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Early in Phil Norrgard's career as director of human services for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a locally-compiled cookbook was sold to make money for health programs. The first step in the recipe for a rabbit stew was to find and catch the rabbit. Norrgard likened the start of the recipe to how he approached his job of 37 years. "If you want to start programs, you need the money," he said. "So my job as a technocrat was to figure out where the resources were. I was a bird dog."
Aerospace physics, orchestra, classical line cooking, engineering research and design. Those courses are among the Duluth school district's offerings, which have more depth than most schools and districts in the region. But a cost-saving measure decided in 2004 for high schools and 2012 for middle schools left kids with only six periods, meaning one less period in the day to take advantage of that rich variety of courses.
Parents raising money to replace rubber playground mulch used on Duluth school district play areas got some good news this week. A family with the last name Miller donated $100,000 to the school district in 1952, to be set up as a trust with the interest earned for playground expenses. The district, Superintendent Bill Gronseth said, can match community fundraising efforts up to $30,000.
Denfeld High School counselor Jennifer Wellnitz worked with a student this year who was struggling to prepare for scholarship interviews. The student, who was homeless, didn’t have the right clothes. “We ran to Kmart and got the kid something to wear,” she said. “But that was a barrier for that student.”
The state standardized tests used to gauge academic proficiency have limited usefulness despite the time, money and effort that go into the testing. That's one of the findings of the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, which released a report on standardized testing Monday. It showed that only 1 in 4 teachers surveyed found Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests to be "very useful." However, it said, the tests allow comparisons of student performance across schools and districts.
In the past year, a handful of bathrooms at Duluth Edison's North Star Academy have been labeled as "gender neutral." "It was just an underlying philosophy that caused us to make the change," as staff became more aware of student needs, said Bonnie Jorgenson, head of Duluth Edison schools. "The goal is for all students to feel safe and accepted."
Joe Fineday eats lunch in the American Indian Education room at Cloquet High School most days. He gets help when he needs it, but it's also a quiet place to plug away on homework. The 18-year-old member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa already lives on his own and is set to join the welding program at St. Cloud Technical and Community College next year. What drives him? "The diploma," he said, during lunch last week. "And I want to make my little brothers feel proud."
The Duluth school district is facing a deficit for the coming year that could range between $1 million and roughly $4 million. The amount the School Board will be asked to cut depends on several factors: whether there is an increase in the amount of money the state gives in student aid, whether teacher salaries are increased in a new contract under negotiation and how new playground mulch is paid for, if the School Board follows through on its intention to replace rubber mulch.
What do you do after finishing a job where you helped shape federal policy and occasionally ran into the leader of the free world? For Karen Diver, fresh off a 14-month gig as President Barack Obama's special assistant for Native American affairs, it's something completely new: teaching.
Duluth schools superintendent Bill Gronseth was not chosen for a leadership position with the suburban Twin Cities White Bear Lake school district. The White Bear Lake School Board this week chose to offer a contract to Wayne Kazmierczak, who is White Bear Lake’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations.