Minnesota Revenue offers two valuable tax benefits for parents who purchase school supplies for their K-12 students, the K-12 Education Credit and Subtraction. These benefits can reduce parents’ taxes to increase their refund, but is only available for those who keep their receipts. Purchases for most school supplies, field trips, and musical instruments for school band are eligible.

Most Minnesota parents qualify for the K-12 subtraction, which reduces their taxable income. Parents under certain income limits may also qualify for the K-12 credit, which can refund up to 75% of their costs – even for parents who don’t owe any taxes. Visit the Minnesota Revenue website for details.

  • The Kids Need Us; We Need the Kids For anyone who works with kids, you know the aura of energy that surrounds them. With that said, Monday, February 8, was truly “A Great Day to be a Patriot ...
    Posted Feb 14, 2021, 7:45 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Thank you to CRMC and Crow Wing County Public Health One of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned or become even more aware of as superintendent of a rural school district in the 2020-21 school year is the ...
    Posted Feb 1, 2021, 6:59 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Celebrations It’s been a ride. Semester 1 of this school year was like none the school community has ever experienced. It rivaled and, we dare say, was more difficult than ...
    Posted Jan 14, 2021, 6:47 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Activities have such a positive impact on high school students For more than a century, the Minnesota State High School League has sponsored one of the most comprehensive programs of interscholastic activities in the United States. More than 500 member ...
    Posted Dec 30, 2020, 5:01 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Ring the Bells As we step through a challenging winter holiday season dealing with the many difficult impacts of the pandemic, I’m reminded of these lyrics written by Leonard Cohen in the ...
    Posted Dec 30, 2020, 4:57 PM by Brenda Williams
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 132. View more »

The Kids Need Us; We Need the Kids

posted Feb 14, 2021, 7:45 PM by Brenda Williams

For anyone who works with kids, you know the aura of energy that surrounds them. With that said, Monday, February 8, was truly “A Great Day to be a Patriot!” Earlier this week, Pequot Lakes Middle School opened the doors to usher in a full in-person learning experience for students in grades 5-8. It’s been close to a year since we’ve had a complete student body, and for our staff, it’s been a long time coming!

Pequot Lakes Middle School feels a whole lot more “Middle Schoolish” than it has in a long time. Kids in hallways, cafeterias being used, and close to 500 students filling our classrooms. With all the kids comes the joys of working in this place. Hormones, awkwardness, laughter, and smiling faces were still present during distance learning, but it certainly is more powerful when we’re in person! This might catch some off guard, but even the logistical nightmare of getting all of our students picked up in the infamous “parent pickup line” is a welcomed reprieve from empty desks and quiet locker bays!

With these recent moves to in-person learning on our 5-8 campus, I am in debt to the PLMS school leadership team, teachers, support staff, and school board who has confidence in our ability to expand our learning opportunities to 4-5 days a week for everyone on campus, all while maintaining integrity to a plan designed to keep our kids and staff safe. Yes, there will likely be bumps in the road ahead. (We kicked off our return with a Monday morning that wasn’t exempt from some close contact quarantining and other limitations.) But again, all was worth the effort as we strive to provide a quality educational experience for our students and a work environment for our staff that is filled with the ambient enthusiasm, laughter, and energy that comes with working in a middle school setting.

We appreciate our families who have endured hardships and personal/professional sacrifice to help us to get to this point. Though social distancing, masks, and restricted movement are all factors that continue to influence our decision making, we also have our goals set on a spring that might resemble even more normalcy.

Monday was truly a great day (not only because Patty and the kitchen team served the fan-favorite Mandarin Chicken) but also because of the genuine excitement we saw throughout campus. This year’s hardships have us reflecting upon the little things that make being a middle school educator so great. Smiles peeking out from behind masks, voices, and laughter filling our downtime, and kids and staff sharing an authentic enthusiasm for life, learning, and social interaction with one another. It was clear; the kids need us, and we need the kids!
Go Patriots!

