Grading Contract, 99-00, Sem.1, MREA Conference Report, Oct, 99 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Donna Frederickson, Int'l Falls Cohort Grading Contract, Fall Semester, 1999 > > Report on the Minnesota Rural Educators Association's Falls Conference October 28, 29, 1999 > > It was an honor to be asked to attend this conference by the Falls School District and a great experience. Our school district is not a member of the MRAE, but wanted a couple of district teachers to attend the conference and recommend to the school board as to whether or not we would support membership. The conference was held in Alexandria, MN on October 28 and 29, 1999. > The MREA's mission statement is "a voice to strengthen education in Minnesota through leadership in legislative action, communication and collaboration." The MREA brings together school board members, administrators and teachers into a format where state officials state their positions and also confer. This year it was a pleasure to meet and hear the Lieutenant Governor, Mae Schunk. Commissioner Christine Jax, from the Department of Children, Families and Learning spoke. Several state senators and representative were in attendance, spoke and served as discussion facilitators. Some of the speakers were members of the State Board of Education, college representatives and K-12 school administrators. The MREA presented awards to schools who created exemplary programs and a representative student unit from those schools was there to explain the program and accept the award. The MREA has a lobbying committee, called the Legislative Action committee, and that committee presented a report of what the MREA members wanted, the Minnesota State Legislature passed and what the MREA did to accomplish the results. > Opening the conference was Dr. Mark Myles, former superintendent from Duluth. He was followed by Senator Larry Pogomiller, chair of the Senate K-12 Education Funding Division and co chair for the Senate committee on Children, Family and Learning, Representative Alice Seagren, chair of the K-12 Education Finance Committee, Christine Jax, head of the Children, Family and Learning Department and Dr. James Walker, retired superintendent at North Branch. Each gave their view of education and their predictions or hopes for the future. Myles advocated charter schools and believes that the charter schools will give competition to the government funded public school. He feels that there should be choice in education and that the government now has a monopoly on education. Senator Pogomiller and Representative Seagren spoke on the problems in financing education from all sides. They emphasized that they want to be able to have funds available to attract the brightest and the best teachers so Minnesota schools remain at the top. They want an accountability system in place in the educational system to measure teachers and students, focussed goals and choice in education. Christine Jax very vocally defended the public school system attacking the private and charter school system as not really being a viable choice for all students in Minnesota. Dr. James Walker was the technology speaker believing that high schools need to have their classes available on the web for the untraditional student. > The sessions were thrilling in that the presenters gave their view in a speech and there was a question and answer period that followed. There also was a two hour session that was just round table discussions. The presenters and government guests of the convention rotated among the tables to field our questions, listen to our frustrations and comment. It was such a great feeling to actually talk in person to a government representative who is part of the decision making process in Minnesota. > Closing the afternoon session and before the evening awards banquet we were entertained by the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Middle School Concert and Jazz bands and that was a treat for an old band director to hear. The young instrumentalists sounded so enthused and good. The banquet gave awards to remarkable and interesting projects that either bettered their school, community or education. The schools who were honored all had presented short sessions on their project and provided handouts pertaining to their project. Some of the projects were block scheduling in a Junior High School, assigning the students into multi-age 7/8 pods to create interdisciplinary projects coordinating with the Graduation Standards, Mississippi River interdisciplinary project involving English, science, history, music and geography, a web design business in the school, a project focussing on character development, a wildlife project done in cooperation of the US Wildlife and Moorhead University and several others. > The main topic discussed in the open forums was money, the teachers not having enough for supplies and capitol outlay and school boards and administrators not having enough to give. The post secondary program for high school juniors and seniors was a hot topic. Then, of course, there were the Graduation Standards that seemed to rile everyone except Christine Jax. However, she did promise everyone that by next school year every school in Minnesota would have the software to record and track student's progress in the Standards. School buildings, referendums, repairs, state formulas, teacher contracts, sparsedy aid, staff vacancies, new code gymnasium bleachers, technology money and training, vouchers, declining enrollment, magnet schools and charter school all received some air time. What was so interesting in hearing all of these topics discussed were the frustrations of everyone, whether it was school board, administration or teacher. As a teacher, we do not hear a school board's frustration on not being able to give more money for the classroom. > It was an interesting conference. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to attend. The other teacher who attended with me and I both felt that the MREA was a worthwhile organization for the International Falls School District, #361, to be a part of and recommended that the board submit the membership papers and fee.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2000

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