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Strategic Plan Goal #3

Implement Innovative Programming

March 12, 2016

Dear Princeton Community,

I have been writing the past few months about a Strategic Plan. The School Board has approved the Mission, Vision, Core Values, District Goals and the associated Action Plans.  

Here are the goals:

  • Provide personalized instruction for every student,

  • Prepare 21st Century students to be career and college ready,

  • Implement innovative programming,

  • Guarantee creative and relevant digital learning opportunities,

  • Improve communication with staff, parents, business and community partners in order to maximize student success.

My article today is the third of five articles, to tell you about each of our goals.

The past two articles were about goals one and two in our Strategic Plan:  Provide personalized instruction for every student.  Prepare 21st Century students to be career and college ready.  This time, I am writing about the third goal:  Implement innovative programming.

Why is this a goal?  Gone are the times when a family’s address dictates where they send their children to school.  In order to keep our students from going elsewhere, we need to have innovative programs as an attractor.

We have slowed the trend of our students in our own district, going to other districts.  This is very good news.  Our forward-thinking School Board has supported many new initiatives during the past few years:

  • All Day Everyday Kindergarten (before it was supported by the state),

  • Princeton Online Academy,

  • Our own Area Learning Center and Targeted Services,

  • Education Provided in Local Care and Treatment Program,

  • Spanish Immersion,

  • Tigers in Training,

  • Restructuring of Gifted and Talented Programming,

  • One to one technology,

  • STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics)

Implement Innovative Programming

There are two parts to this goal:

  • Analyze, align and prioritize school programs to meet District direction and goals to encourage collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity.

  • Ongoing support for new and existing programs.

Analyze, align and prioritize school programs to meet District direction and goals to encourage collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity.

This step will begin in a couple of years.  A process will be developed to determine what innovative programs need to be implemented.  Student needs will dictate needed programming.

Ongoing support for new and existing programs.

This is the step that the District is currently operating.  Supporting our new programs is the work that we are doing, as we have many new programs that need attention.

In an effort to keep our District competitive and student population growing, we have a recent history of implementing innovative programming.  This has already begun to show results; student enrollment appears to be improving.  We need to thank our current School Board for supporting these efforts.


Julia Espe

Superintendent, Princeton Public Schools

Letter from the Superintendent

posted Jul 17, 2017, 8:00 AM by Kari Osborne

Princeton Public Schools Designs an Outdoor Classroom

Dear Princeton Community,

I have exciting news!  Our children at the Primary and Intermediate Schools will be able to learn and grow, using an outdoor classroom!  The dream began when Tom Ostroot, who is the science specialist at the Primary School, was involved with the architects, as the Primary School was being designed.  He mentioned he wished to have the opportunity to keep students involved in science by teaching them outside.  It was then that we all started to talk about ways to capitalize upon outdoor learning.

At about the same time, a teacher at the Intermediate School, Becky Pollard, was given the opportunity to go to a workshop to learn about how to teach outdoors all year long.  She was inspired by the idea, and she used the techniques all year, last school year.

It was the vision of these two teachers that started this project.  A few weeks ago, eight teachers went to a workshop to learn about the importance of outdoor learning and how to get started with it.  The group gathered afterwards, and they talked about the benefits of an outdoor classroom, and how to proceed in an affordable way.

You may ask why outdoor learning?

  • It helps students socially, as well as physically.

  • It increases motor skill development,

  • It nurtures students in creativity,

  • It helps students to learn to work together,

  • It encourages an outlet to handle stress, and

  • It opens doors to students to learn to appreciate nature.

According to Becky Pollard, “You can teach anything outdoors.  Everything imaginable is adaptable to outdoor learning.”  

Our new space has several areas in the design.  We found space on the grounds of the Primary School for these areas:

  1. A Climbing/Balance Area:  This area will have log steps and a natural balance beam.

  2. Gathering Area:  This space will have log/bench seating for 32 students.

  3. Music and Movement Area:  It will have a non-directional ground level stage, an outdoor marimba, and bench seating.

  4. Dirt Digging Area:  This will be an in-ground dirt digging bed with a rock-lined perimeter.

  5. Building Area:  This area will have a table and stump stools, ready for any kind of building.

  6. Messy Materials Area:  This space will be provided with branches and other natural building materials, ready to build!

