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.

  • Not All Heroes Wear Capes Who do you think of when you hear the word hero? Maybe you imagine Superman or Wonder Woman. Perhaps you think of someone a little less famous, a teacher or ...
    Posted Oct 17, 2019, 6:22 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Fill Your Years with Life One of the unique attributes of working in education is we basically get a new year, twice a year. We get to celebrate New Year’s in January, like everyone ...
    Posted Sep 26, 2019, 3:57 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Schools Must Be Safe and Welcoming for All As the new school year kicks off, the staff at Pequot Lakes Schools are working hard to establish routines and expectations, outline the year ahead, and create a safe and ...
    Posted Sep 9, 2019, 11:10 AM by Brenda Williams
  • MSHSL Realignment Process Results in Few Changes for Pequot Lakes Activities In early April, the MSHSL released the classifications for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. This is a time of great anticipation for AD’s and coaches as we ...
    Posted May 31, 2019, 8:01 AM by Brenda Williams
  • It Really is a Good Day to be a Patriot Why do so many people say they chose to live in this area because of the great schools? Why was Pequot Lakes High School voted the #1 school in the ...
    Posted May 8, 2019, 6:58 AM by Brenda Williams
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 103. View more »

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

posted Oct 17, 2019, 6:22 AM by Brenda Williams

Who do you think of when you hear the word hero? Maybe you imagine Superman or Wonder Woman. Perhaps you think of someone a little less famous, a teacher or a coach who believed in you when no one else would, or your mom, dad, brother, sister, or spouse who works tirelessly to provide for your family.

Although Superman and Wonder Woman wear capes, not all heroes do. Most of the time, the heroes who mean the most to us aren’t flashy at all. They are selfless, humble, and often overlooked. This is why it is important that we intentionally set aside time to recognize and thank the heroes in our lives; those who have made an impressionable difference in countless ways for the good of others.

Heroes can be found anywhere, but true to their selfless nature, they do not bring attention to themselves. Sometimes, we have to seek out heroes, and we can't simply look for capes. National holiday calendars can be found on the internet with complete lists for each month’s holiday celebration opportunities. With respect to heroes, October 16th is National Boss’s Day as listed on nationaltoday.com. There are times employees do not understand the hard work and dedication that their bosses put in and the challenges they face on a daily basis at all hours of the day. Boss’s Day is a great opportunity to appreciate and be thankful for all the things management does for their employees. Do you have a hero for a boss? Does your boss wear a cape?

Today, take time to thank the boss heroes who have impacted your life journey. A holiday is not required for us to recognize the hidden heroes who are all around us. Remember, they probably won’t be wearing capes.

- Heidi Hagen, Business Manager

Fill Your Years with Life

posted Sep 26, 2019, 3:56 PM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Sep 26, 2019, 3:57 PM ]

One of the unique attributes of working in education is we basically get a new year, twice a year. We get to celebrate New Year’s in January, like everyone else, but we also get the start of a new school year each year. This is always a new and exciting time. We have new kids in new classes, new activity seasons, fresh starts, new beginnings, and lots of excitement. There is almost a buzz in the buildings for a while until routines are settled into and the newness has faded a bit. It is the type of thing we deal with often in Minnesota. We have distinct seasons and each fills us with anticipation of the future. We look forward to what is to come and all the positives ahead.

I’ve seen the quote many times and it goes something like this. “There’s a reason the rearview mirror is so small and the windshield is so big.” The basic idea is to enjoy what’s ahead and stop worrying about what happened. The start of a new school year is like that. All of the students should be getting a new start and staff are reenergized from some time away. We often don’t treat our lives the same way, however. We carry baggage of the past and feel as if we can never set it down. We have things that affect us at work that we drag home and vice versa. As we start a new school year, I challenge you to look ahead with anticipation and embrace what is to come. Find a way to let things go and be excited for what is ahead. We are so very fortunate to live in a place like we have here. We live in a place where people feel safe. We live in a place with quality housing, good schools and great people. We live in a place where many folks will be sure to look out for one another. We live in a place full to the brim of beautiful natural resources, clear waters, green forests and about every natural critter native to Minnesota. As a dad of three children and a family who enjoys the outdoors, I’m not sure there are a lot of places that would offer more. It sure seems like a great place to be excited about looking ahead.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

