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2013-14 District Archive



St. Peter Public School administration announces hirings for 2014-15


The end of the school year always brings about a bittersweet time as numerous staff members near the end of their time here with the Saint Peter Public School District, while at the same time excitement builds for those hired to fill those positions.


St. Peter Public Schools’ administration and board of education have been busy filling those positions and have already announced several new staff at this time with a few more still more to be added as the hiring process continues.


One of the most recent hirings for the 2014-15 school year is one which will fill the important role of administrative assistant for Dr. Paul Peterson, who takes over as Superintendent of Schools from Dr. Jeff Olson on July 1. Long-time music teacher Becky Grabow, who is retiring from teaching at end of 2013-14 school year, has been hired for that position. She will take over for Nancy Kruger, who announced her retirement after 11 years in that position under Dr. Jeff Olson and 23 years overall with the school district.


According to Dr. Peterson, pending final board approval, Grabow will also assume the duties for her new position on July 1.


In addition to Peterson taking over as Superintendent, the district will have new faces behind the desk in the offices of the top administrator roles at St. Peter High School/Middle School, North Intermediate School, and South Elementary Early Learning Center. Those taking over include:


  • Paul Preimesberger (SPHS/MS principal)
  • Darin Doherty (North Intermediate principal
  • Doreen Oelke (South Elementary ELC principal)


The following is a breakdown of the other new staff members to date who have been hired for the 2014-15 school year:


District Office

  • Tim Regner -- School District Business Manager.



  • David Hamilton -- High school Spanish teacher
  • Levin Nellen -- High school English teacher
  • Liz Tholen -- High school Special Education teacher


North Intermediate

  • Tyler Kaus -- Sixth grade teacher (was a fellow teacher this past year)
  • Emily Onken -- Sixth grade teacher
  • Jacob Berling -- Fifth grade teacher
  • Jennifer Friedrich -- Fourth grade teacher
  • Brandi Roeker -- Speech language pathologist


South Elementary ELC

  • Sheila Rahn -- Special Education Teacher


More details on the remaining open positions will be announced once approved by the St. Peter School Board.



District has Math Corps/Reading Corps tutor positions available for 2014-15


The St. Peter Public School Distirct has positions available for the 2014-15 school year for tutors for Math Corps and Reacing Corps. 


The following is a breakdown of those positions and how to apply:



Position title: Math Enrichment Tutor – Minnesota Math Corps



Further your career with meaning: Grow the skills of youth.


You can help youth succeed in school by giving them the extra support they need to do math. Whether you’re looking to explore a new career in education, reenter the workforce or simply want to work with kids, you can make a direct impact by serving one year as a Minnesota Math Corps Math Enrichment Tutor at North Intermediate and St. Peter Middle School.  There are two full-time . tutor positions available.


Minnesota Math Corps will train more than 100 tutors to directly impact of 4th through 8th graders in schools across Minnesota. As a tutor, you will be trained to implement research-based methods, monitor progress and help students believe in themselves and succeed—all while building your own skills and professional network. Math Corps has seen real results and is helping struggling students catch up to their peers.


During your eleven-month AmeriCorps service, you’ll receive extensive training, support and general professional development opportunities. In addition, you will receive a modest living allowance of about $484 biweekly (full-time), an education award of $5,645 (full-time) and other benefits if eligible. Most tutors will begin on the first day of the program year, August 10, 2014. Strong preference is given to applicants who can begin on time. Limited make up trainings will be available to late start tutors.


Math Enrichment Tutors work with pairs of fourth through eighth graders at the school. They follow a curriculum and conduct progress monitoring to ensure their students are proficient in algebra by eighth grade. They commit to daytime hours.



* Strong interest in education, specifically helping students practice math skills. 

* Knowledge of mathematics (preferred up to 10th grade skills) as demonstrated by proficiency test

* Dedication to community service

* Computer skills, ability to use intervention program technology, online database and e-mail

* Organizational skills and ability to manage multiple tasks

* Excellent oral and written communication skills

* Ability to accept and incorporate constructive feedback from coaches and program staff

* Ability to establish effective working relationships with fellow members, school staff, and students

* Ability to take initiative and work independently

* Ability to commit to 11 months of service (most tutors will begin August 10, 2014)

* High School diploma or GED and must be 18 years of age or older

* As per federal AmeriCorps regulations, you must be either a U.S. Citizen or lawful Permanent Resident Alien



How do I apply? Submit an application online at (do not apply via the district website). Questions? Contact or 866-859-2825.


Position title: Literacy Tutor – Minnesota Reading Corps


Further your career with meaning: Grow the skills of children.


You can help children succeed in school by giving them the extra support they need to read. Whether you’re looking to explore a new career in education, reenter the workforce or simply want to work with kids, you can make a direct impact by serving one year as a Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutor at St. Peter Early Childhood, South Elementary ELC, or North Intermediate. There are six  Literacy Tutor positions available.


Minnesota Reading Corps, the nation’s largest state AmeriCorps program, trains tutors to directly impact over 30,000 children age 3 through grade 3 in schools across Minnesota. As a tutor, you will be trained to implement proven research-based strategies, monitor progress and help children believe in themselves and succeed—all while building your own skills and professional network. Reading Corps has seen real results and is helping catch children up to their peers.


