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Dr. Orcutt: Have a wonderful school year!

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Karen OrcuttCould a student who received straight “As” last year expect to do as well this year without studying? Of course not.

The same is true for our school district. We have a distinguished history of more than 60 years with graduates, programs and results that have brought us recognition locally, throughout the state and across the country.

In fact, Orono High School was ranked second in Minnesota and in the top 1 percent of high schools nationally in the 2018 ranking by U.S. News & World Report. This Gold Medal designation is considered to be the most prestigious of the many high school rankings.

It is an impressive accomplishment of which we are proud, but one we also consider to be a benchmark and not our crowning achievement. Orono Schools is an organization dedicated to continuous improvement. We know, just like students, that we need to continue learning and changing in order to improve. In fact, this commitment has been put to paper in the form of a Strategic Plan and adopted by the School Board.

During the 2017-18 school year, our energy was directed toward enriching the way we educate students, improving the school climate and operating more efficiently as a school district by developing a new five-year Strategic Plan.

This plan will serve as the road map of how we arrive at the vision our communities have for its schools. The three hallmarks of the Orono Schools experience – Scholarship, Character and Relationships – remain as the foundation. The strategies to improve in each of these areas will be changing as we have accomplished goals outlined in past plans and are now looking forward to achieving greater success.

It is our hope that progress is noticeable to every stakeholder. For students, that might mean how they experience instruction in mathematics, thanks to our new curriculum and the accompanying professional development for teachers that is designed to quash perceptions by some students that they’re “just not good at math.”

Staff members were invited last school year, through a new voluntary process, to identify issues and develop solutions, with staff members themselves prioritizing the most important challenges. We will also continue to provide professional development in social-emotional learning that will enhance our knowledge in the areas of cultural competence, restorative practices and inclusion.

Parents should appreciate less traffic congestion and improved safety on Old Crystal Bay Road (thanks to the City of Orono), as well as a more efficient process to access various online accounts and services. There will also be additional changes in security to improve student and staff safety.

Community members will be able to reserve district facilities for meetings, youth sports and other uses in a much more efficient way. And they will have access to the new Indoor Activities Center to support their wellness goals.

Some of the improvements may not even noticeable, yet they will still have a positive impact. Others, such as the reconstruction of Old Crystal Bay Road and the opening of our new Indoor Activities Center, are sure to be popular.

Whether changes are incremental or monumental, they represent progress toward the school district we want to be. What kind of school district is that? Better. Every day.

Have a wonderful school year!

Signature of Karen Orcutt