Inspire 199 - July 2017
Published on Jul 31, 2017 17:35

Inspire 199 Family Newsletter

SCHOOL BOARD NEWS The Inver Grove Heights School Board met on Monday, July 24, with the following items on the agenda:

District highlights
  • Superintendent Dave Bernhardson introduced Barb Pierce as the new Director of Community Education. She has experience from working at Farmington Community Education and the Red Cross.

  • Superintendent Bernhardson introduced Tony Washington as Hilltop Elementary School’s new assistant principal. Mr. Washington held teaching and administrative positions in Eden Prairie, Hopkins, and Edina before coming to ISD 199.
Consent agenda
  • Minutes from previous school board meeting
  • Cash disbursements
  • Personnel transactions and donations
  • Gifts and grants
  • Adjusted school board meeting calendar for 2017-2018
  • Annual fiscal year authorizations
Information items
  • Superintendent Bernhardson introduced the 600 Policy Series: Educational Programs for their first reading for review
  • Board committee reports
  • Membership reports
Action items
  • Approval of the Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Plan
  • Approval of the Resolution Calling a General Election to Elect Three (3) Board Members
  • Approval of Capital Projects Review and Comment
  • Approval of the Resolution Relating to Revoking the Existing Referendum Revenue Authorization of the School District and Approving a New Authorization, Approving a Capital Project Levy Authorization, and Calling an Election Thereon
Meeting information and video of the July 24 meeting are available on the district website. In lieu of an August work session, board members will participate in Night to Unite on August 1, visiting different gatherings around Inver Grove Heights. The next board meeting will be on Monday, August 21, at 5:30PM at the District Office, 2990 80th Street East in Inver Grove Heights.

Inver Grove Heights School Board Approves November Referendum

Residents of the Inver Grove Heights School District will be asked to vote on two referendum questions on Election Day, November 7. Voters will also vote for three school board members.

The two referendum questions are intended to allow the district to increase students’ career and college readiness, help the district remain competitive, and stabilize the district’s finances.

“We believe a reasonable increase in revenue will have a significant and positive impact on student learning,” said Matt Schaefer, school board chair.

Increase career and college readiness
“In addition to college prep, we want to offer vocational and technical opportunities that prepare students for success in the workplace,” said Schaefer, “while also addressing student behavior and mental health needs that prepare students for success in the classroom.” The district does not currently have enough revenue to fully implement its strategic plan.

Remain competitive
Inver Grove’s operating levy is a little more than half that of other Dakota County school districts. Increasing the levy allows the district to avoid further budget cuts, keep class sizes small, and invest in high priority teaching and learning initiatives. Remaining competitive also means remaining efficient. Of the nine Dakota County school districts, the per student amount for Inver Grove Heights is currently in eighth place, and would remain there even if the operating levy request is approved.

Stabilize finances
“The Inver Grove Heights School District has been deficit spending the last three years,” said Superintendent Dave Bernhardson. “And budget cuts will be the reality every year unless additional revenue is approved.” The budget shortfall is a result of state funding not keeping pace with inflation over the last 15 years, in addition to other factors.

“It’s true that the Minnesota Legislature approved a two percent increase for public education in 2017,” Berhardson said. “However, this funding does not make up for years of shortfalls.” Without additional revenue, students would be impacted by increased class sizes and discontinued programming, Bernhardson added.

Impact to students
The two questions would increase the operating levy paid by local property taxes and create a new capital projects levy. Funds provided by the operating levy would allow the district to avoid further budget cuts, keep class sizes small, and invest in high priority teaching and learning initiatives, such as support for mental health and behavior needs; support for struggling students; vocational, technical, and career programs; and additional college prep courses and programs at the middle school and high school.

The capital projects levy would provide funds for the purchase of textbooks, curriculum materials, large musical instruments, classroom furnishings, equipment, vocational/technical tools, computers, and software for student achievement, and would keep them maintained and up to date up-to-date.

Cost to taxpayers
The current operating levies total a little more than half that of other Dakota County school districts. The district has deliberately kept levies low by operating as efficiently as possible. The proposed levy increase would amount to an additional $78 annually ($6.50 monthly) on a $235,000 residence, which is the average district home value. The capital projects levy would add $50 annually ($4.17 monthly) on the same residence for a total monthly impact of $10.67.

Click here to view the results from the recent community survey, conducted in May. More information about the referendum will be posted soon on the district's website,, and the district will mount an intensive information campaign so voters can learn more and make an informed decision.

Summer Academy Students Explore New Areas
Summer Academy student working on sculpture project

Summer Academy helps current elementary students build academic, social, and emotional skills for the next school year. Students work on core subjects and skills, but this year, the program introduced enrichment periods. The last period of each day provides students with a chance to explore new subjects and for teachers to draw on their own passions.

This year’s enrichment periods featured dance classes, investigative games, golf lessons, art projects, and more. This week, fifth graders produced movies on iPads, experiencing everything from storyboarding to acting to editing. First graders imitated Louise Nevelson’s layered sculptural art with everyday craft supplies, and kindergarteners were introduced to French, singing the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” in the language. 