I challenge all of you to leave the baggage behind and keep filling your years with life. As our youth start a new school year and a fresh start, make a point to do the same. There will be a time someday, a long time from now, where we and others can evaluate our past, but for now, look out the windshield and not in the rearview mirror.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Schools Must Be Safe and Welcoming for All

posted Sep 9, 2019, 11:10 AM by Brenda Williams

As the new school year kicks off, the staff at Pequot Lakes Schools are working hard to establish routines and expectations, outline the year ahead, and create a safe and welcoming environment for all students - especially for the nearly 160 students who are new to the district! We know that a safe, collaborative, and welcoming environment is the essential foundation for students to learn. We also know that maintaining such an environment is more challenging than ever before with a smartphone in nearly every student’s pocket and media that teaches students negative behaviors. We adults must continually reflect on what our students are learning from TV, videos, music, and by what they see on social media.

Our Patriot staff have numerous efforts in place to establish and maintain a safe and welcoming environment. Our principals and teachers work to proactively teach positive behaviors and protocols through our school-based Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs and through the use of ENVOY classroom management strategies. Our WEB and LINK programs involve student leaders to welcome students who are new to the school and to welcome 5th and 9th graders as they make the transition to the next building. All three schools participate in the Courage, Respect, and Wisdom retreats each year facilitated by Youth Frontiers and follow up with reflective discussions. Our staff visibly speaks out against bullying wearing orange anti-bullying shirts each week and talking with students directly about why that message is so important to them. Our teachers intentionally try to identify students in the fall that may not have a positive and meaningful relationship with an adult in the building and then make plans to make those connections. In addition, our school leadership teams survey students and staff to monitor how safe and welcoming each school is perceived to be.

Over the past couple of years, many of our faculty have also been engaged in training and learning work focused on developing our “equity literacy” capacities. The training teaches us and challenges us to notice and address inequities in our schools that occur when some people have privilege and others are marginalized. People are marginalized in our society and in school systems because of income level, race, gender orientation, religion, political persuasion, disabilities, or any other reason power or practices establish privilege over others. Our goal is to learn to better recognize how students and families are marginalized by some of our practices and to address them to ensure that every student feels welcomed and valued in Pequot Lakes Schools.

The Patriot staff is proud of our many ongoing efforts to establish and maintain a safe, collaborative, and welcoming environment for each student. As the 2019-20 school year gets underway we invite all members of the Pequot Lakes Schools community to join this effort by modeling love, care and respect for others - even for those we disagree with on some issues. Every Patriot student is welcome here - let’s work together to make sure they all know it!!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

MSHSL Realignment Process Results in Few Changes for Pequot Lakes Activities

posted May 31, 2019, 8:01 AM by Brenda Williams

In early April, the MSHSL released the classifications for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. This is a time of great anticipation for AD’s and coaches as we finally get the official word if we will move up or down a class and/or switch sections. Given our location in the state, Pequot Lakes (PLHS) is located on the boundaries of traditional sections. We are one of the southwestern most schools in section 7, we are one of the most southeastern schools in section 8 and we are on the northern edge of sections 5 and 6. Simply put, we are one of the schools that is easy to move if the MSHSL needs to balance various sections. Historically, we have seen a lot of change in terms of switching sections.

This year’s new alignment did not result in a lot of changes for PLHS. There were no changes for any of our activities in terms of class. We did not move up or down a class based on enrollment. Starting next fall, out of the 28 MSHSL activities we offer, five of those will compete in a different section. Here are those changes:

*Baseball is moving from 8AA to 7AA.
*Cross Country (boys and girls) are moving from 8A to 7A.
*Golf (boys and girls) are moving from 8AA to 6AA.

Other than the obvious change that we will compete against different teams in the section tournament, there are other differences as well. The dates, sites, and procedures of each section are unique. You may have noticed that some of our activities play their section finals in the same place and usually on the corresponding date each year: football at the Fargodome, basketball at UMD, and track at Fergus Falls. Each section can set the dates, seeding procedures and awards for each of its activities so when we move from one to the other it can create some confusion. Some sections may choose to play on Wednesdays while others may avoid Wednesdays. Some use high seed as home site for one, two or three games; some sections use neutral sites. Sections may choose to play games on consecutive days and others spread the tournament out over a longer period.

So for those of you that follow baseball, cross country, and golf, if you hear someone utter the phrase “last year we did it this way,” they are exactly right. That was last year and in a new section it will be somewhat different.

