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Edward J. Harris



Mr. Harris' Professional Portfolio


From the Desk of the Superintendent

Summer Update/Fall Preview - july 2018



The 2017-2018 school year was a good one!  The number and variety of student successes in both buildings was quite remarkable.  If you need a refresher, visit our Facebook page and you will see numerous examples of student achievement and staff dedication that truly exemplify the positive attributes of small schools.  Thank you to the students, staff, parents, and community for making Chatfield a great place to learn, grow, and teach!

2017-2018 at the high school was especially interesting with the ongoing construction project.  I must commend the students, staff, and community for the patience afforded to us in so many ways over the course of the year.  Despite the noise and constant transitions in and out of temporary spaces, the students and staff did some of their best work. That's impressive!  At this point, the building project is on time and on budget.  While there will likely be a few spaces getting finished up when school begins, our goal of general occupancy by the first day of school should be met.  We are hopeful to close out the last details of the project by mid-September.  Plans are being made for an open house sometime in late September or October so the community can tour the building and see the changes.  We are very excited to successfully finish the project and transition into a building with maintenance and space updates that will serve the students, staff, and community far into the future!  Lastly, I want to give a special thank you to our custodial staff.  A lot has been asked of them during the construction process and they have done an outstanding job of stepping up to the challenge!

There is also some pretty big news at the elementary school.  Principal Ihrke recently accepted the position of Superintendent in Caledonia.  I would like to publically congratulate Craig and thank him for his 11 years of service.  He has been a wonderful asset to the school district and I wish him well on his new adventure.  The search for his replacement has begun and I am hopeful to conclude that process by August 3.

Thank you for your continued support and have a terrific rest of the summer!

Go Gophers!!




Summer 2017

Now that work has begun at the high school, I thought it might be a good time for an update on where the high school facility is at as well as some other projects that have been under consideration.


The high school staff spent most of the spring preparing to have their rooms emptied by custodians and student workers on June 2nd. On that day, over 200 student desks were sold to the Fillmore Central School District with the rest being sold for scrap along with other older items such as file cabinets, tables, and teacher desks. Items to be saved were relocated into the large group room for future use. New desks that are mobile and height adjustable have been delivered and are ready for assembly. I would like to thank the teachers, custodians, the volleyball team, the football team, Dan Schindler, and Randy Paulson for their efforts to make this a smooth process.

On June 5, demolition crews started the remodel process in the classrooms as well as the gym, boys locker room, and stage. To date, the work is progressing as scheduled. If all goes as planned, these areas (phase 1) will be done and ready for the start of school in September. Also included in phase 1 is the drainage improvement in the elementary parking lot which will address the melt/refreeze issue that has caused safety problems.

Phase 2 will start in September. The design/specification process for this is nearly done. Phase 2 is the larger portion of the project which involves the STEM addition to the east of the music wing along with the repurposing of the current metal/wood shop, the development of 2 new science classrooms, and the remodeling of the media center area and kitchen/commons. Also included in phase 2 is roof/boiler maintenance, door/window/locker/corridor ceiling replacement, entry remodel, and exterior refurbishment. This work will continue through the coming school year and the summer of 2018.


There are a number of other notable facility improvement/maintenance projects that have either been recently completed or are about to begin which are not a part of (nor funded by) the high school facility project. Many of these have been planned for over the last couple of years as a part of the school district’s 10 year long term facility maintenance plan (LTFM Plan).

The tennis courts were recently resurfaced as they were due for maintenance. 

The track is due for maintenance and will be resurfaced later this summer.

The elementary parking lot is ready for crack filling, seal coat, and paint. This is scheduled for July.

The football scoreboard is aging out and will be replace in time for the coming season.

The elementary ball field dugout project is complete as is the installation of irrigation and additional fencing.

Exterior storage needs will be addressed by the construction of 2 garages. One near the green house and the other near the pole vault pits. The old concession stand near the tennis courts will then be removed.

This is an exciting time for our district as we are fortunate to be able to make needed improvements in a variety of areas through the HS facility project, operating capital budget, and LTFM Plan which will provide the school and community with desirable and functional facilities for years to come.

Have a great rest of the summer!

November 2016

We are excited and humbled that our community passed the high school bond referendum that was on the November 8 ballot. We are eternally grateful for this affirmation of our needs. Students in our district will benefit from these facility investments for many years to come.  Thank you so much for your support!


Yes – 1372

No – 1286


We understand that not everyone voted Yes on the referendum. While there may be disagreement on this topic of facilities, we believe there is common ground in supporting the needs of our children. We will build on that common ground to ensure that we all move forward together.


Continue to follow us on our facebook page at for updates and next steps on the facility project.  We value your input and welcome any comments or questions you may have. Feel free to contact me directly or 867-7110.


In Gratitude,


Edward J. Harris







October 2016

Dear Chatfield District Residents: 

I suppose some of you don’t know who I am, but many who do would probably say that I am passionate about the success of the students at Chatfield Public Schools. Not only am I a father of two girls in the District, but as the Superintendent of Schools I care about every student and I know the same is true for every teacher and staff member that works here. We care about kids and we believe their success makes for a stronger community.

Part of helping kids be successful is providing an environment that is conducive to learning. After last year's bond referendum was not approved, we sought community input, and we designed a new plan that includes the maintenance and updates that were prioritized by the community, and we did it at a lower cost. The cost of the project to taxpayers would be less than $4 per month for a home valued at $140,000. This is significantly less than last year’s proposal due to (1) new money from the state of Minnesota for long-term maintenance projects (2) interest rates that have gone from good to great and (3) reduction in project scope.

​More information will be posted to this website over the next days and weeks. Please make an informed decision and vote on Nov. 8.