During your eleven-month AmeriCorps service, you’ll receive extensive training, support and general professional development opportunities. In addition, you will receive a modest living allowance of about  $484 biweekly (full-time) or about $250 biweekly (part-time),  an education award of $5,645 (full-time) or $2,822 (part-time) and other benefits if eligible. Most tutors will begin on the first day of the program year, August 10, 2014. Strong preference is given to applicants who can begin on time. Limited make up trainings will be available to late start tutors.


Elementary Literacy Tutors work one-on-one with K-3 children who need help learning to read. They use prescribed literacy interventions and conduct weekly progress monitoring to ensure their students are on track to read at grade level by the end of third grade. They commit to daytime hours.


Preschool Literacy Tutors are embedded into a classroom of children ages 3 to 5 to develop children’s early literacy skills in preparation for kindergarten. They collaborate with the classroom teaching staff to enhance daily literacy opportunities and conduct literacy assessments to ensure children are on track to read by the end of third grade. They commit to daytime hours.



* Strong interest in education, specifically helping young children practice reading skills

* Experience working with children, preferably as a literacy tutor

* Dedication to community service

* Computer skills, including the ability to navigate and use online database systems and e-mail

* Speak, read, and write English fluently

* Organized, responsible, flexible, motivated, professional

* Excellent oral and written communication skills

* Ability to accept and incorporate constructive feedback from coaches and program staff

* Ability to take initiative and work independently

* Ability to commit to 11 months of service (most tutors will begin August 10, 2014)

* High school diploma or GED and must be at least 18-years-old

* As per federal AmeriCorps regulations, you must be a U.S. Citizen or lawful Permanent Resident Alien


How do I apply? Submit an application on (do not apply via the district website). Questions? Contact or 866-859-2825.





SPPS to hold public forums on substance availability/risks survey data


A series of public forums for St. Peter Public School parents have been set for March 24 and 27 to provide them with more information about survey data collected recently on the current state of substances available to students and the risks associated with them.


Mike McGinnis, the drug and alcohol counselor for the St. Peter Public Schools, will moderate the public forums which will give parents and those in attendance a chance to learn more about the survey data and other information about substance issues.


The following is a breakdown of times and dates for those forums:


* Monday, March 24 from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. -- For middle level age group (grades 5-8) at SPHS/MS media center.


* Thursday, March 27 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.-- For lower age group (grades K-4) at South Elementary Early Learning Center


* Thursday, March 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. -- for high school age group (grades 9-12) at SPHS/MS media center.


McGinnis’ primary role here at St. Peter Public Schools is overseeing the ARCHER program (At-risk chemical health education and resiliency). He works with at-risk student population


“I work with everything from incidental experimentation to abuse issues,” McGinnis said. “I also provide direction for students and families on how to address issues.”


His work includes doing assessments, skill building, providing alternatives, education in the classrooms, working with family issues.  He also works to help develop skills for students to manage themselves socially, emotionally, and educationally. In addition his goal is to partner with parents.


During these forums, student survey information will be presented and parents will be provided an open forum to discuss current state of substances available in South Central Minnesota and the risks associated,


“Use patterns and risk factors will be discussed as will local and national issues,” McGinnis said. “The current atmosphere with medical marijuana and the recent legalization in states for recreational use will be addressed.  Parents will be provided a portion of the time to ask questions.


“It is my hope that parents will walk away feeling grounded in how to present information to children, have tough conversations, identify risks, recognize and provide resources to help keep safe environments for kids.”




Original SPHS/MS building one of the oldest in the area



The blue doors in the middle of this photo are the main entrance into the St. Peter High School/Middle School building. The part of the building to the right of the doors in this photo is part of the original 1957 building while the part of the building from the blue doors going left was part of a 1991 addition to the building. (File photo)



While a lot of discussions have been held about ways the St. Peter Public School District can alleviate current and future space concerns, one of the options being considered is the possibility of a new St. Peter High School building.


The main part of the St. Peter High School building was opened in 1957 and since then various additions have been done in 1964, 1977, 1980 and 1991. The school also had a renovation project in the southwest corner of the building in 1998 to repair/replace damage done by that year’s devastating tornado.


By comparison, North Intermediate, completed in 1964, is the next oldest building in the St. Peter district while South was built in 1971. North had expansion projects in 2007 and 2011 while South has never had an expansion and based upon its footprint there is little or no room for one.


To get a better idea on the age of other high school buildings in the area, School Information & Marketing Coordinator Kurt Hildebrandt contacted several schools in Region 2A administrative area as well as Mankato Public School’s high schools (West and East). Schools from the new Big South (South Central and Southwest Conferences) were also included.


According to the data received, St. Peter has the oldest school among six members of the current South Central by three years. The original/main structure of the St. Peter High School building was completed in 1957 while St. James High School was done in 1960. The newest SCC high school building is Blue Earth Area’s which was done in 1994.


Of the Southwest Conference schools, which will make up the rest of the Big South, Luverne High School is the oldest having been completed in 1956, just one year ahead of St. Peter’s. The newest SWC buildings are Marshal, completed in 2005, and Pipestone, done in 2003.


