• Second chance breakfast a success at Pequot Lakes ML/HS It is a well-established fact that we all think better when we are not hungry. We also know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We ...
    Posted May 12, 2017, 11:04 AM by Brenda Williams
  • A Lot of Cool Things Happening at Pequot Lakes High School By now most people have heard that this will be my final year as the Principal at Pequot Lakes High School. It’s going to be a tough move for ...
    Posted May 5, 2017, 3:10 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Community Input & the Patriot Foundation The Pequot Lakes community has been engaged in a visioning and planning process over the past eight months called the “Thriving Communities Initiative” that has included input, ideas and discussion ...
    Posted Apr 13, 2017, 10:48 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Spring Ahead With the winter sports season recently coming to a close and a new season upon us, I thought it would be a good time to discuss what parents/adults can ...
    Posted Apr 6, 2017, 1:15 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Staying Active… the Key to Healthy Aging In every phase of life there are key arenas we focus on in order to make sure we are setting ourselves up for future success, or someone is making sure ...
    Posted Mar 15, 2017, 11:17 AM by Brenda Williams
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Second chance breakfast a success at Pequot Lakes ML/HS

posted May 12, 2017, 11:04 AM by Brenda Williams

It is a well-established fact that we all think better when we are not hungry. We also know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

We have seen great success with the breakfast program in the Pequot Lakes School district over the past several years, and the food service department currently offers free breakfast for all students from 7:55 to 8:15 each morning.

Since April 3rd, we have been piloting a “second chance” breakfast option for students from 9:08 to 9:15, between 1st and 2nd hours at our secondary campus.  Initially, we intended for the second chance breakfast to be a trial for those students who may have had early morning practices or meetings that did not allow them to take advantage of the breakfast option. As anticipated, this program has shown to be a great success, and we plan to continue to offer this option for our students. Faculty and staff have reported they are seeing improvements from the students who are now starting their day with a nutritious meal.

Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the food service department will also utilize mobile breakfast carts. These carts will allow food service staff to bring breakfast to the high traffic areas of the school, speeding the process of getting the students to class. Just like the lunch line, these carts will have computers that will allow the students to enter their PIN number.

Our goal is simple … provide every child with a healthy breakfast to improve student learning!

-- Patty Buell, Food Services Director

A Lot of Cool Things Happening at Pequot Lakes High School

posted May 5, 2017, 3:10 PM by Brenda Williams

By now most people have heard that this will be my final year as the Principal at Pequot Lakes High School. It’s going to be a tough move for me and my family, primarily due to the awesome people we’ve connected with; however, we will also be leaving some very cool programs at Pequot Lakes Public Schools.

Some of these programs are Robotics, Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and applied learning opportunities at the high school. The PLTW program allows students to explore career opportunities, from engineering to computer-integrated manufacturing. The Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) spaces and programs allow opportunities for students in the areas of science and technology that rival some of the metro school districts! Thank you local citizens for your support in making this happen for our students.

Another cool happening involves the many opportunities available in college-level and technical education courses. This coming fall, students will have access to over 80 college credits at Pequot Lakes with an Associates Degree only requiring 60 credits. Students at Pequot Lakes High School continue to have a lot of opportunities that allow for rigorous coursework in preparation for post-secondary. In addition, students can earn pre-engineering and engineering credits through the University of Minnesota. Opportunities like these didn’t exist ten years ago; however, partnerships with technical and community colleges and universities now allow students access to college prep and college credit courses for all qualified students. In particular, I would like to recognize Central Lakes Community College for their willingness to partner with Pequot Lakes High School. Registration is being held right now for the 2017-2018 school year, so if you’re considering coming to Pequot Lakes High School next fall you should come in to register.

Finally, we are going to miss how closely our schools and community are connected. This coming week is the Day of Caring. This project will consist of all members of our staff and 543 students in grades 9-12 spending the day volunteering across our communities. We strive to give something back to all of our communities in return for the investment all of you have made in providing a quality educational program here at Pequot Lakes High School. The event will take place on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, from 9:00am-2:00pm with an alternate date of May 4. We are always looking for opportunities to help residents with small projects they are physically unable to do themselves. Transportation will be provided and there will be no cost associated with this opportunity. If interested please contact Diane in the high school office at 568-9210.

-- Chip Rankin, High School Principal

Community Input & the Patriot Foundation

posted Apr 13, 2017, 10:48 AM by Brenda Williams

The Pequot Lakes community has been engaged in a visioning and planning process over the past eight months called the “Thriving Communities Initiative” that has included input, ideas and discussion involving upwards of 200 people. “Keep investing in good schools” was voiced as one of the top priorities of our community through this process along with “developing internship and job shadowing opportunities for students.” It really is remarkable to hear about this kind of support for our students and our schools from the community at large!

