EMID Superintendent Resigning

The EMID Board meets again on Wednesday 6/19, 5:30pm at Harambee.

The packet for next week’s EMID Board meeting held a surprise for those reading closely: EMID Superintendent Janet Mohr is leaving us to become the Executive Director of the Board of School Administrators on 8/1. Even though she will have served for less than 18 months, she is actually the longest serving superintendent EMID has had since Carl Wahlstrom left the position in the summer of 2010. Since then we had Brenda Cassellius for six months, Jerry Robicheau as an interim for one year, and now Jan is leaving after a brief stay. This highlights the chaotic nature of EMID governance, if nothing else (note WMEP has been in the news lately as well). More about Jan’s departure can be read on page 38 of the packet.

The EMID board plans to consider Roseville’s proposal for Harambee at the meeting next week. However, the agenda does not include a discussion of Crosswinds and Perpich. Instead, the board plans (see page 41 of the packet) a “special board meeting” on 7/10. This special meeting will include consideration to amend the resolution closing Crosswinds and consideration of a management agreement for Crosswinds.

If you have not already done so, please sign our EMID Families petition asking the board to allow Crosswinds to stay open under Perpich leadership next year!

This means the week after July 4th will be a very busy week for Crosswinds. We are anticipating a hearing of the House Education Policy Committee on 7/9, a meeting of the board on 7/10, and the Crosswinds carnival on 7/11. Stay tuned!

Superintendent Mohr Recaps Progress on Harambee and Crosswinds

Superintendent Janet Mohr joined the Crosswinds Community Partnership for an update on plans for EMID schools last night (3 December 2012). Recapping the EMID Board meeting last week she described the Roseville (ISD 623) plans for taking over Harambee on 1 July 2013 and South Washington County (ISD 833) efforts to clarify their intentions. Both plans can be found in the EMID Board packet from last week.

Roseville’s plan for a “seamless transition” of Harambee to their district was well received by the EMID Board. They intend to keep as much of the program intact as possible, including welcoming as many current teachers, staff, and administrators as possible to stay. This is not a guarantee that everyone would have jobs in the new “Harambee Community School,” but it was quite encouraging. Since the takeover would technically be a “withdrawal” of EMID member districts from Harambee, staff of the school would have an option of pursuing positions at any of the eight districts withdrawing students. However, Roseville also plans to “grandmother” existing Harambee students into the school, allowing them to finish their education at Harambee if they wish. They are also working with the Minnesota Department of Education to arrange continuing transportation of these grandmothered kids to Harambee. As Mohr said, “the devil is in the details” and much has yet to be worked out, but in broad outline it appears that much of Harambee would remain as it is today.

The plan for Crosswinds submitted by South Washington County was significantly less fully formed. While ISD 833 is clearly interested in taking over the school, they did not make any commitments about what kind of program they would put in place at Crosswinds. They have formed a task force that includes one current Crosswinds parent, Kelly DeBrine, to rework that proposal. Mohr expects them to bring more details to the EMID Board meeting coming up on December 19. It was noted that South Washington is experiencing growth at the elementary and middle school level, but not yet at the high school level. These and other demographic realities of the district will have a bearing on the program they could support in Crosswinds.

The EMID Board also asked Superintendent Mohr to “open up” the Crosswinds process to organizations outside our member districts. Given technicalities of the ownership and allowed uses of the Crosswinds building, only public subdivisions of some sort may make proposals. Mohr said that these would include “intermediate school districts” and the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Some interest has been expressed by ISD 916 (the district from which Mohr came to EMID), but nobody had yet reached out to Perpich to let them know of the opportunity to make a proposal on December 19.

South Washington also asked the EMID Board to continue their governance of Crosswinds through the next school year (2013-2014) so that ISD 833 could have a full year to develop plans and prepare for a takeover. Mohr said that EMID administration has begun a study of the feasibility of sustaining the Crosswinds school under EMID governance for another year. This may well be possible, but again, things should be clearer by the December 19 board meeting.