As far as Region 2A administrative area schools Maple River’s original high school building is the oldest and was constructed in 1934 with additions in 1956 and 1975.The newest buildings are Tri-City United (2012) and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (2007). Another area school, United South Central, will move into a new high school building this fall.


The following is a rundown of the ages of those high schools (along with dates of any additions, if available):



(In order from oldest to youngest)

East Division (South Central Conference)

* St. Peter -- 1957 (w/ additions in 1964, 1977, 1980, 1991 and 1998)

* St. James -- 1960

* New Ulm -- 1966 (w/ additions & remodel in 1997 & 1999)

* Waseca -- 1972

* Fairmont -- 1973

* Blue Earth Area -- 1994

West Division (Southwest Conference)

* Luverne -- 1956 (w/ adjacent new elementary school connected to it in 1998 w/ new gym for all sports)

* Worthington -- 1956 (w/ expansions in 1964 and 2000)

* Jackson County Central --  1980

* Windom -- 1970 (w/ major expansion in 2002 including new gym & commons area)

* Redwood Valley -- 1991

* Pipestone Area -- 2003

* Marshall -- 2005


Others in Administrative Region 2A & the area

* Maple River -- 1934 (additions in 1956 and 1975)

* Mankato West -- 1950

* Sibley East -- 1955 (addition in 1989)

* Belle Plaine -- 1956 (renovation in 2006)

* Le Sueur-Henderson -- mid-1960s (total remodel in 2008 (new gym, commons, theater, etc.)

* WEM -- 1972 (with small portion of northwest section built in 1930s)

* Mankato East -- 1973

* Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial -- 2007

* Tri-City United (former Montgomery-Lonsdale and Le Center) -- 2012

* United South Central -- New building in 2014-15 school year.




School district eyes possible major building project

School board could put a building referedum vote before district residents in March 2015



The possible layout of a proposed new St. Peter High School building and surrounding facilities that was presented to St. Peter Public School Board on Feb. 3. 


While St. Peter Public School administrators and school board members continue to work on how the district is going to meet the facility needs based upon its projected increased enrollment, they had a chance to get a glimpse at one possible solution.


The board held study session Monday, Feb. 3 at the St. Peter High School/Middle School’s media center to get an early look at a school facilities presentation. The presentation was together by the district’s facilities consultants from the I&S Group and Kraus Anderson as well as with its financing consultants from Springsted, Inc.


The meeting was to present preliminary findings for the possible re-purposing of existing buildings and the plans for a potential new high school building. Included in the discussions were the costs of the project and how the district would pay for the project.


Officials with I&S and Kraus Anderson have been meeting regularly with school administrators and board members since the start of the current school year to come up with a plan of action based up the findings of their work. Included in that has been discussion was a facilities task-force made up of a broad cross-section of district residents.


The new building and repurposing project is getting serious consideration by the board based upon a projected increase of enrollment of 1 to 2 percent over the next 10-year period. Combined with the increase in students the district has already seen over the past few years and it’s only a matter of time before all three of the district’s main buildings (SPHS/MS, North and South) become overcrowded -- and more than likely sooner rather than later.


According to Superintendent Dr. Jeff Olson, the Greater Mankato metropolitan area, of which St. Peter is a part, is expected to see steady population growth through 2030. The Greater Mankato metro area's population is expected to grow well past 100,000 people in that time. 


With the current building situation (the last new school building constructed was in 1971) and the expected growth in mind, the district administration and board feels strongly that something needs to be done facilities-wise and this plan is one of main steps in figuring that out.


The overall estimated cost of this project is estimated at just under $55 million, but before any money is spent on the proposed project it would have to be put forward to a vote by district residents for approval.


The proposed project's costs


The potential project includes construction of a new high school building and reconfiguration of several other buildings includes:


Site work costs

New high school site development  $4.384,000

Revisions at existing secondary site   $250,000


Project soft costs

Professional fees, permits, testing, survey, bond & finance costs $5,935,000

Furnishings, fixtures, equipment, technology & security $1.600,000


Building construction costs

New high school facility (185,000 sq. feet for 700 students, 1,000 student core, includes 700-seat auditorium & 3-station gymnasium) $36,075,000

Repurpose existing secondary facility for 5-8 middle school building $1,500,000

Relocate Early Learning to existing secondary building   $500,000

Relocate Community Education to existing secondary building   $200,000

Revisions at South for K-1 repurposing   $825,000

Revisions at North for 2-4 repurposing   $250,000

Pool repairs at existing secondary building   $700,000

MVED building improvements & upgrades   $500,000 


Site work & building construction sub-total $45,184,000

Project soft costs  $9,795,000

TOTAL $54,979,000


Paying for the project


To pay for the project, the school district would be putting a building referendum vote before its residents as soon as March 2015. That vote would ask taxpayers whether or not they would like to increase their property taxes to pay for the project. A vote in favor would move the project forward and vote against would force school administration and board members to look for other ways to address the space issues.


If the referendum were to pass it would increase property taxes for the average homeowner (avg. price of $140,000) approximately $240 per year or $20 per month or about $5 per week.  


"That $5 per week figures out to about two cups of coffee at the local coffee shop each week," Olson said. 


