FALL 2017 DISTRICT NEWSLETTER



Save Receipts for School Supplies!  

             (View K-12 Education Tax Credit Video)

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.

  • Athletic Officials Needed The winter athletic season is upon us. Dance and Girls Hockey are already underway and the other winter activities will start in the next couple of weeks. With the start ...
    Posted Nov 10, 2017, 11:46 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Keep Your Day As someone who has worked in various school systems over the course of my professional years, there are some constants. There is buzz and panic at the start of each ...
    Posted Oct 25, 2017, 1:21 PM by Brenda Williams
  • I Wish You Bad Luck I consider myself blessed to have parents, who despite my current age of 38, still take the time to clip articles out of the newspaper to share with their son ...
    Posted Oct 13, 2017, 9:14 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Leaving a Trace A couple of years ago, when planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), I read about the concept of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is a ...
    Posted Oct 3, 2017, 12:57 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Patriot Foundation to Support Scholarships, Grants With the halls of Pequot Lakes Schools again full of students eager to learn and excited to be with friends, we Patriots have so much to celebrate! Our students and ...
    Posted Sep 22, 2017, 8:09 AM by Brenda Williams
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 67. View more »

Athletic Officials Needed

posted Nov 10, 2017, 11:46 AM by Brenda Williams

The winter athletic season is upon us. Dance and Girls Hockey are already underway and the other winter activities will start in the next couple of weeks. With the start of winter games just around the corner, it is once again time to visit the topic of game officials. In short, we need more officials!

The varsity and JV officials have already been hired for the winter season; however, there is great need for officials to do the middle level and 9th grade contests. This fall there were 37 lower-level contests. This winter there will be over 55 games or meets that need officials, and in the spring there will about 33 games. The three seasons totaled make 128 games. This means we need quite a few people to cover all of these events.

If you want to be involved in athletic activities but coaching is not for you, I can’t think of a better way to stay connected to your sport and ensure our young athletes get to compete in a well-officiated contest.

Officiating is no different than participating in sports; the more experience you gain, the better you get. Officiating may look intimidating and perhaps you feel that you lack the knowledge to do the job. Experience is the best teacher. When possible, I try to schedule an inexperienced official with a veteran so the newer official can learn from the more experienced official. Good officials don’t just happen. They take years to develop their craft and my guess is, somewhere along the line, they started by working a few 7th and 8th grade games.

If you have ever thought about becoming an official, please contact me and I would be happy to help get you started. We are always looking for officials at the 7th, 8th and 9th grade levels in all sports. It’s a great way to stay involved with sports. You are providing a valuable service and you are helping contribute to the education of our youth.

Let’s be honest … without officials, there simply would not be a game!

See you at the games!

-- Marc Helmrichs, Activities Director

Keep Your Day

posted Oct 25, 2017, 1:21 PM by Brenda Williams

As someone who has worked in various school systems over the course of my professional years, there are some constants. There is buzz and panic at the start of each school year. There are parents and children excited for the start and others nervous about their new surroundings, new classes, academic workload and the like. There are also parents in a panic trying to figure out how their little babies grew up so fast, which is a category you can throw me into! There are lockers and busses and backpacks, which are all constant parts of a school year. There may be small variations to these things, but many have remained constant over the years, since everyone walked to school, uphill, both ways! Along with these constants, there is always some change.

As you encounter change in your daily life, I challenge you to embrace it and “keep your day.” Willow Sweeney is the co-founder of Top 20 Training, an organization that provides training and materials to empower leaders, teachers, parents and students to develop their potential. I first heard Willow at a back to school workshop about five years ago. She is truly gifted as a speaker and motivator, but the basis for what she does is simple, “keep your day.” Don’t let the worries of change, the person driving too slow in traffic or any other circumstance of your day, allow you to lose that day.

The theory is quite simple, really. We never get to “redo” a day. Once it is gone, it’s gone and we only have so many in our life. It is something I struggle with as much as anyone, but it is a great concept. Don’t let anything steal your day. There is plenty of turmoil in our world just hoping to snatch our day from us. You can see people losing their day because the Vikings lost or because the politics of the USA are not to their liking. You can witness people losing their day because of a mistake at work or because their child has spilled the milk, again!

You will always encounter challenges and change in your life. I’m sure there will be many times you can’t stop the challenges and the change is not to your liking, but don’t let them steal your day. Embrace them as something that will help you improve as a person. If you have children, I challenge you to help them do the same in their lives. It can be a great exercise that will serve your children well and furthermore, pushing them to “keep their day” can only help in developing a positive outlook through the challenges of their life. In an email signature I received from someone not long ago it said, “Today is all I have. Let me make the most of it.” I’d say it is safe to say, that person is choosing to “keep their day.” I challenge all of you to do the same.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

I Wish You Bad Luck

posted Oct 13, 2017, 9:14 AM by Brenda Williams

I consider myself blessed to have parents, who despite my current age of 38, still take the time to clip articles out of the newspaper to share with their son. Every time my Mom and Dad venture to the North Country to visit the grandkids, they come armed with an entire stack of articles ranging from the latest news from our hometown Isanti County News, all the way to Op-Ed pieces out of the Star Tribune (and everything in between).

