The school board met on Dec. 5, 2023 for a committee of the whole meeting, and again on Dec. 12 for its regular business meeting. Here are the highlights from those meetings.

December 5

Fall assessment data show similar proficiency rates as pre-pandemic  

Sarah Hunter, executive director of Strategic Initiatives, shared a summary of fall assessment data with the board. The district reported that overall, 51% of second through ninth graders are proficient in reading, compared to 49% of second through eighth grade students taking the same assessment in the fall of 2019. Students who identify as Black, American Indian, white or multi-racial all had reading proficiency rates in the fall of 2023 at least as high as in the fall of 2019, before the pandemic.

In math, 45% of second through ninth grade students are proficient, which is the same percentage as in the fall of 2019. American Indian and white students had math proficiency rates this fall at least as high as in the fall of 2019.

The district continues to have significant disparities in the proportion of white students and students of color who are proficient in reading and math. For example, around 80% of white students are proficient in reading and math, while 29% of black students are proficient in reading and 18% are proficient in math.

The district administers Fastbridge assessments in reading and math three times per year to all students in kindergarten through ninth grade. The assessments typically last about twenty minutes for each subject. A summary of the assessments for each student is prepared by the administration, and shared with schools. Parents and caregivers should receive a copy of their student’s results at fall and winter conferences and with final report cards in the spring.

Unlike report card grades, FastBridge assessment results are normed, which means educators and caregivers can see how students compare to other students in the same grade level nationwide.

Assessment results include the proficiency score, and for winter and spring results, a growth score, which measures how much a student learns over time. The growth score is independent of proficiency, which means a student who is below or above grade level proficiency could still exceed typical growth for students in that grade.

The district reported it has exceeded its strategic plan goal for hiring diverse staff in its educational support professionals positions.

The district reported data on diversity and retention of staff for the 2022-23 school year at the committee of the whole meeting. In the past two school years, the district reported that 25.8% of the new teachers hired identified as BIPOC. That proportion increased to 31.5% of newly hired teachers in the current school year. The district’s goal is to increase the proportion of newly hired teachers of color to 32.9% by the 2026-27 school year. From the 2017-22 school years, the proportion of newly hired teachers that identify as BIPOC was around 29%.

As the district works to diversify its teachers, it aims to increase the proportion of newly hired teachers who identify as teachers of color, and to retain current teachers of color. Historically, the district retains a higher percentage of white teachers compared to teachers of color each year. Since the 2017-18, the retention rate for teachers of color has been about three percentage points lower than for white teachers, with the overall retention rate averaging around 92% of teachers.

For the 2022-23 school year, the district reported it retained 80.6% of teachers of color, and 84.2% of white teachers. In the current year, the district retained 87.3% of teachers of color and 90.9% of white teachers. By the 2026-27 school year, the district aims to retain 94% of teachers across all race and ethnic groups.

The district typically releases data on teacher diversity and retention as part of its annual Equity Diversity Impact Assessment updates, but has not released that report for 2022-23, yet.

Derek Francis, executive director of equity and climate, shared updates on implementation of the district’s Climate Framework, including a hate and bias incident protocol.

Francis shared that the district has completed development of a hate and bias incident protocol, and will begin professional development to train staff on the protocol, although he did not share when the training will begin. Minneapolis Schools Voices has requested a copy of the protocol, and we will share it when it is made available to us. Development of the protocol began in Spring 2021.

December 12

At the Dec. 12 school board meeting, the Board of Education passed a series of resolutions, including:

  • Changing the name of Patrick Henry High School to Camden High School
  • Adding sixth grade to Seward Montessori School starting in the 2024-25 school year
  • Directing the district to begin a process of school transformation that may include the closure or consolidation of schools
  • Approving the same of two types of general obligation bonds for capital projects and facilities maintenance
  • Approving the 2024 property tax levy, which increased by 1.7 %
  • Approving contracts with Dr. Lisa Sayles-Adams, who will join the district as superintendent on Feb. 5

The board received an update on the budget for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. The district is projecting expenditures will exceed revenues by nearly $130 million, if the district does not change its current operations before next school year.

The 2024-25 school year will be the first year the district cannot rely on State and federal pandemic funding. The district expects that it will need approximately $1 million from its $140 million general fund balance to fund district operations in the current school year, leaving the district with a fund balance of $139 million to start the 2024-25 school year.

Continuing all existing programs will cost $719 million in 2024-25, approximately 4% more than in the current school year. These costs include continuing the intervention triad program and librarian positions the district added this school year, which cost about $40 million combined. The district is also assuming its labor costs increase 2.5% each year.

Revenue is expected to decrease by 14%, primarily because of the end of federal pandemic funding. The revenue estimate includes public school funding enacted by State legislation in May 2023. The gap between revenue and expenses is projected to be  $127 million.

If the district does not reduce its expenses, it could use its general fund balance to cover the cost of its existing operations beyond its revenue in the 2024-25 school year. But, at the end of the year, the district would have just $12 million remaining in its general fund balance. Current school board policy requires the district to maintain an unassigned general fund balance of 8-13%, which is around $60 million. This amount is about one month of district expenses.