School News

ISD 709 News

posted Jan 27, 2015, 8:04 AM by Communications ISD 709   [ updated Jan 27, 2015, 8:29 AM ]

Governor Proclaims Paraprofessional Recognition Week

   Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed 7he week of January 25, 2015 to be Paraprofessional Recognition Week.  The proclamation recognizes the work done by paraprofessionals to provide a number of services within schools, including support for instruction, student activities, and numerous tasks which contribute to educational success, improving student achievement and increasing the effectiveness of Minnesota schools.


Accomplishments, Activities, Appreciation

--Sixty-three students have been inducted into the Denfeld Chapter of the National Honor Society.  The induction took

place during a banquet in the Denfeld Commons, dinner was prepared and served by the school’s Culinary Arts students, under the supervision of Mike Emerson.  Keynote speakers included Principal Tonya Sconiers and Joe Vukelich.  Michele Helbacka is advisor to the Denfeld National Honor Society, Jacob Faynik and Lucy Billings are Co-Presidents. 

--Guys With Ties, a young men’s group at Lincoln Park Middle School, participated in Day on the Hill hosted by the Council on Black Minnesotans. Students met with legislators to discuss peace from a youth perspective and were featured in WDIO-TV news coverage.

--The Ordean East Middle School 8th Grade Orchestra will travel to Alexandria, MN in February to participate in the Minnesota Tier 1 Orchestra Festival.  There are 74 Orchestras participating in Tier 1.  The three sites include Hopkins,

Alexandria and Roseville, Minnesota.  On March 30th, two Orchestra from each site will have an opportunity to advance to Tier 2, receive coaching from professional musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra, perform a concert, and earn a trophy.

--Student artwork from Laura MacArthur Elementary was chosen for an art exhibition at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Kruk Gallery – the show runs February 2 - 26, 2015. Students created a clay replica of Anasazi pottery after learning about the Southwest region of the United States in Social Studies.  Congratulations to: Max Reese, Jacob Erickson, Annabelle Soderberg, Brendan Hughes, Darren Turcotte, Brooklyn Reilly, Thomas Thach, Ayla


--Denfeld Key Club and Denfeld National Honor Society students are partnering with a local sewing club to make mittens for local children.  Students received a grant from Thrivent Financial to cover costs for materials and are working to make more than 200 pairs of mittens for donation. They call the project “Happy Hands.”

--Emma Maher, Homecroft Elementary, was selected as a winner in Essential Health's "Light of Love" essay contest.  The contest had over 200 entrants and chose 13 winning essays.  Emma was honored at a special ceremony held in Duluth.

--The Denfeld Exec Board adopted two families over the holidays.  The students worked to provide both families with gifts and Super One gift cards.  


From Linda Magni, Duluth Sister Cities

   Duluth Sister Cities International is seeking families with students aged 11-14 to host Japanese students from Duluth's sister city of Ohara Isumi-City, Japan August 8-15, 2015. The Duluth student is then eligible to travel to Japan the following (2016) summer to stay with host families for about a week to experience life in Duluth's sister city.  If you would like to host a student or have questions on the Ohara Isumi-City student exchange program, please email  or call Linda Magni at Duluth Sister Cities International (218) 727-8375 or check our website:   Application deadline is February 15.


From Julia Cheng, Community Action Duluth

Community Action Duluth Free Tax Site is Open

   Community Action Duluth’s Free Tax Site is open now until April 15. All clinics are at 2424 West 5th Street, Suite 102, in the old Lincoln Park School. Use the 5th Street “smokestack” entrance.  Tax site hours at these walk-in only clinics are:

--Mondays and Tuesdaysdoors open at 4:30 pm

--Saturdays, doors open at 8:45 am

--Wednesday, doors open at 4:30 pm, January 28 and April 15 ONLY

   Supervised by Community Action staff, IRS-certified volunteers will prepare 2014 federal, state and property tax returns for households with income up to $53,000. Clinics last 4 hours.  We take the first 30-50 clients in line, depending on the number of volunteers available. People may arrive outside our office 1-2 hours in advance.

   For prior year or amended returns, please call (218) 726-1665, ext. 39, for an appointment. Tax year 2011 refunds expire on April, 2015, so don’t wait.  For more information and a tax prep “What to Bring” checklist, visit or call (218) 726-1665.

Do Your Own Taxes and E-File for Free

   In addition to the volunteer-run tax site, Community Action Duluth supports self-preparation

through  Individuals and families with household income up to $60,000 can use this website to prepare their own federal and state returns and file them electronically, all for free.

   “In Duluth, we provide Minnesota-specific guidance and link to MyFreeTaxes from our agency website,” says Julia Cheng, tax site program coordinator. “Community Action Duluth, the Claim it! campaign and Duluth Public Library are recognizing Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day this Friday, January 30, with a facilitated self-prep clinic at the main branch from 10 am to 2 pm. Tax site volunteers will be available to help taxpayers navigate                

   All Duluth Public Library branches provide online access to MyFreeTaxes, which licenses H&R Block software.­  See above for contact information if you have questions.