The Thriving Communities Initiative (TCI) process has now made the shift to action planning and implementation. Three task forces are currently leading these efforts focused on economics, quality of life, and workforce development. The workforce development team recently engaged in a good discussion focused on trying to interpret or understand what the community actually meant by voicing “keep investing in good schools.” Clearly this is important to a significant number of people, but how do we put actions to this priority? The task force has discussed two possibilities so far: a) advocating more assertively with state legislators for funding that is equitable to most other MN districts; and b) re-launching the Patriot Foundation with a new and broader approach. My question now is, does our community value investing in our schools enough to put action towards these two ideas?

The Patriot Foundation existed in our community for many years focused on providing scholarships for students and mini-grant opportunities for teachers. It was championed by some wonderful local supporters of education, but maintaining the momentum to keep it going ultimately became too burdensome for the small team trying to push it along. The workforce development task force has discussed re-launching the Patriot Foundation with a different structure focused on celebrating alumni and the positive impact Patriots are having across our communities, state, country and world. Structured for raising revenues and building up an endowment fund much like higher education and many nonprofits, the idea is to broaden the purpose of the foundation to support our students and our district in many ways. The task force is looking for a handful of folks to come together and form the re-launched Patriot Foundation Board. Please contact me at clindholm@isd186.org or 568-4996 if you are interested in this long-term impact opportunity!

Advocating more assertively on behalf of our students with our state legislators is something everyone can engage in. The reality is - our district receives less operational dollars per student than over 90% of the school districts in MN. This ultimately results in higher class sizes, less investment in training our teachers, less student activities, less technology, and rundown equipment. If the legislature increases the general education formula 1.25% or 1.5% each year as is currently being discussed, our district will face budget reductions in the coming years that will undermine implementation of our district 2020 vision. Please speak up on behalf of our Patriot students and contact your legislators today. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of help. Go Patriots!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

Spring Ahead

posted Apr 6, 2017, 1:15 PM by Brenda Williams

With the winter sports season recently coming to a close and a new season upon us, I thought it would be a good time to discuss what parents/adults can do to ensure an enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone associated with extracurricular activities.

1. Encourage your child to become involved in activities outside of the classroom.

The importance of high school activities in a young person’s development has been documented by numerous reputable sources. The Minnesota State High School League points out that student involvement in co-curricular activities elevates attendance and grades, decreases drug use, and lowers dropout rates. Other studies indicate that achievement in school activities is a leading indicator for a student’s success later in life (measured by self-satisfaction and community involvement).

2. Become involved with your child’s activities.

Almost all sports allow parents to make positive contributions by helping with concession stands, fundraising, organization of trips, scholarship funds, etc. Opportunities are also available in officiating in most activities. Talk to your child’s coach if you are interested in becoming involved.

3. Display good sportsmanship and insist that your child does the same.

Cheer for your team in a positive way and applaud good plays on both sides of the field. Also, appreciate the work of the game officials while they attempt to create a fair atmosphere for competition. Judgment calls will not always favor your team, but this does not give anyone the right to berate an official. All of us, parents, spectators, coaches and players have a responsibility to demonstrate good sportsmanship.

4. Support your child’s coach.

Coaches are people who care greatly about their players. They balance the needs of individual athletes with the requirements of a successful team. Because your child isn’t starting or playing as much as his/her teammates doesn’t mean they are any less important to the coach or to the team. Coaches know that it takes everyone to contribute to a successful team. We are fortunate in Pequot Lakes to have dedicated coaches that have years of both playing and coaching experiences in their respective sports, and they deserve our gratitude and support.

5. Keep things in perspective and help your child do the same.

High school sports are intended to enrich a child’s education, and by joining a team, student-athletes learn responsibility, respect, diligence, and teamwork. Only a select few will ever go on to compete at the collegiate level. At game time it’s easy for us to forget that the competitors are just kids who have worked extremely hard to prepare themselves. The players and coaches are doing their best, so be positive and please remember why your child got involved with athletics in the first place … because it was fun!

I feel fortunate to part of a district and community that is very supportive of extracurricular opportunities for students. By everyone working together, we can continue to build Pequot Lakes’ tradition of success and ensure that our students have enjoyable and memorable experiences.

See you at the games!