  7. Multipurpose Area:  This area will have picnic tables, for a variety of activities.

  8. Nature Art Area:  This space will have an art panel and stump stool seating.

  9. Science Observation Area:  This area will have a picnic table and storage for close observation tools.

Right now, this outdoor classroom is only in the design phase.  We have a staging area outside of the wooded area where it will be located, and a community member has already donated some large logs.  We will be depending upon our Princeton community members to help us to build our outdoor classroom.

We are putting together a list of needed materials and opportunities for volunteering.  Would you like to get involved?  Please let me know if you would!  julia.espe@isd477.org


Julia Espe

District Center-Closed on Monday, July 3 & Tuesday, July 4th.

posted Jun 28, 2017, 7:32 AM by Kari Osborne

The District Center will be closed on Monday, July 3rd, and Tuesday, July 4th in observance of the 4th of July Holiday. 

Letter from the Superintendent

posted May 15, 2017, 8:50 AM by Kari Osborne

Becoming a Profound Learner

Dear Princeton Community,

What is a school’s core purpose?  It is to develop students who are profound learners.  Being an average learner in the 21st Century is not enough.  Teaching students to be averse to average is an important life skill.  This requires teachers and administrators to challenge themselves and to incrementally teach our students, day by day, creating cognitively complex tasks to force students to think critically.

At our June 6 School Board meeting, teachers will be reporting about their cognitively complex tasks they created.  We are actively developing tasks to teach students experimental inquiry, investigating, problem-solving and decision making.  This is a whole new way of thinking.  In our district, we define this kind of non-average student as a student who can think at a knowledge utilization level in a self-directed way.  In other words, an autonomous critical thinker.

Knowledge utilization means we are creating more learning and assessment tasks that are reality based. It requires students to apply or use knowledge in specific situations.

Questions the teachers might ask would be:

  • What changes would you make to solve. . . ?

  • Can you predict the outcome if. . . . ?

  • What way would you design. . . ?

  • Can you think of an original way for the . . . ?

You may not know this:  our teachers actively design the questions they ask students, to help them become better thinkers.  We look at questions and tasks within a taxonomy.  There are many taxonomies, and the one we use is the Marzano’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.  

The lowest level of thinking is called retrieval, which includes helping students to recall information or execute a math problem. Retrieval involves recalling information from permanent memory. The next level is comprehension, where students begin to integrate their thinking by coming up with their own opinions or to symbolize their thoughts in some way, such as drawing or graphing or recording.  Comprehension requires identifying what is important and placing the information into categories.The third level is analysis, which requires matching, classifying, analyzing errors, generalizing, or making conclusions.  It involves reasoned extensions of knowledge and inferences to go beyond what was directly taught.

A common misconception is that younger students do more retrieval and older students more knowledge utilization thinking.  That is absolutely not true.  Younger students are just as capable, developmentally, of thinking at high levels.  

Why cognitively complex tasks, using knowledge utilization?  It may be best explained by Seth Godin, who invited leaders to think about this, “Our task, then, is to find people we can encourage and nurture until they’re as impatient with average as we are.”  If we want Princeton graduates to be successful in the world, they need to be discontent with average.  This is a shift in culture, and our educators are being challenged to be profound learners, as they develop cognitively complex tasks, to deepen student engagement.  We are becoming profound learners in order to develop our students into even more profound learners.


Julia Espe


Princeton FFA Has A Great Showing At State!!!

posted Apr 26, 2017, 9:25 AM by Sonia Strickland   [ updated Apr 26, 2017, 10:02 AM ]

Princeton FFA had a great showing at state! Congrats to all participants!

Princeton FFA Livestock Judging Team 3rd in the State!! 
Katie Moller - 3rd place individual
Wyatt Lawrence- 4th place individual 
Only 4 points separated places 1-4!