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal

Thank you to CRMC and Crow Wing County Public Health

posted Feb 1, 2021, 6:59 AM by Brenda Williams

One of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned or become even more aware of as superintendent of a rural school district in the 2020-21 school year is the pivotal role that a school district plays in the economic heart of a local community. I’ve certainly always known that decisions to close school are a big deal - just ask any superintendent about how well-liked they are when making weather closure decisions - but never have I had to shut down schools for weeks at a time. Not in 20+ years. As I drove to and from work in December and January, I saw what looked like a ghost town in downtown Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point, and Crosslake. It was heartbreaking - and yet I clearly understood we had to intervene with hospitals over capacity and no room to deal with regular life health tragedies and struggles. It is definitely true that we must find a way for schools to operate to keep the economy and community life rolling even if it has to look different - and that is humbling and a challenging charge, but it is what we must work towards together.

The week of January 18th, our school district staff was blessed with an enormous gift from Cuyuna Regional Medical Clinic (CRMC) and Crow Wing County Public Health. We learned on Tuesday the 19th that CRMC had enough COVID-19 vaccine available to vaccinate our staff, and the race was on. We quickly established a clinic schedule and the CRMC team vaccinated 110+ staff on that Thursday afternoon, increasing our chances of staying open to teach students onsite at school. It was a 36-hour turnaround with execution modeling discipline the US Marines would be proud of. We in Pequot Lakes Public Schools cannot thank our partners at CRMC and CWC enough for making this happen so quickly to help us do our important work and to help us navigate the months ahead helping our families get to work. Thank you CRMC and CWC Public Health for going above and beyond for the public you serve!!

Patriot families, we are not through this yet. Quarantine rules, mask and distancing rules, crowd size limits, and all that we’ve been doing this year still apply and will likely continue through the end of the school year. We must all remain vigilant to keep schools open and not be forced to close due to a lack of staffing with quarantine and isolation requirements (which the vaccination doesn’t change as of yet, per MDH). That said, our partners have helped us lead the pack in MN with the earliest vaccinations for our educators and that calls for a BIG kudos and thank you. THANK YOU friends at CRMC and well done serving your local communities. We couldn’t be prouder and more grateful!! Go Patriots!!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools  


posted Jan 14, 2021, 6:47 AM by Brenda Williams

It’s been a ride. Semester 1 of this school year was like none the school community has ever experienced. It rivaled and, we dare say, was more difficult than last spring. Through it all, we are in awe of the Patriot community. Our caregivers, students, and school staff have shown a resilience we all should be proud of. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of bumps in the road, but we also believe celebrations are numerous. An important part of a Safe, Supportive and Collaborative culture is to celebrate successes. So let’s take a moment to celebrate all who are making the 2020-2021 school year possible.

Caregivers - You didn’t sign up for this. You didn’t anticipate having your regular routines upended and your kids learning from home each day. We applaud you. Families have had to make numerous sacrifices, endure challenges that are unique to their own family situations, and figure out how to operate in this new normal. Parenting is hard - parenting with our current circumstances is even harder. In addition to families, thank you to emergency childcare and daycares for doing all you can to support our students. We appreciate you!

Students - We know how challenging this has been. Some of you are loving distance learning and some of you are finding this to be the most challenging school has ever been. Whoever you are, we see you. We are here for you. And most of all we are celebrating that we have you as our students. Whether distance or in person, we are so grateful for the laughs and challenges each day brings. We are so proud of you!

School Staff - We are proud every day to be a Patriot. The teamwork and level of collaboration that goes into the work you all do is honorable. Food Service, maintenance, office staff, leadership, teachers, paras, support staff, and administrators have shown incredible dedication and flexibility. It has been hard; it has pushed us to our limits, but it has helped us grow in a way that has only made us stronger.