-- Marc Helmrichs, Activities Director

Staying Active… the Key to Healthy Aging

posted Mar 15, 2017, 11:17 AM by Brenda Williams

In every phase of life there are key arenas we focus on in order to make sure we are setting ourselves up for future success, or someone is making sure we are taken care of. As a baby, we pretty much ate and slept all day. As young children, our parents and families made sure we learned manners, ate our vegetables and developed social skills through play and activities. As we grew through our school age years, we developed discipline, work ethic, responsibility and the like through homework, school sports, part-time jobs, etc. These were the “keys” to our success.

So what are those “keys” as a Senior Citizen. As baby boomers age, research abounds in regard to the best ways to grow through your senior years. It has been proven through research over and over that activity decreases the risk of disability, increases energy levels and helps to create a positive view of oneself. The Harvard School of Public Health has found evidence that the elderly people in the United States who stay socially active and engaged have a slower rate of memory decline. So I guess the “key” is to stay active, but how?

As a senior, there are multitudes of ways to stay active. Many seniors find activity and social interaction through church and community groups, while others find satisfaction and activity as part of local Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, local Legions and the like. All of these groups and organizations offer ways to socially interact as well as be part of opportunities that give back to the communities they reside in and serve through events and activities.

Seniors can also take advantage of local class offerings to engage their mind right here through Pequot Lakes Community Education. You can learn how to crochet or knit. We have watercolor and art classes. We offer cooking classes like beginner sushi, marinades and grilling as well as how to manage your abundant garden at summer’s end. You can sign up for water aerobics, senior golf or learn how to make everyday care and cleaning products with essential oils. We also have historical information presentations about how Brainerd helped win WWII, the Shipwrecks of MN, and the Roaring Twenties. We also offer Community Theater productions and shows through Greater Lakes Performing Arts, with the upcoming performance of the Heartland Symphony Orchestra as an example.

The offerings of Pequot Lakes Community Education really do “run the gamut.” These offerings will allow you to learn some new things, meet some new people and possibly give back to your community. In a world where technology and advancements in medicine help us to be mobile and healthy for longer and longer, don’t forget to take advantage of the opportunities right outside your door. Please feel free to contact Pequot Lakes Community Education at 218-568-9200 for information on our classes and offerings.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Investing in Our Community

posted Mar 2, 2017, 12:55 PM by Brenda Williams

To invest in something is a powerful thing. We invest our time, often to our jobs, as well as to our families and activities we find enjoyable. We invest our talents in a variety of personal and professional capacities. We invest our finances into our daily needs, long-term retirement goals, kids’ college funds, and also into organizations to help further their mission and purpose. It may not seem like it, but we invest in our schools similarly to how we invest in other areas of our lives through our income and property tax systems.

As the saying goes, there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. For me, this quote (although comical) doesn’t evoke an emotion of excitement or fulfillment, but rather one of doom and gloom. I suspect this is because we don’t necessarily relate our obligation to pay taxes to the very mission it is designed to fulfill: investing back into our community.

The Pequot Lakes School District has a unique tax base that compares with only a handful of other districts in the state. It’s not the total value of our tax base that’s different, but rather the breakdown of property classifications that is unique. Our tax base consists of more than fifty percent seasonal recreational properties. As a community, we experience a large influx of seasonal residents who spend time in our community each summer. However, due to the design of our property tax system, having a greater seasonal tax base doesn’t always equal additional revenue for a school district. Tax revenue from seasonal recreational properties is not included in levies that fund operational expenses.

There are many factors that determine a school district levy each year. We have smaller levy categories that all roll up into one larger levy. This larger levy is spread among properties in the district, and appears as one or two line items on your property tax statement. Each year, our School Board must weigh what the impact of the District’s overall levy will have on its taxpayers. Maintaining a steady, predictable levy is very important to our Board, and for 2017 our District lowered its overall levy by 2.5% from the prior year.

On a statewide basis, Pequot Lakes Schools has historically been in the bottom five percent of general education funding aid per pupil. In other words, 95% of the districts in Minnesota receive more funding per student than we do. Because we receive less funding and less property tax revenues due to our high seasonal tax base, we must work even harder to bring in the resources we need to continue to build our educational programs in the most efficient way possible.

Our School Board has the sizeable task of setting goals and priorities that help guide the District’s mission. Furthering a strategic direction in any organization requires a significant investment. If our goal is to develop rigorous personalized learning plans unique to each student to prepare them for the global workplace of tomorrow, we have to make the conscious decision to invest time, talent and resources in order to achieve this goal. In education, the funding we receive drives the resources we have, and the resources we have provide opportunities for our youth. We invite all members of our community to be a part of the discussion on how we cultivate these opportunities. Creating an environment that allows the next generation of future philosophers, civic leaders, mechanics, artists, entrepreneurs and educators to thrive and grow is the way in which our District invests back into the greater Pequot Lakes community.

