Sweet says Delano schools are ‘Open for business’
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN In a presentation titled “Delano Public Schools: Open For Business,” Superintendent Dr. John Sweet addressed the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce in an annual “state of the schools” Sept. 17 at the Delano City Hall.
Sweet presented some background on the district as a whole, noting the district is approximately 66 square miles, that it is bordered by Watertown-Mayer, Mound-Westonka, Wayzata, Rockford, and Buffalo, that the current enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade is 2,291, and that staffing includes 140 teachers and 160 others.
The district’s operating levy is $430 per pupil, and the state’s average is $823.
Sweet said the district has a total budget of $26,207,016, and said payroll for the district is $15,730,851. Expenditures per pupil are down from the state average, with Delano coming in at $8,270 and the state average being $9,797.
In his presentation, Sweet also reviewed math, science, and reading test results, noting that Delano Public Schools typically perform very well in testing.
“We’re very proud of the academic achievement of our students,” Sweet said, adding that Delano’s ACT test scores also score above the state average, which is among the best in the nation. Delano students have a composite score of 23.8, compared to the statewide average of 22.7. Sweet noted Minnesota is the top-scoring state, followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Sweet noted he is proud of Delano High School’s recent designation as a “Blue Ribbon School,” noting it’s a very prestigious honor that high school principal Matt Schoen will be traveling to Washington, DC to receive.
This recognition goes to schools whose students achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on state tests. Delano High School is one of three public high schools in Minnesota named this year.
Sweet said, because of this and other recognitions received by the school district, he is sometimes asked why Delano schools do so well when it comes to testing.
He said teacher and principal quality, having the curriculum aligned with state (MCA) and national (ACT) standards, and simply having high expectations result in high marks for the district.
Sweet also cited great parent involvement and community demographics as additional reasons. He said great test scores lead to good challenges, including enrollment and overcrowding issues.
During the 2008-09 school year, Delano Elementary had 779 students, and this year, has 792. Capacity for the elementary school is 750.
During the 2008-09 school year, Delano Middle School had 715 students, and this year has 723. Capacity for the middle school is 700.
During the 2008-09 school year, Delano High School had 754 students, and this year has 776. Capacity for the high school is 700.
Collectively, the enrollment is up 43 students from the last school year, which Sweet said leads to crowding concerns.
“We’re over-capacity all the way through,” he said. He added a lot of people move to Delano for the school district, joking that he helped sell a few homes in Delano over the summer.
Sweet said people are also attracted to the district because it offers a positive and caring environment for students, quality instruction and academic achievement, special assistance when needed, and has a great reputation. Sweet said Delano Public Schools is a key economic driver for the city.
Financially, Sweet said the Delano School District, like all others, will experience difficulties in the upcoming years due to flat state funding and a shift in payments.
He also said federal stimulus funds received were one-time dollars, and said the district is deficit spending, covered by the fund balance.
“We are deficit spending to the tune of $500,000 this year,” Sweet said.
Another challenge coming up is the fact that the district’s operating levy expires in 2012. Sweet said the district will need to renew and increase no later than November 2011. Sweet also discussed budget adjustments, and the possibility of an operating levy question on the November 2010 ballot.
Something else Sweet said he is commonly asked about, now that school is back in session, is H1N1, which is the influenza-like illness that has symptoms of a fever of 100 degrees or greater, and recent onset of a sore throat or cough.
He asks that students who experience symptoms like this are kept home for at least 24 hours after their temperature returns to normal and noted the best defense is good cough and hand hygiene etiquette. He said H1N1 may peak at the end of October in Minnesota.
After his presentation, Sweet took several questions regarding issues at the school, including parking concerns and concerns about the staff development funding.