Speaking of sections, here are the dates of section play for our current spring activities:

SOFTBALL (8AA) May 21 High Seed, 23 at Frazee, 28 and 30 at Park Rapids
BASEBALL (8AA) May 28 High Seed, 30 at Perham, June 4 and 6 at Perham
BOYS and GIRLS GOLF (8AA) Subs May 29 at Headwaters CG, Sections June 3-4 at Bemidji T/C
BOYS and GIRLS TRACK and FIELD (6A) Subs at Pillager May 23, Sections at Fergus Falls May 30

See you at the games!

-- Marc Helmrichs, Activities Director

It Really is a Good Day to be a Patriot

posted May 8, 2019, 6:58 AM by Brenda Williams

Why do so many people say they chose to live in this area because of the great schools? Why was Pequot Lakes High School voted the #1 school in the Brainerd Lakes Area? Why did someone provide an anonymous $100,000 donation to the Patriot Foundation this past fall? Reputations are not earned by nice buildings alone. The positive reputation of Pequot Lakes Schools has been earned through many, many years of dedicated staff working tirelessly to ensure student success. This past week at the district Employee Recognition Celebration we honored some fabulous educators and support staff that have served this community for 20, 25, 30, 35, and even 40 years!! We intentionally invite past retirees of the school district to attend the annual celebration, and a look around the room explains a lot about why Pequot Lakes Schools is the district of choice in central MN.

Pequot Lakes School District has benefited financially from steady enrollment growth for over two decades. Growing districts get to have discussions about adding programs and staff instead of discussions about what to cut or who to layoff. Unlike most districts around us, Pequot Lakes has not had to make major reductions over the past several years due to diligent planning and increased enrollment. The community has supported updates to facilities and the district recently installed a large roof-mounted solar panel array that will produce about 25% of the electricity consumed at the secondary campus thanks to the help of Region Five Development Commission and Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. The positive culture in our schools and the professional and diligent work of our staff has consistently resulted in a 90% - 96% graduation rate and the highest test scores in our region. It is truly a great day to be a Patriot!

And yet the Patriots still want to be better. All three school leadership teams are implementing the High Reliability Schools frameworks, and Pequot Lakes Middle School recently achieved level 1 certification, “Establishing a Safe and Collaborative Culture.” In pursuit of creating a more rigorous, relevant, and personalized learning experience, Pequot Lakes High School has established a successful internship program with nearly a dozen students working in local businesses. The district rolled out a 1:1 Chromebook program this past year and will be launching a new student information system (currently Skyward) and learning management system (currently Moodle) in 2020-21 to augment the personalization of learning.

It is a great day to be a Patriot and you can be part of supporting the excitement! The recently relaunched Patriot Foundation has provided innovation grants this year for five different teachers, and they will be handing out TEN $1000 scholarships to graduates at Senior Awards Night later this month. Donations to the Patriot Foundation is one of the best ways to express pride in our schools, and donations can be made online at www.patriot-foundation.org. Thank you for supporting the Patriots!!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

Behind the Scenes

posted Apr 22, 2019, 7:25 AM by Brenda Williams

The roadmap to an operationally sound and responsible district that places transparency as a high priority involves many people behind the scenes. Who are these people? They often eat chaos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They routinely make the impossible possible. They are the sturdy scaffolding of the organization. They are the ultimate go-to people. They’re … administrative professionals.

At a local district level, several content experts ensure the district performs on all points all of the time. Ongoing due diligence is important throughout the year, not just September through May when school is in session. District operations, similar to other business operations, include departments. Unique to a school district: business services, health services, transportation, buildings & grounds, human resources, food and nutritional services and technology; there’s an all-encompassing administrative support team directing the day-to-day tasks. Answering phone calls, greeting students, staff and visitors offering pleasantries, documenting attendance, budgeting, purchasing supplies, approving and paying bills, circulating information, coordinating meetings, conquering deadlines, perfecting the “dotted i” and “crossing the t” and always focused on exceeding expectations every single day. As simple as it might sound, the work behind the scenes is an integral part of impacting the district to ensure a positive difference in the lives of our students, families, community members and employees.

People fail to recognize all what admins do; so much goes on behind the scenes. The reality is if people don’t realize it’s being done, it’s being done right. An oxymoron, admins support some of the busiest people, remember important details, meetings, tasks, anniversaries, birthdays, heck even sometimes “remember to eat lunch!” But who reminds people about the administrative professionals in the day-to-day interactions … admittedly humble to a fault, surely the admins would not send out an all-staff memo. Take time to recognize the important admins in your life. This is your reminder!