As I thumbed through a pile of articles this summer, I stumbled across an article titled “I wish you bad luck, so that you may grow.” (Opinion, pg. 4 Star Tribune, July 16, 2017) Intrigued by the title, I dove deeper. The piece centered around a short summary of a commencement speech delivered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to an audience at an 8th grade graduation at Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire.

Much like any other commencement speech, there was the traditional recognition of parents, discussions of the future, etc. Not long into the address though, Chief Justice Roberts shifted his focus. “An important stage of your life is behind you. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you it is the easiest stage of your life, but it is in the books.” He went on to state: “Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that and I’ll tell you why.”

“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly-so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal-because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.” He then challenged the young adults through his words stating, “Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time - so that you don’t take your friends for granted. I wish you bad luck again, from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life, and understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.” You can read the full article on your own (or better yet, search it on YouTube).

We talk at great lengths here at Pequot Lakes Middle School about partnering with school and home in helping to raise our students. Please take an opportunity to engage in what an educator calls a “Teachable Moment” by helping your child to navigate these tough situations. When faced with hurdles at school, we engage our students in conversations about helping them through “Struggle Strategies” when they are faced with adversity. It isn’t always an easy conversation, but we owe it to our kids to engage in the opportunity.

I signed up for the early October Patriot Perspective slot with no idea that this impactful article was going to be inserted into my life. Yes, we could write at great lengths celebrating a great start to a school year at, our spring test results, the fact that we had approximately 2/3 of our staff participate in phenomenal professional development this summer, etc., but we feel this message is perhaps a more important one. Join us in taking “bad luck” and turning it into a life lesson learned; striving every day to help our students to be resilient and reflective young men and women.

Oh, and thanks Mom and Dad, for taking the time to clip those articles!

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal

Leaving a Trace

posted Oct 3, 2017, 12:57 PM by Brenda Williams

A couple of years ago, when planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), I read about the concept of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is a principle of interacting with nature that seeks to minimize the impact of humans on the environment of natural areas. The goal would be that no one would ever know you had been there. No trail. No evidence of your impact. Nothing.

I can’t imagine a worse way to experience high school than Leave No Trace. While this ideal is great for nature, it’s the sign of doom for a student in school.

When I think of the high school experience, I think most about the impact of this experience on the lives of our students. For many people, high school was an experience unlike any other that carries with it lasting memories and compels them to return 10, 20, even 50 years later to re-live those cherished moments. We buy class rings, letterman’s jackets, yearbooks, take photos, make scrapbooks, and other lasting mementos that remind us of the experience we shared with our classmates in the halls of a building we proudly called our high school. Many a past Patriot can recall the words of the school song, remember the winning basket of the biggest game in the old gym, or retell stories of mischief under the nose of a teacher. The impact of the high school years is felt long after students graduate. Being a graduate of Pequot Lakes High is a badge of honor carried for a lifetime.

The trace, the evidence of impact, goes beyond the symbolic experience of belonging to a place. It is also felt in the impact of the adults on students. Teachers whose legacy of professional practice is retold for decades after students were in their classroom. Secretaries, cooks, custodians, and bus drivers who took the time to make a meaningful impact on the life of kids. Principals who maintained a standard of excellence that held kids accountable. People who noticed when your day was tough or when you needed a boost. People who you wondered if they would ever retire, but you secretly hoped they would wait until your own kids were in high school. This trace of the high school experience is felt for a lifetime. Without the people, high school is just a building. The people made it an experience.

A school and community is also impacted by those who it serves. Every graduate leaves a little trace of themselves. This legacy is a reputation forged by events that have shown our character, our strength, our credibility, the evidence to others of who we are and what we stand for. Young men and women of character learn how to lead with confidence, learn to shoulder a burden, learn to think deeply, learn empathy, and skills that will guide them in life. What they leave behind is of far greater value. They leave a legacy of what it means to have a diploma from Pequot Lakes High School.

Pequot Lakes Schools have benefited from the efforts of our community and former graduates. Donations of materials and equipment to our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Technology Ed programs have enabled our students to learn skills for the workplace that prepare them for trades before they graduate. Support by local resorts for the Pro-Start program has provided new equipment and curriculums in our Family and Consumer Science program that provides students with real-world culinary skills that can fast-track them into careers. Support from local businesses has created internship experiences for six students that enable them to gain skills and training for careers they intend to pursue once they graduate. Donations to the Patriot Foundation and other funds have provided students with scholarships to enable them to pursue more education. Donations of time have put professionals in our classrooms to share their work experience so our students have an awareness of potential careers. Supportive voices have spread the news of the good work our students do every day and encouraged a friend or neighbor to attend school events or become active in organizations that support our school. The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Patriot Activities Club (PAC) have supported our students both during the school day and beyond in opportunities that give kids an exposure to activities that stretch their world. Lifelong Patriots like Bob Uppgaard, Wayne “Wheaties” Wallin, and others have made it their legacy to support PLHS students through service of time and expertise. Community organizations and nonprofits have funded building updates, student programming, and travel expenses for students to attend activities that teach leadership and citizenship skills. And the list goes on.