In December, our district was honored for the work we have done in HRS level 1 (Safe, Supportive, and Collaborative Culture). As a district, all three sites have achieved certification in HRS level 1. In order to be certified, each building collected data from staff, students, and families that show our school environments are safe and supportive places to be. Due to Covid, our work this school year has continued to focus on HRS Level 1. Without a strong foundation, the rest will crumble, hence making this a priority in our current situation. We look forward to a continued partnership with all involved to provide a positive school experience.

-- Alison Falenschek and Megan Zierden, High Reliability School Coaches

Activities have such a positive impact on high school students

posted Dec 30, 2020, 5:01 PM by Brenda Williams

For more than a century, the Minnesota State High School League has sponsored one of the most comprehensive programs of interscholastic activities in the United States. More than 500 member schools with 23,000 coaches and over 9,000 officials and judges help students to reach their goals in and out of the classroom. Students who participate in activities are known to have higher grade point averages, have better school attendance, create lifelong friendships, and simply find school more enjoyable. Being a part of the team, learning self-discipline, creating a strong work ethic, and building character traits can all be benefits of participating in MSHSL sponsored activities.

Pequot Lakes activities are also an extension of the classroom. Lessons that can be learned while participating in the many activities our school offers just can’t be replicated in the classroom. Activities this winter offered for Patriots are speech, robotics, debate, one-act play, hockey, basketball, dance, knowledge bowl, wrestling, alpine and nordic skiing, gymnastics, band, and choir. Students, please consider being a part of as many activities as you possibly can during your short time in school.

Parents can make a positive impact on their children while they participate in activities. Allow your child to guide their path in the arts or athletics. Most parents have the best interest of their child in mind; however, some develop a mission or goal that is not what the student really wants. Parents need to listen to the wants and needs of the student. The best thing a parent can do for a competitor or performer is to be there for emotional support. After a great win or an emotional loss, a friendly face is the best tonic. Parents need to be at their best when the student experiences failure. A friendly hug from a parent often is the best elixir. Parents also need to be the guiding hand to help the students cope with and learn from success with humility. Students feel the pressure from practices and their competitions or performances; coaches, directors, and teammates are their toughest critics. When the competition or performance is over, the student needs to escape from the pressure for a short while. The drive home or the conversation after an event is not the time for families to break down the good or bad that occurred. The best conversations to have are simply how enjoyable it is for us to watch our children play and perform. Simply saying, “I loved watching you play/perform tonight,” can be the best words for our students to hear. A recent survey in Michigan revealed that what students hated the most about being in activities was the ride home with parents after an event. What students enjoyed the most was the fun that activities give them.

Students go out for activities for fun, love of the event, and friendships. We all need to remind ourselves of why they play. An alarming rate of students is dropping out of activities after the age of thirteen. We need to encourage them to be a part of the team and contribute in any way they are capable. Society can get too caught up in winning, being the best, being champions, or the leading scorer. While competition can be a critical life skill learned by participating in activities, the process … learning how to compete or perform, and learning how to deal with winning or losing ... is far more important than the result of the experience.

Pequot Lakes students, please consider getting involved in as many activities as you can. There is an activity for everyone. The benefits of participating in MSHSL sponsored events can make the educational process more enjoyable. GO PATRIOTS!

-- Byron Westrich, Activities Director

Ring the Bells

posted Dec 30, 2020, 4:57 PM by Brenda Williams

As we step through a challenging winter holiday season dealing with the many difficult impacts of the pandemic, I’m reminded of these lyrics written by Leonard Cohen in the song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Cohen’s lyrics offer us some much-needed encouragement as we push on through this particular winter. First, it tells us that it’s ok to have cracks. “There is a crack, a crack in everything.” The first step towards feeling better is owning it followed by making an action plan to do something about it. For me it’s helpful to start with knowing that we all have cracks, we all have wrinkles, and we all make mistakes. “Forget your perfect offering.”