~ Ed Harris



November 2015

On behalf of the School District I would like to sincerely thank everyone who came out to vote on November 3 as well as those that voted via absentee ballot.  We are very pleased that the Chatfield community chose to approve our operating levy request which will stabilize our general budget and allow us to set aside plans for program and staff reductions that would have been detrimental to kids.  That was our highest priority.  We are humbled by your support and we thank you for your trust.


I anticipate that the District will engage the community in further discussions about the high school facility and its projected usefulness from an educational, environmental, and structural point of view as it remains a large unanswered question in our community’s future.


Again, thank you for the continued support!


Go Gophers!!​




















May 2015




Another school year is drawing to a close and with that comes a good time to update district patrons on larger items of interest and changes that may be forthcoming for the next school year.  Before I get into updates I first would like to publically commend our students and staff on a great school year.  Our students are demonstrating academic growth while continuing a high rate of participation in activities and co-curricular programs that have seen a lot a recent success.  Our staff continues to develop their skills through professional development efforts that are proving to be effective and we are in the process of finding new and better ways to increase efficiency in operations and resource management.  The community has great reason to be proud of our students and the adults that work every day to help them succeed.



School Calendar

Since the spring of 2014 we have been discussing schedule and calendar options to maximize the instructional time we have with kids while giving adequate time to teachers to plan for and fully deploy new knowledge and skills to increase learning in the classroom.  Needless to say, this has been a challenge given all the variables and constraints involved.  However, after much discussion, research, and debate we have developed an alteration to the current calendar and daily schedule that will allow us to move further ahead with initiatives that we know are good for kids and effective.  Below is the rationale I gave to the school board for recommending a change which they approved at the April meeting.  From a public perspective the biggest changes are 1) a 30 minute late start on nearly every Wednesday throughout next school year and 2) no more early outs.

Goals (what we set out to accomplish)

  1. Create a consistent staff development routine with appropriate frequency so K-12 teachers can gather in professional study groups to review student achievement data and collaborate on research action plans that improve instructional practices in the classroom.
  2. Improve the use of instructional time with students by getting rid of monthly early outs.
  3. Possibly save some money.

Results (recommendation) 

  1. Discontinue monthly early outs
  2. Start school 30 minutes late every Wednesday (with a couple exceptions due to holiday weeks)


  1. Staff will have adequate time on a weekly basis (Wednesday mornings) to continue working on improvement efforts that we know are effective.  Currently, they are doing it in rotating groups which is problematic, not best practice, and excludes some of our shared staff.  The proposed calendar would also mean that the elementary and high school would be on the same schedule which would allow interconnected work between upper elementary and middle school teachers.  Currently, we cannot do this. Staff would no longer be split in half as they are during the current weekly staff development arrangements.  They would all be free as a group to gather as departments and/or grade levels.  K-12 shared staff could now be included in a meaningful way.  This would be a major improvement in our staff development structure.
  2. No more monthly early outs.  This would be an improvement in the use of time that we have with students.
  3. The amount of student contact time (number of minutes that kids are at school) is virtually unchanged in the proposed calendar (less than 1% change).  72,357 minutes this year versus 71,760 minutes in the proposed calendar (-.8%).  In my opinion, this is insignificant.
  4. With all aspects calculated, there will actually be some increases in instructional time for students in the proposed calendar because of greater efficiencies how we use the contact time we have with them.
    1. Junior high students would get back 1,200 minutes of instructional time over the course of the year in the proposed calendar due to the conversation of the current Tuesday/Thursday schedule to the Wednesday late start.  Instructional time for high school students was not impacted by the current Tuesday/Thursday plan.
    2. Elementary students will get back 660 minutes of instructional time over the course of the year in the proposed calendar due to the conversation of the current Whacky Wednesday schedule to the Wednesday late start.
  5. Financial impact is nearly a wash.
  6. Activities/supervision will be in place (at no additional cost) for students whose parents have to continue to drop their kids off at the normal time on Wednesdays.  Dover-Eyota said this was the single most important factor in terms of making the transition smooth with the community.  This along with early notice to families about the change are in our plans.



If you look at the minutes spent with kids, we will be at about the same levels as we have always been previous to this year.  The big difference is that we are not spending any of those minutes on early out days which are instructionally less effective.  Additionally, we have found a more effective plan to get teachers together and work on things that we now know are making a difference for kids in the classroom in terms of student achievement.



The current budget forecast continues to indicate a significant budget shortfall in the coming years.  This is due to a combination of inflationary expense increases, flat enrollment, program expansion, and revenue support from the state of MN that is not keeping up with the CPI (inflation).  To slow the pace of deficit spending (reserves) we cut $225,000 from this year's budget.  Fortunately, most of these cuts were either opportunistic savings or operational expense reductions that were not directly related to kids and programs. 

We have already determined it necessary to reduce next year's budget (2015-2016) by another $200,000 in an effort to further slow the rate of deficit spending while we await the outcome of the MN legislature session.  The outcome of that in terms of K-12 funding will dramatically impact our budgetary future.  The cuts for next year impact staff and programs that have proven effective for our students that are in need of the most help.  We are hopeful that another round of cuts for 2016-2017 of $200,000 is not necessary, but as I write this the legislative session is still ongoing so our financial path is yet unclear.  Much like we did in 2011, it is quite likely that the School Board may need to consider asking the community of Chatfield for further support (operating levy) depending upon how things turn out.

This is a tough position to be in.  We have determined what we need to increase the learning of our students and staff and have put effective resources in place to support those efforts.  Now, we are forced to begin dismantling some of these things due to financial constraints.  I am very frustrated by this.  However, for every problem there is a solution.  So, we will continue to discuss how to proceed in ways that allow us to serve kids to the best of our ability.



