Archived Story

School board lowers max levy

Published 8:39am Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hormel finds protein deficiency at Neveln School

Austin Public Schools won’t get as much money from payable tax levies next year, but that doesn’t mean the district will get less money overall.

The Austin Public Schools board certified its 2012-2013 payable levy, about $6.8 million for next year, during its special session meeting Monday. Board members certified the maximum amount allowed under state legislative formulas, which comes out to about $225,000 less than last year’s maximum, a 3.2 percent decrease.

“You as a school board have very little control of your levy,” Mark Stotts, district finance and operations director, told the board Monday. “A majority of that is formula driven.”

The state Legislature opted to increase per pupil state aid by $50 last year, while slightly decreasing the amount of levy funding districts could receive. Stotts said he expects Austin to be one of many Minnesota school districts which accepts slightly less levy funding for next year as a result.

Though the board set its levy funding at the maximum amount possible, board members can opt to accept less funding before the end of the year, when the district is required to hold a Truth in Taxation hearing.

A protein plea

Board members heard some startling news Monday: Neveln Elementary School students may have a protein deficiency.

Dan Hernandez of Hormel Foods Corp. shared more specific results of Hormel’s breakfast study at Neveln this spring with the board.

Researchers collected 708 surveys from Neveln first-graders over a two-week period on what they ate for breakfast. Students most often got their breakfast protein from milk, with 18 percent of students drinking milk in the morning and another 18 percent having milk and cereal. Researchers also found 14 percent of students surveyed skipped breakfast every day. That’s higher than the national average, which shows about 8 percent of students ages 5-18 skip breakfast, according to Hernandez.

In addition, researchers looked at Neveln first-graders’ garbage after breakfast on April 18 and April 25. Of the three lunch periods, more than half of the students drank about a third of their milk on April 18, with only two students in Tier Three breakfast finishing their breakfast. Students ate much more of their breakfast on April 25, with nearly half of the students in Tier Three breakfast eating the entire meal.

Though the study was only meant to find a basic understanding of student eating habits — meaning researchers didn’t measure the exact amount of food eaten nor reviewed any statistical models — Hernandez said the study, as well as the background research and further garbage digging at other schools and several homes, showed people weren’t getting enough protein in the morning. As studies have shown students with the recommended amount of protein at breakfast do better academically and have more energy during the school day, Hernandez and other Hormel researchers hypothesize that Neveln students may do better if they ate more protein at breakfast.

“There appears to be a potential protein gap for the students at Neveln Elementary,” Hernandez told the board.

District officials have made several changes to breakfast for this year, specifically reintroducing chocolate milk to school cafeterias and providing more snack-like breakfast options. Superintendent David Krenz said district officials may give information on quick breakfast foods with protein to Neveln parents during fall parent-teacher conferences.

The board also:

—Reviewed the results of Austin’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores for this year, as well as this year’s Multiple Measurement Rating and Focus Rating scores. Educational Services Director John Alberts presented MCA, MMR and FR scores to the board by school and by grade, going over some of the expected changes to the MCA for next year.

—Reviewed its acceptable use policy. The policy, which governs student and employee technology use district-wide, is in line for major changes to reflect different technological needs throughout the district. Corey Haugen, information and technology director, told the board the proposed changes to the policy were in line with Minnesota School Board Association guidelines and were decided upon by school IT employees throughout the state at a conference earlier this year. The board and the district’s policy committee will further review the changes throughout the school year before revising the policy.

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