Cohen’s lyrics also highlight that it’s through our cracks that the light gets in. It’s in times of hardship that we witness incredible displays of generosity, courage, and compassion by great folks all around us. I’m amazed by the heroic work of our healthcare workers and the ways local communities have rallied around them. I also appreciate the compassion I get to witness most days as our Patriot employees work incredibly hard to teach students, to feed them, and to show love and grace in a time when it’s needed most. These are hard times, so let’s keep working together to shine a light into the cracks around us and be intentional peacemakers in our community.

Finally, the first line in these lyrics tells us to ring whatever bells that we can! Bells are generally cheerful sounding, especially around the holidays, and what better way to take some deliberate action towards a positive mental mindset than to start ringing bells - both literally and metaphorically. When we are intentional about focusing on gratefulness and celebrating the people around us, our mental and emotional state improves significantly. Let’s all find ways in the weeks ahead to let the light in and ring bells of celebration for loved ones and those who need some help keeping a smile. Here’s to turning the page to a New Year!! Go Patriots!

 -- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

The Keys to Audit Success

posted Dec 9, 2020, 9:35 PM by Brenda Williams

The district’s annual audit ensures frameworks, regulations, and policies and procedures that define the path for operational effectiveness are demonstrated in the work of the district office. By following the guidelines and managing risk effectively, the likelihood of success increases.

Recently, the district completed the fiscal year 2020 audit and the results are in. A successful audit! So, what about our success? Every year a budget is created with the expectation that at the end of the year the actual outcome is within 1-2% of the budget and the fund balance remains stable at 15-17%. The FY20 variance comparing final budget to actual was ($13,416); under budget. Considering a total budget in the general fund of almost $19M, ending the year within $13K is remarkable. Another positive was the FY20 audit produced only one finding, segregation of duties, which is a finding that is most common in smaller school districts. This finding will be ever-present in a school district our size.

There are several key components that go into a successful audit which increase the likelihood of ongoing success.

1. Confidence.

There is greatness within each team member and to not let anyone say otherwise is imperative. Some things may come easily, while other skills and competencies may take longer to learn and master and present an opportunity to invest more effort in them; to identify and use strengths while working to grow in areas of weaknesses. Making mistakes is a part of life. Remembering to get back up and learn from them so as not to repeat the same mistakes is critical. Courses, seminars, webinars, and attending conferences to acquire the skills needed while learning about important topics impacting the industry and organization is essential. A lifetime of learning and improving is important, and having confidence and a positive attitude is a good place to start.

2. Aim High.

Great things are accomplished by setting high and sometimes seemingly impossible goals. How? Think big and work diligently towards them. It may take some time, but goals are achieved through discipline, focus, and commitment to doing a little every day to continue moving towards the objectives. Remember that others have done similar things like this before, so aim high and remember that limits are set by one’s mind.

3. First Who, Then What.

Jim Collins’ quote, “I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great,” comes to mind. A team full of optimism, confidence, forward-thinking and open-minded individuals who will support and encourage each other is what brings the level up from “good-to-great.” No one needs negativity in their lives. By being in the company of those who believe in lifelong learning, whose conversations are uplifting, and who live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, this becomes the norm. Peer pressure doesn’t have to be negative. Let positive peer pressure be the motivating factor.

4. Work Diligently.

Discipline is essential for success in the school finance profession. Staying focused and determined when setting goals is important. These might include large life-changing initiatives, but also the smaller day-to-day activities required to get things done around the office and home. Organization and time-management support consistency and transparency, doing everything with care and in a way that reflects the high standards that support the vision, mission, and values of the district.

5. Zig Zag.

Everyone is looking for an open door to walk through. But what if the door is closed and it can’t be opened? Look for a back door. What if the back door is also closed? Look for an open window. We may need to zig. We may need to zag. But that is just course correcting. Keep sights on the goal and be persistent. Use, adapt, and revisit the plans and if needed, go back to the drawing board. There is a way; it just needs to be uncovered.