The entire facility planning process began in the fall of 2012 and continued on through last summer. That process included the following steps:


* Demographic study -- Fall 2012

* Internal data collection --  Fall 2012

* Stakeholders survey -- Fall 2012

* Facilities task force formed -- Winter 2012

* Facilities task force meets -- Jan. to June 2012

* Facilities master plan -- June 2012

*Report to School Board -- July 2013


Future timelines include:


*Community survey #1 -- Ongoing

* Community forum -- March 18

* Architect selection -- May 19

* Construction Management selection -- June 16

* Community visioning process -- Sept. to Oct.

* Community survey #2 -- Sept. to Nov.

* Bond proposal to MN Dept. of Educ. -- November 17

* Resolution on ballot question -- November 18

* Bond referendum vote -- March 20, 2015


For more information about the proposed project and other facilities plans please contact the St. Peter Public School's District Office at (507) 934-5703. 




Supt. Olson announces his retirement 

Move goes into effect June 30 marking the end of a 39-year career with district




St. Peter Supt. Jeff Olson, shown here speaking at last fall's School of Excellence program for North Intermediate School, will retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year. (Photo by Kurt Hildebrandt - School Information Coordinator)



St. Peter Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Olson has announced his retirement effective June 30, which will bring to an end a nearly four-decade career in education spent entirely at St. Peter.


Olson, who was named 2013 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year, will have completed his 11th year as superintendent when he officially retires at the end of the 2013-14 school year.  He took over the district’s top administrative position during the 2003-04 school year after serving the previous 10 years as principal of St. Peter High School.


“It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing my intent to retire from my position as superintendent of schools here in St. Peter,” Olson said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent of schools, but, at the same time, I am excited about the opportunity to travel and spend more time with my wife, our children and grandchildren.”


Olson, a native of Alexandria, received his bachelor’s degree from Concordia College (Moorhead) and began teaching social studies right out of college at St. Peter High School at the start of the 1975-76 school year. During his teaching career he also coached boys basketball, football and track for the Saints.


In 1985, Olson assumed the role of curriculum director in the district -  at first on a part-time basis in a shared position with the  Le Sueur and Henderson Publc Schools.


After obtaining his master’s degree from Minnesota State University (Mankato), Olson took over as principal at St. Peter High School in 1993. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and was eventually hired as superintendent in 2003.


“I feel very fortunate to have experienced a 39-year career working for and on behalf of the students of the St. Peter Public School District,” Olson said. “This district is a very special place that has always valued and supported education.”


There have been numerous highlights during his tenure as St. Peter’s administrative leader, including:


* St. Peter becoming the first district in the state to become an AdVancEd District Accredited School System.

* Closing the achievement gap between overall and free/reduced lunch proficiency from 23 percent to 10 percent over a six-year period.

* Successful passage of two operating levies (2005 and 2011) and a capital projects levy (2009).

* Overseeing a significant addition/remodel project at North Intermediate.

* Starting the process for determining the future building needs of the district well into the future to meet increased enrollment projections.

* Completion of single point of entry projects for all three main buildings.


Olson and his wife, Judy, have raised all three of their children (sons Travis and Brent and daughter Stefanie) in the St. Peter community and some of their grandchildren are also students in the St. Peter District.  He is quick to point out how proud he and his wife are of the education their own children received through the St. Peter Public School system and what their grandchildren are currently receiving.


“I have had the privilege of working with outstanding staff, teachers, administrators and members of the school board,” Olson said. “I want to thank each of them for providing me with the opportunity to be involved in creating a place where ‘Learning Matters’ for each and every student we serve.


“I would especially like to pay tribute to former superintendent of schools, Gil Carlson, for being an outstanding role model and mentor for me as both a principal and superintendent of schools”


Olson’s immediate plans are to finishing out the school year and helping make the transition to the next superintendent as smoothly as possible.


When asked what motivated him to retire, Olson said, "I believe the timing was right due to the fact that our district has a strong leadership team in place, we are in good shape financially and programmatically, and our Board of Education has set a clear vision for a high quality 21st Century education for our students."




It’s never too late to learn

Area Adult Learning Cooperative helps people continue education


By Kurt Hildebrandt

St. Peter Public Schools

School Information & Marketing Coordinator


Serving as many as 150 individuals in the St. Peter area alone during the year, the Area Adult Learning Cooperative provides much needed resources for those looking for adult basic education services.


The Area Adult Learning Cooperative is a consortium of 10 different school districts, including St. Peter, which offer participants a chance to prepare for their GED or HIgh School Equivalency exams, get their high school diploma, brush up on their academic skills, learn English or learn pre-employment skills through Work Wise program.


“It’s never too late for anyone to learn and people like to say we are the best kept secret around,” Becki Hawkins, Area Adult Learning Cooperative coordinator, said. “There are some amazing stories about people who have come through our programs and have gone on to better their lives.


“This is a resource that people don’t often know exists and when they do they are excited about the possibilities that are out there for them.”


Other school districts that participate in the consortium include Le Sueur-Henderson, Tri-City United, Cleveland, Nicollet, Sibley East, Waseca, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.


“Le Sueur-Henderson serves as the fiscal host for our cooperative, but we have sites at six of the other school districts who are part of the consortium,” Hawkins said. “My office is based out of Le Sueur, but I travel to all of our locations on regular basis.”