-- Heidi Hagen, Business Manager

Spring; A Fresh Start

posted Apr 18, 2019, 11:02 AM by Brenda Williams

It is really hard to tolerate the weather in Minnesota sometimes. It seems that winter comes early, stays late and often times spring gets skipped altogether. I can honestly say I don’t remember it bothering me much as a kid, but it seems each year that passes it either gets worse or bothers me more. I think the key in all of it is appreciating the freshness and the newness. You’ll hear that robin sing again for the first time in quite a while. It won’t be long and that block of ice out your window turns into a beautiful tapestry of lapping blue water. The dingy brown landscape around your home eventually gives way to lush green. The beauty of tolerating winter in Minnesota is - we get to watch nature start fresh again. It is almost like they get a reset or reboot. It won’t be long and we’ll have the great fortune of hitting a nice tee shot down a green fairway or be riding in the pontoon to the sound of loons. Soon those beautiful perennials will pop in your garden yet again. It will come quicker than you think, and it usually goes faster than it comes! As nature is set to start fresh don’t forget to take some time to allow you to start fresh too.

It’s hard to argue that life doesn’t move fast in 2019. It seems each day goes faster than the last and each year quicker than the one before it. Don’t forget to take some time to “smell the roses” as they say. Allow yourself the opportunity to reset or start fresh. I know lives are full in our house. We have countless things on the schedule, activities to run to, appointments to keep, etc... It really is a hamster wheel of life! I’m not complaining as I’ve chosen this path, and I know I will miss it when life slows down. I do however, often miss the boat on appreciating it. All that being said, please take some time and find a fresh start of your own. It could be appreciating the good things more instead of dwelling on the bad - which is so often the case in our society. It could be connecting with an old friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while. It could be adopting a new hobby or trying something new.

I think the key in all of it is to take a few pointers from Mother Nature. It keeps going, just like our lives do, but it does a better job of starting fresh most of the time. It leaves the baggage of winter behind eventually. It brings fresh spring rain, popping flowers and budding trees. It brings more daylight, warmer winds and singing birds. It brings a whole bunch of refreshing things in the coming days and weeks. I challenge you to try and do the same. Find a way to bring fresh rain, blooming flowers and singing birds to your life. Life is short, and it moves fast and at times we need to make changes. It can be as easy as finding a daily routine that allows you to read, watch or listen to something uplifting. It can be making an effort to spend more time outside and taking in the beauty around us. It can be scheduling time to meet with an old friend. The “fresh start” might be just the thing you need. As L.M. Montgomery put it, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Grateful for the Last Open Seats

posted Mar 21, 2019, 2:05 PM by Brenda Williams

Congratulations are in order for both the Patriot Girls' and Boys' Basketball programs as they represented our communities in the 7AA section tournaments.

Like many Pequot Lakes Patriot fans, the O’Neil’s family sedan has logged a fair amount of miles between Pequot Lakes and the North Shore in the last handful of weeks. On Wednesday, March 6th, after finishing our school day, we loaded up the family and made the trip over to Duluth. As fate would have it, the combination of a late departure from school, icy roads and gas station pit stops had us arriving to the game mid-way through the first half. With an outstanding fan presence, my wife and boys were left with one of the few remaining seats, which so happened to be immediately behind the Patriot bench. On the average day, court-level seats obscured by the scorer’s table would be less than desirable, but reflecting back, I’m grateful for our fashionably-late arrival to the game.

Sitting at courtside my boys were privy to the action up and down the floor, but more importantly, they had a front row seat to the dialogue on the bench. To many in attendance, the game was defined by a solid first half that eventually gave way to the opponent dominating the boards and tipping the scales in their direction in the second half. My experience on the UMD campus was entirely different (I would have to look up the box score to remember the final score, or who had the best individual performances.) That Wednesday night on the court reminded me of the real reason behind extra-curricular activities. Sitting in proximity to the bench, my boys were able to observe first hand some incredibly teachable moments that I am hoping will carry with them.

Two young sets of eyes were able to hear and see that despite momentum waning for the Patriots, the coaching staff lifted them up. During tense moments, the commentary remained positive. When heads were no longer held high, praise was abundant, even despite the story indicated on the scoreboard.

Two years ago a couple of our teacher/coaches gave me a copy of John Wooden’s autobiography “They Call Me Coach”. A takeaway for me was that the story is much bigger than basketball. I appreciated seeing our coaches embody that message to our student-athletes. I have been in enough gyms to know that not all programs are built around this concept. As a colleague, and as a father of two students in our district, I want you to know that your efforts do go noticed.

