Top grades for FL superintendent

Mary Bailey
Staff Writer

The Forest Lake School Board on August 16 voted unanimously to award Superintendent Linda Madsen $8000, the maximum pay-for-performance amount in her contract.

To decide the amount, the board reviewed a recommendation by the staff welfare committee, which reviewed the superintendent’s 2011/2012 goals and rated the accomplishment in each category. Board members provided input.

In almost every category, the ratings were at least very good, and in most they were outstanding. Board President Rob Raphael called the results a clear indication of Madsen’s performance.

Julie Corcoran said the superintendent did all this on top of battling a debilitating illness, and graded her A++. “We’re very lucky to have you,” she said.

Under student achievement based on science, literacy and math, the board singled out the STEM initiative in Lino Lakes. Raphael said it is important to tie performance pay to numbers the board could see and understand, but MCA science results are not out yet.

“We’ve got great response from STEM at Lino,” he said.  “We hope the numbers are as good as our feelings about it.”

For student groups who are struggling, NWEA results showed more than 60 percent improved in reading and math.

Madsen was especially noted for her partnerships with community groups.  “She’s made herself the face of our school district,” member Erin Turner said, “and she encourages the principals to get out there. We are 100 percent in agreement that she has outstanding performance on this.”

“If there were a higher rating, I would have marked that,” member Karen Morehead added.

Under the goal of engaging staff and community with legislators, member Dan Kieger listed the work with Citizens United for Public Schools and the effort to make Lakes International Language Academy part of the district.

Raphael said district finances depend on enrollment. “We have to create a district that invites students to come here,” he said, “keeping our student population up so we don’t see a steady decline in the money coming in.”

He listed the elementary Spanish immersion program, the secondary immersion for LILA students, and the new Chinese language course as contributing to that goal.

“It’s not whining about cuts,” Raphael said, “it’s making the right things happen despite the cuts.”

Raphael initially proposed that the superintendent receive 95 percent of her incentive pay, but other board members preferred to award the entire amount, and Raphael agreed.

The board vote was unanimous. Member Kathy Bystrom was absent.

Madsen, who has worked in the district for 32 years, thanked the board for the opportunity to be the superintendent. “I am certainly dedicated to this district,” she said.

Madsen praised the board and staff. “We are so fortunate to have people who get along,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to come to work very day.”

Strategic Plan

The board also approved six action items from the five-year strategic plan that was approved in August. Work on all six will begin immediately.

The first is to use an equity analysis to identify achievement gaps among student subgroups identified by their ethnicity, poverty, special education status, or sexual orientation. The study will also look at disparities in discipline, occurrence of bullying and participation in extracurricular activities.

Under the goal of recruiting, hiring and keeping the best staff, the second action item is to set compensation targets that are competitive with nearby or metro districts.

Facilities and technology were third and fourth on the list. The district will establish a committee that meets regularly to identify needs, and will establish a program to encourage employees and community members to suggest improvements.

The fifth and sixth items concern partnerships with businesses and other organizations.

The Education Foundation of the Forest Lake Area (TEFFLA) is a Minnesota non-profit formed to develop an endowment fund to benefit the school district. TEFFLA accepts tax-deductible donations and awards grants to support district schools.

Based on that partnership, the district will explore a process enabling other organizations to donate to the district and receive recognition.

Turner, a Forest Lake attorney, spoke in favor of streamlining the donation process for businesses, “instead of every booster club coming through.”

The district will coordinate a committee of ambassadors to enhance connections with current partners and foster new partnerships.