A FEW NOTES
As usual, there are a lot of things happening across the district. We are at the point of the year, already, that the fall student activities are either into post-season competition or the regular season is drawing to a close. Some of the winter activities seasons will soon be underway.
With all the things happening across the district, I would like to highlight just a few items as updates and notes about the district.
EDUCATION MINNESOTA BREAK
This week marks the annual fall teacher conference sponsored by Education Minnesota. The calendar traditionally reflects a two-day break for students in order to allow teachers the opportunity to attend the state-wide educator conference.
The state conference is typically held in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Members of the teaching staff who attend do so of their own professional interests and at their own expense. There is no requirement for teachers to attend the conference, but the calendar allows any or all staff members the opportunity to attend.
I have been asked, in the past, about the days in relation to teacher contracts—and why there is not a requirement to attend the conference. The Master Agreement between the District and our teachers defines the school year as consisting of 182 days of employment. We do not count the two days of the break within the contracted days—thus the district does not and could not require attendance.
On the other hand, if we conducted school on the two days, it would be impossible for teachers to take advantage of the professional development opportunity. The end result is that we acknowledge the conference by releasing students and staff from school, but it is an individual teacher’s decision about whether to attend the conference or not.
TOBACCO-FREE BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS
The ROCORI Schools are a tobacco-free school district. Although many people know and understand this regarding the indoor spaces and buildings, it does not appear that the public understands that it applies across all of the school grounds!
As with many public spaces, it is pretty easily understood that indoor air quality issues and state laws prohibit smoking inside public buildings. Schools are not unique as the smoke-free zones include hotels, libraries, bars, restaurants, stores, and many other buildings. Most people, because of the widespread nature, understand and respect that school buildings are smoke and tobacco free.
The ROCORI School District policy extends the tobacco and smoke-free expectation to all of our grounds, vehicles, and spaces of the district. This does not seem to be quite as clearly understood, but it is the district policy. All buildings and grounds of the ROCORI School District are tobacco and smoke-free.
GIVE TO THE MAX
Across the state of Minnesota, non-profit organizations look toward a statewide event known as “Give to the Max” Day. This fall, the event is scheduled for the middle of November.
A flyer that I recently received from the statewide organization indicates that 2017 is the ninth year of the Give to the Max campaign. The ROCORI School District has been an identified organization for probably six of the nine years.
Give to the Max day is an organized effort to encourage “nonprofits, schools and funders to ignite generosity and make giving fun for donors.” Donors have, through this organized effort, given more than $140 million to Minnesota organizations since 2009!
We will share more information about Give to the Max day as we draw closer to the November onlne fundraiser. We would encourage community members to highlight the middle of November on the calendar to help remember the event!
FREE LUNCH APPLICATIONS
Although we have started the school year, it is always good to review information about the free lunch program. As you may be aware, we often refer to the structure as "Free and Reduced" lunch, but there is no longer a reduced price component. Under state and federal guidelines, students and families eligible for the program qualify for free lunch.
As a district, we would encourage any family that is struggling with the cost of school lunch to take the time to complete and submit an application for the lunch program. The process is confidential. The system is designed to accept information in the manner parents submit the information. The information provided by families is compared to guidelines and standards set forth by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The eligibility guidelines use the number of people in the family and income levels to determine who qualifies for the service.
Information related to free lunch applications and eligibility is used for a variety of purposes by the state and federal government. The number of students, and often the percentage of students across the district, who qualify for free or reduced meal status is used to determine the extent of funding and school support in a number of programs.
Federal financial and academic support programs, in particular, like the Title I, II, and III services are frequently adjusted based on the number of students eligible for free and reduced meal programs. At the state level, programs like the compensatory education funds are based on the number of students approved for free and reduced meal costs.
Any families who are struggling with the costs of school meals are encouraged to fill out the free and reduced lunch application. The intent of the program is to ensure that students have good, nutritious meals while in the school setting. Under Minnesota process, a student that qualifies for the program is eligible for free school lunches.