-- Jenny Max, Business Manager

STEAM

posted Feb 16, 2017, 2:44 PM by Brenda Williams

If you compare the school year to a roller coaster - things are picking up STEAM at EV.

February is I Love to Read Month and this year the focus is on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). The month kicked off with Hats off to Reading on February 1st. Upcoming events include a Lego Makerspace in the library, after school STEAM classes, dress as favorite book character/inventor, and a STEAM theme door decorating contest. The Science Museum of Minnesota will also be here presenting to all grade levels. In addition, EV will be participating in a Read-A-Thon with the PTA throughout the month. Please look for more information coming home for logins to support the PTA and EV.

This is the time of year where the curriculum becomes less review and more introductory with new skills or more complex skills from prior years. This can cause some frustration as it may not be as easy for your child or they may not be able to complete work as quickly. Encourage your child to do his/her best and try. Avoid doing the work for them as it is in this process they develop their grit. However, they may need your support and encouragement. If there are questions or concerns please contact your child’s teacher for assistance.

Also, with the second semester, students should be more independent and organized. This may cause some even more challenge. The report card shared some details in regards to learner behaviors that would be a starting place to look for areas of success and support. Look for your child’s red folder every night and in the upper grades consult the planner. You may even want to visit and do a desk/locker clean out periodically.

Another area that seems to pick up steam during this time of the year is more indoor time which can cause cabin fever with frustration and conflict for students here at school. As parents, you may need to help your child resolve a conflict with another child. The first thing is to help your child see that conflict is a part of life. Learning how to respond appropriately and resolve the issue are life skills that every child should learn. It isn’t easy and no one approach will work. Always get the facts first. Ask non-accusing questions and celebrate honesty. Gathering facts can solve and keep the conflict from becoming a bigger issue. Teach your child to cool off before doing anything - to stop and think before acting on emotion and make a plan with a calm body and mind. Frustration and anger are normal reactions, it is vital to learn to manage these feelings to resolve a situation.

“We think we can, we know we can” all work together to effectively help each student have a successful second semester. Thank you for your partnership with the EV staff for EVery child, EVery day!

-- Melissa Hesch, Eagle View Elementary Principal

Who Defines Our Culture?

posted Jan 31, 2017, 9:51 AM by Brenda Williams

Dr. David Walsh (www.drdavewalsh.com), one of the best speakers and authors regarding parenting that I’ve encountered, says, “Whoever tells the stories, defines the culture.” The importance of this concept for raising healthy children and being a healthy community cannot be overstated. What storytellers are most prominent in lives of our children in Pequot Lakes?

Understanding how this parenting concept has changed in recent years requires a brief look back in time. Over the vast majority of human history, the responsibility of storytelling fell upon clergy, teachers, authors, and elders in each community. Cultural norms, family values, and collective understandings were handed down from one generation to the next through stories that slowly evolved over time. The responsibility for storytelling began to shift significantly in the 1950s and 1960s as televisions became common and people spent more and more time listening to storytellers on TV. The invention of video games, the internet in the 1990s and most recently, social media platforms, has dramatically shifted the role of storyteller from community elder to media.

Why is this important? Dr. Walsh argues in his 2007 book No: Why Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It that mass media preaches four consistent messages: More, Fast, Easy, and Fun.

The mass media companies that produce the constant barrage of advertising we absorb from televisions, internet ads, and other media sources don’t tell stories to teach ethics, social norms, and community values. They are for-profit companies that want us to buy stuff, and they are incredibly scientific about getting us to believe that we deserve More, we deserve it Fast, we deserve an Easy life, and it should always be Fun. Consider just how contradictory this message is from wanting our children to learn patience, grit, hard work, and the importance of delayed gratification.

Raising healthy children and being a healthy community today presents different challenges than it did sixty - or even fifteen - years ago. As parents and as a community we must pay attention to which storytellers our children are listening to and diligently teach them about bias and to be self-aware as they interact with media. We must learn and model strategies to filter the media we absorb and most importantly, we must ensure our children are absorbing a healthy dose of the stories we want them to hear. While we cannot eliminate media in today’s world - and I would never advocate that we try to do so - we can teach our children to be in control of how they interact with it and use it.