Currently, there is a community/school task force studying the present condition of the high school in terms of maintenance concerns, safety issues, updates, and the effectiveness of educational spaces.  While there are parts of the building nearing 60 years old it has been well cared for and is generally in pretty good condition.  However, it does have some issues that will need to be dealt with relatively soon.  To preserve the high school's structural integrity and maintain an appropriate level of service to students into the future (20+ years), a comprehensive study and determination of needs and desired needs to be done which is what this task force is currently doing.  Sometime this summer, the school board will be presented with the findings of the task force and presented with a recommendation.

I am honored to serve this community as the Superintendent of Schools and am continually impressed with our kids, staff, parents, and level of support from the community.  Despite occasional challenges and a future that appears uncertain at times, extraordinary things are happening in our buildings for kids and staff on a daily basis in terms of academic and personal growth.  Some of these things are visible and some are intangible.  Our job is to continually seek ways to remove obstacles so learning and teaching meets and exceeds the growing expectations of our young people both locally and globally.


Go Gophers!


Edward J. Harris



















Greetings from Gopher Country!  This is a great time of year for an update because we are now getting information back about the prior year in terms of student performance and budget outcomes.  It is this type of information that we will now be using to further predict what the upcoming needs of the District are in the short term and what they could be in the long term.


Student Achievement

According to how the State of Minnesota now measures school performance (Multiple Measure Rating), our kids and staff gave us a lot to be proud of last year.  While the high school succeeded in increasing by over 10 percentage points what was already a strong rating from the year before, the elementary completely blew away their modest score from the prior year by over 48 percentage points!  This rating is based upon the Math and Reading state test results (MCA) and how much students have improved from one year to the next and if we are closing any achievement gaps present for at-risk student groups.  The teachers and principals in both building should be commended.  Last year was a "watershed moment" so to speak where new insights were realized and plans were developed that should support teacher development, training, and use of student data in a way that sets new standards for how our teachers teach and how our students learn.  However, it is fair to say that one year of great scores across the District does not constitute a trend, but, we like what we have seen so far and are going to do all we can to continue it.


 Budget and Enrollment

There is mixed news on this subject.  Current financial and enrollment projections indicate impeding budget shortfalls in the next couple of years (i.e. expenses increasing at a faster rate than revenues).  The good news is that this is pretty close to what we were forecasting when the operating levy was passed/renewed in 2011.  Since then, there have been some increases in state funding which we have used to expand programming.  To slow the advance of the shortfall, the operational budget for this year was cut by about $200,000.  After this year's cuts, future reductions (if needed) will likely begin to impact programs.  We may be looking at another reduction for 2015-2016 depending upon what happens in the state legislature next spring and if our enrollment trends continue.  As of now, our enrollment growth appears to be stalling and gently receding.  After 2 big classes in the last 4 years, (2nd and 4th grade) this year's kindergarten is smaller than projected with next year's set to be smaller yet.  This is somewhat concerning as our revenue is directly tied to student enrollment.  We have been slightly over 900 students for several years, but are projected to dip down below that next year.  In the coming weeks, the school board and administration will be discussing this and determining proactive measures to address it.



When the school board and administration address the operational budget concern noted above, there will also be discussions related to long term facility needs.  Specifically, larger/longer term maintenance and capital projects which are needed and/or desired but cannot be funded through annual budgets will be identified, prioritized, and estimated for cost (most of which are at the high school site).  At that point, further discussion will ensue regarding next steps.


Strategic Planning

It has been several years since the District has engaged in a strategic planning exercise where such things as vision, mission, and school district goals were reviewed.  At the last school board meeting, I suggested that we consider a process that would assist us in reviewing how we want the District to function and what the priorities should be to guide decision making and program management.  At the next meeting I intend to share with them some ideas on how this may be actuated and what types of outcomes they could expect.


I continue to be honored to serve this fine school district.  Our students and staff enjoy strong support from the community and perform in so many exemplary ways every day that it is often humbling.  Go Gophers!!
















Summer 2014 Gopher Gazette




This summer has been another busy one as we prepare for what should be another very successful year in Gopher Country!  Last year’s successes in student achievement, performance, and teacher development were nothing short of tremendous.  Plans to build upon those are in the works and should prove to get us off to a great start in 2014-2015.  Community and parent support for our students and the work that we do here has been terrific and certainly a big reason why Chatfield is a great place for kids.  As of July, we have brought several new people on board.  I would like to officially welcome them to our team as we look forward to supporting their work within the District.

Kristine Swenson
Kindergarten Teacher

Kimberly King
4th Grade Teacher

Abigail Potter
K-12 Art Teacher

Tim Willette
Spring Valley
HS Agriculture/STEM Teacher

RuthAnn Lund
Head Volleyball Coach

Kathy Bernard
Spring Valley
9th Grade Volleyball Coach

Abby Schaber
St. Charles
8th Grade Volleyball Coach

Nathan  Whitacre
7/8 Football Coach

Dan Murphy
Elementary Custodian



As Superintendent it has been a pleasure to support the recent developments in student programming and teacher training.  This summer, a number of teachers have been engaged in technology integration training as well as planning for further exploration during the school year of best practices relating to examination of student achievement data to continually improve classroom instruction.  An exciting prospect in this area for both buildings are the plans to reorganize time on a weekly basis for groups of teachers in each building to professionally collaborate on specific projects that should continually support quality instruction and preparation of all students to be ready for post-secondary education and/or career opportunities.  The goal of this is also to develop additional enrichment and/or academic support opportunities for kids that would run simultaneously.  The research proven idea of increasing the frequency of staff development activities is a goal of most school districts as they too try to find ways to continually develop educational practices that support the increasing demands of what it means for our youth to be successful in the 21st century.  

A few words of thanks…

The types of ventures mentioned above are not possible without a supportive and trusting school board.  I would like to thank them for their confidence in our work and the time they spend on the District’s behalf.  I would also like to acknowledge our custodians and cleaning crew for their efforts this summer to prepare for the opening of school.  Additionally, the office staff in the elementary, high school, and district office do so much during the summer that it would be impossible to launch a school year successfully without the kind of care they take in their work.  All of these folks work tremendously hard and take pride in what they do.  Thank you.  