6. Inner Voice.

Steve Jobs was onto something when he said “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Naysayers will want to discourage and belittle good work. Take time to reflect, know yourself to lead yourself, and listen to intuition. Pay attention to the inner voice, make sure to listen for that “gut instinct” and take notice. Balancing the rational mind, which is fact-based, with our heart, which is more instinctive and passionate, builds trust and rapport.

7. Balance.

Technical skills are essential for what we do every day at work. We need to know about accounting, finance, process improvement, information technology and cybersecurity, risk management, and fraud schemes. But soft skills are also essential because they will help us make better and quicker decisions, solve problems more easily, and organize the many little snippets of work-life that make up our day. We also focus more on understanding organizational culture, ethics, and the role of management. Many of our stakeholders don’t understand what we do, how we do it, and why it matters to them. Inefficiencies and errors limit the success of our work. What we do matters tremendously, and we need to use our soft-skills to communicate the importance of what we do with every audit, every meeting we hold, every presentation we make, and every report we write.

Together we must possess or obtain the knowledge, skills, and other competencies needed to perform the established responsibilities. When each of us sets high goals and works diligently towards their achievement, we elevate the quality and results of our work. The results will not only include a satisfying list of achievements now, including an almost perfect audit in FY20, but in the future too. We will continue to appreciate the satisfaction that success brings when it is the result of hard work. Great results don’t happen by accident! 

-- Heidi Hagen, Business Manager

Please Take Advantage of the Meals!

posted Nov 25, 2020, 10:56 AM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Dec 9, 2020, 9:29 PM ]

Did you know that on October 9, 2020, the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA is extending the free meals waiver? This allows schools to continue to provide all registered children and their siblings under age 18 in our school district free breakfast and free lunch on scheduled school days for the entire 2020-21 school year.

What does this mean during distance learning? For the Pequot Lakes School District it means meals are available for pick up on Monday mornings and early evenings. A pack of five breakfasts and five lunches is put together for each child and made available for pick up. Pick-ups are available on Mondays at Eagle View Elementary and at the Middle School/High School from 8-9 am and from 4-5 pm. There is also a pick-up point at Reed’s Market in Crosslake on Monday mornings from 9-10 am.

It’s really simple to sign up! Call or email Patty Buell, Food Service Director, at 218.568.9363 or pbuell@isd186.org and she will add your name to the list. You will need to provide your name, contact information, number of children and where and when you will pick up.

This program is funded by the USDA and the State of Minnesota. For every meal that gets picked up, our school district receives funding. The more meals the more funding. We started off sending out almost 1200 breakfasts and 1200 lunches and as of this writing, the list has grown to over 1500 of each!

Please take advantage of these meals. You are NOT taking away this benefit from someone else if you participate. These free meals can help you manage your household budget with the skyrocketing costs of groceries, and they are time saving and convenient, allowing those children at home to be more independent. This program is also keeping some of our food service staff employed. We did have to partially furlough most of the foodservice staff, so more meals also mean more hours for them!

Please Note: December 1st is the deadline for families to turn in an application for free or reduced price meals. Due to the current free meals program for all students, many families have not submitted their application which greatly reduces the revenue the school district receives in the year ahead. Please turn in your application to Patty Buell (pbuell@isd186.org) before the end of the month. An application can be downloaded from the school district food service website or picked up in the district office. 

-- Patty Buell, Food Service Director

Finding Positivity at PLMS Amongst All of the Distractions

posted Nov 11, 2020, 6:34 AM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Nov 11, 2020, 6:35 AM ]

It’s tough to turn on a radio, watch TV, or open a news feed without having to navigate through pandemic updates and/or the latest negative campaign propaganda; so I am going to take an opportunity to shut out all the noise and focus on some positive updates from the world of Pequot Lakes Middle School.