ISD 709 News

posted Jan 21, 2015, 8:35 AM by Communications ISD 709

Duluth School Board Honors Duluth East HS Physics Students

   During their regular January meeting Board members took time to recognize Devin Johnson and Jackson Churchill from Duluth East High School.

   Devin and Jackson recently competed in the Physics Olympiad held at the University of Minnesota – Duluth.  Close to 20 students participated, Devin earned first place in the event and Jackson took third place, outstanding results! 

   Physics Olympiads are competitions for high school students and involve solving theoretical and experimental problems.  The event promotes academic excellence and provides intellectual stimulation for students interested in physical sciences.  Events are held regularly in many countries and conducted at the city, regional, state, country and international levels.


Duluth Selected as a Semifinalist in $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize

   Duluth was announced as one of 50 communities who are leading the way on energy efficiency and have officially advanced to the Semifinal round of the

Georgetown University Energy Prize.  This national competition is challenging communities to rethink their energy use.

   “Duluth energy efficiency is important to our residents and our local economy,” said Mayor Don Ness.  “This competition is a great way of encouraging residents to take steps that create long term commitment to saving energy and practicing good stewardship.  The benefits of this competition are far greater than the prize; I encourage the Duluth community to get involved.”

   ISD 709 is a community partner in this effort and will be encouraging staff and students to participate in efforts to minimize and reduce energy consumption both at school and at home.

   For more information visit or contact Duluth’s campaign headquarters, administered by local nonprofit Ecolibrium3 at 218-336-1038. 


School Board Approves Remaining LRFP Projects

   During the January meeting, Duluth School Board members approved remaining school projects associated with the Long Range Facilities Plan.

   Of the remaining $5.4 million, about $2.7 million is earmarked for completing investments in Career and Technical education equipment and spaces at Denfeld and Duluth East High School and conducting roof repair, replacement of a crumbling retaining wall, water conservation updates and security and communication system updates, among others, at Historic Old Central High School.

   Another $2.7 million is associated with work scope at Congdon Park, Denfeld, East, Homecroft, Lakewood, Laura MacArthur, Lester Park, Lowell, Myers-Wilkins, Ordean East and Stowe.   A detailed presentation is available at, click here to view.


Martin Luther King Week School Activities

--Students at Lester Park Elementary School are doing a Civil Rights Sing Along in their gym this week.

--Students in Mrs. Pilate’s 1st grade class at Congdon Park Elementary are involved in a week long study of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  In addition to being read books about Dr. King, students are talking about how they might change the world, viewing short video clips about Dr. King’s life, writing their own thoughts, and viewing art work from street artists to prominent African American artists such as Jacob Lawrence to John Woodrow Wilson.  Students are creating their own Portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Their artwork and writing will be displayed outside the classroom and for Parent Teacher Conferences.


From the Minnesota Department of Health:

Minnesotans urged to fight influenza, other viruses by staying home when ill

   In the midst of a tough influenza season, health officials are urging Minnesotans to protect themselves and others by staying home for the duration of their illness.

   "We know that some of this activity can be reduced if people stay home when they are feeling ill,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “It may not always be convenient, but it is an important step in reducing the spread of these diseases."

   Minnesotans can also do their part to slow the spread of diseases by covering their sneezes and coughs and washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 15-20 seconds after coughing or sneezing in them, after going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. You can protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated for influenza. It’s still not too late, health officials said. 


Head Start Program Says “Thank You!” for Book Donations

   The ISD 709 Head Start program received over 2,000 books through the Barnes and Noble Holiday Book Drive.  Head Start Principal Pam Rees says staff will use the books in classrooms and programming and parents are able to take some of the books home to read with their children.  Rees says this may be a record and she’s extremely grateful to everyone for the donations.

    “On behalf of the children, families and staff at Duluth Head Start, thank you for your efforts and the generosity we feel from the Duluth community,” said Rees.


Public Auction:  ISD 709 Shop Tools, Supplies and Equipment

Saturday, January 24th, 9:00 a.m.  

Secondary Technical Center , 802 East Central Entrance 

   Large auction of equipment and tools including welders, band saws, lathes, sanders, planers, 

machinist tools, hydraulic press, milling machine, grinder, gantry crane, metal stitcher, 

gas engines, steel fabrication tools, fireproof storage cabinets, electric test machines, metal shear, 

wood shop tables, welding tables, concrete mixer, hand and power tools, too much to list here!!  This is a big auction!

   Inspection:  Friday, January 23rd, from 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

   Removal:  No later than 5:00 p.m. Friday, January 30th.

Go to for details and photos

For Information:  Nordic Auction, 218/525-4511218/390-3035

ISD 709 News

posted Jan 13, 2015, 7:50 AM by Communications ISD 709

Cabin Fever?  Sign Up for a Duluth Community Education Class!

