More often than not, when you see “Orono Schools” it is followed by, “Where excellence is a tradition and a goal.”
In the business world this is known as our brand promise: what our stakeholders can expect from our product and services. These eight words eloquently and succinctly state that, while we are proud of our past accomplishments, we are also dedicated to continuously improving.
How one defines “excellence” could vary among students, parents, business owners and community members. By virtually any definition, however, Orono Schools defined and delivered excellence during the 2018-19 school year.
One of our most significant and most anticipated achievements was opening the new Activities Center. In addition to providing much-needed instructional, wellness and athletic spaces, it unites community and schools, as well as different generations, to foster the relationship-building we value.
The center is also a testament to our value of stewardship. Through a thoughtful design, with extensive community input, the center was completed below the established budget. The sale of pavers helped us complete Spartan Plaza, which was originally scheduled for a future phase of development. The plaza connects Orono High School and the Activities Center to Pesonen Stadium, providing a distinct stadium entrance, new concession facilities and permanent restrooms.
Our excellence in scholarship again brought us national recognition from U.S. News & World Report. Orono High School placed fourth overall of the 416 high schools ranked in Minnesota. Orono was 378th of 17,245 high schools ranked nationwide out of more than 23,000 high schools that were reviewed. In STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, OHS placed third of all high schools in Minnesota and 192nd nationally. Not coincidentally, Niche.com rated the teachers at Orono High School as the best in Minnesota.
We were also recognized for being one of the safest public school districts in Minnesota (Niche.com) and as one of the best communities for music education (National Association of Music Merchants Foundation).
On an individual level, the examples of excellence are many and varied: from a second-grader with a perfect Continental Math League season to individual state champions in girls’ swimming and in wrestling. Three Orono High School artists were recognized on a national level, while the OHS Band performed at Carnegie Hall. Two Destination Imagination teams qualified for global competition, and two OHS students in the DECA program won first place in international competition.
We have accomplished so much and, yet, there is still so much more we want to do. In 2019-20, we will continue researching and implementing technology tools that lead to higher levels of student achievement and improved communication. Our districtwide work in literacy education, including implementing a new phonics program, and in mathematics will also advance. STEM will become STEAM (the “A” is for “Arts”) education.
We remain committed to Great Expectations, our exciting partnership with Interfaith Outreach and Wayzata Schools, to ensure all learners achieve not only in our classrooms but beyond. With a new partner, Drake University, and new ideas, watch for the revitalization of our character education program.
Nothing has changed about how we achieve excellence. Preparation, hard work and continued dedication are all necessary. Most importantly, excellence requires the contributions of each stakeholder. We appreciate your support in providing our community with a school system “Where excellence is a tradition and a goal.”
Dr. Karen Orcutt
Superintendent of Schools