Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I hope you had a restful holiday season and are ready for the new year!  As the high school principal of Minneota Public Schools, I look back at 2018 and appreciate all the successes and exciting things that took place.

Construction Project - The gym got a facelift, the flooring in the high school classrooms got replaced, new windows and blinds were installed in the upstairs classrooms, our FACS room got a much-needed expansion, and old lockers were replaced with new ones!  We are blessed to have the community support to make these upgrades!

Student Success - Our Volleyball team won a State Championship in 2018, our Girls Basketball team placed 3rd at State, and our Boys Basketball team nearly advanced to their first-ever state tournament!  The fall musical was a smashing success and programs like Speech and Robotics continue to get stronger as the years go by.

State Testing - Our high school students dominated the MCA testing in all three areas!  High expectations and teaching/learning the state standards are two things that are happening in our classrooms!  

There were many more successes and many other great things that happened here at school in 2018!  Looking ahead to 2019 we are working on exciting things behind the scenes in our high school. Before the holiday break, our staff watched the movie “Most Likely to Succeed”. We followed it up with two hours of discussion in our PLC’s and are making plans of modernizing our teaching and overall philosophies in the classroom.  The movie impacted me as a principal and as a parent! The movie really called to attention the fact that the public education system has failed to adapt and modernize with new generations of students. This movie is a must watch for any educator or parent. It can be found on Amazon Prime, Google, etc. Here is the official trailer.  


One thing is for sure, I refuse to let our school become complacent.  We do many things well here in our high school, but there are always things we can improve and we need to continue to modernize the education we are offering our students.  We need to equally focus on making sure students have SKILLS that will help them for the real world while teaching the content.  As a staff, we’ve identified many skills (not content knowledge...think self-advocacy, how to interview, giving a professional presentation, importance of digital citizenship, manners/etiquette) that WE think students should have, but what do YOU think as a parent?  I’d love to hear from YOU, what skills do students need to have before they graduate and join society as adults? We have a list started and we want to get ideas from you, the parent! Please e-mail jeremy.frie@minneotaschools.org  any ideas you may have and we’ll get them added to the list!  I will report back at a later date!

I wish you and your family health and happiness in 2019!  

Sincerely,

Jeremy W. Frie
High School Principal

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"If you want a sports school, you go to Minneota."

Academics


What a great time to be a Minneota Viking!  Allow me a few hundred words to brag about the awesome high school I’m blessed to work in…


If you haven’t already, you’ll be receiving your child’s MCA report, which will highlight how they performed on the MCA tests last spring.  I’m proud to report that Minneota High School is #1 among 28 Southwest Minnesota high schools in Math, Reading, and Science! You’ll see by the graphics below that we have come a LONG way since 2013.  The data was pulled from the Minnesota Department of Education.






2018-2019 (Below) 









When I started here in 2013, Lincoln Hi High School in Ivanhoe was on the verge of closing their doors and entering into a tuition agreement with Minneota High School.  The High School Counselor at the time, (Meredith Sander) and I hosted a meeting in the library for Ivanhoe parents/potential future students. In this meeting, we presented all the great things Minneota High School had to offer and fielded many questions. Time and time again I heard about how poor our academics were in Minneota and fielded questions wondering what the plan was to improve.  I heard the comment “sports school” several times during this meeting. After the meeting, a parent from Ivanhoe told me; “If you want a good education, you go to Canby. If you want the arts, you go to Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. If you want sports, you go to Minneota.” This quote bothered me immensely. The parent wasn’t trying to be mean, he was just speaking honestly as to what the perception was of our school.  Most parents would agree they don’t want their own children going to a school with that reputation.  Well, people can no longer call us “just a sports school”!  Academically, we’ve performed at a high level for the past four years, proving to be consistent. The goal is to be great at everything we do here at Minneota High School.  We aren’t there yet but I can assure you we are working to be great in all areas...it just takes time.


According to schooldigger.com, Minneota High School is ranked in the Top 10 of ALL high schools in the state of Minnesota after our most recent MCA scores were factored in!  It’s fun to type in area school districts to see where they stand when compared to us and the rest of the state!


Click here to check it out: Minneota High School


I’m proud of our teachers and our students!  Our teachers have high expectations for their students and teach those Minnesota State Standards faithfully. Our students meet those expectations by working hard and taking their academics seriously!

