Inside this issue

ISD 196 proposes $4.7 million for racial integration, busing students to magnet schools

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  ISD 196 has proposed a nearly $5 million budget to racially integrate schools in the district.
  More than a third of the $4.7 million will be spent on busing, according to a presentation to the school board. Rather than forced busing to integrate schools, a method that has met national resistance in the past, District 196 has developed a system of magnet schools where students are bused, at a cost of nearly two million dollars per year, to schools in which they enroll voluntarily rather than attending the closest school to home.
  The proposed budget is in addition to magnet school expenses paid from the school district’s operating and capital expense budgets. District 196 is also using funds from a recent $130 million bond issue to expand magnet schools.
  The magnet schools include Glacier Hills Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences on Westcott Road in Eagan.
   “Magnet schools came to be to integrate our schools across the district,” said outgoing school superintended Jane Berenz. ”So when you see transportation as a large cost, without transportation for elementary school students, we don’t believe there’s true choice.”
  After busing, one of the next largest integration expenses is for cultural family advocates, staff members who visit family homes and provide services to family members outside the school day. Nearly 22 percent of the proposed $4.7 million budget is for that segment of the program, according to the budget presentation.

Music teacher facing little jail time

  A former Burnsville High School music teacher accused of sexual contact with two students could receive less than a year in jail under the terms of a plea agreement, according to court records.
  Erik Akervik, 30, of 15349 Greenhaven Lane #106, Burnsville, is awaiting sentencing in Dakota County district court after pleading guilty to one count of criminal sexual conduct in the third-degree on March 5, according to court records. A second charge against the same victim was dismissed.
  Under presumptive sentencing guidelines, Akervik could be sentenced to up to 15 years of probation, according to his plea agreement. The court could also sentence him up to a year in jail, court records said. The court ordered a pre-sentencing evaluation for chemical dependency and psycho-sexual issues. During the investigation, according to court records, the former high school teacher told police he frequently drank to the point of blacking out.
  The plea does not apply to a second victim discovered later in the investigation of the case. Akervik’s defense lawyer successfully argued that the former music teacher should be tried separately on another charge related to a second victim. That case is currently scheduled to go to trial July 9.
Former Burnsville High School music teacher Erik Akervik
Glacier Hills principal re-assigned to another magnet school
   Glacier Hills elementary school principal Scott Thomas has been re-assigned to lead another magnet school, the Echo Park Elementary School of Leadership, Engineering and Technology in Burnsville.
  Thomas, who has been principal of Glacier Hills for four years, will remain at that school for the rest of the school year. He will begin his new position at Echo Park July 1. His uncle was a past principal of the school.
  Thomas will be replacing Echo Park principal Pam Haldeman.

School board gives itself a big raise, slashes special education staff

 School district plans more construction spending
  Independent School District 196 is expecting $6 million to be left over at the end of an extensive district-wide building campaign funded by a $130 million bond referendum added to district property tax bills.
  Rather than giving the money back to taxpayers, or paying down some of the district’s debt, finance director Jeff Solomon recommended, at the school board’s March 12 meeting, the district use the money to purchase land for future construction.
  The District 196 school board this week gave itself a 40 percent pay raise, increasing annual pay for most board members from $6,400 to $9,000 per year, while quietly slashing 65 teachers and staff members who work with the district’s most vulnerable students.
  The District 196 school board voted to terminate or not renew contracts for 65 probationary teachers was included as part of the consent agenda at its March 12 meeting. Those terminated include five members of the special education staff at one Eagan elementary school and a teacher whose work was highlighted on outgoing school superintendent Jane Berenz’s Twitter account.
  Monday’s consent agenda vote essentially allows the district to eliminate dozens of teachers without union intervention. It follows a quietly called special school board meeting March 8 at which school staffing levels were amended. Unlike regular school board meetings, there is no video of the special school board meeting available for public view. The school board has scheduled another special meeting to take place in the teachers’ union office March 14.
  Because the vote terminating 65 people working for the district was included on the consent agenda, there was no discussion or acknowledgement by board members. In comparison, later during the meeting, the school board spent more than 20 minutes reviewing and discussing interior design color choices and window placement for the Rosemount High School concessions area and two other renovation projects.
   The consent agenda is typically used as a summary voting process for routine board matters requiring a vote, in an effort to keep meetings from getting bogged down with routine administrative matters requiring a board vote. Matters requiring discussion and individual attention are supposed to be included on the board’s main agenda.
  In addition to voting itself a pay raise, the board included a provision allowing board members to be paid additional money, up to $8,000 per year, working for the school district.
  In addition to terminating probationary teachers, the district has also shifted the cost of technology and support staff from its operating budget, where teacher salaries are usually accounted for, to its capital expenditure budget.
Armed volunteers at schools suggested 
   A grandparent concerned about school safety recommended the District 196 school board consider armed volunteers near school entrances.
  The suggestion was made during the board’s open forum section, a two-minute platform for people wishing to speak before the board. The speaker referenced, but did not give specific details, to a situation at Eastview High School that took “too long” to resolve.
  The speaker suggested volunteers armed with pepper spray patrol near school entrances. Board chair Jackie Magnuson said the board would forward information to the district’s safety committee.
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Sentencing date set for Eagan child porn case