School Board Appreciation Week​

Winter 2013-2014

The Chatfield School District will join school districts throughout the state to salute their local education leaders during Minnesota's annual School Board Recognition Week February 17-21.  The commemorative week is designed to recognize the contributions made by Minnesota's school board members, including the Chatfield School Board, who are charged with governing public education under state law.  Minnesota school board members are chosen by their communities through election or appointment to manage local schools. They oversee multimillion dollar budgets which fund education programs for more than 825,000 students in approximately 2,000 schools. Their personnel decisions affect more than 52,000 teachers and thousands of administrators and support workers.  These volunteer leaders also are responsible for formulating school district policy, approving curricula, maintaining school facilities, and adhering to state and federal education law.  Legal concerns and the complexities of school finance, including budgeting and taxation, require them to spend many hours in board training programs and personal study to enhance their understanding of these issues.  Our deepest appreciation is extended to the dedicated men and women who make it possible for local citizens to participate in education in our community. We salute the public servants of the Chatfield School Board whose commitment and civic responsibility make local control of public schools in our community possible:  Jerry Chase, Greg LaPlante, F. Mike Tuohy, Matt McMahon, Kathy Schellhammer, and Tom Sturgis.  Please join us by saying thanks to our school board members during Minnesota's School Board Recognition Week!

Continuous Improvement

As mid-January, the K-6 leadership team and elementary teachers have made significant progress in developing a building wide plan of improvement that includes efforts to rebuild the academic/professional culture to include a mechanism where teachers are regularly meeting and using real-time student data to advance their practice in a professional manner and influence student achievement in each classroom.  This is commonly referred to as implementing PLC's (Professional Learning Communities), which if done right, is the most widely agreed upon strategy to improving student achievement in schools.  The Improvement Plan itself is taking draft form and was presented for review by the CILT (Continuous Improvement Leadership Team) on Wednesday, January 15.  It is essentially a roadmap for PLC development, a recognition of what we are currently doing that is good practice, and guidance for next steps that will support increased student learning over the course of the next 2-3 years.  There are a number of things at work in this process and I am very proud of the way that Mr. Ihrke and his staff have responded.  I anticipate that this effort will begin to bear fruit as early as this spring's MCA results.  There has also been additional developments relating to this that are going to support the eventual connection of this close examination of teacher practice and student data to the high school through involvement of the 7/8 English and math teachers.

Budget Season

We are preparing to review/update the current budget at the February meeting (Tuesday the 18th).  A meeting has been scheduled for the Finance and Facilities Committee to meet at 6:00 that same evening to go over details and consider next steps.  Here is some timely discussion on the topic of school finance…

When the community passed the referendum in November of 2011 for operating funds, we believed (based on projections at the time) that passage of it would give us 3-5 years of reasonable security before serious concerns reemerged.  At that time, "serious concerns" was defined as projected budget deficits that would erode critical reserves and then force the choice of significant cuts to programs and staff and/or asking the community for increased levy authority to stabilize the budget.  The good news is that our projections have held up pretty well and have not given us any nasty surprises.  However, we are projected to deficit spend this year (2013-2014) and into the future if the expenditure budget is carried forward as is.

Clearly, we need to start cutting back expenses starting with the 2014-2015 budget to preserve our solvency and set the stage to balance expenditures with revenues.  Cost reductions could take a number of different forms such as a) cost effective contract settlements b) reduction in staff development and operational expenditures c) maximizing new levy and aid opportunities that may arise d) opportunistically rebidding supply and contracted services/contracts d) cutting staff and programs. 

I have spoken openly with the staff, administration and school board about the need for $100,000 to $150,000 in budget reductions for next year in an effort to provide some perspective on the larger budget picture since there have not been any reductions since the spring of 2010 and we have added back programs and staff since then.  As spring approaches, the reduction possibilities will become more firm as planning begins in earnest for the coming year.  We also will begin to get some idea as to whether or not there will be any cost savings related to this spring's legislative session which is supposed to be the "unsession" meaning another attempt at removing cumbersome, expensive state mandates for schools.


The Chatfield community may be interested in knowing that, in educational terms, a pretty significant event occurred at the elementary school on January 20.  Over 450 educators from several area schools (including Chatfield) converged on Chatfield Elementary for a full day of technology use learning and sharing.  The event was a tremendous success due to the efforts of teacher presenters (some from Chatfield), Kristy Cook (Chatfield Tech Integration Specialist), Damon Lueck (Chatfield Tech Director), Chatfield Food Service (Taher), our Custodial Staff, Office Staff, and National Honor Society Student Helpers.  Nearly the entire facility was in use and it easily supported the technology needs of everyone which was an impressive feat.  There were dozens of mini sessions throughout the day that staff could choose to attend depending upon their teaching assignment and interest.  Initial feedback was very positive.  It was exciting to see the adults immersed in best practice discussions about current technologies and strategies that can impact student learning in a positive way.  Way to go Chatfield Staff!

Final Comment

There have been so many examples this year of how well supported our students and staff are by the Chatfield community.  I wish to thank you for that support and congratulate the citizenry on setting an example in this regard that is noticed on a regular basis from others in neighboring communities and across the state.


Fall 2013 Gopher Gazette (E. Harris) 


By the time this edition of the Gopher Gazette goes to print, we will have been in school for the better part of a month.  It has been a very smooth start.  The students and staff really came in ready to go and in many ways the feeling of normalcy had already set in by the end of the first week.  Maybe this was because fall activities started earlier than usual and we had so many staff members attending trainings over the summer to prepare this year's upcoming initiatives.  The 1 to 1 iPad project has been very well received by students, staff and parents and the 2nd year of the Action100 reading program is already in full swing.  I am very pleased with the start of the school year and wish to thank the students, staff and administration for their efforts thus far.

