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Corey Lunn: A Bold New Direction for Stillwater Area Schools

Many years of inadequate funding from the state and painful budget reductions have resulted in less support for our students and community, Lunn writes. Now it’s time to establish a bold new direction for our schools.

To create change there first has to be a challenge of the status quo.

Change stems from people who are willing to take risks, and above all from leaders who are willing to make courageous decisions. There hasn’t been much reason to change our schools in the past. But as part of a rapidly evolving world, our school system has reached a point where being very good isn’t enough.

It’s time to establish a bold new direction for our schools – and that’s just what our new strategic plan has been designed to do. 

For the past five months community and staff members have been engaged in discussions about the future of education in our district. More than 220 people have worked diligently to not only dream, but to put together detailed plans to help us reach our goals.

They’ve spent time discussing what has made our district great in the past, as well as what is holding us back from greatness for the next generation. They openly shared their concerns about the status quo, while courageously envisioning a school system that would meet the needs of students tomorrow.

Last weekend all of this work came together into a new plan that will be undoubtedly change our schools as we know them today.

One thing I have heard repeatedly during my short time in this district is the strong tradition of Stillwater Area Public Schools. These comments, however, are often shadowed by a feeling that our schools are not as strong as they once were.

Undoubtedly, many years of inadequate funding from the state and painful budget reductions have resulted in less support for our students and community.

During this time we have been forced to do without while placing more expectations on our staff and families, and consequently have not been able to provide the support and attention needed in the area of teaching and learning.

In a nutshell, we have been obligated to provide the same level of education with dramatically fewer resources, at a time when the needs of our students and families are increasing.

Even in spite of this, our students continue to succeed as reflected in test scores that still remain some of the highest in the state. I can’t help but think what our students and community could do if we could recapture this sense of “greatness” and realize the past support for our schools.

Getting back to this proud past is not as simple as doing things as we once did. You see, the world has changed and continues to change rapidly. What has worked in the past will not work for the schools of today or tomorrow.

We are going to have to do things differently and let go of a few things we are doing now in order to grow and move forward. We have to create a new direction for our schools, students and communities based on our future… not our past.

So what does our future look like?

As a result of the work underway that picture is becoming clearer. We know that we need to help our students develop an entirely new skill set. They must be able to produce knowledge, solve complex problems and collaborate in a flat world where geography, language and communication are no longer hurdles. They must be able to compete not just with their neighbors for jobs, but with individuals from across the globe.

On the positive side, the skills that made our country so great in the past–-such as curiosity, creativity and ingenuity--are also coming to the forefront today. And with all of the new focus on technology and social networking, there is a renewed need for connecting with others, giving back to our community and providing service to others.

The Stillwater Area Public Schools of the future will meet all of these needs. We are developing detailed plans to help us:

  • Engage students and families in learning
  • Create personalized learning pathways for each student focused on the new skill set described above
  • Ignite students’ passions and curiosity
  • Build positive relationships
  • Expend partnerships in the community
  • Ensure our students are learning from the very best teachers possible

With this I promise, although we may not look like the schools of the past, we will no doubt return to the greatness that we once stood for.

I invite you to learn more about our plan to restore excellence in Stillwater Area Public Schools and how you can work with us to ensure our schools stand strong into the future.

Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at lunnc@stillwater.k12.mn.us or by phone at 651-351-8301.

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Clark Griswald January 28, 2013 at 04:29 PM
It took 220 people to figure this out. Sounds like the goals of schooling should have been all along. So what exactly is gonna change? Probably need another levy for this? What schools need is different ways to hold students accountable for grades, participation, and behavior. Kids screw off in school and just skate by under the radar doing just enough to graduate. its been that way forever. and unfortunately one day theyll realize that they wished they would have tried harder in school like almost everyone does at somepoint. But at the same time college isn't for everyone. So why not offer more classes to catch certain kids interests. Auto mechanics, welding, carpentry, machining etc... These are all common things many students take a lot of interest in pursuing careers after high school. And I'm not talking about making bird houses and welding together tool trays. I'm talking about classes with projects that will mirror what these kids will find when they enter these jobs after high school. Just my opinion...
Markus January 28, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Translation: Get ready for another pleading "Yes To Kids" levy campaign when we will once again attempt to fleece you and your neighbors so we can continue to get increased salaries and benefits only dreamed about by those who are not government employees.
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 01:43 AM
If you really want to be appalled, Susan, check out the average salaries for teachers in Stillwater. Those numbers you cite are brought down by those in rural areas which generally pay less. Of course Stillwater teachers with all the violent crime and non-motivated students (or not) they are forced to deal with entitles them to some of the largest salaries in the state. And yes, the benefits/pension are out of this world good compared to most private sector jobs. I actually appreciate the above average Stillwater public schools my own children attend and their teachers have been really good, but it's a nice little gravy train for working fewer than 190 days per year.
limeex2 January 29, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Clark Makes a good point, there needs to be training and/or schooling for the trades. When they hit the secondary schools for additional schooling they are that far ahead, and these are jobs that are very well paid, good benefits and not much competition for the skilled trade jobs. It also doesn't require a person to go into such a huge debt burden to get the skills needed for gainfull employment. And by the way, is $40,000 to $ 50,000 such a big salary for someone who is shaping a child's future? Thats not much nowadays.
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 02:48 AM
I value teachers and their positive influence on my children, but last I checked the poor and great teachers are all being paid the same and yet none of them work more than 190 days per year. They are compensated pretty well when you consider the age at which they retire and the benefits they receive. Then again, maybe you get 14-plus weeks of vacation each year with your job.
limeex2 January 29, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Yes I do have almost 14 weeks off, but i work 12hour saturdays and sundays to pay for it. As far as the benefits go, It's in the contracts. If we can't afford them, negotiate when it is contract time. Almost all business's today are going away from long term entitlements.
Robert January 30, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Full salary data for all teachers in MN can be found here: http://extra.twincities.com/car/schoolsalaries/default.aspx. Some in Stillwater make as much as $80K
Randy Marsh January 30, 2013 at 01:24 AM
You must work construction or something similar. Do you also collect unemployment during the winter? Further, do you honestly think the majority of teachers are working weekends or more than 8 or 9 hours per day? There are exceptions, I'm sure, but there are 20 teachers at my kid's elementary school pulling in more than $70,000 for working 190 days per year.
Randy Marsh January 30, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Thanks you Robert. It would appear that Stillwater pays well above the state average, despite starting with fewer special needs kids and the vast majority that are farther along thanks to all that early childhood education (in shiny new buildings, by the way) and parents with degrees who have already gotten the ball rolling. Not only do Stillwater teachers have some of the easiest jobs in the education, but they are also among the highest paid.
Randy Marsh January 30, 2013 at 01:43 AM
Susan, did you try simply scanning down the page? The site is a little awkward, but it came right up for me.
Sally March 01, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Randy, before you continue in your passive-aggressive vein about the "easy" life of teachers, I suggest you spend one week doing what educators do. It is an extremely difficult job that requires passion, patience, intelligence and wisdom. Many teachers work during the summer at summer schools, so don't give me that "190 days" tangent.
Randy Marsh March 01, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Are those teachers paid for summer school, Sally? If so, your comment is so ridiculous that I would encourage you to spend a week in school perhaps trying to learn a little common sense. I have several friends and family members who are teachers and they are easily the least stressed people I know. Funny, they also have all sorts of time for their hobbies. Perhaps I need to stop beating around the bush here if it appears I'm being passive aggressive. No more holding back for me.

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