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Charter School Day at the Capitol

March 7, 2011

On March 1, I accompanied Kate Beiswanger, and five students, Ginger Coleman, Stephan Hines, Ben Andrew, Elijah Viola, and Noah Schmelzer on a trip to visit our state legislators. We attended the MN Association of Charter Schools (MACS) “Charter School Day at the Capitol.” Our day began at a nearby hotel conference space with a presentation and briefing by Eugene Piccolo and his staff at MACS. This was a great opportunity for all of us to hear about the work that is being done on behalf of charter schools in the legislative arena. (For more information, go to the MACS website: )

Some of our students had been there before and were helpful guides. In fact, our students represented our school very well; I was pleased and proud to spend the day with them. MACS had scheduled appointments with four elected officials who serve students who attend ARTech: Rep. Garofalo (Education Finance Committee, Chair), Rep. Kelby Woodard (Education Reform Committee), Senator Al DeKruif (Education Committee), and Senator Dave Thompson (Education Committee). A personal friend, Senator Dan Hall took us down onto the floor of the Senate and gave us a brief tour. We were well-received, and they listened attentively to our descriptions of our school and our appeal to them to support charter school-friendly legislation.

Especially considering that the representatives from our area are on education committees, I felt that introducing ourselves and giving a “face” to our name was important. The two representatives for the Northfield area, Rep Woodard and Sen. DeKruif, have been to ARTech and toured the schools. We look forward to building a good relationship with them.

Tammy Prichard – ARTech Board Chairperson

State Bound

February 6, 2011

Gabby and Ryan represented ARTech in The Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition last Saturday at The (haunted) Mantorville Opera House.  Gabby earned a 2nd place finish, and a trip to The Historic Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on March 7th, to compete in the Statewide Competition.   Congratulations to both of them!

Poetry Out Loud has become a popular annual event at our school.   The participating high school students are coached by Scott and Bob.  Fourteen students performed in our school competition.   They were judged by three prominent members of the local arts community –  Paula Granquist, Rob Hardy and Ann Gregory-Bjorklund.

Gabby and Ryan were judged to be the ARTech representatives for regionals.  Mind you, ask any of our judges and they will let you know what a tricky task it is to rank the students.   Just to step before the mike and deliver the memorized verse involves considerable poise and courage from each and every student.

That said, the competition demands a school representative and Gabby and Ryan were duly selected.   Accompanied by Coach Scott and No#1 supporter Henry, our performers did our school proud. Gabby was runner up at Regionals last year.  This year she led with Altruism by Molly Peacock and followed up with more challenging Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe.

Gabby will now compete in the State Competition.   It’s quite an honor, and gives Gabby an opportunity to challenge for a spot in the National Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington DC.   For more information about the Poetry Out Loud competition, check out the website here.   Poetry Out Loud is cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.   Our participating students are joined by over 100,000 others nationwide who are competing local, regional and state competitions.

Oh yeah, for stories about the haunted history of Mantorville, you had better check in with Scott, or any of our three intrepid students who made Saturday’s trip south.  They have tales to tell…


ARTech’s Authorizer Approved!

December 22, 2010

Well, this is the season of giving, and ARTech and Prairie Creek were handed an early present today with the announcement from the Department of Education that the Northfield School District had been successfully approved as a charter school authorizer.

It’s not been an easy process.  Dr. Richardson, the district’s superintendent, completed an initial application that totaled almost 3oo pages.   Even that wasn’t enough, MDE requested further documentation to be submitted before granting authorizer status.

Both ARTech and Prairie Creek have developed a strong collaborative relationship with the district.  It certainly would have been a difficult process to find a new authorizer.  Prairie Creek is currently in the process of contract renewal and ARTech’s contract with the district will be up for renewal at the end of the 2011/12 school year.

There’s been plenty of commentary in recent weeks, including a Northfield News editorial, about the stringent application process that has faced prospective authorizers.  Indeed, the application process led to many traditional school districts, Faribault for example, deciding not to pursue authorizer status.  To date, Minneapolis and Northfield are the only districts that have been approved.

I believe that Northfield is fortunate to have excellent public school choice.   We are also pleased to have a neighboring traditional district that recognizes this, and has gone the extra mile to keep the collaboration going.   A recent Star Tribune article reflected on the direction that charters and traditional schools can, and should, go in sharing educational ideas and initiatives.

I for one applaud Dr. Richardson and his board for having the vision to support innovation in education and choice for the students of Northfield.   You can read more about this at the Northfield Patch site where Corey Butler has already posted a piece on this news.





November 23, 2010

Last Friday’s Thanks-Give! event was a great success on all accounts.  The evening’ was a feast of dance, theater, song and skits on the theme of Dollars For Shakespeare and met the goal of providing a couple of hours of entertainment while at the same time raising some much needed funds for the school.

Once again, ARTech was indebted to Bob for organizing and guiding the whole event.   T Mckinley has become our go to guy for compering the evening – something he does with considerable panache.  Staff and students weighed in with performances and skits.    Theatrical offerings included a 7 minute version of Romeo and Juliet by the middle school theater class and an energetic Tag Team Taming of the Shrew.    Throw in some dance, African drumming and impressive harp playing by CJ and it was quite an evening of the arts.