Note: January 23 - 27 was Paraprofessional Recognition Week in MN. Thank you to our Patriot paras for the care you provide to our students!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

Post-secondary success is how we measure our schools’ success

posted Jan 31, 2017, 9:48 AM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Jan 31, 2017, 9:49 AM ]

I want to thank and acknowledge the challenging community engagement and planning work that has and continues to take place across all of our school district’s communities. As a resident-member of our “lakes region” I couldn’t be prouder of the number of individuals that have stepped up to take a part in mapping out the future of this great region. Furthermore, please know that everyone at Pequot Lakes Public Schools is eager to assist in meeting some of those identified challenges, to include strengthening the bond between school and community.

I challenge each of you who may or may not have a student in our local schools, be it Pequot Lakes, Pine River, Crosslake or Nisswa, to make a call to your local principal for a tour. I have no doubt that you will have your socks knocked off when you see the programming and talent in both students and staff in our local schools. The talent that exists in this region in our youth is simply amazing. What’s even more spectacular is the programming that these students are being exposed to on a daily basis. Students in our high schools today, as early as 10th grade, are engaged in curriculum and coursework from Calculus II to Computer Integrated Manufacturing. Just yesterday, I walked into our Robotics labs where staff and students are working to design from scratch a robot that will be capable of doing extremely complex activities. This project requires a complex business plan, integration of the trades in both manufacturing and design, computer programming, and engineering. Most importantly, this is all possible because of the investment all of you have made and continue to make in our local schools. Thank you!

Our community’s and region’s challenge is to keep some of this talent in the area in order to grow our local industries and small businesses. In a recent planning session with the Pequot Lakes Thriving Communities Initiative, it was very clear the vision is to develop our local workforce through student internships, partnerships between schools and businesses, building workforce/education alliances promoting available jobs to all ages, and investments in good schools. We at Pequot Lakes High School welcome these partnerships. In addition, we at Pequot Lakes High School measure our success in how well our kids do once they leave our schools. Every day, I hear students telling me what they want to do after high school and how they plan on leaving our region in order to do it. When I inform them about some of the high-skilled, high-wage jobs that exist in our region, they are shocked at the number of opportunities that exist.

Your partnership is needed to continue to educate students on the vast opportunities that exist in this region. In fact, I could really use your help on February 15th from 8AM to Noon at Pequot Lakes High School as a participant in our 2nd annual Career Fair. This event puts local community members in touch with our students as they interview for future careers. All of our students in grades 9-12 are working to develop post-secondary plans. When they sit across from someone in a career they are pursuing, it allows them to discuss and explore what to expect as they enter follow-up training and higher education. Please contact the High School office at 568-9210 if you are available to assist in the event.

-- Chip Rankin, High School Principal

Lessons Learned During the Holidays

posted Dec 21, 2016, 11:02 AM by Brenda Williams

At the foundation of Pequot Middle School’s mission is the responsibility to help kids to maximize their academic potential. With academics as our primary focus, know that the staff at PLMS are also cognizant that there is far more to the picture than the Honor Roll and MCA scores. At the core of our daily instruction is also a focus on the character traits of Respect, Responsibility and Relationships.

As teachers with a vested interest in teaching and learning, we tend to focus on what we, as adults, are teaching our students. There is no doubt that students have much to learn from our staff. In this case, though, the roles are reversed. Over the course of the last couple weeks, we have experienced many examples of lessons being delivered by students. With the students leading by example, we all should be taking notes.

Within the last month, students at both the 5-8 and 9-12 sites have embraced the opportunity to make an impact in our community. With several of our own households going through incredibly difficult times, it has been heartwarming to watch as our student body has rallied in support of their peers. Two entirely student-generated drives involving homemade cookies and lollipops have led to the gracious support to help lift our fellow Patriots up in a time of need.

Beyond local benefits, our annual PLMS Student Council Penny Challenge also wrapped up last week with over $2,013.04 raised in loose change. With cash in hand, Mrs. Balfanz rallied her Student Council and brought the donations to Christmas for Kids out of Pequot. Courtesy of our students’ efforts, over 300 additional gifts will be stuffed into stockings throughout the region.

The students and staff of PLMS are incredibly appreciative of the relationship that exists between the greater Pequot Lakes community and Independent School District 186. This strong relationship has served as the foundation upon which we have been able to help local families navigate times of need.

These random acts of kindness have all of us reflecting on the character traits that we work so hard to instill in our youth. Concepts like: saying a “Thank You” to our veterans, not just on Veterans Day; being thankful every day, whether there is turkey or not; and not saving for the Holiday Season a mindset focused on “giving” more than “getting.” There is much to celebrate regarding our progress in this area, and thank you for helping to make character education a top priority right alongside students’ academic marks.

Thank you to our students for teaching us all a lesson, and thank you for your continued support of PLMS. Wishing you all a safe and happy Holiday Season!

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal

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