Superintendent Mohr asked that families please contact her directly with any ideas or concerns. Plans are moving along swiftly and she would like to incorporate as much of our thinking as possible. She can be reached at 651-379-2701 and janet.mohr@emid6067.net.

Also, some video from the November board meeting is available at Vimeo, with more to come later this week when we get our next block of free storage space.

UPDATE: Superintendent Mohr has just sent a letter that covers much of this territory.

EMID Board Meeting Tonight, 10/17

The EMID Board will meet at Crosswinds at 5:30pm this evening (10/17), with public testimony probably around 6pm or so. As we learned last week, Superintendent Mohr felt it was important for families to show up and share their input with the board this month. She is also asking the board to move their November meeting out of the holiday week since it looks like that meeting will be a very important one for our schools.

This month the board is likely to authorize Superintendent Mohr to begin conversations with member district administrators about the future disposition of our schools. There is a very real chance that the school buildings would be transferred to member districts, with severe consequences for what we have come to know and love about them. At tonight’s meeting we will hear the board begin to discuss this situation, and in November they are likely to come to some kind of decision.

To help you understand some of the technical issues, we have prepared two new background pages on the EMID Families web site. One page is about the EMID Joint Powers Agreement, which binds the district together. Another page is about EMID Finances, and tries to explain some of what has happened over the past few years. These two pages join the EMID data analysis we already had available.

Of course, what the board really needs to hear is your voice. So if you can be at the meeting tonight, or send a letter to the board today, that would wonderful.

Superintendent suggests families come to EMID Board meeting

This week Superintendent Janet Mohr and EMID finance officer Shari Thompson shared with families at Harambee and Crosswinds the same financial briefing they gave to the EMID Board last month:

Shari made it very clear that the district is still in severe financial straits. While our budget cuts to the schools have made it possible for the schools to stay open this year, the district will still run a $1.8 million deficit. This will leave us with only $900,000 dollars in our general fund balance at the end of the year. Obviously, we could not run the district this way for even one more year without running out of funds. Shari noted that contributors to our deficit were declining enrollment at Crosswinds, the geographical distance between our sites, the size of our schools, the fact that our’s are schools of choice without a traditional community supporting them, and the lack of levy authority. She also added “sustainability into the future” as a financial challenge, which highlights the fact that our board has refused to build a sustainable financial model for the schools.

The Superintendent stressed that now is the time for families to get involved. Although she shared no specific plan of action, she did suggest families should at least come to the board meetings and make their voices heard. She noted that the next board meeting will be this coming Wednesday, 10/17 at Crosswinds. The board will discuss the budget during their work session at 5:30pm, the public will have a chance to participate in an open forum shortly after 6pm, then the board will act on an “Authorization for Administration to Discuss Educational Options for EMID Schools, Programs, and Services with Member District Administration”. The board packet for this meeting has some more details, it says:

The Board will discuss authorizing administration to seek alternative educational options and provide information that may be available for Harambee and Crosswinds facilities with member districts within the collaborative of the East Metro Integration District.

What are these “alternative educational options”? We may learn at the work session. It seems like our only chance to respond may be the open forum on Wednesday. This may be an important meeting to attend if you are concerned about the future of our schools.

Janet Mohr Named EMID Superintendent

EMID added the following statement to its website a week ago. We’ve also heard (unofficially) that Janet Mohr’s first day on the job will be Monday 4/16. If you want to contact Mohr, we believe that her EMID email is already working: janet.mohr@emid6067.net.

The East Metro Integration District #6067 School Board has named Janet Mohr the district’s new superintendent. Mohr is currently the director of special education for EMID and the director of mental health for Northeast Metro 916. Mohr will succeed Interim Superintendent Dr. Jerry Robicheau, who announced his retirement. “Please join me in welcoming Janet Mohr to the position of EMID superintendent,” says George Hoeppner, the EMID School Board chair. “We are looking forward to working with Ms. Mohr.”

