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July 8, 2020

School to connect with Afghan culture

by Nora Bryson

"We're on the ground level of something big," Board Chair Bob Brintnall declared after the board granted approval for a new fundraiser and $320 to print 20 books at the Monday night, Oct. 26, Cannon Falls School Board meeting. The money from the November 7 winery event will go toward The Afghanistan Project; an interactive curriculum aimed at teaching middle school students about Afghanistan and the people who live there.

Sixth grade teacher, Missy Klapperich, and Dina Fesler of the non-profit Children's Culture Connection explained that the cooperative effort began last year when the 6th grade did the Traveling Trunk Pen Pals Project with students at St. Paul's Como Park Elementary. The students corresponded throughout the school year and then got to meet in person last May.

Student enthusiasm for learning about other cultures was further intensified by Gunner Swanson's march through town in September. The students' letters of friendship and hope to the children of Iraq inspired Klapperich and Fesler to, with the help of some Carleton College students, put the collection into a book. The initial 20 books printed will, hopefully, garner more interest in Culture Connection projects and more sales of the book. All proceeds will go to support those projects.

The Afghanistan Project takes students beyond the learning and understanding of pen pals to the next level--global citizenship. For every $100 raised, one Afghan student can attend vocational school to learn a trade and start a business to support their family. "Their economic security really is part of our national security," Fesler stated. The program will go to rural Afghan communities where the economic need is greater and there are fewer eyes.

Monthly communications between Cannon Falls students and "scholarship" recipients will not only allow for progress reports, but also the exchange of ideas, encouragement, and understanding. But the reports will come into Culture Connection's operatives within Afghanistan verbally. "We can't leave a paper trail," Fesler explained. "It would put their lives at risk...adults and children." It is unclear whether girls can be the recipients of such schooling or run the resulting business.

Klapperich explained how the traditional 6th grade "Adventures in Business" would be molded into the November 7 fundraiser at the Cannon River Winery. Students will still need to develop a product and a business plan, but their items will be sold at the winery event.

Fesler, who will be traveling to Afghanistan in November to launch the program, felt a student led fundraiser was the best way for the kids "to earn...to own it...to learn the value of a dollar," Fesler said.

"Poverty is a threat to world peace," interjected Amy Dombeck, Global Citizenship instructor at Cannon Falls. She felt the project would show students how they can make a difference in the world.

Board member Bill Thompson asked about the turn-around time and length of the project. Klapperich said they hoped to start getting reports back from Afghanistan in January. Ideally, the project would be continually renewing and run in four-year blocks. Each incoming 6th grade will "invest" into as many Afghan vocational scholarships/business endeavors as their fundraiser allows and then follow those students/business people over the next four years. The program would culminate with all students "graduating together."

Children's Culture Connection has a working relationship with 12 non-profit agencies. The Afghanistan Project recently received news coverage on WCCO-TV. Fesler stated she had also been in contact with several other national news agencies and broadcasters including Katie Couric.

The board has made it a policy to limit the amount of fundraisers sponsored through the school. The board normally reviews the list of allowed fundraisers in the spring prior to the school year in which the fundraiser will take place. Normally, if a new fundraiser is requested and added to the list, an old one is taken off.

The board voted to reject the snow removal bids. They will re-bid the job based on a simpler, more uniform set of specs. Snow removal costs have increased dramatically over the past four years; $12,000 in 2005, $20,000 in 2006, $21,000 in 2007 and $38,000 last year. Previously, the district had received bids using the old-fashioned method of rate-per-hour for each implement used. But the wide array of snow removal equipment being used these days makes comparing bids impossible.

Head Custodian Rollie Sessions and several bidders in the gallery suggested the bids be taken on a flat rate, annual or per time, for the square foot covered and the trucking to remove the snow. The obvious disadvantage of flat contracts is paying for service in a snowless year. Sessions will see about incorporating payment according to snowfall as well. New bid specs will be posted this week.

The board approved hiring Amanda Sardeson as the new, "one-time-only," stimulus funded, Elementary Title 1 Math and RTI teacher and Joe Jorgensen as a special education teacher to replace Ron Banks, the annual Curriculum Report required by the state, the list of Spring Head Coaches and Winter Assistant Coaches, and the second reading of the Goodhue County Education District's policy regarding the Retention and Destruction of Special Education Student Records.

Junior Marguerite Haggerty is the new student representative to the board. She reported how well all the school's teams were doing, that the field house allowed the teams and the band to practice despite all the rain recently, the HVL concert is 7 p.m. November 9 and National Honor Society members were named last week.

Board member Brenda Owens reported from the Curriculum Committee that the math textbooks may need to be replaced a lot sooner than expected due to the state's new algebra requirements.

Superintendent Todd Sesker reported for the Finance Committee that the $1.7 million from the Aid Anticipation Bond has been divided up, placed in money market savings accounts at the local banks at a rate of 0.75%, and will be available when the cash-flow short fall hits in late January/early February due to the state's 17% un-allotment of school aid last July. He said members of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators have started talking about education "falling off a cliff in two years" if the money is not returned to the school districts.

Sessions reported that finishing up the elementary's remodeling and roof projects have been slower than anticipated. They still haven't solved the leak in the roof over the art room.

Assistant Principal and ALC Director, Anne Fick, reported there were 20 students attending the ALC, the new science equipment was working fabulously, but they are having some difficulty with the on-line learning program. Second semester scheduling is done and first district assessment tests will be given to seniors later this week.

High School Principal Steve Fredrickson again sang the praises of the new facilities: the auditorium for the concert, the monitors in the commons for crying babies, the extra space in the lunch room that has decreased student hostilities, the commons area for parent/teacher conferences. Induction of new National Honor Society students will be November 10 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. There will be a Veterans Day Program on November 11starting at 9 a.m. in the Elementary and 10 a.m. at the High School Auditorium. Open House is this Thursday, Oct. 29 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Community Education Director Dawn Wettern reported that their office has successfully moved to the area between the field house and the auditorium in the high school.

The remaining meetings for 2009 will be November 23, and December 21; all at 7 p.m. in the new board room in the High School. NOTE: the November 9 board meeting has been cancelled due to the HVL choir concert.

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