Thank you to Katrina, Bret and Chad, for being a strong courtside presence for our female athletes. Thank you for giving me some teachable moments that helped my wife and me to talk to our sons about passion, perseverance and teamwork. In addition, thank you to our female Patriot athletes for modeling positive cheering, hustle and determination. You may never know the magnitude of the impact you have on the kids in our community; how many little ones look up to you.

As our winter activities season wraps up, we should all take a moment and express gratitude to the men and women that work with our Pequot Lakes Patriots in the arena of extra-curricular activities. Though I highlighted my experiences as a fan in the section runs showcased by our Girls Basketball program, I want to acknowledge all of our club supervisors, coaches and facilitators that work with our students during the winter seasons. From Robotics to Road Crew Wrestling (and everything in between), thanks to all of you, for all you do.

Go Patriots!

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal

Patriot Wellness

posted Mar 15, 2019, 5:19 AM by Brenda Williams

At the start of this year, the school district put into action a health & wellness committee and kicked off the program with an all-staff professional development day on February 18th. The goals of the event supported employees by offering professional development opportunities that focused on overall well-being: mind, body and spirit, and offered resources available in our community to foster healthy lifestyles.

The focus on health and wellness is for all employees. Albeit more of a behind-the-scenes platform, the committee feels strongly that the best opportunities for the students, families and community members we serve is to first take care of our employees through outreach in a safe and collaborative work environment.

We believe our District is on the verge of something good that has the potential to be great with the support of community partners Crow Wing Energized, Sourcewell, and Resource Training & Solutions. On behalf of the Pequot Lakes School District Health & Wellness Committee, thank you for the encouragement. We look forward to ongoing efforts and contributions from the Patriot Health & Wellness Committee and expect the program to evolve year after year.

Heidi Hagen, Business Manager

Welcoming Communities and Welcoming Schools

posted Feb 25, 2019, 9:52 AM by Brenda Williams

There’s been a significant amount of dialogue and hard work in recent years focused on ensuring that MN, Region Five and the Pequot Lakes area communities are welcoming places for families that bring diversity in terms of race, religion, political orientation, age, gender, socio-economic situation, etc.  Both the MN Chamber of Commerce and the Region Five Development Commission (R5DC) have communicated this as a priority for attracting and maintaining a robust workforce for local businesses, and Sourcewell has begun providing excellent training and support for public entities in our region. Locally, the Pequot Lakes Economic Development Commission recently participated in the Intercultural Development Inventory and follow up training offered by R5DC and has engaged in several discussions about how we can be more purposeful in growing our workforce and attracting employees that are critical to our local economy. The 2020 vision for Pequot Lakes Schools includes “cultivating a diverse world-view, self-awareness, self-discipline, and the interpersonal skills necessary for success in the world.” Last year a cohort of 30 teachers participated in SEED training (The National SEED Project) to strengthen their own cultural literacy capacities to be better equipped to deliver on this vision. This year several teachers are participating in a regional equity leaders cohort facilitated by Sourcewell in partnership with EdChange, and a new “Cultural Perspectives” elective course was offered at PLHS for 11th and 12th graders. Finally, all schools in our district are tightly focused on creating a safe and collaborative culture, the first level of our High Reliability Schools work.

Developing a diverse world-view in students that grow up in the Pequot Lakes area will not happen without an intentional focus on introducing them to different cultures, different perspectives, and different ways of life while helping them learn to think critically, see multiple sides of issues, weigh opinions with their personal values, and establish informed opinions. Our administrative team has nearly completed a study of Gorski and Pothini’s book Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education, and the high school faculty is currently engaged in professional learning discussions organized around the same book. The main purpose is to continue building the cultural literacy capacities of faculty and staff so we can cultivate a diverse world-view in our students in accordance with our district vision. Another key reason for doing this rigorous work is to ensure we are indeed welcoming schools for each and every student, parent and staff member that walks our halls. We owe every person our very best regardless of religion, race, gender orientation, socio-economic situation, or political persuasion. As a district, we are working deliberately and diligently to ensure we indeed have a safe and collaborative culture for everyone.

Thank you to our partners in this most important work. Our partners include Sourcewell, Region Five Development Commission, Happy Dancing Turtle, the Pequot Lakes Economic Development Commission, and EdChange. It is a blessing to be working together on behalf of students and their families!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

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