The program, which is funded at the federal and state level, provides free training for participants who qualify. There can be costs/fees for books and any testing that needs to be done.


Classes locally are held at St. Peter Community Center in rooms 206, 208 and 210. Licensed teachers are used where required and Hawkins feels very confident in those educators who work with the local participants in AACL’s programs.


““I have a fantastically dedicated staff who go above and beyond what I ask of them,” she said. “These teachers are very important to the success of our programs and without them we wouldn’t be able to offer these important programs.”


Participants can choose between five main areas for which the Area Adult Learning Cooperative provides services. Those include:

  • *GED/High school equivalency preparedness
  • *High School diploma
  • *Brush-up skills/retraining
  • *ESL/ELL and Citizenship test preparation
  • *Pre-employment skills (Work Wise)
The age groups of those ranges from ages 16 on up. They include people who have a variety of needs and Hawkins and her staff do their best to accommodate those participants. “It can be a very difficult process for many of them, but once they see that there is help available many of them really do well here.” The following is a breakdown of each of the level of services of Adult Basic Education that is offered:GED (General Education Development)/High School Equivalency (diploma) preparedness The age group involved in this program usually ranges from 25 to 44, but there are younger students involved -- those who have dropped out of high school. Getting a diploma is required for those wishing to get into South Central College or other post-secondary institution so this becomes very important to many.  Many jobs required at least a GED and in many cases a minimum of a high school diploma. Program helps participants study for GED test, but does not offer actual test. Participants will take a paper/pencil test until end of 2013 (covering 5 areas -- reading, writing, math, social studies and science). A whole new computer-based test goes into effect Jan. 2, 2014 nation-wide (covering 4 areas -- reading/writing, math, social studies, science.).The testing site is located in Mankato. High School diploma There are two parts of this program: 1. High school recovery credits. 
  • *for those students ages 16-21 still in high school who need to make up credits in order to graduate on time. (Night school)
  • *Referral through school’s guidance counselor
  • *Students normally go to school during day and night school in the evening.
  • *Get what they really need to get back on course for graduation.
  • *High school principals sign off.
  • *Uses certified teachers (many retirees or part-time workers)

2. Adult recovery credit

  • *For those who have been away from school awhile wishing to earn a high school diploma
  • *Still grant diploma years later for earning credits where needed from when they should have graduated.
  • *During typical year probably have 30 different students of varying need.
  • *Do offer independent study program.
  • *Use classrooms for guided study hall with licensed teachers on site

St. Peter High School is generally the school issuing the diploma for those studying for their diploma here, but there are circumstances where the diploma may be issued through Le Sueur-Henderson, which is the program’s default school.


There are a wide variety of ages who take this program, according to Hawkins.


“We had a woman in her 50s who kept telling us she was too old to get her diploma and thought she was too far behind,” Hawkins said. “Well, we sat down with her and determined it may take three years for her to get a diploma.


“She got discouraged but it ended up only taking her 1-½ years to earn. So excited to get that diploma as was her husband and family. It’s moments like those that make this job so worthwhile and keeps you coming back.”


Brush-up skills


This program is for those who already have diploma but are perhaps entering into job market for first time or after years away. Among the subject areas they can receive help with includes:

  • *Writing essays
  • *Math assistance
  • *Improve spelling/grammar
  • *Computer/keyboarding
  • *Pre-employment preparation

ESL (English as a Second Language)/ELL (English Language Learners)


This program is geared to those who need help with the English language in regards to being able read it, write it, speak it and understand it.


Participants may have mastered one or two areas, but have learned to compensate for the others, according to Hawkins. The program usually helps them up until they get a job.


“Those participating in this program are usually a very diverse group and we’ve had up to as many as 10 countries represented,” Hawkins said. “ESL is often a misnomer as some of these people may know as many as 10 languages.


Included in this area is assistance in studying for the U.S. Citizenship test.


“We can’t do any of their paper work, for legal reasons, but we do offer help for the written portion of the test as well as the oral exam,” Hawkins said.


Work Wise (Pre-employment skills)


This program started 10 years ago and originally was a four-week course, but it was determined that more time was needed and it evolved into a 16-week course.


All participants are referred to the program through the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC)  with Nicollet County Social Services providing additional support. All participants are on public assistance of some kind.


“Nicollet County provides the training on Mondays and we had classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thurdays,” Hawkins said.


Among the skills taught include

  • *Resume’ writing
  • *Interview preparedness
  • *Filling out online applications
  • *Phone skills
  • *Customer service skills
  • *Controlling emotions/temper
  • *Working with co-workers
  • *Understanding chain of commandTransportation issues (to and from work, transporting children)
  • *Nutrition (meal planning at work & at home)
  • *Public speaking
  • *Expose them to real life situations (field trips to work sites)
  • *Trouble shoot/problem solving ahead of time
  • *Talk to employers
  • *Cross training in four areas (Retail, Manufacturing, Hospitality & Health Care)

“There are usually 4 to 12 in class which are offered year round and everyone is at same level,” Hawkins said. “Some start at the beginning and go right through, but we’ll have those who start at say week #4 which is fine. Those participants continue through week #16 and then move on to take weeks #1 through #3 in the next go-around.”


