District 16 hosts first business showcase

Spring Lake Park School District 16 is working to forge a deeper partnership with local businesses.

Business leaders Diane Igo of Minnesota School of Business (left to right); Lori Higgins of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce; Robyn West, Anoka County commissioner; Patty Sagert of Rasmussen College; and Amanda Vickstrom of the Alexandra House listen to District 16 Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg’s presentation at the district’s first-ever Business Showcase. Spring Lake Park High School Principal Jane Stevenson is on the far right. Photos by Elyse Kaner

Business leaders Diane Igo of Minnesota School of Business (left to right); Lori Higgins of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce; Robyn West, Anoka County commissioner; Patty Sagert of Rasmussen College; and Amanda Vickstrom of the Alexandra House listen to District 16 Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg’s presentation at the district’s first-ever Business Showcase. Spring Lake Park High School Principal Jane Stevenson is on the far right. Photos by Elyse Kaner

About a dozen business leaders gathered at Spring Lake Park High School’s second floor stadium suite June 19 for a look inside the district – to hear its success stories and to stage a dialogue about 21st century education in the district’s first business showcase.

Further, the meeting focused on changes taking place in education, notably with the onslaught of new technology used in the classroom. The district also learned from business leaders what skills and qualities they are looking for in potential hirees.

To start the 90-minute meeting, Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg welcomed the business leaders – a cross section from the public sector, education, health, manufacturing and nonprofit sectors.

The visitors watched a short video on the background and successes of the district.

It detailed a district that in the last 10 years has grown by nearly 1,000 students to its current enrollment of about 5,100.

In a recap, viewers learned that District 16 strives to personalize instruction for its students as well as look for ways to partner with the community. To strive to be first class and world class. “It’s the Spring Lake Park way,” the video ended.

“Our students need to be prepared to live in a global community,” Ronneberg said.

College ready

Similar to other districts, the aim of District 16 is to have students college ready. But college readiness does not mean all students will attend college. Many will opt to attend trade schools, for example.

“College ready, work ready – the skills are the same,” Ronneberg said.

Change is on us. From a district, which once had six Anoka County social workers and now has none, to digital learning and technology influences sweeping education and industries, students need to be prepared, he said.

Jane Stevenson, principal at SLP High School, also spoke at the showcase.

Kids getting out of high school today will have 10 to 14 jobs by the time they are 38 years old, she said.

Stevenson asked for the group’s thoughts on what skills students need to be college ready.

Among their answers: Time management, adaptability, a foundation for remediation, study skills, personal accountability or responsibility, critical thinking and a work ethic.

Stevenson referred to the technical aspects of education.

“How you speak is just as important as how you craft that e-mail,” she said.

“Literacy is absolutely a key piece….,” she said

“A basic foundation of math and reading,” said Diane Igo of the Minnesota School of Business.

Said Anoka Commissioner Robyn West, “They need to read books and be a lifelong learner.”

Becky Booker, fire safety educator for the Spring Lake Park/Blaine/Mounds View Fire Department, said she, figuratively speaking, hit a wall in high school, but people believed in her. At the age of 16, she was working in an operating room.

“Unheard of. That’s what changed my life,” she said. “I would like to see more students do that.”

Linda DeRosa is the human resources manager for Incertec, an electroplating and metal finishing company in Fridley with 120 employees.

During her tenure at the company, DeRosa has seen applicants unable to spell the words Fridley or Minneapolis.

This was DeRosa’s first time inside Spring Lake Park High School. She walked away with a feeling of hope, she said in an interview with the Life. “Hope that educational systems are really trying to tune into the employability of their students,” DeRosa said.

Literacy is first

So what is it that DeRosa looks for when hiring an employee?

The first thing is literacy, she said. They have to be able to read basic English, she said.

English does not have to be their first language, DeRosa said.

And what did she think of the showcase?

“I thought it was great,” she said. “I would like to participate, perhaps, in a mentor program. I thought they (the school district administrators) were really interested in what we were looking at for employees.”

Superintendent Ronneberg shares District 16’s education goals and achievements with business leaders at a June 19 gathering at Spring Lake Park High School.

Superintendent Ronneberg shares District 16’s education goals and achievements with business leaders at a June 19 gathering at Spring Lake Park High School.

Ronneberg told his guests the district strives to have as many doors open as possible to district students when they graduate.

“Most importantly, I want a kid to have aspirations for success,” he said.

Colleen Pederson, director of District 16’s community education, organized the showcase.

In the future, Pederson said she would like to see more leaders turn out from the manufacturing and technology industries and small business owners. She hopes to get interested parties into the classrooms to observe the learning that goes on throughout the district.

“This is just the start of engaging with community partnerships,” she said in an interview after the meeting.

In addition to the business community, Pederson said the district looks forward to continue building partnerships with parents, the faith community, retirees and seniors.

About 30,000 residents live in the Spring Lake Park School District. District 16 serves students in Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.

For more information, contact Pederson at cpeder@district16.org or call 763-785-5533.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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