   The Duluth Community Education Winter 2015 schedule of classes and activities is available online for viewing and secure registration at

   Community Education offers opportunities to learners of all ages through:

·  Adult enrichment and youth activities - take a class in computers, music, yoga, cooking, painting, fitness, digital photography, languages, retirement planning, travel planning, swimming, dancing, much more - something for everyone

·  Adult basic education - GED and Adult High School Diploma - It's never too late to learn

·  Early childhood programs

·  School readiness/Pre-K

·  KEY Zone school-age care and academic enrichment

·  Drivers education

·  Aquatics classes

   These programs are open to any area resident, are affordable and close to home.

   For more information email:communityeducation@isd709.orgor call 218-336-8760 or visit  


School Board Reviews Remaining LRFP Projects

   During the January Business Committee meeting, Duluth School Board members received an update on remaining school projects associated with the Long Range Facilities Plan. 

   Of the remaining $5.4 million, about $2.7 million is earmarked for completing investments in Career and Technical education equipment and spaces at Denfeld and Duluth East High School and conducting roof repair, replacement of a crumbling retaining wall, water conservation updates and security and communication system updates, among others, at Historic Old Central High School.

   Another $2.7 million is associated with work scope at Congdon Park, Denfeld, East, Homecroft, Lakewood, Laura MacArthur, Lester Park, Lowell, Myers-Wilkins, Ordean East and Stowe.   A detailed presentation is available at, click here to view.

    The Board will consider a resolution to complete the remaining work at the January 20, 2015 School Board meeting in Historic Old Central High School.


Martin Luther King Day School Activities

Myers-Wilkins Elementary classrooms will receive a book about Martin Luther King titled, “Love Will See You Through."  The book, written by his niece, is about Martin Luther King Jr. six guiding beliefs.  Each morning a different person will read one of the beliefs over the intercom to all the students. Several Myers-Wilkins classes are designing placemats for the Martin Luther King Day community breakfast.

Students in Mary Ann Harala’s class at Congdon Park Elementary read about Dr. King all week and create I Have a Dream Clouds, mobiles made with paper clouds, each sharing a dream for the world, for the community and for the student. They take part in a Call to Action which involves a positive project to help the community, such as making scarves to donate to the Damiano Center.



-- Chrissy Valento , Laura MacArthur Elementary, was recently awarded a Daughters of the American Revolution grant in the amount of $500.  This money will be used to teach lessons on conservation in the classroom at Laura MacArthur in grades K-5.  The art lessons will stress the importance of the Early American Conservation Movement and how some Americans developed a deep and dedicated commitment to treating nature with respect.  

--Laura MacArthur's Artists of the Month showed hard work and dedication in Mrs. Valento's art room.  These students were focused and put forth their best effort while completing steps in a process.

December 2014: KeShaun Gilbert, Chloe Moe, Renee Gould, Ruby Landry, Ella McPhee

Scarlett Eugenis, Ryann Ostrom, Faith Biermaier, Diara Condes, Olivia Sanner

January 2015: Wyatt Berg. Libby Abernethy, Anabell Biermeyer, Giana Herrick, Alexis Lauderville, Lucas Martens, Derrick LaPre, Alexandra Kokotovich

ISD 709 News

posted Jan 7, 2015, 3:33 PM by Communications ISD 709   [ updated Jan 15, 2015, 11:31 AM ]

AEO Online High School Hosts Open House Event   Teachers and staff from ISD 709’s Academic Excellence Online High School welcomed visitors to their offices in Duluth this week during their Open House event.  People interested in online learning could see lesson demonstrations, meet teachers, ask questions, and learn about the enrollment process.

Information about AEO is available any time at


Duluth School Board Elects Officers for 2015

   The Duluth School Board elected the following officers during an organizational meeting held Monday January 5, 2015 at Historic Old Central High School:

·        Judy Seliga Punyko, Chairperson

·         Annie Harala, Vice Chairperson

·         Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, Clerk

·         Bill Westholm, Treasurer

   Officers will serve in their positions for one year.  Serving as a school board member is an important responsibility, helping to establish educational standards that will affect the future of Duluth’s students, community and society.  School board meeting schedules, agendas, minutes, detailed information packets and more are available online at, check under District/School Board.


Superintendent’s Duluth News Tribune Column Talks School, Student Success and Making Student Achievement a Priority

   At the request of the DNT, Superintendent Bill Gronseth joined other local leaders to talk about the achievements of the past year and vision for the future.  In the newspaper column, Gronseth talks about a quiet but certain optimism – practical and realistic – aware of the challenges but confident in the ability of our schools and community to meet them.  He emphasizes the importance of working together with people inside and outside of schools and how each person can work to champion the success of our students.

   Click here to read the column.


THE 2015 MARTIN LUTHER KING HOLIDAY Events in the Twin Ports

For complete list of sponsors and more info, visit

Thursday, Jan. 15 - 6:30 PM:  Mayor’s MLK Reception

   A chance for the community to come together in unity amidst our diversity.

