We are moving into mid-December as you read this article.  We have concluded the first academic trimester of the school year.  We have shifted from a very successful fall activity season and are in full-swing with the winter activities.   Choir and band concerts fill the air with music—especially holiday music.  It is a very busy time of the school year!


I would like to use the space this week to share a number of things about the district with a focus on school board meeting information.



At a recent school board meeting, we talked about ways to highlight some of the things happening at the board level.  In the discussion, it was pointed out that we don’t always share information about significant items on the agenda prior to the distribution of the agenda.  Although there are things that are placed on the agenda up until it is released, there are some things that are consistent in our calendar.


The conversation at the meeting offered different ideas on how we might help the public understand the agenda items.  One suggestion, that I have given some consideration and thought, was to try to use this space to share upcoming school board topics.


The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 19.  There are several agenda items that might be of interest to members of the public.  I will explain some of them in the next few sections.



At this point of the year, school districts are required to do a number of things related to taxing authority.  The board considers an initial tax levy process in September, but must make final decisions on school district taxes by December.  As such, the board will be asked to certify the 2016, payable 2017, levy.


What this means is that the district determines, but the end of the calendar year 2016, the taxes that will be applied or levied during calendar year 2017.  Again, the process started back in September with board authorization of the taxes which the school district is authorized to assess.  During the fall, the state and the county apply those expected taxes across properties within the district to reach the tax statements distributed in November. 


Assuming the board levies the full tax, the tax statement indicates the amount of the school portion of taxes upon constituents.  The school board action, at the next meeting, on levy certification ultimately determines the taxes applied.  One of the agenda items, then, is board determination of the final 2016 payable 2017 tax levy certification.



Along with the levy certification, most school districts in the state will offer some form of Truth in Taxation presentation.  This presentation is intended to be information to explain the basis for the taxes that are assessed.  The school district is asked to share information about taxing authority and the types of local taxes that are assessed.


Historically, the ROCORI School District uses this time as an opportunity to explain more of the financial information of the district than simply the tax levies.  The ROCORI School Board is accustomed to hearing broader information about the district budget, the sources of revenues for the school and the various expenditures within the system.  The information is broken down in ways to show the proportion of funds expended in the various programs and activities of the district.


The ROCORI District seeks to use Truth in Taxation as an educational tool to help people better understand district finances.  We typically review how much money comes from the state of Minnesota, how much comes from the federal government, how much is local, and how much comes from other sources.


In a similar way, the presentation shares how expenditures are categorized.  The information looks at the proportion of the budget spent on staff (salaries and benefits), how much spent on facilities and equipment or similar resources, and the expenditures for other issues within the district.  Typically the presentation reviews this in several different ways to give a picture of district expenses.


The agenda on December 19 will include a Truth in Taxation presentation.  This is an opportunity for community members, as well as the board, to better understand district finances.



The second meeting of the month (or the only meeting, as in December) is a time the board highlights the special accomplishments across the district.  We call this part of the agenda a Celebration of Excellence as success and effort across the district is honored.  The individual recognition is known as ROCORI Proud.


The ROCORI Proud presentations are geared around three broad themes—Making a Difference Today, Creating a Better Tomorrow, and Setting a Standard of Excellence.  Any member of the ROCORI community may nominate someone for ROCORI Proud recognition within these broad elements.


As the titles suggest, each area reflects excellent work, effort, or accomplishment by an individual or group in the ROCORI system.  Many of the awards recognize accomplishments such as setting a record, earning state recognition, or other strong performance and fall under the Standard of Excellence.


Those honored for Making a Difference Today have done something that has clearly improved conditions for or offered assistance to someone—thus, “making a difference today.”  This may be the implementation of a program, special efforts to help another person, group, or place, or some other action that demonstrates care and concern for those around us. 


Those recognized for Creating a Better Tomorrow have done something that is successful today but it really sets the stage for better conditions in the future.  Most honorees have done something well but it has laid a foundation for better opportunities for others who will follow.


The ROCORI Proud recognition has a very long history in the ROCORI Schools.  It is a fun opportunity to recognize people for their positive efforts and the excellent work that is done within our system.



Each of our administrators is given opportunity during the course of the year to share special work, plans and direction occurring within that administrator’s sphere of influence in the district.  The extended opportunity to share with the board allows board members to understand what is happening within the overall program but is also intended to allow the administrator to share long-term plans and direction.


In the month of December, Technology Director Brian Michalski has been allocated time to discuss technology plans with the board.  Typically, the administrator (in this case, Brian) will offer an update on things happening within the program(s) that are overseen. 


It is expected that Brian will review technology work from the first part of the year, but then will go into discussions about future plans, direction, and needs within the technology department.  Likely, he will share information about technology improvements, wireless connectivity, and recent technology deployments.  It is also likely that he will share work from the Technology Committee and some of the planning that is occurring to help meet future technology needs.



Two board members, Nadine Schnettler and Mike Austreng, will complete their formal school board service with the meeting on December 19.  Both have been long-serving members of the board but their terms come to conclusion with the end of the year.


Mike has completed two full terms on the school board.  He has served as district treasurer and clerk during his terms on the board.  He has also been a member of several committees—negotiations, facilities and grounds and policy, in particular. 


Nadine has served on the board for 11 years and has been chair of the board for much of that time.  She has also served on a number of committees, the Benton-Stearns Education District (for special education services), and the Resource Training Board.  Nadine was recognized as an All State Board Member in 2014—an award extended to only six school board members annually of the more than 2400 board members serving across the state.


Congratulations are extended to Mike and Nadine as they complete their terms.  Thank you for your excellent and selfless service on the board.



Beyond these special items, there are always routine items on the agenda.  There is an opportunity for citizens to share information with the board, there are financial action items with payment of bills and the treasurer’s report.  There are typically action items related to personnel changes—resignations, leaves of absences, employment offers, and such.


Board meetings are public meetings.  They are open for the public to attend.  For the most part, there are limited opportunities to participate in the meeting—each meeting is a meeting of the school board conducted in public to complete school district business—but there are avenues for engagement.  Simply being in attendance, hearing the discussion, and learning about the activities of the school board are encouraged for anyone!