Peterson resigns from SWJH; Sawyer hired at high school

Changes announced at May 29 School Board meeting

Mary Bailey
Community Editor

The District 831 School Board accepted the resignation of Marc Peterson as principal at Southwest Junior High at the May 29 meeting.

Board Member Kathy Bystrom noted Peterson’s leadership in the school district’s partnership with Lakes International Language Academy, in which bilingual graduates of the elementary charter school attend junior high at Southwest and take some classes in Spanish.

Peterson will be principal at the Hillsboro-Deering Middle School in Hillsboro, New Hampshire.

“My wife and I have always wanted to live in the Northeast, and we felt now is the time to do that,” he said.

Justin Sawyer will fill the assistant principal gap at the high school left when Jim Caldwell became principal at Linwood Elementary. Sawyer is currently the high school principal at Braham, 12 miles north of Cambridge.

Justin Sawyer, principal at Braham High School, will be one of four assistant principals at Forest Lake High School this fall. (Photos by Mary Bailey)
Justin Sawyer, principal at Braham High School, will be one of four assistant principals at Forest Lake High School this fall. (Photos by Mary Bailey)

Forest Lake High School Principal Steve Massey said Sawyer was chosen from a pool of 125 applicants by an interview committee of administration, teachers and parents.

As principal at Braham, Massey said, Sawyer took the high school from under-performing to top-performing status in three years.

He has bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and mathematics education from the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, plus master’s degrees in educational leadership and educational specialist (K-12 principal) from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

For nine years he taught math and coached football, basketball and track, including six years at North Branch.

Sawyer lives in St. Anthony with his wife Kari, daughter Stella and a baby expected in July.

Also new this fall, the district will launch its teacher evaluation plan. Forest Lake Education Association president Tony Harris reported that the teachers union approved the plan on May 28, with only three no votes.

Facilities bond
In June the facilities bond that voters rejected on May 20 will be on the agenda, when the board will discuss restructuring the proposal.

But the bond was also mentioned at the May 29 meeting, beginning with Elvin Norby addressing the board as an unscheduled visitor.

“Sports have taken over the schools,” Norby said. He said the proposal was not transparent and the district did not clearly communicate how the money would be spent.

Later in the meeting, board members disagreed with Norby’s conclusions.

“If you saw our first speaker tonight, you see the struggle we have,” Rob Rapheal, board president, said.

Rapheal argued that bond supporters and district staff did “a ton of work” sharing details of the proposal, in “what seems like a thankless job.”

“The arc of progress is long,” he said.

For the positive happenings portion of the meeting, the room was filled with students showing and talking about successful projects completed in school.

“I wish the first speaker had stayed to see the rest of the meeting,” Board Member Karen Morehead said.

With three newspapers and LATV covering the bond, she said, “You’d have to live in a hole to not know what was going on.”

Picture writing
Based on methods developed by Beth Olshansky at the University of New Hampshire, third-grade teachers at Forest View Elementary have incorporated picturing writing to foster literacy through art.

A Forest View Elementary student shares the book she created with School Board Member Dan Kieger during the board’s May 29 meeting.
A Forest View Elementary student shares the book she created with School Board Member Dan Kieger during the board’s May 29 meeting.

Picture writing teaches state standards and district curricula while meeting diverse needs of students, especially those at risk, according to Forest View teachers Christine Davis and Jeannette Maxfield.

Maxfield said she visited New Hampshire to learn about the program several years ago.

“It was probably the best teaching experience I’ve ever had,” she said. “You know a workshop is good when you’re sitting indoors in July, counting the days until school starts.”

Since then Olshansky has presented two workshops in Forest Lake, one paid for by the parent-teacher organization.

“To have her here was gold,” Maxfield said.

Davis said she first used the program with first-graders. Now, with third grade, she is integrating it into science and social studies units.

Both teachers invited their students to attend the board meeting, and those who did were given the opportunity to read their books to board members.

One parent also spoke about the books. When his daughter, Saige, was in third grade, Cameron Anderson said, he was so impressed with her book, “Mother Penguin’s Hunting Trip,” that he published it. The book is available on Amazon, and proceeds go toward Paige’s college fund.

Super mileage cars
Industrial technology teacher Kelly Nicholls told the board about the 2014 Supermileage Challenge to produce the most fuel-efficient vehicle.

This is the third year Forest Lake High School has participated, he said, with improvements each year.

The first team’s car achieved 157 mpg, earning 35th place out of about 43. Last year’s car reached 351 mpg for an 11th place finish.

This year, the seven students on the team built two cars. One finished fifth, at 411 mpg, and the other finished 12th.

The team works an hour after school each day. Starting in October they tore last year’s car apart and rebuilt it by January, when they began building the second car. Using welding, milling and lathe equipment, they built as much of the car as possible. Tires and mirrors were purchased.

Nicholls said the cold, wet spring limited testing time, and the competition days, May 13 and 14, were so cold and windy that mileage was affected.

Senior Mitch Umland said they reduced weight by switching to plastic blocks and aluminum sprockets. A new canopy design and brake system were also part of the rebuild. After school, Umland works at a shop where he was able to machine the sprockets.

Junior Gunnar Ewart said the team may add a third car next year with a diesel engine.

Mariah Van Heel, the driver who attained 411 mpg, told about the rough ride.

“No suspension is terrible,” she said.

The board accepted the results of the May 20 bond vote and approved the Harassment and Violence Policy 425 with no changes.

They also adopted a resolution for non-renewal of probationary teachers. Because of enrollment changes, plus staff leaves, retirements and resignations, the teachers who will be rehired is not known until fall.

The paper supply bid was awarded for $107,595.

The 2014-2015 budget was discussed. It must be approved before June 30.

All votes were unanimous, with member Gail Theisen absent. The board then went into closed session to discuss a negotiation strategy for classified staff.