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Morris Area School Board certifies maximum levy for 2014

MORRIS – The Morris Area School Board certified the maximum levy for 2014, an 8.13 percent increase over 2013, at their meeting on Tuesday.

The total levy of about $3.6 million is about $272,000 higher than the approved levy in 2013. About $82,000 of the increase is being levied to help pay down the operating debt of the former Cyrus School District.

“Those dollars will only be spread out on property owners in the previous Cyrus School District and will not affect Morris taxpayers,” explained Superintendent Scott Monson.

The consolidation plan both school boards approved stipulated that taxpayers in the former Cyrus School District would pay for any existing operating debt the district carried when it closed. The district sold bonds to pay for the debt, which will be repaid through levied taxes over the next five years. But because the district no longer legally exists, the levy payments are included in the maximum levy for the new, consolidated district.

Other levy increases included about $23,000 due to increased enrollment and an inflation calculation that was included in an operating levy approved in November 2010 and a new levy category, student achievement, that included $29,000, Monson said.

Other levy categories that increased this year were operating capital, health and safety, and early childhood family education.

MAHS named top public high school by Newsweek

Morris Area High School was named one of the top 2,000 public high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. MAHS was one of 46 schools from Minnesota on the list, and one of only 10 schools recognized outside the Twin Cities.

Overall, MAHS was ranked 1,659 out of 2,000.

According to Newsweek, the rankings are based on “graduation rate, college acceptance rate , AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student, average SAT/ACT scores, average AP/IB/AICE scores, and percent of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course.”

More information is available online at

Preparing for the “World’s Best Workforce”

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers put together a plan to create the “World’s Best Workforce” by aligning school district projects to ensure students are ready for college or careers.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Scott Monson provided a brief overview of the mandate with members of the Morris Area School Board.

“We’re going to be investing some of our resources – mostly time and sweat equity – into developing a plan that’s going to meet statute,” said Monson.

“A lot of what we’re doing already fits well with what we’re going to be required to do.”

The initiative calls for students meeting school readiness goals, meeting grade-level literacy measures by third grade, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring all students graduate and are prepared for what they choose next.

The accountability system for the program will be locally owned and developed with parent and community involvement.

Monson said the district will begin working on the plan in January in order to have it in place by the 2014-2015 school year.

Invest in Our Youth fundraiser successful

A new fundraising model for Morris Area Elementary School was a success, Principal Ken Gagner reported.

In the past, every child in kindergarten through sixth grades had been asked to contribute money or participate in fundraising at some point during the school year. 

Instead of this time consuming practice of collecting and asking for money multiple times over the school year, MAES went to a single fundraising event, with a goal to sell one share ($30.00) for each child enrolled at MAES.  In addition, the school hosted a spaghetti supper and asked local businesses to assist us in the purchase of 100 total shares. Combined, raised roughly $20,000, which met the fundraising goal.

Other business

•The board approved hiring Deb Olson as elementary food service kitchen supervisor.

•The board approved a master agreement with Education Minnesota Morris Area Support Staff. Lory Lemke, a member of the negotiating committee, said, “I think negotiations went pretty well… both groups didn’t get everything they wanted, and so I think that’s the definition of a satisfactory conclusion.”

•The board will hold their annual reorganization meeting on Monday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. The next regular meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.