Athletics


It’s been a lot of fun to see our Volleyball team (ranked #1) and Football team (ranked #3) having the kind of success they are having.  It’s been just as fun to watch our rejuvenated student section having fun and making noise, creating a nice home field/home court advantage!  Could both Volleyball and Football go to state again? It’s going to be fun to watch the rest of the journey!

Arts


A whopping 45 students auditioned and are in the High School Musical Cast and another 10 students have expressed interest in helping backstage!  There are many students on the cast list that I’ve never seen participate in the fall musical or spring play. There is great excitement among the students for this production!  It’s going to be a great show this fall!


Scott Hanson is organizing field trips to the Guthrie Theater this fall.  Many of our students, enrolled in art classes, will get the wonderful experience of attending a professional performance in a famous Minnesota theater!


Final Thoughts:


As a parent, I am proud that my children attend/will attend Minneota High School!  I believe that they are getting top-notch instruction, top-notch coaching, have many opportunities in areas other than sports, and ultimately have a safe environment to grow up!  Thank you for holding your own children to high expectations both academically and behaviorally!  Parenting is hard work and important work but work that is worth it in the end!  


Happy Homecoming!


Jeremy W. Frie

High School Principal
Minneota Public Schools

Monday, August 13, 2018

Who is Alice?

It’s hard to believe that in 22 days, the 2018-2019 school year will begin!  I hope you’ve had a good summer, filled with highlights and memories! The Frie family enjoyed a road-trip to Myrtle Beach, SC where we spent a week enjoying the ocean, the pool, and most importantly time together without the distraction of our busy lives here in Minneota!  We fear it may be our last road trip as our kids are getting too tall to sit for that many hours in a mini-van! If your household is like my household, you’re probably ready for your children to get back into a routine and get back to school! There are many exciting things happening at Minneota Public Schools!  I’ll be highlighting a few changes, some beefed up security procedures, and updating you on a lot of general information.



ALICE
In July, I traveled to Winona, MN, with our leadership team (Mrs. Knutson, Mrs. Rodas, and Mrs. Mahan-Deitte) to attend an ALICE Training.  ALICE stands for:  Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.  We experienced several mock school shootings, practiced better ways to lock-down, studied previous school shootings across our country and learned about better ways to protect our students and staff here at Minneota Public Schools.  We came away from the training with many ideas that we will be implementing right here in our own building. We will be spending 3 hours training every single employee of the school district at our back-to-school workshops and will be training our students very early in the school year.  There will be more detailed information sent out about what exactly we are doing for lockdowns once the school year starts.

Construction Updates and School Safety Measures     
The high school portion of the construction project is going very smoothly.  Here is what will be new:

  • Solid wood doors with no windows were installed in all high school classrooms.  These doors will have a dual key locking system, which means teachers can lock the doors with a key from the inside or the outside of the room.  If there is a dangerous threat in the school and we need to lockdown, teachers no longer have to go into the hallway to lock their doors to secure their rooms.  The high school teachers and I chose to have doors without windows to maximize safety for our students and staff.
  • New lockers were installed upstairs, replacing our old, broken-down lockers.  We estimate those old lockers to be 42 years old (according to the graffiti on the walls from the class of 1975 behind those lockers)!
  • Our FACS room has been expanded, giving Mrs. LeaAnne Bot more room to utilize sewing machines and her kitchen area.  She typically has big classes, so this will be a nice improvement for the students!
  • All new flooring was installed upstairs in the high school classrooms!
  • All new windows and blinds will be installed upstairs in the next two weeks!
  • The Competition Gym was painted, the piping was framed in, and the wall tiles were covered with a modern paneling.  Brand new LED lights were installed, making the gym much brighter! A group of students came to school to meet with AP design on multiple occasions and designed a great new mural.  That should be installed next week! The stage pad and the gym pad for underneath the basketball hoop are ordered and should be here before school starts. We need to put banners back on the walls and are waiting for the new doors to be installed, but everything should be ready for our first home volleyball game on August 28!  It’s been great seeing the reaction of the students when they first see the gym! It truly has been transformed and modernized! I believe we have one of the very best gyms in the conference and our students deserve it!
  • New lights were installed in the parking lot, which should help provide more safety for students, staff, and parents when accessing their cars at night.  The lights also help our exterior cameras!
  • 36 additional speakers were installed throughout the building to ensure that when the intercom is used, all people in the building can hear it!
  • Both science rooms were painted by Mr. Skillings and look great!  

