“Dear COVID-19, For generations, through devastation, heartache, destruction and evil, humanity has proven its resilience and power. Our history shows that we are masters of the comeback. Our DNA is woven from grit, ingenuity, creativity and love. We are lemonade makers – hope manufacturers – the ones who always get back up, and get back up, and get back up.”
This is the start of a powerful video (https://youtu.be/vtZBXT0XyzM) narrated by a little girl whose voice represents resiliency, hope, and optimism for the new year. For parents, teachers and our students, this video provides inspiration and reminds us that despite the challenges we face, love will prevail and that we are our own “masters of the comeback.”
Our students and staff are the masters of the comeback! If you watch the national news, you may hear that schools have yet to open, but our Cambridge-Isanti Schools have been open for most of the school year and we were excited to welcome our elementary students back to full in-person learning in January, while our secondary students are in a hybrid model (attending in-person two days per week and virtually three days per week). And in addition to our Bluejacket values —responsibility, self-discipline, honesty, respect, and compassion, our students and staff demonstrate adaptability and resilience every day.
February will be a busy month in our schools as we prepare for the next school year.
Kindergarten registration begins
Kindergarten Registration is now open! Did you know that students registering for kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year will be the Class of 2034? We have moved all kindergarten registration packets to online this year (improving convenience and efficiency). Families of potential kindergartners should have already received an informational packet in the mail and we have held virtual information sessions to meet the principals and learn more about our kindergarten options. If you know of a family new to the area, please share this information and remind them to contact one of our primary schools to get started. There is more information on our website https://www.c-ischools.org/become-a-bluejacket
Budget planning underway
On January 21, the School Board received an independent financial audit report from the public accounting firm or Malloy, Montague, Karnowski, Radosevich & Co,. P.A. The audit report provided an unmodified opinion or “clean” audit of the Cambridge-Isanti Schools financial statements. The auditors reported no deficiencies in the District’s internal control over financial reporting and no irregularities with the District’s compliance with Minnesota laws and regulations.
The District ended last fiscal year with a slight improvement in our fund balance (or rainy-day fund), after a decade of declining fund balances and budget cuts in 2019 and 2020. The District’s unrestricted operating fund balance as a percentage of operating expenditures was 5.8 percent at the end of FY 2020, as compared to 4.8 percent at June 30, 2019 (3.6% unassigned fund balance, up from 3.2%). However, this continues to lag the state average for school districts, which sets unrestricted fund balance at 20 percent (plus or minus .04 percent) over the last five years. This is largely due to local and state funding gaps. Having an appropriate fund balance is an important factor in assessing the District’s financial health. Our school district’s current fund balance represents just over two weeks of payroll on hand, whereas it is recommended for organizations such as ours to carry eight weeks of payroll on hand. District revenues and expenses continue to fall short of the state average by more than $1,300 per pupil in general education revenue. Our students deserve the same funding to support their education as any other student in Minnesota. Rural education is being underfunded and zip codes should not determine school funding and student opportunity.
Our Community Task Force began meeting in January. Thank you to all who volunteered. We have an outstanding group of 38 community and staff members who volunteered. The negative result to the referendum in November was a significant setback for our long-term planning, so this group will study our finances, facilities, learning goals and staffing to make recommendations for a stable financial plan moving forward. Watch for future updates from this group.
Appreciation of Paraprofessionals and Counselors
Last week was Paraprofessional Appreciation Week in Minnesota, and we celebrated our Instructional Assistants (IAs), who fill many in our schools—from Tier 1 Childcare to playground duty to special education supports to lunch monitors and other general education supports—our IAs build strong relationships with students and families each and every day. They are a valued group within our Bluejacket family, and we appreciate ALL they do!
This week is American School Counselor Week, and we celebrate our school counselors. During the pandemic, our school counselors have stepped up to provide even more information and support on student mental well-being and academic planning. They are reaching out to connect with students and families and help students maximize dual-high school and college credit opportunities, internships, and post-secondary planning. They are also a resource to connect to other supports for families in our community.
Masters of the comeback
We look back at 2020 as a year that challenged everything we knew, and it also reinforced what we have long-valued in our Cambridge-Isanti community. When we get knocked down, we get back up. As the Dear COVID-19 video states, “This devastation will not be our end. It will be the fuel that drives our better future, the powerful comeback that marks our generation...We will love and we will grow and we will rebuild.” We are the masters of our comeback. And in the eyes of our students, we see a bright future ahead.
DR. NATE RUDOLPH is superintendent of Cambridge-Isanti Schools. He can be reached at 763-689-6202 or email@example.com.