To learn more information about the adult basic education programs offered through Area Adult Learning Cooperative contact Becki Hawkins at rhawkins@isd2397 or by calling (507) 665-4626.



(Note: This is second part of an ongoing series taking a look at the projected increased enrollment at St. Peter Public Schools and the impact it may have on the district from a facilities perspective.)


District eyes ways to solve space crunch

Increasing enrollment putting pressure on all of school's buildings


By Kurt Hildebrandt

School Information

& Marketing Coordinator


School buildings help provide a community like St. Peter with an identity as these places for educating our youth also become community centers of sorts.


These spaces often provide district residents with an abundant source of educational, cultural, recreational and athletic events which are enjoyed by people of all ages.


“Our school buildings serve more than just the students and staff here,” St. Peter Superintendent Jeff Olson said. “They are important places for a lot of people here in this community whether it be attending a meeting at the media center or cafeteria, taking in the fall or spring play at the theater or attending a ball game at the gym or a music choir at any of the buildings.


“Schools in small cities like ours often become a important hubs of activity for the whole community and probably even more so today.”


Buildings have served district well


For decades, the buildings of St. Peter’s Public School system have served their purpose and served it well, withstanding the test of time, not to mention a major disaster, to continue to thrive.


Nonetheless, the times are changing and as the St. Peter area progresses, so does the need of its populace. While as recently as eight years ago it appeared as if the current building situation, with a few modifications, may be adequate to serve the St. Peter School District’s needs, but that no longer is the case.


Take a trip to either South Elementary or North Intermediate and it’s obvious the space constraints there are making it more and more challenging to properly educate the children with the space that is available. This year's kindergarten class has nine sections compared to just five or six sections less than 10 years ago.


The stage area for the South theater has been converted to classroom space for pre-K programs and the Smart Room area has been shifted to part of the cafeteria.


As more classroom space has been needed at North, computer labs have been shifted around and now plans call for part of the media center there to be converted to a lab to meet the need of the students.


Visit the High School/Middle School building and you’ll see the district has done its best to keep up with the times. However, in many areas those facilities are not able to provide an adequate learning environment based upon all of the advancements in technology and other factors such as the dramatic increase in programs and classes offered since any of the three main buildings were constructed.


“Having such strong enrollment numbers is a good problem to have, but at the same time our projections show those enrollment numbers are going to continue to grow and we have work to do facilities-wise,” Olson said.


The St. Peter School District hasn’t built a new building for the main purpose of educating students in grades K-12 since 1971, some 42 years ago. (See chart below for the age of the buildings, expansion dates and size of buildings and sites along with other information). There have been additions to North and the St. Peter High School/Middle School in that time, but it’s become clear the district has not kept pace facilities-wise to meet the academic and extracurricular needs of an ever-growing student population.


Facilities Task Force findings


That determination was verified by the findings of a Facilities Task Force which was convened earlier this year and met regularly over a six-month time period trying to determine a course of action for the district. Their findings ultimately decided on six major findings, including:


* Pre-K programs are in three locations.

* K-6 learning space is overcrowded

* Community space for performing arts and athletics is limited

* School security is a concern, especially at the elementary level

* Existing facilities/grounds are in need of attention.


One of the main recommendations to help alleviate those problems includes the district exploring the possibility of building a new school building. Even if the new building would become reality, the district’s other buildings would also need improvements to bring them up to date.


“Originally, the task force had specifically recommended building a new high school, but we felt we did not want limit ourselves so we made it a general recommendation,” Olson said.


What does the future hold?


Before any new building and/or renovation would become reality, a lot of information will need to be dissected and conversations held before any dirt would be moved.


Is the district better served by expanding their existing facilities and is there room for such projects? Is it feasible for the district to fund a major project like a new school?


Those are just some of the questions the school board will be asking in the coming months and even years.


The good news is that school administration and school board members have taken a pro-active stance in getting the district prepared, regardless of what direction the school district residents want the district to take.


A parcel of farm land was purchased on the west edge of the city by the school district as a site for for any potential new school building. For now the land has provided a hands-on learning outdoor classroom for ag students from SPHS and surrounding schools.


A survey will also be administered by the district beginning early 2014 to gauge what direction district residents wish to see the district take from a facilities standpoint. The survey will take a random but thorough sampling of people from throughout the district to achieve that goal.


“We really don’t know what that response will be but it is important information in the process,” Olson said. “We want to make sure we do as thorough a job as possible reaching out to the community for their input.


“We’d rather take our time and do an adequate job then try to hurry something through and not receive adequate feedback from the community. This is a decision that is going to affect education for many years to come, so we want to make sure we do it right.”


The following is a breakdown of each of the district’s five school buildings (from the July 2013 Facilities Master Plan)::


St. Peter High School/Middle School

(Grades 7-12)

Year built -- 1957

Major additions -- 1964, 1977, 1980, 1991, 1998

Square footage -- 195,472

School site size -- 29.3 acres

North Intermediate School

(Grades 3-6)

Year built -- 1964

Major additions -- 2007, 2011

Square footage -- 71,349

School site size -- 7.3 acres

South Elementary Early Learning Center

(Grades K-2 & ECSE)

Year built -- 1971

Major additions -- None

Square footage -- 77,000

School site size -- 11.8 acres



MVED (803 Davis Street)

District owned -- Yes

Year built -- 1973

Square footage -- 17,757

Hoffmann Learning Center

District owned -- Yes

Year built -- 1993

Square footage -- 4,704


Minnesota Department of Education

site recommendations

(Acres/square footage)

South -- 10-15 acres/71.920 square feet (less than 500 students)

North -- 10-15 acres/82,215 square feet (500 to 999 students)

High School/Middle School -- 35-40 acres (500 to 999 students)


(The next story in this ongoing series will take a look at what the options the St. Peter Public School District has in regards to alleviating its shortage of space for its students.)



