Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jerry Von Korff's School Board Campaign Page

------- "St. Cloud school board Chairman Jerry Von Korff has adequately refuted any proposal to consider a mega high school for the St. Cloud school system. Well done!"   Kermit Eastman, former Superintendent of Schools, District 742.   Letter to St. Cloud Daily Times, August 27, 2014. 

Welcome to my campaign page.   When I joined the Board in 2004, the district had a negative fund balance.   In the years before I joined the school board, the district had been overspending its revenues, draining its reserves from over $ 6 million into negative territory.  To reverse this trend, we had to make some really tough decisions -- to rein in spending and find new revenues.   I am proud to say that as chair, as board treasurer and board finance chair, I was a part of a team, including superintendent Watkins, other board members and staff who found ways to balance our budget and restore our fund balance, so that the District is now financially sound.  We no longer operate a few months away from insolvency.

Using our Financial Strength to Trigger Stronger Academics and to Elevate Achievement.  That turnaround in the district's financial position proves that when we all work together to implement a vision, we can make significant forward strides.  There are other areas where we must make significant forward strides.   We need to build on our financial strengths and translate those financial strengths into significantly improved academic achievement.
Jerry and Dr. Hightower on Juneteenth

 Our district can be justly proud of the strength of our programs that serve strong students.   We have opportunities second to none in central Minnesota including a broad range of rigorous advanced placement and upper level courses in our high schools.   But we need to make significant forward strides in how we address students who struggle, and students who come to us with disadvantages.   Every element of our district --- school board, superintendent, executives and administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals and parents --- must elevate our game, work harder, expect more, and make the changes needed so that every student achieves his or her potential:  that means English Language Learners, average students, struggling students, students who come to us with challenges from home.  My belief is that all of us must do more to elevate academic achievement for all students.  I'm not running on what we've accomplished:  I'm running because I believe that we have a duty to accomplish so much more. 
Addressing Governor Dayton in St. Cloud
As time goes by, I will be posting vision statements to suggest what we must do to achieve these objectives.  In the meantime, here are some of my key positions:
  • I Oppose consolidating our high schools into a single mega-high school—research overwhelmingly establishes that mega high schools interfere with efforts to increase graduation rates, especially for disadvantaged and struggling students (See my Article in the St. Cloud Daily Times). 
  •  I've advocated that a fair share of new resources provided by the Dayton administration and legislature be invested in improvement initiatives. Board support for this initiative has resulted in creation of a $500,000 fund to provide class size relief to schools where class size has become unacceptable, $1 million in new initiatives funding, and an additional 15 minutes of learning time in each school day.
  • I've supported funding initiatives included $2.5 million in textbook replacement, $900,000 in technology investments, and additional funding initiatives to assure that  teachers have the resources they need to elevate academic achievement.
  • I support the Superintendent's introduction of the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to prepare more young people more effectively to study, to take notes, to organize their learning process, and to strive to achieve admission into college and other post-secondary learning.  (See my post advocating for AVID in 2010).  More about AVID.
  • I Supported adoption and faithful implementation of our new strategic plan, which emphasize the provision of a more welcoming safe environment, improved staff development, and above all significant elevation in our academic achievement.
Presiding over High School public Hearing
I Believe:

That public schools can do far more than we are currently doing to close the achievement gap, and that it is our responsibility to implement the programs and strategies that lift up every young person regardless of their disadvantage.   Works such as Karen Chenoweth’s “It’s Being Done,”  and David Kirps “Improbable Scholars,” describe strategies that yield remarkable results.  I support Superintendent Jett’s commitment to implementing these new strategies.

If we want to be a truly liveable city --- if we aspire to become a community of citizens who are financially independent and who all  live above the poverty line,  if we want to attract economic investment that offers high wage employment, if we want to maintain and expand our growing  health care, post secondary education, and technology industries, we must make sure that we provide highly educated population ready to provide the workforce skills necessary for the 21st century.      As long as a large number children are coming to our schools two or three years behind, we cannot expect to realize our full potential as a commercial, industrial, professional economic hub for central Minnesota.   We need to get way more ambitious in our efforts to promote high quality early childhood education for all families who want and need it. 

That we must maintain reasonable class sizes.    I authored the original Board resolution which committed to maintain the instructional ratio in our school district.  Along with other board members, I supported this year’s initiative to put ½ million dollars of new money into a class size relief fund to provide assistance in those schools where the class size rises unacceptably. 
That in a competitive education environment, we must provide community schools that attract parents and students.    From 2009 to 2014, elementary enrollment (including 6th grade) rose by 694 students or 20%.  Four schools account for almost all but 24 students of that growth – Clearview (132 new elementary students --25% increase), Madison (284 new students – 33% increase), Kennedy (154 new students – 30% increase) and Lincoln (100 new K-5 students, or 33%).   In each case, a major factor in the increased enrollment was community belief that these schools were providing exceptional quality.  Clearview and Madison introduced popular Chinese and Spanish immersion programs.   Kennedy introduced a popular K-8 alignment and an environmental emphasis.   I believe that we must never rest in our effort to listen to families and remain constantly vigilant in responding to the needs of our communities.

That we must keep faith with the legislature’s intention that we use new resources to improve student achievement. 

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