Humor was provided by T’s segues and two bouts of Buy an Insult.   Shakespeare sure knew how to trash talk – as demonstrated by Will and Rayna.   Scott and Annie then traded Elizabethan insults although several staff members in the audience noted that it didn’t sound much different to their usual exchanges in staff meetings.

Of course, Thanks-Give! is notable for it’s bizarre traditions.   The chicken suit made an inevitable appearance – this time sported by a student.  The evening concluded with the annual battle for the prized Coconut Monkey – presented to the advisory that garners the most cash for their skit.    This year it was a close run thing.  In the end, Red advisory’s parody of Forrest Gump just edged it.

Along with the many generous donations we received on Give to the Max day, the Thanks-Give! event raised over $5,000 for the school.  Thanks to all of you for your support.


First Quarter Presentation Night

November 23, 2010

They say that food helps to draw a crowd, and I think the Boat Project Taco Fundraiser drew in a crowd and ensured we were well fed and ready for the event.   The fundraiser raised over $300 towards the cost of renovating the boat.   Thank you to the parents, staff and students who organized the event.

Along with the middle school choir, the opening gathering in the Great Room included a dance demonstration by the Northfield Ballroom group which consists largely of ARTech students.  The group has been getting some great recognition lately and were a front page feature on the variety section of the Star Tribune.   Click here to see a photo gallery of the dancers.

After a presentation from Amelia and an invitation to visit the new greenhouse, the large crowd of parents and visitors descended upon the middle school advisory projects and sat in on high school presentations.   We also had art on display that was created in the first quarter high school and middle school art classes.


Growing Season

November 2, 2010

On a sunny day in November, a two and a half year endeavor was finally visualized by the Greenhouse Project group.   It started with a simple idea – let’s build a greenhouse, a tool with which students could learn about plants, sustainable farming and creating a micro-business.  Read more about the students’ hopes and dreams for the greenhouse and the journey to its completion on Amelia’s blog

Of course, as always with projects like this that are emergent and unbeholden to tight time schedules, much of the learning happens through taking a risk and then encountering and surmounting obstacles.   This group of students and adults (Todd and Andrew) certainly encountered many obstacles.   They wrote grants, fundraised and liaised with the school’s landlord and the city to acquire building permits.    Many different organizations supported the groups efforts.  Grants were secured from the Northfield Union of Youth in Partnership with the Healthy Community Initiative and from the Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams.   A grassroots group of ARTech students and parents even organized a barn dance and concert to raise the final dollars needed to make the project happen. 

One of the larger grants enabled the group to hire the expertise of our “Farmer in Residence” Andrew.   Andrew has proved invaluable to the project.   He was already well known to ARTech students for his volunteer work on the Boat Project.    Andrew has extensive experience of working on CSA farms and a natural ability to guide a group of students on a building project.   His enthusiasm is infectious.  

The recent spell of fine weather has enabled the group to make excellent time in assembling the greenhouse.  Plans are now being formulated for the creation of composting bins.  The group is even dreaming up ideas of using a small windmill to power the electricity that will pump air into the space between the sheet of plastic covering the greenhouse.

Who knows how many projects this addition to our school will generate.   A Greenhouse May Term project is already in the process of being designed.  An ARTech CSA to generate the final funds needed for the completion of the project sold out in less than twelve hours!

Congratualations to the staff and students for their persistance in bringing a great idea to reality!   Visit the ARTech Open House on Sunday, November 14 from 2-4pm to tour the greenhouse and learn about the project from students on the ARTech greenhouse team.


Developing the social contract

September 20, 2010

A busy first week of school was book-ended by two All School Gatherings.   On Tuesday morning, we welcomed new students and staff (Kate and Sarah) and admired the freshly painted Great Room floor.   Todd led us in a raucous rendition of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean that had adults and students smiling and moving in spite of themselves.

The week concluded with another All School Gathering at the close of day on Friday.   At this one, we had more serious business to attend to.     As part of our week of preparedness for the year ahead, advisories had engaged in a process of developing statements for a Social Contract.   Each advisory then sent representatives from their groups to a “summit” meeting with me.   My task was then to guide the group (6th through 12th graders) to consensus on statements they agreed would speak to a “way” that we would live by in the month ahead together.   This process took many hours,  much discourse and argument, and careful revising and editing.

The result of this hard work?   Four concise statements of intent:

We will respect our environment

We will strive to be creative learners, hard workers, and use our time wisely.

We will try to help others meet their potential while achieving ours.

We will acknowledge the individuality of each member of our community.

At the All School Gathering, the summit committee members shared the process they had engaged in with the rest of the school.   Students then had popsicles (another tradition), signed the contract and headed outside a break in the fresh air to end at great first week.   Many students, and some staff, at this point engaged in a fairly chaotic game of soccer where we discovered that our new math teacher, Kate, is a soccer talent of some standing.