Snow removal at St. Peter schools is a team effort Custodian Neil Hanson (far right) with the St. Peter School District's 2008 Ford truck that he uses frequently to help with snow removal at the district's five building sites. The hopper on the back is used for spread sand and salt.  By Kurt Hildebrandt - School Information Coordinator Whenever bad winter weather hits, many in the St. Peter Public School district probably don’t realize how much preparation and hard work goes into making sure as much of the snow and ices is removed as possible by the time the opening bell of a new school day rings. Making the walking areas safe for pedestrian traffic and roadways safe for vehicle traffic...even after a small snowfall takes place...can be quite the task. However, the district’s custodial staff does its part in ridding those surfaces of the white stuff as quickly and efficiently as possible. “It definitely is a team effort to rid of the snow and we’ve got a good crew that I know I count on if and when they are needed,” St. Peter Public Schools custodian Neil Hanson, who is in charge of the snow removal efforts district wide, said. “We have five building sites we are responsible for (South, North, Middle/High School, Hoffmann Center and MVED) and that is a lot of space that needs to be cleared. In all, it takes about eight or nine hours to clear all the snow at those locations.” Depending upon the significance of the snowfall, Hanson may be able to handle a majority of the work himself allowing other custodial staff to focus its efforts on the inside of the buildings. The more snow that falls means more of the custodial staff gets involved. “The staff at each of the buildings helps out for sure by pushing the snow away from the doors,” Hanson said. “How much more they get involved depends on how much snow we get.” The district has four main pieces of equipment used for snow removal. They have two Ford four-wheel drive pickups, each equipped with front-end Boss V snow plows; a tractor with a front end loader and also a smaller tractor with a large rotating brush. Hanson said the school district does an excellent job providing his department with the equipment necessary to remove the snow as quickly and efficiently as possible. His fellow custodial staff members are also a big help whether it be pushing the snow away from the doors around their own buildings. “They’ve been very good to us and the equipment allows us to move a lot of snow when necessary,” Hanson said. “It’s great knowing that we’re taken care of because it allows us to do our jobs the best we can.” He also works with the city of St. Peter in obtaining salt and sand when it is needed to combat potentially slippery conditions. “It’s a cooperative effort that has worked well for both sides,” he said. A snowfall of just an inch or two is something that Hanson usually handles himself with the 2008 Ford pickup that also has a hopper on the back to spread sand and salt. Snow removal starting times can vary, depending upon the arrival of the snow and the duration for which it may fall. “Most of the time we start around midnight and we kind of keep an eye on the weather forecast to see how much it’s going to snow,” Hanson said. “A lot of times I’ll watch channel 12’s (KEYC) forecast and I also have three or four websites I sort of follow that give me good information. “I do consult with Dr. (Jeff) Olson once in awhile, too, if it gets too bad because he’s out there driving around  whenever the weather gets bad trying to determine if there is going to be school or not.” Hanson said his staff tries to use the two four-wheel drive pickups first to get rid of the snow along with the lawn tractor with the rotating brush. The tractor gets brought into use if the snowfall amounts get about the four inch mark and more staff is brought in to help. “I do know that if it gets around 3 in the morning and we haven’t been able to start yet then we start to get a little bit into panic mode,” he said. “Then we have to prioritize things and I usually put the little kids first since they are the ones at a greater risk safety-wise.” “My former boss, Tom Applen, always used to say ‘sleep with one eye open’ whenever you think it might snow and that’s sort of how I operate. During the winter months I’m always getting up in the middle of the night to first check out my garage roof, which is just outside my bedroom window. If that’s still dark I know I can go back to sleep, but if it’s white colored at all then my mind kind of kicks into gear and I start planning.”




All-School Reunion set for July 3-6, 2014

St. Peter High School alumni and staff, past and present, are invited to attend the third annual All-School Reunion set for the weekend of July 3-6, 2014. 

Attendees are invited to enjoy the good old-fashioned St. Peter 4th of July celebration that Friday, visiting with old friends from all classes and schools, and celebrate and socialize on Saturday while listening to the music of the bands. Reunion attendees are encouraged to register at St. Peter High School during that weekend.

The St. Peter High School Hall of Fame will induct its fourth class that same weekend, only adding to the excitement of a fun-filled weekend.

The All-School Reunion committee’s most difficult job is finding SPHS alumni, past students and staff so more information can be emailed/sent out to them about the reunion activities. Donations are also being sought to help offset costs for mailings, advertising, insurance and scholarships.