There will be more information communicated regarding school safety measures in the near future.

Backpacks
For the past two years there has been an ongoing internal conversation in the high school regarding backpacks in the classrooms.  Two years ago, I surveyed the students to learn “why” they carry them. Most of the responses had to do with “convenience.” Last year, the teachers were surveyed and nearly 80% of the teachers responded with wanting backpacks out of their classrooms.  One teacher wrote: "The classrooms are too crowded with the backpacks in the room. Some of my classes have 28 students in them. When the majority of students bring their backpacks into the room, it is almost as if I am adding extra bodies into an already full room. Therefore, it is hard to maneuver about the classroom and offer students help when they need it or to monitor students as they work. The backpacks also become a huge tripping hazard for myself and others who are walking in the room. We are already tiptoeing around computer charging cords plugged into the walls, and the backpacks exacerbate this situation." Another teacher wrote: "I worry about school safety. If someone brings a weapon, it will be in a backpack, not a locker."

After meeting with the Policy Committee of the Board of Education, we’ve decided to phase out backpacks in the classrooms over a two-year period. Backpacks WILL NOT be allowed in classrooms for grades 7, 8, and 9 for the 2018-2019 school year with the entire high school going backpack free (in classrooms) starting with the 2019-2020 school year.

Here is the reasoning:

  • The backpacks take up a lot of room on the classroom floors, making it hard for teachers and students to move around in a safe fashion.  We’ve had teachers and students trip and fall in the congested aisles.
  • Students feel much more comfortable carrying things they aren’t supposed to bring to school if their backpack is with them all day.  Teachers and I worry about students carrying weapons, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and other things that students shouldn’t have in school into the classroom.  We fully realize that students may still bring these items to school, they just won’t be in a populated area.

  • My own child isn’t too thrilled with this “new rule” and is concerned about getting to class on time with having to go to her locker in-between classes.  I’ve studied the passing time between classes and on average last year there was 1 minute, 20 seconds of leeway (completely empty hallways) during each passing time.  This means that students are easily getting to their classes on time and will continue to have plenty of time to get to arrive on time without their backpacks.
  • How do we keep devices safe?  The best advice would be to leave the device in the locker if it isn’t needed (Band, Choir, Shop, etc.)  I’d also recommend purchasing a laptop sleeve (pictured above). I will be purchasing one for my child and they are very reasonable on Amazon.  You can get one for as little as $8 and they come waterproof, padded, etc.
  • Students may use a school-issued padlock if they are worried about keeping the contents in their backpacks safe.  Your student can check one out in the K-12 office...see Allyson for details.
  • We have HD cameras that cover all locker areas, which should help prevent any theft from lockers.  If there is theft from a locker, the school reserves the right to press charges through the Minneota Police Department.  We have great kids here in Minneota and we don’t have a lot of theft here at Minneota High School. I don’t anticipate that to change.
  • About 50% of the schools in the area have a “no backpack” in the classroom policy; however, we are seeing more and more schools go to this in light of the increase in school shootings.  
          
Other Miscellaneous Information:

  • Your student probably received their schedules in the mail.  Pay no attention to the room numbers on the schedule. The rooms are being re-numbered as part of the construction project.  New schedules will be issued during 1st hour on the first day of school.
  • Students will be using a “fingerprint scanner” much like the ones on an iPhone for school lunch!  More information will be coming regarding this change in the near future!
  • You can stop in to deposit lunch money or to purchase activity passes.  Stop into the K-12 office. The office is open from 7:30-4:00 each business day!

I’ve always enjoyed this time of the year!  There is great excitement for the new school year, the new sports seasons are starting, and the return to a daily routine!  There will be much more important information communicated via email in the coming weeks! Please be sure to check your email frequently and be sure the school has an accurate email address for you!  

Have a great day and enjoy these last summer days!  