These are the legacy of the Patriots. This the evidence that schools have a lasting impact on students, that a successful school is a result of the efforts of people inside and outside the building. That the lasting impact of this experience is felt for a lifetime. That school is more than test scores and grades. We all leave a trace, evidence of our having been there, and having made a difference. Whether you are a community member, a parent, or a student, what is your trace, your legacy of being a Pequot Lakes Patriot?

-- Aaron Nelson, High School Principal

Patriot Foundation to Support Scholarships, Grants

posted Sep 22, 2017, 8:09 AM by Brenda Williams

With the halls of Pequot Lakes Schools again full of students eager to learn and excited to be with friends, we Patriots have so much to celebrate! Our students and staff have returned to wonderfully prepared classrooms and facilities for learning, for the arts, and for our many athletic and activity programs. Our Patriot staff is working hard to personally know and reach out to each student, and the sense of community is palpable at our regular fall events. Recent news about hundreds of southern school districts struggling to open for the year due to hurricane damage has reminded me again just how fortunate we are to be living here in the central MN lakes area.

We are very excited to announce the relaunch of the Patriot Foundation this fall! The foundation is being launched to support scholarships for PLHS graduates, to fund innovation grants, and to support strategic efforts to serve our Patriot students. The foundation needs your support to take advantage of a significant matching grant from the National Joint Powers Alliance and invites you to share your willingness to join the effort. Please go to the district website at isd186.org and click on “Foundation Survey” in the left menu to provide your thoughts and input! Contact the district office if you have questions or would like to discuss arrangements for a significant or unique donation to the Patriot Foundation.

Finally, please continue to support our Patriot students by advocating with state legislators for fair and equitable school district funding. Pequot Lakes Schools continues to rank in the bottom 5% of school districts in MN for operational funding per student. This results in less funds to provide activities, less funds to maintain reasonable class sizes, and less funds to attract high-quality staff. In a year when the legislature had a surplus to work with, our school board was forced to make the difficult decision to reduce expenditures for 2017-18 by eliminating a technology support position, cutting a school bus out of the budget, and reducing a key support position for students at EV. Our Patriot students deserve better than the bottom 5% and getting that message across to decision-makers in St. Paul takes all of us advocating together on their behalf.

Thank you for supporting the Patriots and please fill out the “Foundation Survey” on the district website!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

Proud to have been a Patriot!

posted Jun 7, 2017, 6:28 AM by Brenda Williams

I have had the distinct honor of serving as the Pequot Lakes High School Principal for the past seven years. As this school year comes to an end, it will also mark the end of my time as a Patriot; at least for now. It’s been an incredible opportunity for our family of six, including four school-aged children, to have grown up in a healthy and supportive environment. Our communities are very blessed to have an extremely high-performing school district, which strives to treat each student like their own child.

I want to begin by informing and thanking our entire school community for the growth in achievement and opportunity we have experienced over the past several years. First and foremost, the improvement and investment in facilities has made a significant impact in the access our students have to STEM programming, technology, and significantly improved learning environments. As a result, the Class of 2017 will go down as the highest overall ACT achievement graduating class, with 13 students in the Class of 2017 having scored a 30 or better on the ACT. Furthermore, 12 students will be earning an Associate’s Degree in addition to their High School Diploma at graduation because of our awesome partners at Central Lakes College.

I want to personally thank the ISD #186 School Board for the support and investment they have made in the building level, grass roots initiatives undertaken in the last seven years. The seven--period day, the full implementation of PLTW, the investment in programming that allowed 73 students to earn an Associate’s Degree in addition to their HS Diploma are just a few of the initiatives we have successfully implemented as a result of the School Board’s support. In addition, our students have access to technology to include devices, programs, and curriculum as a direct result of our local School Board’s investment. Over the last seven years, we have been allowed to select the very best teachers to fill openings, even when the cost surpasses that of a beginning teacher. I cannot think of a single item, initiative, or proposal that was brought to the Board that didn’t receive complete support when it was warranted, and for that I want to say, “Thank you!”

It’s critical that I share the admiration, respect, and pride I have in the staff at Pequot Lakes Schools. I have the advantage of working in the district along with having students in the district. It is fairly normal to observe teachers consistently working through lunch, coming in early or staying late, or providing support on weekends, holidays, and evenings to ensure each and every student succeeds. For instance, our Robotics and Trap coaches have volunteered to ensure programming was available to all interested students. Volunteer tutors, weight room supervisors, and chaperones always come forward, because without them, these opportunities would be lost. I can even recall countless times that financial aid was provided to students who were in need without any strings attached. The staff at Pequot Lakes High School truly love the kids they serve.

In closing, I would like to thank our families and communities for the support they have provided to our entire school team. The donations of time, money, and support are so deeply appreciated. I hope we continue to invest in our great schools! 

-- Chip Rankin...Proud to have been a PATRIOT!

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

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