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Faribault School Board members engaged in a “graffiti writing” activity at Monday’s meetings with the purpose of adjusting the district’s goal statements. Pictured clockwise from left: Board member Yvette Marthaler, Board Chair John Currie, interim Superintendent Todd Sesker and Board member Chad Wolff (Photo courtesy of Matt Steichen)

The Faribault School Board established six goals for the 2018-19 academic year, but the general consensus of the board this year is “less is more.”

The board has yet to approve the 2019-20 goals, but at its Monday meeting, members discussed ways to trim and improve the current list to three or four goals.

“… I think we really only have one goal and that is retaining and attracting students and providing them with a great education,” said Board member Chad Wolff in an email, which Sesker shared at the meeting. “Everything else in my opinion funnels back to this in some shape or form.”

Board member Carolyn Treadway supported Wolff’s suggestion and listed in an email four potential goals for the board to consider. These goals focused on increasing student opportunities, expanding innovative programming, providing a safe and secure environment and strengthening a culture of respect and inclusion.

Ryan Krominga, director of teaching and learning for the Faribault School District, set up a “graffiti writing” method with large sheets of paper on the walls of the district office meeting room. This allowed board members and Sesker to review the six goals that were developed for academic year 2018-19 and record what feelings resonated with them as they read the goals. Board members recorded their feedback in pairs and regrouped for a larger discussion.

Treadway said she believes the district needs to articulate its goals more clearly, in a way that shows the community that Faribault Public Schools is true in its intentions and not simply “keeping things generic” to avoid being held accountable. While she doesn’t believe this is the district’s intention, she said members of the public may develop that impression.

Sesker pointed out that the topic of graduation rates continues to resonate with the community. With that in mind, he said goal number one, which states “Prepare all students to be successful by expanding programs and enhancing pathways toward 100% graduation,” was worth keeping.

By moving forward with a special election this fall, during which the district will ask voters to approve an operating levy to increase the district’s general education revenue, Sesker believes the board is already taking action to increase opportunities for students. Approval of the first ballot question in particular would allow funding for a seven-period day at Faribault High School. This would open space for more elective classes students otherwise miss with the current six-hour schedule.

As another piece of the discussion, the board considered how to prioritize its effort to diversify staff.

Board member Jason Engbrecht said in his personal experience, he’s found that representation of various ethnic backgrounds matters in a workplace. In the Faribault School District, where students of color represent a large portion of the student body, he said, “If we are not looking to [diversifying staff] as a goal, we’re screwing over half the student population.”

“To say it’s hard and remove it from our vision is inexcusable,” said Engbrecht. “… You can do it when you focus on it and value it.”

Treadway agreed that diversifying the field is important for the district, and a long-term strategy should be implemented since a shift won’t happen overnight.

To keep the district innovative and deter students from open-enrolling elsewhere, Sesker asked the board members their opinions on offering a magnet school option in the future. A magnet school, or “school within a school,” would receive additional funding so select students could receive a specialized education in a specific area such as math or science. Such an option could potentially draw students from other districts as well.

Krominga hasn’t researched the option of a magnet school yet, but if district support continues, he may develop a proposal by fall 2020.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

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