Each year about this time we begin to get state testing data summaries from the prior year and enrollment comparisons using the current year.  Although, at the time of this publication we do not yet have the official results of the Multiple Measure Rating (MMR)* from the State of Minnesota, I would like to share some preliminary information from the District perspective regarding student achievement and District enrollment.

Student Achievement Measures

  1. According to state achievement data , the elementary, high school, and District all made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this past year based on the preliminary results of the 2013 MCA Reading and Math Assessment**
  2. A majority of Chatfield's Class of 2013 took the ACT college readiness exam.  As a group they scored above the state average in each category (English, math, reading, science).

"World's Best Workforce" Legislation

Planning will begin in October to develop a multi-year strategic plan that focuses on the examination of data to drive decision making and teacher instruction in a way that promotes excellence in teaching and learning.  Annual student achievement goals will be set for local and state assessments as well as other measures of growth.  This plan will be developed by a group of teacher leaders and administrators for approval by the School Board sometime later this year.  This plan development project is not only good practice, but also a new requirement set forth by the Minnesota Legislature for all school districts in the state.  The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will be monitoring the progress on these plans for districts across the state starting in the fall of 2014.  This new mandate was coined the "World's Best Workforce" when it was conceived by the MN legislature last spring.


Chatfield's current K-12 enrollment is 921.  At this time last year, the count was 910.  The average enrollment over the course of the past few years has been fairly consistent with a modest net increase of about 3% since the 2010-2011 school year.  This is primarily due to large kindergarten classes, two out of the last three years.  Enrollment is directly linked to funding from the State.  We consider ourselves quite fortunate that we are not experiencing a significant and persistent decline in enrollment that is common in other small rural school districts around the state.  At this time, our enrollment projection model suggests that the student count should remain fairly stable over the course of the next few years.


*If you are not familiar with the MMR, it is the new system used by the State of Minnesota to determine whether schools are on track to meet new statewide achievement goals. The MMR includes four measurements: student proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction, and graduation rates. This rating is used to identify low-performing schools that need state support, as well as high-performing schools deserving recognition. The student scores in the MMR use the results of the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams. 

**The 2013 MCA reading and math results are not valid comparisons to the Districts previous years' results for several reasons.  The Commissioner of Education presented a letter for districts last May to distribute to their patrons at a later date explaining why the State expects a dip in scores compared to 2012 and why that should not be considered a result of lesser performance, but instead a function of different content standards and test structures.  The Commissioner's advice is to use the 2013 MCA reading and math results as a new baseline to work from.  Here is a link to her public statement to parents on the matter.



Spring 2013


The 2012-2013 school year has gone amazingly fast.  It seemed like we leapt straight from winter to summer.  Oh, wait, maybe that had something to do with the weather!  At any rate, I would like to publically thank the students, staff, and parents for the tremendous effort this year.  There are so many success stories!  If you were able to attend the academic banquet held on May 8, you would have seen a remarkable example of how the efforts of students and staff (supported by parents) throughout the entire K-12 system collaborate to support student achievement in academics and activities at a very high level.  By the time you read this, the senior banquet will also have occurred on the 21st of May.   This is a showcase of academic accomplishment for our graduates that could rival schools larger than ours based on the value of the scholarships that are earned by our graduates.

At the end of every year, we reflect back on how far we have come as well as await the summer and school year ahead with anticipation.  This year is no different.  In 2013-2014, our Action 100 program will enter its 2nd year while an iPad/mobile device project involving multiple grades in each building begins.  In preparation for these types of major initiatives as well as numerous other curriculum and course development projects in all grades, over 30 teachers have requested a total of nearly 1000 hours of curriculum writing time this summer to prepare.  I think this speaks well to the level of commitment that our staff has to professional development that supports student learning.  We are going to try very hard to support as many of those requests as we can.  Needless to say, there is a lot to be proud of here in Chatfield!

Fall 2012


The 2012-2013 school year is well under way and I am proud to say that the students and staff have done a super job in getting it off to a great start.  I am extremely excited about the teaching and learning opportunities that we are working on to offer further support to our young people as they prepare for their futures.  Our teachers, staff, and administrators are energized and confident that they can meet the challenging goals that they have set for themselves this year.


As a District, we were very pleased to see the our Minnesota Competency Assessment (MCA) scores in both reading and math increase over the previous year.  Those results coupled with other measures such as our graduation rate and achievement gap combined to produce a favorable rating from the State of Minnesota this year.  This new universal rating system called the Multiple Measure Rating (MMR) is the next generation school effectiveness tool being used by the state to determine if schools are “making the grade” so to speak. We are confident that our focused attention on such efforts as the pre-K through 6 reading initiative (Action 100), secondary SMART goal and culture initiatives, MCA III Math preparation strategies, and K-12 curriculum alignment process will position us to continually improve as a institution of teaching and learning.


From a business perspective, our position continues to be favorable.  Preliminary indicators are that the 2011-2012 budget will close to within about 1% of the projected expenditures.  Also, this fall’s enrollment has increased compared to this time last year and the preliminary levy projection indicates a change of less than ½ of 1% (.33%) compared to last year.  The 2012-2013 budget was expanded to some degree to address the cost of new program initiatives and increased staff needed to accommodate the increase in enrollment.  These new costs and revenues from the increased enrollment will be integrated into our financial planning model (fund balance and enrollment projection system) and assessed for sustainability later this fall.  I am hopeful that in the coming years, the state economy stabilizes enough to allow the legislators and the governor to come to an agreement on school funding that is somewhat fair, but maybe more importantly, predictable.  If that were to happen, long-range fiscal planning for schools would certainly become more of a science and less of an art.


Go Gophers!



Summer 2012


Welcome back to school!  In a few short weeks the 2012-2013 school year will begin.  Next year is loaded with opportunities to continually improve how we serve students and elevate their abilities to thrive.  Here are a few notes about upcoming plans and the new staff that will be joining us.


