Shakopee residents submitted questions to Superintendent Mike Redmond ahead of the Sept. 22 State of the District address. Redmond said many of the questions fell into the categories addressed below, and the rest of the questions have been addressed through individual communication.
Here is a recap of the Q&A session, which can be viewed in its entirety on the district's YouTube page.
Q: On previous communications from the district, it was mentioned the state owed Shakopee Public Schools a few million dollars to pay for special services costs. To fill this gap, the district took money from its general fund to pay these expenses. Wouldn’t it be important and fair to ask the state to pay the district what they owe them first?
Redmond said the primary issue is that the state is federally underfunded when it comes to special education revenues, which trickles down into the underfunding of Shakopee’s special education programs.
“The federal government, early on when they passed special education regulations and laws, also said they would provide 40% of the funding; they’ve never come close to that,” Redmond said. “And in Shakopee, that leaves a hole in our budget.”
Redmond said the special education fund has been labeled the “cross-subsidy,” meaning every year the district takes money earmarked for the general fund to pay for special services.
“That programming is incredibly important, but also it’s incredibly important that the federal government lives up to their obligation to fund the 40% (special services funding) like they promised,” Redmond said.
Q: Why are you using the MDH 14-day COVID-19 county spreadsheet for making decisions? Also, we have been under the 20 cases per 10,000 for three weeks. When will elementary be shifting from hybrid to in-person learning?
Redmond said that while the Minnesota Department of Health’s statistical model isn’t perfect, “it’s the best one we have.” He said many factors are taken into consideration on top of the county case rate model, including the positivity rate of cases across the state, internal data and systems and local trends within the numbers.
“I get it: there are certainly other models that could have been created. The MDH put a lot of time and effort into this, and to be quite frank, it’s the model we have, and it’s the best model we have, and we’re certainly aware of some of the potential shortcomings,” Redmond said.
Redmond said for the district to move from hybrid learning to full-time in-person for elementary students, the trends would need to show consistent evidence of 15 positive COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents in Scott County.
“For us to move to what would be a less restrictive learning environment — in other words, to move our elementary from hybrid to in-person, that’s not a simple undertaking. That’s a monumental task,” Redmond said. “You’re shifting from one system to another... and I’d argue the one thing we do not want to do is bounce back and forth. We want to stay in a learning model for a longer duration, because operating within that takes time to develop those systems and protocols. And also, we want to be sure there’s a strong trend to stay in that new range.”
Q: Why is it that everyone else in the country had to take pay cuts this year, but your administration cut teacher jobs and gave yourself raises?
“Some of that is certainly not the case. The $2 million in cuts for this school year and next school year did not include any teaching positions,” Redmond said. “Our teachers got a modest pay increase. Our school board declined their stipends for this school year. The superintendent, assistant superintendent and district leadership, we’ve all taken a pay freeze for the 2021 school year.”