As October came to a close, we are proud to announce that over 500 students in grades 5-8 were able to participate in a “Relationship Retreat” to Trout Lake Camp in rural Pine River. Designed to enhance the relationship-building experience that we know is critical to student success, we built this trip to bring our students and staff closer together as early as possible this school year. Participants engaged in trust and team building activities amongst the beautiful backdrop of Big Trout Lake and the Fall colors. From 10-person voyageur canoeing to zip lines and high ropes, our students and staff reported having an amazing experience across all four grade levels. Even our transportation department was able to partake in the fun, as Bruce, our loyal bus driver, was able to take a ride on the zip-line as the students cheered him on. We want to extend a special thank you to James Rock and the Trout Lake crew for opening up this opportunity for our students, and to our PLMS families for trusting that we could provide a safe and exciting experience for our students despite all the restrictions.

Along the lines of relationships, we have found that homerooms have proven to be a critical part of providing a positive experience for our PLMS students. As part of our safety protocol and pre-fall planning process, students were placed in learning groups we call “homeroom pods”. In this setting, students spend the majority of their day learning in a singular space while their teachers travel from room to room delivering their content.

As we started the school year our leadership teams were apprehensive about our students and how they might respond to a departure from our norm. We feared that the pod model, with kids: not being able to stretch their legs, missing out on socializing with their peers during passing time, and a general inability to allow “kids to be kids” might not be the most conducive environment for our middle schoolers. Though we do miss the hallways teeming with energy, we have also found that the removal of some of these elements of the school day has actually allowed some of our students to flourish! Many students are citing less bullying and a marked drop in social pressure. They are also noticing an increased sense of community within their learning environments. Kids are making friends and forming new relationships courtesy of time together. This outcome has certainly been a positive surprise for our middle school team.

As I type my draft for this article, I am also recognizing that our campus community has been hit hard by quarantine. As the busses left campus today, I was faced with the unsettling reality that we are uncertain about when they will return to in-person opportunities. Be assured that PLMS will work hard to continue to provide a safe space for our learners and staff, which includes a continued commitment to learning in-person in grades 5 and 6 and an aspiration to have our 7th and 8th graders learning back on campus as soon as we can get our COVID quarantine numbers in check.

Though we cannot say that we hit our mark with all of our efforts thus far this year, we wanted to highlight several things that have been going incredibly well. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank our families for continuing to trust us during this challenging school year and to our students and PLMS staff for providing us with some success stories to highlight to our community members. We’re hoping this article helps our readers to find some positivity amongst the distractions. 

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal   

Back to Basics

posted Oct 28, 2020, 1:18 PM by Brenda Williams

It isn’t hard to look around right now and see a crazy world. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic that just won’t go away, the trickle-down effect is in full swing. The mask or no mask debate has divided lifelong friends. The variables created in an educational setting have created many situations without win-win solutions. Thrown on top of all of this is as volatile of an election year as we’ve ever seen. As the challenges keep mounting, I urge you to consider taking your life back to the basics.

It wasn’t long ago that life was really lived day to day. It wasn’t about having lots of stuff or getting ahead. It wasn’t about setting goals for this week, this month, the next five years, etc. It wasn’t about planning for life 10-15-30 years down the road. It was about embracing the day, making the most of it, and going to sleep knowing you get to do it all over again the next day.

Don’t get me wrong. Planning for the future, setting goals, and hoping to improve your life is not a bad plan. These hopes are smart, noble, and reasonable things.   In our current situation, however, they can bring extra stress, lots of doubt, and the inability to see these goals in a positive light. According to a CDC study between June 24th and June 30th of this year, in a survey of 5,412 adults in the United States, 40% had experienced a mental or behavioral health condition. These numbers are difficult to process just in the here and now, without worrying about the future.

I encourage you to get back to the basics of your life. I encourage you to appreciate what you have and what you can control without getting caught up in the things you can’t. As a dad and a husband, I have three amazing children and a wife in my home that I’ve grown closer to during this pandemic because, frankly, we have been “stuck” with each other more. I’ve appreciated simple days that don’t involve racing from this kids’ activity to the next and, instead, noticed a falling leaf, a gentle breeze, and a chirping bird. Don’t get me wrong. I love being involved in my children’s activities and watching them; however, I’ve found some beauty in having less of that.