Katie Moller won 2 proficiency awards.
The Princeton FFA chapter receive second in Agriculture Literacy
The Princeton chapter is ranked 17th in the state based on member development, community service, and education agricultural education to others.

Lexi Voight and Maddy Anderson received gold in the Floriculture Contest. The team placed in the top 20.

PHS Author Visit

posted Apr 24, 2017, 8:52 AM by Sonia Strickland

On February 7th, PHS had the honor of having author Ann Marie Mershon visit our school.  She gave two large group presentations to English classes in the Performing Arts Center during 1st and 2nd hour. She also worked with a class during directed study and presented to another class during 3rd hour. She discussed her life as well as her two main books, Britta’s Journey and You Must Only to Love Them.  Britta’s Journey is about the journey of a young girl and her family as they emigrated from Finland to America.  It is based on the true story of how Ann Marie’s neighbor came to live in America. You Must Only to Love Them is the story of Ann Marie’s experiences as she taught overseas in Turkey. I had multiple teachers talk to me about how much they enjoyed the visit and the students seemed to enjoy it as well.  I’m very grateful that Ann Marie Mershon was able to provide us with this amazing experience. Signed Britteny Muus

Mississippi 8 Speech Conference Tournament

posted Apr 24, 2017, 8:22 AM by Sonia Strickland

The PHS speech team hosted the Mississippi 8 Conference tournament.  There were 7 schools and 200 students in attendance.  We would like to thanks Sara Beck for running a superb school store that fed all the kids and judges, and the custodians who set-up and tore down all the necessary equipment for the students to feel comfortable.  We would also like to thank Richard Fillafer for staying and running the booth for the awards ceremony.  Without all this extra support, the meet would not have been as enjoyable as it was.

The PHS speech team ended up winning the tournament leading the way with 5 All Conference Speakers (1st and 2nd) and 7 Honorable Mention All Conference Speakers (3rd and 4th).  In addition to those, we had an additional 4 students place in the top six earning additional team points.

The team was also recognized as being a Academic Gold team (Ave GPA 3.5-4.0)

Team Results - 
Princeton - 1st
Cambridge - 2nd
STMA - 3rd

Individual Results - 
Meet Champion - All Conference - Zakk Smith - Discussion
Meet Champion - All Conference - Aurora Schossow - Drama
Meet Champion - All Conference - Briana Dokken - Great Speeches
Meet Champion - All Conference - Kate Radke - Poetry
2nd Place - All Conference - Ryan Kreft - Humorous
3rd Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Lindsey Broda - Discussion
3rd Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Sammy Juilfs - Storytelling
4th Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Clara Skeim - Prose
4th Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Jaden Faddler - Extemp. Reading
4th Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Katie Hicks - Drama
4th Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Presli Abrahamson - Humorous
4th Place - Honorable Mention All Conference - Megan Johnson - Discussion
5th Place - Ahna Meixel - Poetry
5th Place - Alex Case - Informative
5th Place - Carly Girtz - Drama
5th Place - Rachel Hazelton - Storytelling

Please congratulate these students and all other speech members!

Mock Trial

posted Apr 21, 2017, 1:34 PM by Sonia Strickland   [ updated Apr 24, 2017, 6:06 AM ]

Princeton Mock Trial had a great showing this year. Both teams went undefeated in regular season competition, and both advanced on to sub-sections. Princeton White advanced to the state competition where they went 1-2. This was the first time in the past decade that the Mock Trial program has advanced to state. Anders Wold was named as an All-State witness and Avery Pomerleau was selected as an All-State attorney. 

PHS Speech Team Wins Conference Title

posted Apr 18, 2017, 1:42 PM by Sonia Strickland

The PHS Speech team is an activity where students get to explore a variety of styles of performing and delivering both prepared and extemporaneous speeches to an audience.  There are 13 categories that students get to participate in.  This year, the speech team has traveled to meets of various sizes, usually 20-30 different schools, and 400-600 speakers.  The team has had good showings at all of our meets, but their hard work and dedication really came through Tuesday night at the Mississippi 8 Conference meet.  Princeton had the most Conference Champions (4) of any school in the conference, and tied with Cambridge for the most All-Conference speakers (5 - Places 1st & 2nd).  This is Princeton's 4th Conference title in Speech in the Mississippi 8.

