Record enrollment, new levels of personalized learning

It has been an exciting first month of school in the Spring Lake Park School District. A record 5,300 students started the year in one of our schools located in Blaine, Spring Lake Park or Fridley.

Jeff Ronneberg
Jeff Ronneberg

These students bring a more varied and diverse set of interests, backgrounds and needs than ever before, a growing diversity that is both wonderful and enriching. It provides our students the opportunity to learn in an environment that reflects the global community and marketplace they will live and work in the rest of their lives.

New levels of personalized learning

Another significant and expanding influence in our students’ future – and in their daily life in the present – is technology. This is why it is so exciting to share that just this week we began the first of a multi-phase roll-out of our 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative. This initiative will ultimately will put an iPad in the hands of each of our students in grades three-12, and access to an iPod Touch for our learners in grades K-2. Selected classrooms at Westwood Intermediate and Middle schools are the first to use these tools. It was so fun to see the excitement of our students and teachers at these schools as they used their iPads for the first time on Monday.

This would not be possible without the generous support of our community through the approval of our technology levy last fall. On behalf of each of our students and staff, I again want to thank the community for the ongoing support as we strive to provide a world-class learning community for our students.

Our teachers and staff have been engaged in years of planning to position our school system for this expansion of instructional technology, providing what is often referred to as the “classroom of tomorrow” to each of our students today. This planning has been guided by the idea that simply putting iPads and iPod Touches in the hands of teachers and students will not improve student learning by itself. Instead, we believe that the pairing of these technologies with highly effective educators will result in improved student engagement, deeper levels of personalized learning, as well as equitable access to technology for each of our students.

I could not be prouder of the commitment I have seen from our staff in planning for the successful implementation and utilization of these technologies, and it is great to see the excitement among students and parents throughout the district. Visit our website,, to learn more about all of the planning that has taken place with this exciting initiative, as well as the next steps such as student and parent orientation, training and resources.

Commissioner’s message inspires

As I mentioned, we welcomed nearly 5,300 students to our schools this fall. The week prior to our students’ arrival, we held a school-year kick-off for our staff of nearly 700. They were treated to an inspirational talk by Dr. Brenda Cassillius, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education, who also complimented them on their work on behalf of kids.

It was an honor to have the commissioner choose to speak with our staff during a week she could have been with any of the other 340 districts in the state of Minnesota. I encourage you to check out our website to learn more about her message of inspiring hopes and dreams for each individual student, messages from two teachers of the year and more from this successful kick-off to the school year.

20 percent enrollment increase projected

I’ve mentioned our record enrollment several times. Hazel Reinhardt, former state demographer and the most respected voice in the field, recently completed an enrollment study for the district which conservatively projected a 20 percent growth in enrollment within 10 years. While this growth is exciting and something the vast majority of school districts in the metro area would be envious of, we will have to make short and longer-term decisions to effectively address this growth. Again, I recommend a visit our website for more detailed information on the related planning that has been under way for the past two years and that will ultimately lead to recommendations later this fall that would address this growth.

Show your support for students

Many of you will be reading this on Friday, Sept. 28 as we head into Homecoming weekend. To get in the spirit, I suggest you consider taking in Friday’s parade at 5:30 p.m., tailgate party from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and then cheer on our 4-0 football team at 7 p.m. in Panther Stadium.

To end Homecoming week, you can participate in a great family event for all ages, the Panther Foundation’s second annual family fun and 2K/5K fun walk and run. This fund-raiser is Saturday at Spring Lake Park High School. The family 2K/5K walk and run starts at 11 a.m. (Registration begins at 10 a.m. in the rotunda) and the family fun event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration and other details are on the website.

Fall is a great time to see our students in action. The opportunities to show your support by attending a game, concert, play, or other event are numerous and I encourage you to do so.

There are many great things happening in the Spring Lake Park schools and I hope you are as proud as I am of our students and schools. None of it would be possible without you, so I thank you for your continued interest and support and as always I welcome hearing from you.

Jeff Ronnenberg is the superintendent of the Spring Lake Park Independent School District 16.

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