   The Underground ~ 506 W. Michigan St ~ Lower Level

Saturday, Jan. 17 - 7:00 PM:  Jam’n with MLK

   A Night of Celebration of the Contributions of People of African Heritage

   Peace United Church of Christ ~ 1111 North 11th Avenue East

Sunday, Jan. 18 - 5:00 PM:  Community Ecumenical Worship Service

   Speaker Christopher Little and a community choir led by Dr. Roderquita Moore.

   Christ Temple Victory Center ~ 330 North 59th Avenue West, See for more details.

MLK Holiday ~ Monday, Jan. 19 - 7:00 AM:  Free Community Breakfast

   Featuring Vernon Jordan

   First United Methodist Church Church ~ 230 East Skyline Parkway

   7:00 AM Breakfast begins

   8:00 AM Broadcast of Vernon Jordan’s speech from Minneapolis

   Funding from the General Mills Community Foundation.

Monday, Jan. 19 - 10:45 AM:  March & Rally

   Gather at 10:45 AM at Washington Center (corner of 4th St. and Lake Ave.) March

   starts at 11:00 AM Route is from Washington Center through downtown to DECC.

   Rally at DECC begins approximately at 11:45 AM.

   The rally will be interpreted into America Sign Language and broadcast live

   on Wisconsin Public Radio - 91.3 FM.

Sponsored by: African-American Men’s Group | ISD #709 ~ Office of Educational Equity

UMD Office of Cultural Diversity | St. Mark AME | City of Duluth | The Underground

Christ Temple | First United Methodist Church | NAACP | Peace United Church of Christ


Making Decisions to Open/Close School During Cold Weather

   Below is basic information regarding such decisions, keeping in mind each situation may be a little bit different.  Each cold or snowy weather situation is carefully reviewed and considered individually.  What doesn't change is a superintendent's primary consideration in making the decision - the ability to transport children safely to and from school.

   When the National Weather Service predicts cold temperatures with a wind chill warning or advisory, personnel work with the National Weather Service to closely monitor both ambient temperatures and wind chills predicted overnight and into the early morning hours. 

   Superintendents consult with their transportation personnel about the ability of school buses to safely function in the cold and also consult with other school districts.  They also balance the need for children to be in school and learning. 

   In the end, superintendents make the best decision they can given the data in front of them, knowing some people will agree with the decision and some will disagree.  The school board and administration realize that their decision for the majority of students may not fit with individual family circumstances. A decision to keep a student home for safety reasons will be considered an excused absence.

   Here’s a link to information sent to ISD 709 families at the beginning of the school year regarding cold/snowy weather closings:

ISD 709 News

posted Jan 2, 2015, 3:01 PM by Communications ISD 709

Open House Event:  Academic Excellence Online High School

Wednesday January 7, 2015

3:00PM – 6:00PM

215 North First Avenue East, Room 100  Duluth, MN

Learn more about how AEO can help achieve student goals

--Lessons Demonstrations


--Meet the teachers

--Take an assessment, see if online learning is right for your

--Test personal devices for ease and compatibility

--Opportunities to learn about and/or initiate the enrollment process

More Info:  218-336-8766 or


Look For Duluth Community Education Schedule of Classes and Activities January 4

   The Duluth Community Education Winter 2015 schedule of classes and activities will be published this weekend (January 4) with the Duluth Budgeteer News.  It will also be available online for viewing and secure registration beginning Monday January 5.

   Community Education offers opportunities to learners of all ages through:

  • Early childhood programs
  • School readiness/Pre-K
  • KEY Zone school-age care and academic enrichment
  • Adult basic education -GED and Adult High School Diploma - It's never too late to learn
  • Driver education
  • Aquatics classes
  • Adult enrichment and youth activities - take a class in computers, music, yoga, cooking, painting, fitness, digital photography, languages, much more - something for everyone

   These programs are open to any area resident, are affordable and close to home.

   For more information email: or call 218-336-8760 or visit  Celebrate the new season with us, see you at class!


Help Prevent Influenza (The Flu)

   The flu season is here, please do your part to help us keep school a healthy place to learn:

·         Please keep children home if they have flu-like symptoms.  This includes a fever of 100 degrees or greater, including a cough and/or sore throat.  If your child says they aren’t feeling well, please check their temperature to see if they have a fever.

·         Keep children home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs.

·         Teach children to cough or sneeze into their sleeve and to wash their hands frequently.

   When you report your child’s absence to their school, please indicate if your child has a fever of 100 degrees or more, including a cough and/or sore throat.  This information helps us to keep track of influenza in our schools.


FIRST® Robotics Competition Duluth Kickoff Event January 3

   On Saturday January 3, nearly 75,000 high school robotics students worldwide will receive the 2015 FIRST Robotics Challenge.  In Duluth, about 23 local teams will gather at UMD for a kickoff event.    

