First-class pride in first-class students, staff and community

by Jeff Ronneberg

My family and I enjoyed watching Spring Lake Park take on DeLaSalle in the Section 3AAA boys’ basketball final last Friday night. While the Panthers did not prevail, it was a great game and season. It was also impressive to see a packed house of loyal community members cheering on our student athletes despite being spring break.

Jeff Ronneberg
Jeff Ronneberg

There are many more Spring Lake Park School District athletic contests, concerts and plays I hope to attend throughout the remainder of the school year. I hope that you will also take advantage of the many opportunities to see our talented kids.

As a north metro resident, you may or may not be aware that the Spring Lake Park School District serves students and families from Blaine, Fridley and Spring Lake Park. If you live within this school district community, you’ve probably just received – or will shortly – the most recent issue of our “School & Community Connections” newsletter. It provides updates about where we’ve been and where we’re going and highlights recent successes and sources of pride, from academics to athletics, from work in the classroom to work in the community and from energy savings to engaging instruction.

I’d like to provide you with a condensed version of recent news about the excellence of Spring Lake Park Schools.

In addition to the basketball team coming within a few baskets of a trip to the state tournament, five wrestlers and two swimmers competed in their state tournaments a few weeks ago, and past and present students from our medical magnet program – Opportunities in Emergency Care – placed first and second in the state Minnesota Youth Emergency Care Competition.

The high school’s math team earned a trip to state after winning the conference championship and placing second in their region, and seven Family Career and Community Leaders of America members will compete at state in April.

Our Knowledge Bowl team has become a powerhouse, repeating as conference champ, placing second in the 96-team region, and earning a well-deserved berth in April’s state meet.

You may very well have heard of Sayan Das who one year ago – as a fifth grader – placed first in the nation in his age group in both the online World Math Day and World Spelling Day competitions. This year he was named ambassador to the 2012 World Education Games.

Both our jazz and high kick dance teams went to state following great seasons, with the jazz team placing sixth and the high kick team placing ninth in the state’s large-school division. As a team, Spring Lake Park was named All-State Academic.

Student-athlete Jake Matthys signed a Division I Letter of Intent to play baseball at Kansas State, and and Nick Auman, a state golf tournament and Junior PGA Player’s Tour participant, recently committed to Concordia University-St. Paul.

Congratulations to seniors Katherine Bodor and Jake Ponto who are finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

We can only provide a world-class learning education by having world-class staff. Our teachers and staff demonstrate this, working each day to create a learning community that is aligned around meeting the individual needs of our students through personalized instruction. Some examples of this staff excellence – from the past few weeks alone – include the following.

We are proud of the fact that teachers and staff from each of our schools have been invited to present about their professional learning and instruction practices at national conferences, as well as participate in unique invitation-only opportunities to learn with national experts about school improvement.

Cheryl Gustafson, a long-time language arts educator with our Learning Alternatives Community School (LACS) is one of 32 semifinalists for 2012 Minnesota Teacher of the year, and Learning Alternatives Community School was named 2012 School of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs.

Marilynn Forsberg was recently honored by the Minnesota School Boards Association for 30 years of service on our school board. Head Panthers football coach Jeff Schleiff has been named coach of the North All-Stars in June’s Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game and defensive coordinator Will Wackman will receive the Butch Nash Award.

This week, band director Brian Lukkasson began his duties as director of the North Metro Honor Jazz Band. I have the extreme honor of being named president-elect of Learning Forward, formerly known as the National Staff Development Council.

We continue to work diligently to reduce energy consumption and thereby increase energy savings throughout the district. In the first three-month reporting period of our expanded efforts, overall gas and electric use was reduced by 12 percent with a number of schools reducing their use by over 20 percent.

We continue to explore opportunities for innovation, for utilizing technology as a tool to improve student learning and for engaging students in learning anywhere at anytime. This exploration includes looking at what is often called “one-to-one technology,” in which an appropriate device – such as a tablet or laptop – is placed in the hands of each learner. We are excited to be partnering with the Farmington School District, as well as possibly Eden Prairie, in planning for this integration of technology in order to realize efficiencies through shared planning and professional learning.

Finally, I want to highlight the fine work and commitment of the Panther Foundation, a volunteer community organization that works tirelessly to provide for kids through grants and special projects. The group’s recent fundraiser, the “Hear the Roar! Gala,” raised over $100,000. While this is an eye-opening example of what our community can do, there are hundreds of other examples and many hundreds of volunteers who make a difference each day for kids and who make a great school district even better.

There are many great things happening in the Spring Lake Park Schools. As always, I encourage you to take in an event and see our talented kids in action. We so appreciate your support of our students and staff!

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