in our district. Many people believe Positive Behavior Intervention Supports is all about getting students to behave. On the surface, PBIS does that. However, if it is done well, as it is in Princeton, the result is teaching students to have quality relationships, improving social capital, step by step.
What is Tiger Pride? PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a framework to guide schools in creating safe, positive, predictable, and consistent environments. It comes down to staff continually working to create positive relationships with students, parents, and other staff members.
The PBIS/Tiger Pride journey began in the summer of 2005. Princeton was one of three district in the state of Minnesota to be trained to put this framework in place. This journey is a several year process to fully put in place. Even now, after 12 years, we continue to find ways to improve what we do with Tiger Pride.
John Beach, principal of the Intermediate School, is our resident expert in PBIS, and his accolades extend beyond our district--as a member of the PBIS State Leadership Team for the past 5 years, lead school-team trainer for the Southern Regional Implementation Project, and national PBIS speaker at their conferences.
As Principal John Beach describes it, “This framework includes creating expectations, teaching those expectations around the school, and acknowledging students when they make positive choices. It also includes strategies to respond to problem behavior and support students so that students can be successful. Schools put these systems in place school-wide, in the classroom, and all non-classroom areas. School teams use data to help guide the decisions they make to adjust and improve what they are doing.”
Some of what PBIS has done in the past few years include helping students stand up for each other when there is bullying, making an effort to include students who might feel left out, and just being kind to one another. You can tell the meaning and importance of PBIS themes by their titles:
All of these themes help our students learn how to build quality relationships. We could learn from our students.
When was the last time that we valued our interdependence and sense of belonging, instead of just living our lives the same as usual? I challenge all of us adults to do as we expect our students in PBIS, to extend hospitality to someone you do not know. I challenge you to create a new connection and recognize that person’s gifts.
Let’s see if we can get some of PBIS going in our community. Belonging is important to children, and belonging is just as important to adults. Who knows? It could enhance the social fabric of our Princeton community culture!
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