   All teams, grades 9-12, will be shown the new 2015 robotics game field and challenge for the first time and will receive an exciting, new kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, and a mix of automation components – with limited instructions. Teams will have six weeks to design and build a robot to meet this year’s engineering challenge

ISD 709 News

posted Dec 29, 2014, 12:18 PM by Communications ISD 709

Purchase Agreement Signed for Central High School Property

   (Duluth, MN – December 29, 2014) Representatives from ISD 709 and Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, LLC, announced today that they have entered into a purchase agreement for sale of the 77-acre Central High School site in Duluth, MN.  The terms of the purchase agreement include a $10,000,000 sale price and a closing to occur on or before July 31, 2015. 

   The Central High School building ceased being used as a school in June of 2011 and has been vacant since that time.   

   “Harbor Bay is extremely enthusiastic about the development potential at such a large and iconic site.  The possibilities are endless. In the coming months, we will be working closely with The City of Duluth on design, infrastructure and approvals.  We have already had interest from several users and construction could commence as early as 2015.” said Tom Lund, Principal and Co-founder of Harbor Bay.  

   “We are very pleased Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors have offered to purchase the entire site,” said Kerry Leider, Property and Risk Manager for ISD 709.  According to Leider, the district had been working with the City of Duluth for the past several years to re-zone the property in order to sell it in parcels. Selling it in pieces could have taken up to five years or more.  Leider says this purchase agreement makes that unnecessary. 

   Leider says selling the property in its entirety will save the District the ongoing cost of utilities, insurance, maintenance, security and avoid direct involvement to upgrade public road and utility infrastructure. The Deed will include a restriction that prohibits the Buyer from using the property as a school for the purpose of conducting programs for children between the ages of 5 and 18.

   “The Duluth economy is strong and expanding.  Housing continues to be a significant need to accommodate the economic growth.  The redevelopment of the Central High site is an incredible opportunity to meet market demand by designing versatile housing options,” said Mark Bell, Principal and Co-founder of Harbor Bay.   “The site’s unique topography, combined with its views of the city lights and Lake Superior, together form an exquisite natural environment. We will carefully design a master-planned development that will preserve and showcase the site’s beauty. We are confident this will be a very desirable location for future residents.”

   Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors are one of many developers the City of Duluth has been engaged with over the past couple of years, as the City continues to address a need for additional housing to meet the growing economy and population.

   “The sale of the Central High School site demonstrates the potential our city has in attracting experienced developers like Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors to meet the housing needs of our changing and growing population. We’ve been proactively engaging community-minded developers throughout the region in an attempt to encourage the sort of development Duluthians will be proud of, and this shows our efforts are paying off. This is a very exciting step in the development of some of the land with the greatest potential in our beautiful city,” said Mayor Don Ness. 

   Harbor Bay estimates that the project will create significant local jobs including construction, design, and engineering, amongst others.

   About Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, LLC: Harbor Bay, with offices in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a real estate development, consulting and investment company.  Harbor Bay recently announced plans to redevelop the former Burger King at 21st Avenue E and London Road in Duluth, as well as several homes on the block.  That project is scheduled to include approximately 148 residential apartment units, coupled with 12,900 square feet of retail/commercial space.  More info can be found on Harbor Bay’s website:

ISD 709 News

posted Dec 23, 2014, 12:49 PM by Communications ISD 709

Best wishes to you and your family this holiday season!


Christen Hull, Laura MacArthur Elementary, Selected 2015 MN National Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year

   Christen Hull, assistant principal of Laura MacArthur Elementary School in Duluth and a member of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA), is Minnesota’s 2015 National Outstanding Assistant Principal. MESPA and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) present the prestigious award.

   The National Outstanding Assistant Principal program was established in 2011 to honor assistant principals who are doing a superb job in their roles. NAESP is committed to preparing assistant principals to step into the principal role. This program promotes educational excellence for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade (PreK-8) schooling and calls attention to the fundamental importance of the assistant principal.


Evaluation Finds Superintendent Performance Exceeds Expectations

   The Duluth School Board completed their annual evaluation of Superintendent Bill Gronseth’s performance in December.  Overall, the Board found that Superintendent Gronseth exceeds the expectations of their job description and job knowledge/performance clearly exceeds job requirements.        

   The evaluation included the following areas:   

--Leadership & Communication Qualities

--Curriculum & Instructional Leadership

--Community & Public Relations

--Business & Financial Management

--Employee Relations

--Board/Superintendent Relations

--Intergovernmental Relations

--Student Relations

--Planning & Goals


Denfeld Students Donate Artwork to MN Wilderness

   Denfeld Hockey players River Alander and Dylan Michaud made and donated stained glass artwork to the Minnesota Wilderness Hockey Team in December.  They made the presentation to General Manager at a recent hockey game between first and second periods and received warm cheers and applause from the audience.  This was a service learning project conducted in an advanced stained glass class.   


Lester Park Students Bring Cheer to Local Patients

   Lester Park Elementary students conducted their 12th Annual Giving Tree Project, spreading cheer to patients at local hospitals by purchasing, decorating and donating small trees. Children bring donations they earned at home or happen to have in their piggy banks to purchase the artificial trees. They make decorations in their classrooms during the weeks leading up to the delivery date.  Students collect enough funds to also purchase small gifts such as coloring books, crayons, story books, cribbage boards and other items.   


