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Austin had many successes in 2016-17

By David Krenz, Austin Public Schools Superintendent

Another school year is drawing to a close. This year we will again be honoring nearly 300 graduates at the graduation ceremony taking place at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 9. This year’s commencement ceremony will mark the third year back at Austin High School and Knowlton Auditorium with an added feature of live streaming through the internet.

We would like to recognize this year’s High Distinction students, students earning a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher throughout their high school years, who will also serve as student speakers at the ceremony.  Congratulations to Miranda Bergemann, Trent Brown, Sydney Conway, Nora Curtis, Livia Dyke, Madison Klein, Christine Nelson, Jekap Ojulu Omod, Brooke Pazurek, Paige Raymond, Kaitlyn Schammel and Grace Thoen. 

We would also like to honor 11 staff members who recently began or will be starting their retirement at the end of the school year. We wish to extend our congratulations and a special thank you to these individuals for devoting their careers to education, where they have touched thousands of lives during their more than 221 years of accumulated service to the district. Our 2017 retirees include Diane Suter, Catherine Conway, Brenda Raffelson, Nona Bauer, Ellen Mueller, Barb Kime, Teresa Jette, Barry Brobeck, Lori Henry, Greg Carlson and Sherri Pike.

We continue to look at new ways to challenge ourselves as an organization and our students in their academic and activity experiences. A few of this year’s notable highlights include implementation of the voluntary pre-k program for 4-year-old students, the opening of the new Austin/Albert Lea Special Education Cooperative, and the continued success of our I.J. Holton and Ellis robotics programs with participation at the state level.

There are more: implementation of one-to-one computers at Austin High School for all students grades nine-12; again earning a national award from the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association on being rated in the top 10 districts in the nation for use of technology; and Woodson Principal Jessica Cabeen recognized as Minnesota’s Principal of the Year.

And: Sumner Elementary for being named a bronze medalist in the National Healthiest School Award; the Packer Dance Team on their 15th trip to the state competition;  the gymnastics team and their third place finish at the state meet; the boys basketball team on finishing state runner up; and the numerous other students who earned honors or qualified for their individual state competitions, to name just a few.

We continue to move forward with innovative opportunities created by our staff in the district. We will continue to grow our partnership with The MacPhail Center for Music to enhance the already outstanding music programs in the district, we will be implementing Learning Studios at Neveln to better address individual student’s learning styles and teacher strengths, we will continue to address the communication needs of our students and parents as we roll out the first in the nation use of language protocols designed to address our multiple languages through our partnership with GeaCom and we will continue to explore space needs for our Community Education programs. 

It is truly a wonderful and exciting time to be an Austin Packer with our focus not just on the challenges our students provide, but more importantly, on the gifts each child brings to school. 

As another school year winds down, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the parents and community members for their continued support of Austin Public Schools and our students.