Jeremy W. Frie
High School Principal  

Monday, June 4, 2018

It’s been a long time since I’ve fainted.  I’ve been close several times but the last time I fainted I was in 9th grade.  I was serving as an alter boy in church and I have vivid memories of holding the Bible for our priest and feeling hot, dizzy, and experiencing my hearing going “in and out”.  I was able to faint “gracefully” in front of church that day...sort of handing the Bible to Father before collapsing. It must be sort of a Frie tradition since my son has fainted two years in a row at Easter Sunday Mass.  At graduation, I got a refresher on how it feels to faint or in this case “nearly faint”. I went to the podium to read a short introduction for our guest speaker, Mr. Kent Williams. When I looked down at the paper, I saw black blotches covering the words and became very hot.  I looked away, sort of tried to re-focus and looked at the paper again...no luck...black blotches. I was fainting and I knew it! I couldn’t get my words out and quickly skipped to “Please Welcome Mr. Kent Williams.” and got off the stage. I’m so thankful I didn’t drop over during the middle of graduation!  I completely butchered Mr. Williams’ introduction on this day but he absolutely knocked the speech out of the park, proving he didn’t NEED an introduction!

Summer of 2018 is off and running here at school!  We have a lot of work that needs to be done to get ready for the 2018-2019 school year.  The big focus has been getting our building project started. To get started, a lot of decisions had to be made in a short amount of time.  I’ve learned things like “grout color really matters” and it seems like everything in commercial construction is crazy expensive. We’ve included teachers, coaches, and staff in the decision-making process as much as possible.

  • All 7-12 students got to participate in a survey regarding the gym.  210 students in grades 7-12 took the survey over Google and the 5th and 6th grade were surveyed more informally.  65.2% (137 students) of the students said to update the gym mural and 34.8% (73 students) said to keep it. The 5th and 6th grade liked the idea of a new mural but incorporating some sort of Viking ship.  A group of 6-8 students across several different grades will come together and work with artists at AP Design to create an updated mural. It was a hard decision but the time to update seems right.

  • As part of the gym survey, I asked the students if they’d like to name their gym.  It seems to be a new trend (YME is “The Hive, Byron Bears is “The Den”, etc.). Some of these gyms even get their own hashtag on Twitter!  74.8% of the students liked the idea of naming their gym. They provided a lot of good ideas but the most popular one was “The Viking Ship”.  This will be a fun school-wide decision for the fall when all the students get back.

  • We believe that the gym hasn’t been painted since 1983 (no proof, just what some longtime employees report to me).  I can’t express how bright and fresh it’s going to look in our gym this fall! The beams, the ceilings, and all the walls are getting painted!  

  • During the last few days of school, I pulled several sophomore and junior students from class to decide on the new wall panels that are going to cover the 1958 subway tiles in the Competition Gym.  It was interesting and at times, an entertaining process. The students were very passionate and worked hard to come up with just the right colors. It wasn’t unanimous but they came up with contrasting wood colors (hard to explain in a blog) but it’s going to look great!  The students elected to keep the blue and gold racing stripes along both bleachers.

  • The teachers got in on the decision-making too!  They picked out the color of the commercial-grade vinyl flooring (long, narrow tiles) that will be put into the high school classrooms!  They chose four different gray colors. A certain percentage of each color will be randomly installed (no pattern) in each high school classroom this summer.  The darkest color will be 10% of the tiles and the lightest will be 20% of the tiles with mid-level colors taking up most of the rooms. They picked out their new blinds and decided to go with a solid wood door (for safety) vs having a new door with a window.      

  • Last summer, the gym floor was refinished.  Sadly, it didn’t hold up and it will be re-done once again.  This won’t be our cost, it will be replaced for free. With the construction going on, it won’t be done until the week after MEA break.  The hope is to get it done between the fall and winter season.

  • You may have noticed that new light poles will be installed along the sidewalk on 5th street.  This will provide excellent lighting for safety and security. With our parking situation, many people park over there for home activities.  We are hopeful the lights in the parking lot will be installed soon. This may cause a parking lot closure during the summer. Stay tuned!

I hope your summer is off to a great start!  I will be updating you on some school security topics with my next blog.  

Jeremy W. Frie
High School Principal  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

STATE and REGISTRATION

Greetings and Happy March!


It’s been an exciting March thus far!  It’s been an absolute joy to watch the boys and girls basketball teams magical postseason runs!  As you sit in the stands watching our Vikings compete, make sure you appreciate the hard work and dedication it took to GET THERE!  We had 50+ female athletes signed up for a summer weightlifting class run by Kaley Buysse, Brad Gillingham and Jesse Nelson. When I share that statistic with other schools, they were immediately impressed and then begin to understand our culture and work ethic here at MPS!  I see our male athletes in the weight room at 6:15am several times a week, all year long! The dedication and commitment to excellence is amazing!