Habitat at Duluth East High School Earns Designation as a Monarch Butterfly Waystation

   A collaborative project between Pheasants Forever, Duluth East FFA, Duluth East Green Club, and ISD 709 is now Certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation. Boreal Natives, a division of Prairie Restorations, Inc. of Cloquet, Minnesota has been provided expertise, site preparation, and seed planting since the projects inception.  

   To become an official Waystation, sites need to provide milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America.   


Letters to Santa with a Science Twist

   First grade students at Homecroft Elementary wrote letters to Santa and Denfeld High School students helped Santa answer them.  Most letters have a science twist as the teacher, Beth Kersting-Peterson, conducts Super Science Fridays and students are asking for science materials.


Laura MacArthur Continues Planning for Student Achievement

   This year, the Minnesota Department of Education designated Laura MacArthur Elementary as a Reward School, recognizing significant gains in student achievement.  School planning is now focused on continuing to support those gains.  According to Principal Nathan Glockle, there are many strategies that have contributed to their success, including but not limited to:

·         Common formative assessments

·          A focus on quality classroom instruction

·          Common behavior standards throughout the building

·          Alignment of adults toward a common mission and vision

·         Administrative walk-throughs to measure fidelity of implementation of

chosen instructional strategies

·         Use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

·         Family involvement

·         Math and reading interventionists

·         A school mental health practitioner

·         Increased learning time

·         Community partnerships

·         A plan designed by the people implementing all these changes. 

   Strategies used successfully at Laura MacArthur are being considered for district-wide use.  For example, PLCs have been expanded to all ISD 709 schools. Budget planning for the 2015-16 school year will continue to focus on strategies to support student achievement.

ISD 709 News

posted Dec 16, 2014, 5:21 PM by Communications ISD 709

See what the teachers, staff, students and families of ISD 709 have accomplished over the past year.

This 16-minute video features school photos, video and information related to student achievement, safe and welcoming environments and effective, efficient systems.


INVITATION:  Gift Make 'n Take

Sponsored by the Department of American Indian Education

Wednesday December 17, 5:00PM – 7:30PM 

Gimaaji Building/AICHO-Trepanier Hall, 202 W. 2nd Street, Duluth

A variety of art and craft activities will be available for you to make and take home!

Dinner provided

Free and open to the community

Please contact Diana Anstett 336-8830 x4166 with questions.



Duluth School Board Honors Student Representatives

During the regular December meeting, members of the Duluth School Board took time to recognize Kobi Tremble, Denfeld High School, and Paul Manning, Duluth East High School, who have served as student representatives to the Board for the past year. 

   In this leadership role, Kobi and Paul invested time and effort to learn more about how the school district operates and how decisions are made.  They shared information with their peers and brought a thoughtful student perspective to the meetings.  Their participation has helped immensely as Board members and administrators consider decisions impacting student achievement, school climate and effective systems.

   Many thanks to Kobi and Paul for their service to the Duluth School Board. 


Feeding Local Kids Makes Donation to Fight Hunger

   During the December School Board meeting, Anne Krafthefer, a teacher at Lester Park Elementary School, and Bernie Burnham, President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers, made a special presentation to representatives from CHUM and Second Harvest.

   One in five children in St. Louis County is at risk of going hungry - in the spirit of addressing this community concern, Anne helped organize the first annual Feeding Local Kids event.  Fifth grade Lester Park students worked with WDIO-TV to help write and film a PSA to promote the event. Thrivent Financial and the Duluth Federation of Teachers provided funds for donation bags.  Over forty classrooms and student organizations took part in the event.  Donations totaled $2,675, which was split between CHUM and the Second Harvest Backpack program – enough to provide more than 300 children with a weekend’s portion of food.  Over 200 pounds of food was collected and delivered to CHUM through this event. 


INVITATION:  Please join us!

Academic Excellence Online High School Open House

Wednesday January 7, 2015

3:00PM – 6:00PM

215 North First Avenue East, Room 100  Duluth, MN

--Lessons Demonstrations


--Meet the teachers

--Take an assessment; see if online learning is a good fit

--Test personal devices for ease and compatibility

--Opportunities to learn about and/or initiate the enrollment process

More Info:  218-336-8766 or


Science classes at Merritt Creek Academy conducted a hands-on study of pollywogs and tadpoles found in a pond and creek near the school this fall.  All classes were involved in taking water and air temperatures and analyzing soil samples from three different places around the school.  Students captured some of the pollywogs/tadpoles and recorded data on the size, color, back and front legs and transparency.  They identified them as Cope’s Gray Tree Frog which is not found in the Duluth area and determined they were hatching very late.  The students learned how to make observations and record data; how to identify a species; that frogs make an anti-freeze that protects them over the winter and that frogs are amphibians and that amphibian means “double life.”  Deanna M. Erickson, Education Coordinator of the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, came to the school to help the students’ with this project and said she was impressed with the detail of the observations.  Working with their teacher they wrote a press release about the project.  