4.18.17 Letter from the Superintendent

posted Apr 18, 2017, 7:32 AM by Kari Osborne


Dear Princeton Community,

I just read a book that I wish all people in communities could read.  It was written by Peter Block, and the name of it is Community: The Structure of Belonging.  It could be a required read for all community leaders.  It could be required reading for elected officials and business owners as well as principals and teachers.

This is the premise of the book:  

As time goes on, people are more and more isolated. Our country’s culture contributes to this situation with the emphasis on individualism, which is ironic since the world is “smaller” with the effects of globalization.  People have instant contact through texting, information through the internet, opinions representing every facet of life, and other technologies.  And yet people feel isolated.  Too many people feel they do not belong.

This is a society problem.  People want to feel a sense of belonging, where they are the owner or creator of the community.  What defines a community’s well-being?  The quality of the relationships between its members.  Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone,” terms the quality of relationships as ‘social capital.’

As I read this book, I recognized how valuable PBIS is in our district.  Many people believe Positive Behavior Intervention Supports is all about getting students to behave.  On the surface, PBIS does that.  However, if it is done well, as it is in Princeton, the result is teaching students to have quality relationships, improving social capital, step by step.

What is Tiger Pride?   PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a framework to guide schools in creating safe, positive, predictable, and consistent environments.  It comes down to staff continually working to create positive relationships with students, parents, and other staff members.

The PBIS/Tiger Pride journey began in the summer of 2005.  Princeton was one of three district in the state of Minnesota to be trained to put this framework in place.  This journey is a several year process to fully put in place.  Even now, after 12 years, we continue to find ways to improve what we do with Tiger Pride.

John Beach, principal of the Intermediate School, is our resident expert in PBIS, and his accolades extend beyond our district--as a member of the PBIS State Leadership Team for the past 5 years, lead school-team trainer for the Southern Regional Implementation Project, and national PBIS speaker at their conferences.

As Principal John Beach describes it, “This framework includes creating expectations, teaching those expectations around the school, and acknowledging students when they make positive choices.  It also includes strategies to respond to problem behavior and support students so that students can be successful.  Schools put these systems in place school-wide, in the classroom, and all non-classroom areas.  School teams use data to help guide the decisions they make to adjust and improve what they are doing.”

Some of what PBIS has done in the past few years include helping students stand up for each other when there is bullying, making an effort to include students who might feel left out, and just being kind to one another.  You can tell the meaning and importance of PBIS themes by their titles:

  • Investigate the Possibilities (reach out to others; look for the good in others)

  • Be their Voice! (what to do when students see bullying)

  • We are North Elementary--I Belong!

  • Be Brave (what to do when you see bullying behaviors)

  • Minnesota Nice (being kind)

All of these themes help our students learn how to build quality relationships.  We could learn from our students.

When was the last time that we valued our interdependence and sense of belonging, instead of just living our lives the same as usual?  I challenge all of us adults to do as we expect our students in PBIS, to extend hospitality to someone you do not know.  I challenge you to create a new connection and recognize that person’s gifts.

Let’s see if we can get some of PBIS going in our community.  Belonging is important to children, and belonging is just as important to adults.  Who knows?  It could enhance the social fabric of our Princeton community culture!


Julia Espe

Superintendent Update

posted Feb 21, 2017, 12:34 PM by Kari Osborne

Goals Update

February 21, 2017

Dear Princeton Community,

Since it is midyear, this is a good time to give you an update on our Strategic Plan goals.  As you may recall, here are our goals for the next 5 to 7 years:

  • Provide personalized instruction for every student.

  • Prepare 21st century students to be career and college ready.

  • Implement innovative programming.

  • Guarantee creative and relevant digital learning.

  • Improve communication and engagement with staff, parents, business and community partners in order to maximize student success.