My hometown of Byron, MN is sending their girls basketball team to the state tournament for the first time IN THE HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL!  We have it great here in Minneota, especially when it comes to watching our high school athletes compete! Never take “making it to state” for granted because you just never know if it will be the last time in many years!


We’ve gotten most of our students registered for the 2018-2019 school year.  We still have some registration sheets to collect from Lincoln Elementary and our 6th grade but we are close!  Some highlights and news regarding registration:


  • The two-hour Building Trades class is a GO!  Let the building begin!
  • OJT (On the Job Training) is a GO!  This program will be run by Mrs. Ruth Bot and will give students the opportunity to explore careers out in the community!
  • We will be offering a Spanish 1 and a Spanish 2 class next year.
  • Band and Choir will go back to the same hour again next year.  The goal remains the same:  provide more time for our band and choir to practice, learn new music, provide lessons, etc.  Students that AREN’T in both band and choir will still have music instruction on those days where the full group isn’t meeting vs having a study hall.  This will provide choir only and band only students with more instruction in those respective classes. Students may alter their registration sheets next Monday-Wednesday (3/19-3/21) if they’d like to add/drop band and/or choir for the 2018-2019 school year.  Students should see Mrs. Knutson to make changes.
  • Since we can’t get approval for CollegeNow Stats through SMSU, we have reached out to Minnesota State University, Mankato and it looks promising!  More information will be coming as we get it! We WILL be offering CollegeNow Trig and CollegeNow Algebra.  The stats class will be an addition to those classes.
  • Weightlifting class was wildly popular and will be offered in two semester-long classes.
  • Physics of Robotics was also very popular and will be offered to upperclassman first in order to offer appropriate class sizes.  
  • Drafting did not have enough students to be offered.
  • CollegeNow Intro to Computers will be offered.  We will not be offering the CollegeNow Fundamentals of Programming due to low enrollment.  We simply don’t have enough Science teachers to offer both of these classes.
  • Digital Media is a GO!
  • Fitness for Life was extremely popular and we will be offering it in two semester-long classes to make the class sizes more manageable.  We’re exploring more field trip options to enhance this class.


As the principal, it’s part of my job to make sure we are offering classes that students find challenging and classes that students enjoy.  Some new classes are popular and “go” and some classes aren’t popular and don’t “go”. The students ultimately have the big say in which classes they register for and which ones they don’t.  I’m learning that students are exercising their freedom of choice and tend to gravitate towards those teachers they feel a “connection” with. For evidence of that theory, 23 students signed up for a Physics class.  23 seniors willingly signed up for a challenging science elective, that isn’t offered for college credit. To me, that’s a compliment to the teacher! As a school, we are experiencing a drop in enrollment due to online classes being offered.  Currently we have over 30 students planning to take an online class through a different institution. Students have the right to take these classes but it affects the enrollment in the electives that we offer here in our school. This isn’t a MPS issue but a statewide issue.  We hope to offer enough college classes in the near future that students stay in school with our teachers while earning free college credits!


School Safety
Recently, I met with the senior class to collect their ideas on how we can make our school more safe in the future.  I was impressed with their maturity and they provided a couple of really good ideas that we will explore! I plan on having this same discussion with the junior class sometime before the school year is out.  As an administration, we are making procedural changes and looking at more options to provide a safer school. While we can’t make our school 100% safe from everything, we can certainly constantly make improvements and be the safest we can possibly be!  


Some upcoming events:
On April 5, the NHS will host their annual Blood Drive in the Competition Gym.  There will be more information coming regarding this event.


MCA Testing and ACT Testing season is nearly here!  It’s great to see so many juniors enrolled in our ACT prep class before school!  


If you’d like to follow us on Social Media:


Minneota Public Schools on Facebook


Minneota High School on Instagram


Twitter:
@principalfrie on Twitter


Here’s to hoping that the warm weather is on the way!  We deserve a nice spring! As always, if you have questions or concerns about something here at school or you’d like to pass along a compliment about one of our teachers/staff, please don’t hesitate to contact me!