Prior to her special education role with EMID and her mental health role with Northeast Metro 916, Ms. Mohr served as the director of the rural education leadership program with the Minnesota Association of School Administrators from 2006-2008 and the superintendent of Frazee-Vergas (MN) Public Schools from 2001-2006. During her career, Ms. Mohr has held a number of administrative and teaching positions at districts such as Detroit Lakes Public Schools, the Buffalo Valley (ND) Special Education Cooperative, and Frazee-Vergas Public Schools. She has a Ed.S. degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, an M.S. from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a B.S. from University of Wisconsin-Superior.

EMID Board to offer Superintendency to Janet Mohr

After a final set of interviews on Wednesday, the EMID Board decided to offer the permanent superintendent position to Janet Mohr, who most recently has been the director of the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District. We don’t yet know a start date since the offer must first be negotiated and accepted, so stay tuned!

EMID board begins search for new superintendent

Last night the EMID board received a letter of resignation from Interim Superintendent Jerry Robicheau, stating that he planned to leave the position on 17 March 2012. The board, however, did not want to be left without a superintendent and approved a motion to accept his resignation “on March 17, 2012, or as soon as a replacement is appointed, but no later than May 1st.” Some wanted to keep him on longer, but member Gelbmann pointed out that “slavery had been abolished” and they really could not compel Robicheau to stay.

The board appointed a special superintendent search committee consisting of John Brodrick, Kitty Gogins, George Hoeppner, Byron Schwab, and Lori Swanson, to supervise the search. Dr. Robicheau repeated a few times that he was sure they would find suitable candidate by March 15. In fact, he made it very clear he had just the right person in mind, someone fully qualified and who had already expressed interest.

Harambee teacher Denise Dzik and Crosswinds parent Eric Celeste both pleaded with the board during open forum to consider Kathy Griebel for the position. Currently Harambee principal, Kathy was nearly chosen by the board in 2010 for the position and clearly meets the requirements of the “Profile of Leadership” that was developed then and which has guided EMID searches since then. However, in over an hour of discussion of this matter, the fact that there is such a qualified internal candidate was never once mentioned by any board member.

The special search committee plans to meet in the first week of March to review candidates selected by Dr. Robicheau. The full board will meet early on March 21, conducting public interviews of the candidates starting at 4:30pm that Wednesday. If they are successful at finding a candidate they approve of, they could appoint that candidate later that same day at their regular board meeting.

In other matters, the board also tabled a discussion of capturing school levy funding from member districts for EMID. Right now, the EMID budget does not allow any integration funding to be spent on EMID schools, leaving the schools with only state “backpack” money from each pupil. No other district in Minnesota tries to run schools with only backpack money, and indeed at EMID this would lead to closure of the schools in the 2013-2014 school year (the year after next). EMID is not allowed to raise levies, but the joint powers agreement by which it operates allows the EMID board to capture levy dollars generated by EMID students for EMID schools.

Financial support for students attending the EMID School District shall be comparable to that from which the would have benefited if they had attended Member District schools. …each Member District shall transmit to the EMID School District pupil-based state aid and local tax levies received by the Member District. [From Article Twelve of the EMID Joint Powers Agreement revised January 2012.]

Still, the board refuses to use this power and some member districts insist it is unfair to share levy dollars with EMID. The most likely scenario to come to pass would be that each member district would match the lowest levy among the members (Saint Paul Schools’ $646 per pupil levy) providing $500,000 additional revenue to EMID. However, some board members raised important questions about the fairness and long-term predictability of this method of assessing levies. In the end, the board put this decision off for another day.

It should be noted that members of the board again expressed their discomfort with the arrangement EMID has made to allow ISD622 students to “open enroll” in EMID. These students only bring “backpack” dollars with them and since ISD622 is not a “member district” there will never be any way to collect levy dollars from them. Of course, the board itself approved this arrangement in 2008 when ISD622 pulled out of the collaborative.

The board also made committee assignments for the coming year. Those can be found on our EMID Families school board page.

Oh, and if some of you noticed the “good news” item on the board agenda, that ended up being an opportunity for Dr. Robicheau to allow our principals to highlight good news from the schools. Only Kathy Griebel was present to do so, and among other things she highlighted the talent show held at Harambee recently. If you have not seen the faculty’s “flash mob” version of Thriller from that evening, take a look!