Merritt Creek and Northwood Students Learn From Dralion Performers

Students at Merritt Creek Academy had an opportunity to meet performers from Dralion Cirque de Solei, which appeared at the DECC in November.  The performers came from Thailand, Australia and Great Britain and demonstrated the art of clown and mime.   Students and staff from Northwood Children Services had an opportunity to attend a live afternoon Dralion performance at the DECC. 



--Devin Johnson and Jackson Churchill, Duluth East High School, earned 1st and 3rd Place at the UMD Physics Olympiad.  Physics Olympiads are competitions in Physics for high-school students and involve solving theoretical and experimental problems.  They are held regularly in many countries and are conducted at city, regional, state, country, and international levels. Close to 20 students competed in the Duluth event and took home t-shirts and Frisbees.  Check this link for more information:


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ISD 709 News

posted Dec 11, 2014, 11:16 AM by Communications ISD 709

Educators Work to Update Elementary Report Cards

   Curriculum specialists, administrators and teachers are working together on an updated elementary report card that would help provide more information to parents about where their child is making progress and where they may need additional help in math, reading, science, social studies and other subjects.  

   Development of the report card is supported by work being done by teachers and administrators across the district to update curriculum and assessments.  The report card will include a brief Curriculum Guide to help families understand more about what their children are learning and how they’re being assessed. 

   “This update is much needed and will provide our families with more insight into their child’s progress,” said Superintendent Bill Gronseth.  “I appreciate the time and diligence invested by this committee and by all involved in this important work.”


ISD 709 Researching More Elementary World Language Immersion Programs

Educators are researching the possibility of adding more elementary world language immersion programs to ISD 709.  Assistant Superintendent Ed Crawford provided an update at the December Education Committee meeting.  Next steps would include visits to successful immersion programs in Minnesota and parent and community input into which languages and elementary schools might be considered.  Lowell Elementary currently has a successful Kindergarten Ojibwe Immersion classroom. 

   “In our high schools, Spanish attracts the largest number of students, particularly those who take two years of language to meet college requirements,” said Crawford.  “Mandarin Chinese is in its seventh year and continues to grow in popularity. While French courses were dropped several years ago due to lack of enrollment, there appears to be renewed interest in this language.”  

    Students could benefit from elementary immersion programs in a variety of ways:

·         An opportunity to develop a high level of proficiency in their native language and a second language.

·         High quality academic preparation—students who participate in World Language Immersion tend to achieve at or above grade level

·         Data shows cognitive benefits come with being bilingual. 

·         Reduces the achievement gap.  African American native English speakers in dual language programs tend to score significantly higher on state tests than other African American students.

·         Students gain an appreciation for diverse cultures and become more cross-culturally competent.


Annual Independent Audit Notes ISD 709 Fund Balance Increase

   Each year ISD 709 undergoes an independent audit of financial statements as required by law and as part of the annual

budget process.  During the December Business Committee meeting, the independent audit firm presented their preliminary results.  A final report will be posted for public review at   

   During their presentation, the audit firm noted the following:

  • The General Fund fund balance increased by $2.2 million to a total of $4.1 million.
  • They noted the positive impact of passage of the 2013 Education Levy and new state legislative action related to school funding.
  • Management was cooperative and helpful, records were available and in good condition
  • No significant deficiencies or material weaknesses over compliance or internal controls over federal programs
  • No noncompliance with Minnesota Statutes tested
  • Disclosures are adequate, clear and complete

In their opinion, the statements represent a true and fair picture of ISD 709 finances.


ISD 709 Recommended Pay 2015 Levy Below State Average

   During the December Business Committee meeting, administrators provided a pay 2015 levy increase recommendation of about 1.5% or $490,000.  This is below the statewide average projected by the Minnesota Department of Education of about 5.9% for all school districts.  It’s also below the projected maximum levy of about 1.9% certified by the School Board in September.

   Preliminary estimates were developed in preparation for the maximum levy certification process required by MDE and in preparation for the annual Truth in Taxation meeting December 16 at 6:30PM in Historic Old Central High School, 215 N. 1st Avenue East.


ISD 709 Teachers Are Presenters at National Conference

   Early Childhood Special Education teachers Maureen Olek and Missie Stevenson were presenters at the National Division of Early Childhood Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  Their workshop, “Gateway to a Collaborative Teaching Approach,” provided ideas related to co-teaching as a General Ed and Special Ed collaborative. The model allows students an opportunity to learn from one another in a general education setting where there is ample support to meet individual needs and allow increased educational outcomes.


Piedmont Pilots Second Grade Lunchtime Incentive

   Piedmont second grade is piloting an incentive program to recognize students modeling cafeteria expectations.  When a class demonstrates the expectations during their lunch period, the teacher’s name will be entered into a monthly drawing for a chance to win lunch with the principal.  The winning class will sit at a decorated table and each student will receive a goody bag to take home.