Action 100 and the 100 Book Challenge

After months of planning and research, the school board approved the recommendation to implement a major literacy initiative in the elementary that will engage students and parents like never before.  With top notch consultancy and an eager staff and administration, we believe that we will be able to arrive at a new standard of literacy instruction, engagement, and intervention in 2012-2013.
Curriculum Alignment
To date, the K-12 English and Math teachers have made considerable progress in evaluating the present curriculum and aligning instruction to the new state standards.  This coming year, the plan is to assist the K-12 Social Studies and Science teachers on that same journey that will conclude with K-12 agreement on a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  I would like to thank and commend the teachers that are presently engaged in this effort.  It is time intensive and requires a significant commitment on everyone’s part.
eClassroom Summer Academy
This summer, a group of committed Chatfield staff including teachers, office staff, and administrators enrolled in a 6 week graduate level course designed to teach them all that was necessary to build and facilitate online or hybrid courses for students or adult learners.  Barb Sass, Kristy Cook, Stacy Fritz, Dan Conway, Jeff DeBuhr, Damon Lueck, Craig Ihrke, and Ed Harris are all on track to complete the course at the end of July and then use what they have built to enhance the classroom experience for kids or update the processes for delivering staff development to adults.  Thank you to those that have taken this on.  It has been a great deal of work but also very enjoyable and enlightening.
Curriculum and Staff Development Leadership Team
With full attention being paid to making purposeful plans to support excellent teaching and learning opportunities, it became evident that a staff-based leadership group was needed to help the District plan and implement high impact teacher learning and curriculum development activities.  A group of peer-nominated K-12 teachers and the administration met in June to begin planning their purpose and mission as well as an agenda for a follow up meeting in August.  This group will meet regularly to be the clearinghouse for ideas and plans to support District-level initiatives.  I would like to thank those on this committee for responding to the leadership call and being willing to put in extra time and effort on behalf of our kids and staff.
9-12 Online Course Expansion
Last winter the high school embarked on a pilot program to offer online courses within the building to students that had a special interest, a schedule conflict, or a need to recover lost credits.  We intend to intensify this effort by assigning a teacher to assist those taking the courses to ensure success, fidelity, and provide an expansion of course offerings.  Web-based learning is a standard option in K-12 education now and creates some course opportunities in smaller schools that they normally would not have access to.
College in the Schools – University of Minnesota Literature Course
Juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to enroll in a University of Minnesota Literature and Writing intensive course that will be taught in our building.  Besides receiving the English credits required for high school graduation, students will simultaneously earn four college credits from the University of Minnesota for completing this course.  This is a great example of the pursuit of excellence exhibited by Chatfield teachers.  Thank you to Mrs. Bren for taking on this huge commitment in an effort to offer opportunities for academic excellence to our students!
New Staff
Retirements, departures, new grant supported programming, and another robust class of kindergartners combined to create another busy hiring season.  We are very excited about our new people and think that they will do a great job!  As of July 18, here are the new staff members that will be joining the district.  Note: We are still in the process of filling openings in vocal music and physical education.
               Tiffany Wilkie……………………………. Kindergarten
               Mary Catherine Johnson……………  Kindergarten
               Bryan Crowson………………………….  2nd Grade
               Meredith Keefe…………………………. 5th Grade
               Jayna Harstad……………………………  ADSIS Teacher (project based intervention program)
               Stacy Hogberg…………………………… HS English
               Mitch Lee………………………………….. 9-12 Online Learning
               Nikki Ostby………………………………… 8th Grade Volleyball
               Deen Narveson…………………………. 7th Grade Volleyball
Trista Stamness (consultant) and Elissa Johnsrud (Chatfield Teacher) will be assigned to collaboratively assist the administration in  overseeing and facilitating the teaching and learning initiatives that are scheduled for the coming year that are too numerous to list here.  This position was created last winter and was reopened this summer.  The administrative team interviewed four qualified candidates and determined that the powerful combination of Trista and Elissa would fit the bill.  We are excited to get Trista and Elissa involved in what we think are significant efforts that will change the way teachers teach and students learn.
Lastly, I need to publically thank those staff that work within the District through the summer months.  The maintenance/cleaning crew, Valleyland staff/administration, office staff, and principals have been extremely busy and have accomplished a lot in an effort to get ready for 2012-2013.  See you in September!
Edward J. Harris