Provide personalized instruction for every student.

Our instructional model uses a framework, which helps the teacher and student to know the student’s progress towards competency.  Professional development has continued this year, to strengthen the framework.  Teachers had a deepening day, in which they selected the training that they felt they needed most.  There was a technology day, in which teachers learned to use technology strategies to implement the instructional model.  On March 14, teachers will work on learning progressions and activities that match learning progressions.    Looking ahead, our District Instructional Leadership Team is working on a plan for next year, furthering our work with formative assessment.

Prepare 21st century students to be career and college ready.

There are four strategies for this goal:

  • Ramp up to Readiness curriculum, which is being implemented weekly for grades 6 through 12.  This curriculum was designed by the University of Minnesota, and it helps students to learn the process of career investigation and post secondary preparation, including certificates, 2 year programs, 4 year colleges and armed services options.

  • There is a 3 part series for parents, related to being career and college ready.  These are aimed at parents with children in grades 6 through 12.  A Central Minnesota data analyst in job opportunities spoke to parents in January.  The February focus will be on parent readiness for guiding future careers, and in March, the session will be on local career pathways.

  • The Learning and Living Committee is working on bringing posters, sponsored by local businesses, to learn about local career opportunities and career pathways.

  • The staff development plan in November 2017 will be to allow teachers to visit businesses and discuss further implementation of career and college ready information in the classrooms.

Implement innovative programming.

The intent of this goal is to nurture the innovative programming that we have already put in place, helping them to become sustainable:

  • Spanish Immersion continues to be added each year, and we will have preK, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades next year.  We have been able to retain our own students as well as recruit students in this program.

  • This is the second year of Princeton Online Academy. Enrollment is growing, and a second teacher was added to meet the demand.

  • The Area Learning Center (ALC) has transitioned back to Princeton.  A site for Student Services has been purchased, and the move in is complete.  The teacher is working on career placement opportunities, such as volunteer service learning or on the job training, for the students.

  • Through a grant, we were able to add a full time guidance counselor for Student Services.  Services include assisting with enrollment, credit monitoring, career and college education, personal development, etc.  This counselor serves the Area Learning Center, Educational Options (Care and Treatment Program at Accurate Home Care), and Princeton Online Academy.

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) coursework continues to be developed at our 3rd through 8th grade, with robotics in grades 3 through 12, a STEM course in grade 8, and STEAM in grades 6 through 8.  In addition, we have developed facilities for a fabrication lab at the high school, with programming beginning in 2017-2018.

  • Beginning in the fall of 2017, there will be an analysis of existing programs to identify successful programs, gaps in our current instructional offerings, and necessary revisions and support for existing programs.

Guarantee creative and relevant digital learning.

Here are the actions that have taken place this year:

  • This year was the pilot year for a three-day course of study for teachers, called Digital Learning Boot Camp.  It was designed to help teachers learn the tools they need to begin teaching students in a digitally enhanced classroom.

  • Working with Teaching and Learning, a plan was developed to intentionally integrate digital resources and strategies into the classroom.

  • Teacher leaders developed a framework for supporting digital citizenship in all schools during this school year.

  • This is the first of a four-year rollout for one to one digital learning devices in Princeton.  This year’s roll out impacts four grade levels:  grades 3, 6, 7, and 9.  Three more grade levels will be added for the 2017-2018 school year--for grades 4, 8 and 10.

Improve communication and engagement with staff, parents, business and community partners in order to maximize student success.

  • We are communicating with “little Tigers” from birth to age 5, by sending letters to parents twice per year.

  • We are communicating more with staff, by offering them quick updates right after board meetings.

  • I am visiting 200 classrooms during this school year.

  • We are inviting staff and student participation to select a tiger logo, and this should be completed soon.

  • Our new website will launch on July 31, 2017!!

As you can see, we have been very busy in our district, improving our services for our students.  We certainly appreciate the support from our community and parents.  Without that support, we would never have been able to progress as far as we have.

Thank you, Princeton Community!


Julia A. Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools

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