The Eden Prairie School Board expressed strong approval of Superintendent Josh Swanson’s 2023 performance in its annual performance review, while also noting that progress was not as expected in three key areas.
At its annual organization meeting on Jan. 8, the school board gave the superintendent’s review, voted on board positions and compensation, and decided the first half of its 2024 meeting calendar.
The meeting, held at 6 p.m. at the district’s Administrative Service Center at 8100 School Road, was followed by a board workshop that included a speaker talking about technology use in education. The district’s finance team also gave the five-year financial forecast.
Superintendent’s performance review
After the board recited its annual Oath of Office, board chair Aaron Casper gave the superintendent’s annual review report.
Casper explained that the school board is responsible for one employee: Superintendent Swanson. Each year, the board meets in closed session to assess the superintendent’s progress over the past year, then presents a short review report at the annual organizational meeting.
The board found that Swanson discharged his duties as hoped, for the most part. Casper expressed the board’s “sincere appreciation” for the “outstanding commitment” Swanson has shown toward advancing student achievement and academic progress in Eden Prairie Schools.
Casper credited Swanson with achieving “notable results” that included:
- Expansion of educational opportunities, equipping students with essential citizenship knowledge, and “commendable” high school graduation rates.
- Leadership and facilitation of the 2023-2028 strategic planning process, Inspiring Journey.
- Achieving strong community engagement that facilitated the successful passing of the 2022 referendum.
- Adherence to executive limitations policies. Executive limitations policies are boundaries set by the school board within which the superintendent is required to operate.
Casper said that Swanson and the district made “substantial progress” across its ends policies. Ends policies lay out the mission-linked goals and outcomes the board requires the district to meet for specific recipients and within certain cost parameters.
However, Casper highlighted three areas in which the board wanted “increased attention” going forward, as it felt progress had not met expectations.
- Ends policy (EP) 1.2: Ensuring each student is reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
- EP 1.3: Ensuring each student achieves individual growth expectations and proficiency in, but not limited to, language arts, math, and science.
- EP 1.5: Each student demonstrates the 21st-century skills needed to succeed in a global economy.
Casper said that Swanson is expected to report back during the first quarter of 2024 on how he plans to address the three specific ends policies where progress did not meet expectations.
“The board acknowledges Dr. Swanson’s steadfast leadership of Eden Prairie Schools, his pivotal role in establishing the district as a leader and innovator in academic achievement, while ensuring financial and organizational stability is admirable,” Casper said. “The board publicly recognizes and values his unwavering commitment to students, families, and the community, as well as his track record for delivering successful results as the district’s chief executive.”
Swanson thanked the board for its report and said he was “incredibly proud of the work that our staff do across our entire district,” and that the district would continue to “stay focused on our mission and truly focused on our students.”
Casper also praised the district’s administrative team for its hard work, and particularly for the “genuine care” it showed for each of the district’s students.
Casper’s full statement and the subsequent comments can be viewed starting at the 4-minute mark of the meeting video.
Board organizational items included officer roles, compensation, calendar
The board then voted on its officer slate, unanimously agreeing to keep its current slate of officers in the same roles for 2024:
- Chair: Aaron Casper
- Vice-chair: Steve Bartz
- Clerk: Abby Libsack
- Treasurer: Charles “CJ” Strehl
The meeting also included approval of the school board’s 2024 compensation, which it decided to keep the same as the 2023 compensation. The board chair receives a stipend of $6,600 annually, vice chair receives $5,700 annually, and other members receive $4,800 annually.
The 2024 school board meeting calendar was partially decided, with dates from January to June 2024. The board voted unanimously to decide the July to December 2024 meeting dates at a future meeting.
The board also approved a resolution for combined polling places for any school district elections that might take place in 2025. This annual resolution allows the district to have school board election locations decided one year in advance, in case they need to call a special election at a time when a general election is not already scheduled. Currently, the next school board elections are scheduled for fall 2024, when the seats held by Ross, Strehl, and Stubbs will be up for election.
The board also approved the superintendent consent agenda, which can be found on pages 9-10 of the meeting agenda and materials file.
Finally, Spotlight on Success presentations were given by a large group of students from Eden Prairie High School’s (EPHS) inaugural Integrated Marketing and Analytics Capstone class, taught by Margot Cowing.
The students have been working with EP Schools’ communications team to develop marketing plans for EP Online, Inspiring Journey, and the district’s 100-year anniversary celebration.
The Jan. 8 annual organizational meeting video can be viewed here.
Board workshop featured speaker, five-year financial forecast
A board workshop meeting followed the annual organizational meeting.
The meeting began with a presentation by Jodi Dworkin, a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Dworkin was hired by the board development committee to give a presentation titled, “A conversation about technology and learning.”
Dworkin presented research about how technology use affects children and adolescents. She also advised the district on some steps it can take to harness technology’s benefits while limiting its harmful effects.
A copy of Dworkin’s presentation can be found beginning on page 2 of the board workshop agenda and materials file.
The finance team also gave a five-year financial forecast and discussed legislative impacts to financial and program stability. The findings were presented by director of finance Matt Hippen and former executive head of business services Jason Mutzenberger, who is continuing to support the district as needed to transition his role.
In introducing the presentation, Swanson said the district was “highly committed” to maintaining its strong financial position over the next five years, so it can continue providing important educational opportunities.
“We’ve got a five-year promise out for community based on our last referendum that we would not go through the process of having to reduce programs and services, and increase class sizes, and those kinds of pieces, over the next five years based on that community support,” he said.
Mutzenberger emphasized that the five-year financial forecast was based on current assumptions, and that it will be regularly updated as things change. The model is updated twice a year. However, the way things are currently set up, he said the district projects it will continue to maintain its minimum 8% fund balance for the next five years.
Mutzenberger discussed how projected enrollment and inflationary adjustment will affect the budget, as well as expenditures like salaries and employee benefits, which account for nearly 85% of the district’s budget. Non-salary and benefits items like utilities also are taken into account.
He said that due to some legislative changes, the district is receiving some additional state funding, such as school library aid and support personnel aid.
The state will also provide new funding to reduce cross subsidies for special education and English language learners. Cross subsidies are when the district has to move money from its general fund to pay for services like special education, which are federally mandated but in the past have not been sufficiently funded by federal or state governments.
However, new unfunded state mandates are expected to cost the district money. One of these is summer unemployment insurance for education support professionals. This was funded in year one (2023) by the state from a large pot of money that covered all school districts in the state, but once the money is gone, it may not be funded further.
Mutzenberger said the Read Act will also create “significant” expenses for EP Schools around curriculum shifts, although the full impact was still unclear.
He said there will be new expenses related to safety and security training, and there may be additional expenses depending on the outcome of current labor negotiations, in areas such as the e-learning plan, class sizes, and student-personnel ratios.
The district will present its mid-year budget report at the next school board business meeting, which will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22, at the district’s Administrative Service Center, 8100 School Road.
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