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Lettter to the Editor: Why I'm Against STEAM

A member of the divestiture committee says bringing STEAM to Olson Elementary School is a bad decision.

Editor's Note: This letter is in response to the approving the creation of a STEAM magnet program at Olson Elementary School in Golden Valley for next school year.

Having served on the RAS Divestiture Committee, I can speak to the two reasons that Olson was not recommended for sale immediately.  First, it was a possible site for students from Northport or Lakeview during remodeling (no longer needed with the remodeling being done over many summers). Second, other being as a possible site of a magnet school, but only if financially sound both short & long-term.

I disagree with the decision to open a STEAM magnet school at Olson site.  The reasons are;

1.)  The over $2,200,000 cumulative cost is not fully paid back for 10 years.

2.)  The money used is being TAKEN from other programs, which could be used to reduce the LARGE opportunity/achievement gap.

3.)  The District needs to concentrate on its current student’s achievement, not on creating another lottery based school that benefits a few (500) at the cost of MANY (thousands) students!!

The proposal of a school within a school for STEM/STEAM is a better use of limited resources that will benefit many more students, cost less and allow for two additional EXCESS buildings (Olson & Pilgrim Lane) to be sold, which will create additional revenue to be used to pay for Northport or Lakeview or other capital costs.

I believe that the FIRST responsibility of our school district is to provide a great education to all students, not a select few.  Education of students is the primary function of public education and NOT employment for adults.

I encourage all residents of RAS to contact the Superintendent and all school board members to express your feeling directly.

 Ron Stoffel, New Hope

Editor's Note: Do you want to write your own letter to the editor, either about this or another local topic? Email Golden Valley Patch editor Mary Costello at mary.costello@patch.com. Submission does not guarantee publication.

Barb Breckshire December 09, 2011 at 03:28 PM
I disagree with the conclusion that only a few kids will benefit. I think the district is on to something, and if Olson proves to be a success, it'll just be a matter of time before we start seeing more innovative programs at other schools. Besides, 500 kids in STEAM next year is more than we've got right now which is none.
Ron Stoffel December 09, 2011 at 03:54 PM
But at what cost, the other thousand elementary students? Why no use the money to create the program inside MORE elementary schools (school within the school)?
Barb Breckshire December 09, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I don't think it ONLY benefits the 500 kids at Olson. Having that building as a school will also help the neighborhood, help home prices, be good for unity in the city of Golden Valley when it's divided between the two districts and give a little life to this part of town. My question is if we created the school within a school (which I don't think is necessarily a bad idea), we couldn't use open enrollment to bring other students to the district. STEAM at Olson is one way Robbinsdale Area Schools becomes a player in the school choice game. And that game is not going away. So kudos for getting ahead and marketing themselves by having STEAM. Thank you for explaining your thoughts on this matter, as it's great to hear the other side of this story, even if I don't agree with it.
concerned citizen December 09, 2011 at 04:09 PM
another education leader crying foul and complaining about all these evil forces working against them...............competition makes the world MUCH BETTER! and that includes in education. You have had years to fix these problems and have failed to make any major improvement. Do not impede progress
Ron Stoffel December 09, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Barb, You many not be aware that RAS has about 11% of its total student open enrolled already?? Therefore, RAS is already a large player in the open enrollment GAME. The Golden Valley community will benefit from the property being used for many other purposes (homes or senior housing, etc..)? If RAS sells the property for re-development more of the community will WIN?
Mary Costello December 09, 2011 at 08:22 PM
The Robbinsdale Area Schools would like to comment on this letter, and we're giving them the opportunity to do so on Monday. Feel free to add any other comments about STEAM you'd like the district to address. Thanks! Mary
Candace Oathout December 10, 2011 at 06:29 PM
In 2009 parents and students in the District were put through the major trauma of the closure of 3 schools and realignment of school boundaries to save $2 M. Based on the proposed savings in staff salaries reported FY 2010 opening a Magnet school will cost roughly $428,100. Facilities operational costs will cost roughly $38,000 based on figures estimated in the Wold Consulting report dated Jan 5, 2009. Roughly $46,100 in increased costs. How does that equate to student decline due to students transferring out of the District as a result of the decisions made to close schools in 2009? How does factoring in declining a birth rate impact these figures? Why does it make sense to outsource busing to save roughly $600,000 one time and increase spending a minimum of $428,100 annually? Especially at a time when state spending on schools is erratic at best and operating in deficit mode?
Teresa January 20, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Agreed. The 2009 closings only saved about 1/4 of the money it was supposed to save. Do you know why the District wants a magnet school? Because it makes them sound like they offer more programs. Meanwhile, those of us who have already left the district are left with fewer choices actually. We choose to send our children to a school that remained open, a mega-school in a bad part of town, or bus them clear across the district to one of the special magnet/immersion schools. Apparently all this busing all over the district won't add up, though, right????
Candace Oathout January 20, 2012 at 09:42 PM
The district says that the busing won't add costs because they will be using the same buses that the use for Spanish Immersion how ever they are also exploring the costs of outsourcing busing to save money. Seems like a bit of a conundrum to me. Additionally, 1/3 of the students enrolled will be non-resident students with priority given "to those who qualify for free and reduced price lunches and students enrolled through the Minnesota Choice is Yours Program. Another question that should be asked, Is it really a wise precedent to cannibalize other districts enrollments to boost revenue? How will that be viewed by residents who are paying property taxes to support the schools in their district and who no longer have students in schools?
Candace Oathout January 20, 2012 at 09:43 PM
The district says that the busing won't add costs because they will be using the same buses that the use for Spanish Immersion how ever they are also exploring the costs of outsourcing busing to save money. Seems like a bit of a conundrum to me. Additionally, 1/3 of the students enrolled will be non-resident students with priority given "to those who qualify for free and reduced price lunches and students enrolled through the Minnesota Choice is Yours Program. Another question that should be asked, Is it really a wise precedent to cannibalize other districts enrollments to boost revenue? How will that be viewed by residents who are paying property taxes to support the schools in their district and who no longer have students in schools?

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