From the City of Duluth:

Free Skating Event:  Skate with Santa and Rudolph

Wednesday, December 17 • 6:30PM-8:00PM

Duluth Heritage Sports Center, 120 South 30th Avenue West

--LIVE DJ with Special Holiday Music Program

--Cookie Decorating, Holiday Crafts and Winter Science Demonstrations

ISD 709 News

posted Dec 5, 2014, 1:33 PM by Communications ISD 709   [ updated Dec 5, 2014, 2:23 PM ]

Teachers Continue Work on Updating Curriculum

  Groups of teachers from across the district are taking part in grade level curriculum and content area meetings.  It's a

continuation of work to update curriculum that began this summer and involves staff development and feedback opportunities.   

   “It’s exciting to see all the good work being done by these teams,” says Superintendent Bill Gronseth.  “For the first time in years we’re in a position to review and update our curriculum on a regular basis and develop consistent assessments across the district.  These efforts will play an important role in helping raise student achievement.” 

   A portion of funds from passage of the education levy is earmarked for updating curriculum.  Discussions regarding multi-year planning for ongoing curriculum review and updates will be included in the 2015-16 budget development process.


Many thanks to all who provided feedback regarding bullying through ISD 709 community meetings and community and staff surveys!  Your input will be used as bullying policies and procedures are updated and we work to improve our safe and welcoming schools.


Grant Provides Two Health Workers at Myers-Wilkins Elementary

   Myers-Wilkins Elementary was selected as one of Minnesota’s 12 Accountable Communities Health (ACH) sites, a program bringing health care and community organizations together to create profound change in population health. The $369,172 grant will support a two-year project at the school and provide for a family health coordinator and community health worker to be based at the school. They will help families and residents of the Myers-Wilkins neighborhood make get needed health care.      


From Elizabeth Gorski:

Chester Creek Academy hosted a presentation by US Hockey Hall of Fame member, Olympian, NHL player, author and movie maker Henry Boucha.  Mr. Boucha, a Native American, talked with students about the importance of not holding grudges, learning to forgive, setting small and attainable goals and embracing their families and their culture.  He urged students to be proud of who they are and remember to dream, and spoke of leaving a piece of his heart in the hearts of the students.    


Piedmont Students Featured on KBJR TV “Making A Difference” Segment

   Piedmont Elementary students showed their appreciation for a snow removal crew responsible for clearing hundreds of driveways and parking lots in the Twin Ports by writing letters of appreciation.  The crew at Core Landscaping responded by providing students with mittens and hats!  Click below to see more, as featured on KBJR-TV’s Making A Difference segment:


From Lila Boehland

Please join us at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, December 13th from 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. for the Denfeld Media Center's B&N Bookfair.  Just ask for a Denfeld voucher when you make your purchases.  A percentage of every sale will purchase books for Denfeld's Media Center, at no cost to you. Can't be there? Then use the Bookfair ID 11514932 for your online purchases between December 13th and 18th. Thank you for supporting literacy @ Denfeld!


From Rachel Jackson:

Students at Ordean East are working to decrease tardies, increase attendance and boost their achievement.  During the first grading period, about 76% of 6th grade students, 79% of 7th grade and 74% of 8th graders made the Merit Roll or Honor Roll.  For Perfect Attendance, 21%, 14% and 12% of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students respectively made the list.  The entire school is working to increase percentages for attendance and achievement and decrease tardies over the next grading period.


From the City of Duluth:

Free Winter Skating Parties 2014-15

3:00PM – 5:00PM Sunday December 7, Amsoil Arena: Skate with the Bulldogs Day!

3:00PM – 5:00PM Sunday December 28, DECC

3:00PM – 5:00PM Sunday January 25, DECC

3:00PM – 5:00PM Sunday March 8, Amsoil Arena

All Skating Parties are Free!  Bring your own skates.  No Chairs, sticks, pucks or shoes on the ice.

Kids 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult.  Helmets strongly recommended for children

18 years and younger.


From Nicholas DeShaw:

Avalon Educational Institute presents the First Annual Brazilian Capoeira Batizado  

The event will include a free show and live demonstration of the Brazilian martial art Capoeira.

It will be held on Saturday December 6 at 5:00 pm, dinner at 7:15 pm at Avalon Educational Institute (404 W. Superior St) A fantastic cultural event for everyone featuring many special guests from around the country!


Green Ribbon Schools Award – Application Available

   Apply for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award and be recognized for your school’s efforts at being Green! This award honors public and private early childhood, elementary, middle and high schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education that are exemplary in:

• Reducing environmental impact.

• Improving health and wellness.

• Providing effective environmental education.

Awardees receive a plaque and a flag for the school, local recognition, and an invitation to the national ceremony in Washington, DC. The awards are announced on Earth Day and the national award ceremony occurs in the summer. Access the application for Minnesota schools and local informationView additional information about the national Green Ribbon Schools program on the U.S. Department of Education websiteThe application is due by January 5, 2015. For assistance with questions, contact John Olson, 651-582-8673.

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