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Ten-year-old Shamir excitedly described all of his favorite activities at Willow River's Camp Heartland. Swimming is a big one, said the Queens, N.Y., resident, but basketball is tops. "There is a basketball court where there is a hoop just right I can dunk on," he said. In his third summer at the camp, Shamir began attending "because my grandma wanted me to be more active."
Money that the Duluth school district receives from the state to pay the salaries of staff who work with the most at-risk kids is no longer in jeopardy. The Minnesota Department of Education told the district Thursday that it does in fact qualify for achievement and integration program money, of which last school year it received $1.6 million. The money is meant to aid in racial integration and help reduce achievement gaps, and the district submits a plan every couple of years to be approved by the state in order to receive the money.
The University of Minnesota Duluth couldn't ask for better exposure: the new chairman of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents not only lives in Duluth, he lives across the street from UMD. David McMillan, executive vice president of Minnesota Power and a graduate of UMD, takes over as chairman of the board effective Saturday. UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said he's happy for UMD and for McMillan, who has "proven himself as a top-notch regent over the last few years."
Seventeen-year-old Ashley Campbell pointed her camera at a long, arbor-like structure in a garden at Northwood Children's Services one day last week. It was topped with wooden beams that allowed sun to filter down to the dirt, showing a pattern of shade and light. Why did she shoot that? "It's a rough path, but there is dark and light in it," Campbell said. "And at the end of the tunnel it's sunshine."
The Duluth school district could lose a longtime source of state money that pays for a dozen employees who work with the most at-risk kids. Earlier this month the Minnesota Department of Education told the Duluth district that it no longer qualifies for money related to achievement and integration programs, which this past year totaled $1.6 million.
A watered-down version of a Duluth School Board proposal that advocated for the refinancing of Red Plan debt was approved Tuesday night. Board member Art Johnston proposed the original resolution, which suggested the district explore refinancing all Red Plan debt and halting an annual general-fund transfer that pays part of that debt. They were moves he said could help the district's financial woes, but that district officials said would require changing federal and state laws.
What Duluth teachers are paid has been settled for the next four years following approval by the Duluth School Board Tuesday night. The two contracts — with increases over four years that total about $3 million — were approved 6-1, with board member Harry Welty opposing the measure.
In an effort to attract more students, the Duluth school district plans to send buses into three neighboring communities this fall. The district has seen steady enrollment decline for decades attributed to many reasons, including changing demographics, more school choice and the tumult of the long-range facilities plan. Enrollment currently sits at about 8,500. This past school year, 30 percent of Duluth district residents were enrolled elsewhere, ranging from charter and online schools to neighboring districts. Only 3 percent of Duluth's students are open-enrollees.
The Duluth school district's budget shortfall has been reduced to $1.9 million. School Board members heard an updated plan to address the deficit Monday night, which included new investments and cuts and took into account a better-than-expected state per-pupil aid increase that knocked the deficit down from $2.3 million. That means the more than $100,000 in expected clerical cuts are no longer on the table, at least for now, and two elementary school principals who were to shift buildings to save money are no longer moving.
Duluth school district teachers approved the terms of two two-year contracts last week, an unusual feat in Minnesota. Approved in the first contract were increases of 1 percent in 2017 and 1.5 percent in 2018. In the second contract — which runs from 2019 to 2021, increases of 2 percent each year were approved.