In presentations to the School Board and district staff in August 2000, Dr. Larry P. Nybladh, Superintendent, outlined five initiatives that were developed as proactive responses to the current condition of declining student enrollment and the associated budget problems facing the district. The initiatives were based on the principles of educational effectiveness and economic efficiency.
The five future-focused initiatives were to:
- conduct an enrollment study,
- conduct an organizational study,
- analyze the district’s organizational culture and climate,
- review the district funding sources, and
- create a strong partnership between the district and community.
Organizational Analysis Study
Superintendent Nybladh and the School Board determined it was appropriate and necessary to commission an Organizational Analysis Study to gather and analyze school district data, present findings, draw conclusions, identify alternatives, and prepare recommendations that would lead to decisions about the future of the school district’s programs, services, staffing, grade level configuration, facilities, and other operational characteristics to ensure the delivery of quality teaching/learning, community, social, and recreational opportunities for the school district’s preschool, school-aged, and adult populations.
In September 2000, following Dr. Nybladh’s recommendation, the School Board selected Roger Worner Associates, Educational Systems’ Consultants, of Sartell, Minnesota, to serve as the school district’s independent third party neutral to design and conduct the Organizational Analysis Study.
In February 2001, Dr. Roger Worner completed the five-month Organizational Analysis Study and presented his findings and recommendations.
At its meeting on Feb. 26, 2001, the School Board voted to receive the Organizational Analysis Study Report completed by Dr. Worner and referred the report to administration for consideration.
On April 23, 2001, the "Recommendation for a Decision-Making Process" was presented by Dr. Nybladh and approved by the School Board. The decision-making process included eight Primary Focus Areas, which were addressed by administrative reports, research study groups and community task forces.
The eight Primary Focus Areas were:
- Student Demographics,
- Facility and Grade Level Configuration Model,
- Current / Future Facility Analysis,
- Middle School Model,
- High School Enhancement,
- Operational and Capital Revenue Analysis,
- Special Education Delivery Model, and
- Alternative Education Delivery Model.
Each of these Primary Focus Areas was associated with one or more of the recommendations offered by Dr. Worner in the Organizational Study Report. Each Primary Focus Area was addressed by one or more approaches.
Five of the Primary Focus Areas required the completion of an administrative project, which was submitted to the superintendent and the appropriate research study group(s) and/or community task force(s). The administrative project approach was used to address Primary Focus Areas where the district had sufficient administrative resources to adequately research and provide recommendations. This approach relied on the expertise of specific administrators.
Three research study groups were formed: Middle School Model, High School Enhancement, and Special Education Delivery Model. The research study groups were used to address Primary Focus Areas where relatively significant amounts of additional research was needed to develop data-based recommendations. People within the district with the most appropriate professional expertise served on the research study groups. The reports and recommendations were provided to the superintendent and the appropriate community task force(s).
The recommendation also required the establishment of five community task forces: Student Demographics, Facility and Grade Level Configuration Model, Middle School Model, High School Enhancement, and Alternative Education Delivery Model. The Community Task Force approach was used to address Primary Focus Areas which required significant community collaboration and consensus building for decision making. Community Task Force members were representatives of the district and community who were selected based upon the perspective they represented and/or the expertise they could bring to the process.
The community task forces were asked to consider information and data developed and presented to them by the administrative projects and research study groups, as well as to conduct additional research as necessary. The task force reports and recommendations were provided to the superintendent.
Community Task Forces
A Membership Selection Committee was formed to select members of the community task forces. The Membership Selection Committee included student, parent, teacher, administrator, School Board and community representatives named by their representative groups. The committee reviewed approximately 150 applications submitted by those interested in serving on a task force.
In July 2001, the Membership Selection Committee named parents, district employees and community members to the five community task forces to address the areas of Student Demographics, Facility and Grade Level Configuration Model, Middle School Model, High School Enhancement, and Alternative Education Delivery Model.
The 12 members of the Student Demographics Community Task Force were directed to develop a response plan which addressed student enrollment decline and offered solutions to reverse this decline.
Fifteen people were named to the Facility and Grade Level Configuration Model Community Task Force. The task force was charged with studying and considering the findings and recommendations related to the district’s use of facilities and grade level configuration as made by the other task forces and by Dr. Roger Worner in the Organizational Study Report. The task force would submit its recommendation for the most appropriate facility and grade level configuration model for the district.
The Middle School Model Community Task Force, which had 12 members, was responsible for studying information provided by the Middle School Model Research Study Group, determining methods to inform and involve the community in understanding the middle school model, determining student, staff and parent interest in the model, and providing a recommendation about the middle school model.
The 12-member High School Enhancement Community Task Force was directed to study information provided by the High School Enhancement Research Study Group, determine methods to inform and involve the community in understanding the high school enhancement recommendations, and provide a recommendation.
The 12 members on the Alternative Education Delivery Model Community Task Force were charged with developing a recommendation for an implementation plan for changes to the district’s alternative education program and recommending methods for informing and involving students, staff, parents and the community.
The five task forces convened in September 2001 and began meeting regularly. In October, the Middle School Model Community Task Force recommended implementation of the middle school model to the Facility and Grade Level Configuration Model Task Force.
The Alternative Education Delivery Model, High School Enhancement and Student Demographics Community Task Forces all presented their recommendations to the Facility and Grade Level Configuration Task Force in November.
On December 4, 2001, the Facility and Grade Level Configuration Task Force presented its report to Dr. Nybladh. The task force recommended that the district reorganize its grade level configuration of a K-4/5, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 design to a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 design.
The task force recommended establishing three K-5 elementary schools designed around the "school within a school" concept by converting Robert Asp School and Moorhead Junior High School into K-5 elementary schools and constructing a new K-5 elementary school.
It was recommended that the district build a middle school building to accommodate a 6-8 grade configuration and support the full implementation of the middle school model and remodel the high school to accommodate programming and instructional delivery needs.
As part of the plan, Probstfield Elementary School would be converted into a district education center for early childhood family education, adult basic education and district offices.
To accomplish this plan, the Voyager complex and George Washington Elementary School would be demolished and Thomas Edison Elementary School, Riverside Elementary School, Lincoln Center, and Townsite Centre would be sold.
On Dec. 10, 2001, the School Board received the task force reports and forwarded them to administration for consideration. The School Board also received the Master Facilities Plan and voted unanimously to hold a special election on March 12, 2002, to approve a $64 million bond referendum to implement the district’s plan for the future.