Anyone wishing to receive more information, update their contact information or those interested in donating funds for the reunion can do so by mail at: St. Peter All-School Reunion; P.O. Box 414; St. Peter, MN 56082 or by calling Bob Genelin (507) 931-4434; Myrna Schoeb (507) 931-6228 or Bob Sandeen at the Nicollet County Historical Society (507) 934-2160.

St. Peter Public Schools hosts Veterans Day program
The crowd at the Veterans' Day program stood while members of the William R. Witty American Legion Post 37 presented the colors at the start of the event. (Photo by Kurt Hildebrandt - School Information Coordinator)
For the third straight year, St. Peter Public Schools hosted a Veterans' Day program at the high school gym in front of a large and grateful audience.
The program is put on by the SPHS/MS social studies department as a way to honor local veterans who have served or are serving our country in one of the military branches.
U.S. Congressman Tim Walz (First District) was the guest speaker for the event who challenged audience members to honor veterans and the sacrifices they made by getting involved and making a commitment to make this country a "more perfect union."
The William R. Witty American Legion Post 37 provided the color guard for the event.
Principal Paul Peterson provided the welcome and introduction along with a moving veteran recognition in which all of those veterans in attendance received a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.
The SPHS Concert Band, under the direction of Dave Haugh, and the SPHS Concert Choir, under the direction of Scott Hermanson, provided music for the program.

___________________________   (Note: This is first part of an ongoing series taking a look at the projected increased enrollment at St. Peter Public Schools and the impact it may have on the district from a facilities perspective.)

St. Peter Public Schools enrollment up again; growth expected to continue
Student enrollment figures at St. Peter Public Schools continue to climb at a rate that has been consistent over the past five years and projections show that growth is expected to continue over next decade.
While those numbers are very encouraging from a state school funding perspective, they continue to put stress on the District’s three main buildings (St. Peter High School/Middle School, North Intermediate and South Elementary Early Learning Center) in regards to space availability..
As of October 16, St. Peter Public Schools had an enrollment of 1,922 students (including Early Childhood Special Education students) compared to 1,905 at the end of the 2012-13 school year and 1,796 just five years ago. In grades K-12 there are 1,880 students compared to 1,846 at the end of the 2012-13 school year and 1,732 five years ago.
“Statistics show that the Mankato metropolitan area, of which we are a part of, is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the state of Minnesota,” St. Peter Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Olson said. “All indicators show that the growth in this region will continue over the next 10 to 15 years and that includes the number of school-aged children living in our district.
“The economic growth of our region, which includes developments such as the Cambria expansion and the Walmart distribution center, among others, has meant an increase of the number of people living in this area. The housing numbers here in St. Peter are also showing that people continue to move to this area which I feel strongly is a reflection on the high quality of life we have here and a good school system is a part of that.”
The class sizes in grades K through 12 varies from a low of 119 in this year’s junior class to a high of 165 in this year’s kindergarten class, a number that doesn’t even take into account those students attending John Ireland School who normally move into the public school system in seventh grade.
As recently as five years ago there were six sections of kindergarten whereas that bump in enrollment has pushed that to where the district now has nine sections for the 2013-14 school year.
An increase in the number of students is great news from a school funding perspective as the state reimburses districts on a per student basis. That funding formula varies by the grade level of the students.
“We’re in a good situation numbers wise, but when it comes to facilities and space availability we, as a district, will have some questions to answer in the coming years,” Olson said. “Space is very tight at North and South schools and eventually that issue will transition into the middle and high school building as these bigger classes move up.
“We’re already taking an active stance as far as answering those questions in a variety of ways so we can make informed decisions about the future of this district when the time comes."

(The second part of this series will take a look at the district’s existing facilities. Look for that story in a future issue of Highlights as well as on the new “Spotlight” link on the St. Peter Public Schools home page.)


Kindness Retreat helps build unity through fun experience


Fourth graders from North Intermediate and John Ireland School attended the annual Kindness Retreat at Johnson Hall throughout a good portion of the school day on Wednesday.


Youth Frontiers, a nonprofit organization out of Minneapolis, put on the retreat. Youth Frontiers partners with schools to create more positive school communities. Their mission is transforming communities by improving school climate and promoting important values such as respect, courage and kindness.


“This is my 21st year coordinating the Kindness Retreat for fourth Grade students,” Deb Hentges, North Intermediate’s Social Worker, said. “However, I believe it was taking place before I started working here.  Dave Doft (former St. Peter School District School Social Worker) coordinated retreats way back when.  I believe they used to have a retreat for middle school and high school students also.


“The main purpose of the event is to promote an atmosphere of kindness in our school, build class unity, and help students form new relationships.  Through music, storytelling, and small/large group discussions students are encouraged to treat others with kindness and respect.”


SPHS students help out


In addition to the involvement of the fourth grade students, 30 National Honor Society students from St. Peter High School volunteered to help with the retreat by leading small group discussions and serving as positive role models to the fourth graders.


“It is a wonderful day of learning and school community building,” Hentges said. “It’s fun for the high school students to be involved as well, because many of them remember doing this very thing when they were fourth graders.”


This event is made possible through a grant from the Mankato Clinic Foundation Kindness Project.  The Mankato Clinic Foundation provides resources to organizations and endeavors that effectively promote  and improve community health and wellness.


“Honestly, we would not be able to have this retreat without their support,” Hentges said.