Summer School Students Learn Science Through Fun Experiments
Students learn measuring with a colorful experiment

Inver Grove Heights Middle School students learned about aspects of the scientific method through two hands-on labs. Students tried their hand at the water bottle flip challenge in a controlled experiment. Students measured how much water they should put in a water bottle to flip it in the air and have it land upright. During the second lab, students used lab equipment to carefully measure liquids to create a rainbow of test tubes.

Pine Bend Welcomes New Principal
Pine Bend Principal Quennel Cooper
Mr. Quennel Cooper, Hilltop Elementary School's assistant principal, has been selected as the Pine Bend Elementary School Principal starting next school year.

Before joining ISD 199, Mr. Cooper served as an enrichment teacher and 4th grade teacher in St. Paul Public Schools. During his time at Hilltop, he started a parent-teacher home visit program, formed the school's Boys to Men and Ladies of Hilltop programs, developed International Night with the Hilltop Equity Team, and created a districtwide Bullying Prevention video. Mr. Cooper, a graduate of the Principal Institute at Minnesota State University - Mankato, is currently working on a doctoral degree in education at MNSU.  

“Mr. Cooper has consistently demonstrated strong school relationships and instructional leadership skills at Hilltop Elementary," Superintendent Dave Bernhardson said. "He is passionate about public education and supporting all students, while having the ability to build relationships to support success.”

Principal Ted Ihns will be taking a new position as the superintendent of Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools in Cresco, Iowa. 

Hilltop Announces New Assistant Principal
Hilltop's new Assistant Principal Tony Washington
ISD 199 is excited to welcome Tony Washington as Hilltop Elementary School’s new assistant principal. Mr. Washington has more than 15 years of experience in education, working as a teacher, associate principal, and principal in Edina Public Schools. During his years in the profession, he has focused on equity and inclusion leadership, developed student behavior and learning goals, and provided opportunities for professional collaboration and learning among staff. Mr. Washington earned his education specialist degree from the University of St. Thomas. Quennel Cooper, Hilltop’s former assistant principal, will be the Pine Bend Elementary School principal starting next school year. 

Simley Science Teacher Researches the Great Lakes
Simley science teacher, Ms. Haak, on her research expedition
While some may be looking forward to a relaxing cruise this summer, Simley High School science teacher Lori Haak was eagerly awaiting her voyage across Lake Huron aboard the Lake Guardian research vessel. Ms. Haak was accepted as one of only 15 teachers from the Great Lakes region to go on a week-long research expedition, the Shipboard Science Workshop. This July, the accepted teachers worked alongside Great Lakes scientists and learned the newest techniques and equipment to bring their knowledge and new curriculum back to students next school year.

Before discovering her passion for teaching, Ms. Haak worked in water resources management, her first passion. So when she heard about the Shipboard Science Workshop for Great Lakes teachers, she said it was a natural fit.

“The workshop represents the perfect combination of my passions for preserving and protecting our water resources and teaching biology to high school students,” she said. “Because we do scientific research aboard the Lake Guardian research vessel, I will be able to bring back relevant material with real, approachable data.”

Ms. Haak said the water quality research is especially important to Simley students because of their proximity to the Mississippi River. She wants to help them understand water resource protection and management because she believes it will become a central issue during their lifetimes.

Though each spring Simley students get a hands-on look at water quality in the ponds on campus, Ms. Haak said she is eager to develop new, authentic ways to engage students in real science that directly affects their quality of life.

In addition to studying Lake Huron organisms and developing curriculum, she also had an opportunity to learn about the lake’s biology, geology, chemistry, and human impacts from the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and to explore the NOAA Marine Sanctuary.

See what the team did all week via Twitter, @CGLLiteracy or @ms_haak, and click here to read their blog

Simley Students Can Earn College Credit with CLEP Exams 
Simley High School offers a variety of post-secondary preparatory courses, including the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). High school students can take CLEP exams to earn college credit for a fraction of the cost of a college class. Simley students can choose to take CLEP exams in communications, sociology, and college algebra. Students who earn a qualifying score on the CLEP exams can skip introductory college courses at nearly 2,900 colleges and universities across the country. Earning college credit through CLEP could not only make college more affordable, but it could also help students graduate college on time, reducing the cost of any extra semesters and providing space in their class schedules for more career exploration. 

Order Class of 2017 Photos
Order graduation photos at
Class of 2017 families, to order photos from the 2017 Graduation, please visit and enter your information. If you need assistance, please call 800-261-2576 or email

ISD 199 is Now Hiring!
ISD 199 is now hiring for administrative, teaching, paraprofessional, and custodial positions. Click here to see all of the vacancies.

For more District News, visit and click the “News and Events” tab.
Check out the Inver Grove Heights Schools Facebook page for photos, updates, and more!
-This month, see photos of Summer Academy and Summer School, summer maintenance, and more.

  • Tuesday, September 5: First day of school for grades K-5, 6, and 9
  • Wednesday, September 6: First day of school for grades 7-8 and 10-12

2017-2018 Year at a Glance Calendar Now Available

The first day of school for elementary school students, 6th graders, and 9th graders will be September 5. Click here to see the "2017-2018 Year at a Glance Calendar." An academic year calendar will also be sent in the Back to School edition of the 199 Reporter in late August.