Each and every day we get to make a decision of what our attitude will be and where we will put our energy and effort. I challenge you to make a conscious choice with your day and see what reward you can find by channeling that to the basics of your life.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Uphill Both Ways?

posted Oct 12, 2020, 2:42 PM by Brenda Williams

Many older adults recall their school learning experience. Desks lined up in rows, teacher at the front talking to the class, turning pages in the textbook to find an answer, and taking the test to see if you would pass. The expectations for students were clear (get to school, follow the rules, get a passing grade and graduate) and the consequences for non-compliance severe (and worse when you got home). There was little technology available, teachers were the authority on content, and access to options other than the local public school were limited to a correspondence course. Those of you who can share in this nostalgia would find the schools of today a very foreign experience.

Personalized Learning is a buzzword in education, a concept of learning that identifies what students need to know, helps them develop a plan for how they will master the content, and in a manner that fits their learning style. Schools have been trending towards this concept in recent years as technology and mobility have created a competitive market in education. In years past, the teacher in the room had access to information and training that students relied on to learn the content. The teacher was a master of skill and content, leading the pupil. Students learned in a manner and pace dictated by the classroom teacher.

Today, the world is literally at the fingertips of kids with access to knowledge that exceeds human capacity. Need to know how many beats per minute of the average resting heart rate or the height of the Eiffel Tower? Google it. Free learning content floods the web and kids with an interest in learning can gain infinite information with little effort. The role of the teacher has changed with the growth of technology. No longer a master of knowledge upon whom students necessarily rely, the teacher is now relegated to the role of guiding students through the sea of endless information to develop the ability to filter, assess, and construct meaning from the information they gather.

Private schools, charter schools, online schools, and colleges have developed attractive options for students that cater to their desire to tailor their education to their own interests, save money in college, or complete school in a manner that fits their lifestyle. This competitive influence has pushed public education to adapt from a one size fits all approach, to one that employs technology and innovation to personalize the learning experience of students.

Some school systems allow students to complete courses at their own pace, access school year round, design learning paths unique to their career interests, and partner with employers to develop scholarship programs that blend secondary learning with degree programs that fast track students to career opportunities. High school is looking less like the place romanticized in yearbooks, full of memories of high school dances and glee club, and more like a junior college designed to transition students to career opportunities or post-secondary education.

This fall PLHS introduced online learning, distance learning, flexible scheduling, and new technology not just in response to COVID mandates, but in an effort to take a leap forward on the path of innovation to position ourselves in a place that allows students to access the advantages of a more personalized learning experience while being part of a great learning community. 2019 feels decades old as you watch students engage with school this fall. The challenges and limitations of COVID learning will be present for some time, but out of this experience will come a more efficient system of learning that adapts to students' needs.

Many of us celebrate the great memories shared with high school friends or gloat over our former selves and our recollections of high school glory. But, we can also remember the wasted hours, the uninspiring lectures on abstract subjects, the endless worksheets and bubble tests. At Pequot Lakes High School, we are focused on highly effective instructional approaches that require students to apply their learning in practical real-world situations. Fading are the activities focused on compliance and rote memory, instead we focus on practical skills, collaboration, reflective learning, development of processes, and mindsets that shape our thinking. We still cherish the opportunity for great memories experienced within the halls of Ol’ PLHS, we are just shifting our academic focus to measurable outcomes for graduates that match the needs of today’s workforce.

School does not look the same, feel the same, or function the same as it did 1 year ago and it certainly bears no resemblance to school from 30 years ago. However, the goal is the same and those leading children through the learning process are just as skilled in helping students find their potential to a successful path in life.

-- Aaron Nelson, High School Principal

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