April 2012

It is hard to believe that we are already starting the last term of this school year.  It does not seem that long ago that we were making preparations for the first day of school.  As we begin closing one school year and preparing for the next (which often overlaps), it is a good time to reflect on how far we have come and what our path to the future looks like.  It is a very exciting time for our school district.  We have a number of efforts that are either in progress or being seriously considered that will influence the level of service to our students, staff, and community.  The aim of these efforts is to allow our school district to continue adapting to the changing needs of our students and the evolving expectations of the state and federal government.
Here are some items of note…
Literacy:  Literacy is the foundation for student success.  The skills of reading, comprehension, and communication through various mediums directly influence the ability of students to be successful in every aspect of their preK-12 educational experience.  Over the course of this year there have been a number of efforts undertaken to give our students the best chance for success by ensuring that we are properly serving their literacy needs.  This also includes plans to respond to the new Minnesota state mandate that requires school districts to ensure that all students are able to read at grade level before they finish 3rd grade and have an intervention plan ready for those that do not reach that goal.  Here are a few key efforts afoot in our school district that relate to this.
  1. A district-wide literacy improvement plan was developed last fall to articulate a preK-12 focus on improving reading skills.
  2. A repurposing of time to focus support for staff development and curriculum efforts by a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) – Judith Brockway.
  3. A comprehensive preK-6 literacy initiative (Action 100 & 100 Book Challenge) that has been researched and proposed by Principal Ihrke, Judith Brockway and the elementary staff for the 2012-2013 school year.  This is an intensive program that will engage students, parents, and staff in an unprecedented effort to develop student interest in reading, parent support, and expert literacy skills for every teacher in the building.  I would like to thank the Chatfield School Board for their support of this effort.
6A Curriculum Review:  Over the course of this year and last, our teachers have continued with efforts to review core curriculums and interpret student data to support classroom instruction that is focused on the areas of greatest need.  Math and English are progressing now with science and social studies soon to follow.  Elective departments will be seeking ways to integrate focuses on literacy and math in their respective areas while continuing to offer a balanced K-12 curriculum.  Most of this work is done during early outs and staff workshop days that occur between August 15 and June 15.  As we certify each curriculum, the staff will then focus on instructional best practices and student assessments that will serve every student in a purposeful way.
Curriculum and Staff Development Leadership Team (C/SD LT):  Later this spring, a district-wide leadership team consisting of the TOSA, principals, the superintendent and a group of peer-nominated teachers will join together in an effort to provide consistent, long-range guidance for the entire school district in the areas of curriculum and staff development.
SMART Goals:  Last August, over 20 K-12 teachers and both building principals engaged in training to identify building level goals for 2011-2012 school year that would directly impact the learning of our students.  Over the course of the training, the elementary and secondary teachers gained a clear understanding of how to develop concise goals that are realistic and achievable.  In turn, the newly trained teachers coached their peers on how to implement a student-centered SMART goal project where students would be given time with their teachers to develop an academic and social goal.  We believe that if students can set appropriate goals and review them with regularity, their academic progress and overall experience within our schools will be positively enhanced.  The students and staff are to be commended for their efforts this year.
Technology:   In recent weeks, the school board approved the expansion of online courses for students in the high school.  The intention is to provide an intervention for those students who may be falling behind in graduation credits as well as opportunities for those that would like to explore elective opportunities in an online environment.  This effort provides a comparable program to what other school districts in the area are offering.
Also, there has been a considerable amount of time spent this year in our school district and across the state discussing the subject of mobile technology (e.g. smart phones, iPads, Android tablets, netbooks) and how schools can make the most use of the expanding ability of our students to be engaged in learning no matter where they are or what time of day it is.  It is likely that there will be a steady effort to deploy these types of devices (or have students bring in what they already own) in ways that enhance what is already happening in the classroom.  These types of technologies and the ability to congregate a multitude of resources and communication mediums in the palm of one’s hand will be continually influencing numerous aspects of K-12 education and staff development at an accelerated rate. 
MCA – III Math Test(s):  Students in grades 3-8 have completed the first round of the new MCA-III Math online test (there are 3 testing opportunities this year).  The first round results from our students suggest that we may be on track to make some legitimate gains over the course of this school year compared to the state average.  Students who miss the proficiency standard are able to take the test up to 3 times.  I would like to commend the principals and teaching staff for the effort that has been put into plans for those students who need further remediation before taking the test a second or third time.  Note:  The State of Minnesota’s NCLB waiver application to the federal government includes provisions to return to only one test for the 2012-2013 school year.
I would like to publically commend the students, staff, parents, and community members that contribute in so many ways to make our schools and community a great place to be!  2011-2012 is shaping up to be a great year.  Finish Strong!
Go Gophers!
E. Harris



February 2012
It is hard to believe that spring is already on it's way.  As a District, we are poised to continue current efforts to serve the students of Chatfield to the best of our ability as well as lay the foundation for some exciting directions in 2012-2013 and beyond. Here are some items of interest relating to student achievement, curriculum, and staff development that should be noted.
The 6A curriculum and common assessment project will continue with a special focus on reading and math skill development at every grade level and in every content area. This project is an examination of our curriculum(s) and how well they align to the state standards.  The goal is to routinely examine student assessment data on a regular basis and adjust instruction accordingly. 
At this time, we are considering an expansion of the current literacy initiatives to include a comprehensive intervention strategy that will enable our staff to efficiently respond to the new state mandate that every child will read at grade level by 3rd grade. To do this, we are putting together a curriculum and staff development advisory committee that will assist in strategic planning that supports improvement programs at the building and district level. Additionally, this committee will play a key role in developing a new teacher evaluation program that has also been mandated by recent legislation. The new teacher evaluation system must include student achievement measures of growth and be in place for the 2014-2015 school year.  I look forward to working with the staff to develop a tool that supports teacher development, the use of best practices, and a system that assists new teachers in fully developing their potential as they join the District.
Recently, our secondary teachers visited their counterparts in Dover-Eyota to exchange curriculum and instruction ideas. We look forward to future opportunities to construct new partnerships with neighboring school districts that have the potential to be mutually beneficial.
New this spring will be a trial for the Math MCA III state test that can now be taken up to three times by students in grades 3-8 if they do not meet the proficiency standard. For the first time, student performance on the test will be immediately available to school districts so that intervention strategies can be deployed between test administrations in the same year. At this time we are making a plan to utilize these opportunities to give our students the best chance to demonstrate their learning and offer real time data to teachers so that instruction can be individualized to the greatest degree possible. In the coming weeks, the building principals will be communicating with parents and students about the details of the new Math MCA III testing format.
I want to commend the teachers, support staff, principals, and school board on their efforts thus far this year. We have made great progress in a number of areas and are well situated to respond to the changing needs of our students. As we enter the spring season, we will finalize the priorities for the school district and align the available resources as efficiently as possible. In recent months, several people have made unsolicited comments to me about how special this community and school district is. This community works hard to preserve the quality of life in the Chosen Valley. As a school district, we will do our best to contribute to that effort.
Go Gophers!
Friday, November 11 2011
After running the gamut of emotions preceding the outcome of the election it took me a while to amass my thoughts.  By now, most people who are familiar with my style of writing know that they usually have to wade through a slough of details before the key statement is brought forth or the point is made in some clever way.  Not this time.