   A Woodbury man charged with more than a dozen counts of possession of child pornography on computer files found in the Eagan apartment he vacated last summer is scheduled to be sentenced April 25 under a plea agreement dismissing about half of the felony counts.
  William McArdle, 46, whose last known address after his eviction from a Coachman Road, Eagan, apartment was 2754 Mallard Drive, Woodbury, was charged with 14 felony counts of possession of child pornography. Each count relates to a separate child, identified only by number in the criminal complaint. Under the terms of a plea agreement, half of the charges would be dropped, according to court records.
   The charges stem from the August 10 discovery, in a Coachman Road apartment from which McArdle had been evicted, of a computer containing thousands of images of child pornography, according to court records. McArdle was evicted from the apartment on July 7, the complaint said. He left items in the apartment, but the computer wasn’t reported to police until August 10.
   Investigators found more than 2,700 files on the computer containing what they suspected was child pornography. The files were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which identified pictures and videos of 151 different children.
   The descriptions of the images contained on the suspect’s computer, detailed in court documents, are disturbing and violent. The fourteen counts against McArdle involve victims of varying ages, from infants to pre-teenagers.
   Eagan police requested a nationwide arrest warrant after police were unable to find McArdle following the search of the computer from his former apartment, according to court documents.
  The court ordered psychological evaluations as part of the pre-sentence investigation.
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District 196 shifts some staff to capital budget

    School District 196 has proposed a $19.2 million capital expenditure budget for the 2018-2019, a 7 percent increase from the current budget.
  The budget includes more than $9.6 million in operating capital expenditures and $9.6 million in long-term facilities maintenance expenditures.
  In a display of the price of maintaining technology, the proposed budget includes $1 million in technology support, which accounts for most of the increase from the current budget. The proposed technology support expense is more than 10 percent of the district’s total operating capital expenditures. Technology support is one of the few areas where school administrators can shift staff salaries to the capital expense budget, typically reserved for capital, not personnel, expenses.
   For example, in the 2017-2018 capital expenditure budget, the largest “capital expense” at Parkview Elementary School is $24,000 in salary and benefits for a technology instructional clerk. At Rosemount Middle School, the expense is even higher—more than $49,000 for salary and benefits for a technology coordinator.
  The district released little information about how the millions of dollars allotted for capital expenditures will be spent in 2018-19. Details of the $19.2 million budget will not be released until after it is approved by the school board.
  The capital expense budget for the current 2017-2018 school year is about $17.95 million -- $9.35 million for operating capital and $8.6 million for long-term facilities maintenance.
  Items included in the current year’s capital expenditures budget include $2,500 for two refrigerators for the Glacier Hills elementary school staff lounge, a $700 refrigerator for the Red Pine elementary school nursing office, $3,600 for 3 Macbook laptops for Eagan High School administrators, $29,778 to upgrade teacher laptops at Eagan High, $1,150 for an HD camera for the Eagan High gym, $3,000 for library books at Greenleaf Elementary school and $3,992 for a laptop storage cart at that school.