I want to thank everyone who had any type of role in the referendum process.  This has been a tremendous amount of work and a great example of what can get done if good people rally around a worthy cause.  To all of you who took a minute and passed some election information on to a friend, neighbor or family member, thank you.  Over 1200 community members came out to express their opinion of the school district by voting on this referendum.  We can be proud that a majority of them feel good enough about what we do to offer even more support than they have already given.  It is the little things that we all do every day that build relationships with people (adults and children).  How well we do that over time shows up when we are in need and ask for something that is not normally given freely.  Thank you and feel good that at least for the next few years the school district has been stabilized by the good will of the community.  It is our job to make sure that we are reciprocating that generosity every day by treating each child as if they are our own and resolving conflicts as if it were with a dear friend.
I know that I speak for the students, parents, staff, and the school board when I say Thank You for Your Support!  Schools and communities depend upon one another for strength.  That bond is often tested and can be maintained if people act in good faith and commit to the task at hand.  I believe in the Chatfield community and feel blessed to be a part of it.
Edward J. Harris







Chatfield Public Schools Referendum



General Information

On November 8, a school election will be held to ask the community for renewed financial support and additional funds to maintain our current staff and program levels through what is likely to be several years of budgetary uncertainty.  Over the course of the past 10 years, the gap between state aid for schools and inflation has grown to nearly 13%.  What this means is that the State of Minnesota has not provided funds to fully maintain educational programs.  Local communities have had to pick up the slack if they want to keep pace with the demands of educating kids in the 21st century and ensure the vitality of their schools.  This is the primary reason why over 90% of the schools in the state have operating levies in place and why there are more school districts holding elections this fall compared to any other year in the last decade.  Over 120 school districts are asking their communities to support critical renewals of current operating levies and/or increases in funding to balance budgets that are short of revenue.  As is the case in Chatfield, these schools have likely already cut staff and programs that impact kids and are hopeful that they can hold the line if their communities respond favorably on election day. 

As we have been in the past, Chatfield Schools continue to be good stewards of the tax dollar as we plan for future years.  Chatfield ranks 306 out of 340 Minnesota school districts in terms of how much money per student is spent annually from the general fund to educate kids.  This means two things (1) we are not over spending on educational costs and (2) there is no “fat” in the budget. 
When Chatfield’s current operating levy expires this year, a budget deficit will be created that will result in the need for more budget cuts and more expensive referendum requests in subsequent years if replacement revenue is not approved on November 8.  After reviewing the community survey results from last spring and spending a great deal of time tuning our enrollment and budget projection system, we are confident that the current request of renewing the existing operating levy ($350 per student – ballot question 1) and adding an increase ($250 per student – ballot question 2) is the most cost effective way for taxpayers to support the current level of academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students over the course of the next several years. 
There are still some lingering questions about how we can afford to work on facilities such as ball fields, sidewalks, landscaping, and tiling when we are asking for financial support from the community through operating levies.  The answer is that the funds we have been using for facility projects were funds saved due to favorable markets and bid outcomes from the construction project that produced the new elementary school and updates to the high school.  At this time, there is about $30,000 left in the construction fund that is scheduled to be spent by spring.  By law, those voter approved monies can only be spent on facilities. Facility construction funds cannot be used to pay general operating expenses. 
The general operating budget is where nearly all of the funds come from to support the annual costs of teaching, learning, utilities and keeping the buildings open.  While many districts in the state have received community support to build schools that are energy efficient and support student learning now and into the future, additional operating funds are still needed to maintain basic learning programs needed to develop future skills for students.  I would be happy to talk with anyone who would like more clarification about school budgets and the statutes guiding district financial decisions.
State Budget:  New Revenues
There has been some discussion lately around the region about the additional revenues that schools will be receiving as a result of the new state budget.  Some of the discussion is misleading in terms of how much schools are actually receiving.  In a recent article, Chatfield was shown to be receiving $282 of “new” revenue per pupil (PPU) from the state budget.  What the article did not indicate was that this was “potential” revenue.  In order to receive about $118 PPU of the $282 PPU, Chatfield Schools would first have to create new costs or direct funds to programs that are already underfunded.  So, there is no help from the $118 PPU in terms of addressing the upcoming revenue shortfall and maintaining current programs. 
While we are certainly grateful for new revenue, the additional $145,000 over two years does not solve the problem of the growing gap between funding and costs.  With the new revenue included, the current two-year budget deficit projection for Chatfield is about $900,000 (this figure includes the loss of the existing operating levy revenue and the maintenance of current educational and operational budgets).  However, the new revenue did allow the school board to decrease the amount asked from taxpayers in the second ballot question from $400 PPU to $250 PPU.  For this, we are certainly appreciative.
State Budget Changes:  Homestead Tax Credit Removed and Property Tax Capacity Adjusted
Property owners should be aware that legislators removed the homestead tax credit as a cost saving measure for the state when the budget was approved in final negotiations.  As a part of this year’s legislation, the state also adjusted the tax capacities for property owners.  This two-fold plan was intended to hold taxpayers harmless (not raise their taxes).  That is not the result.  Cities and school districts may levy the same amount of money as last year, but because the state lowered the tax capacity, some property owners may experience a modest increase.  Preliminary estimates indicate a change of less than $2 per month due to the removal of the Homestead Tax Credit by the state legislature.  Although the impact of this appears negligible, it bears noting in an effort to separate school referendum impacts from state budget outcomes.
Debt Service Levy

Property owners may have noticed some small variations in the debt service levy over the past two years.  The debt service levy is what covers the annual payments for voter approved debt (building projects).  It is projected that the debt service levy will stabilize this coming year at a level that should be predictable for the foreseeable future.  This new level of stabilization will be less than what property owners paid in 2009 but more than 2010.   




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