Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TIES Exceptional Teacher

Today Mr. Khamratthanome was recognized as a TIES Exceptional Teacher for his use of technology with students. I know that all of our teachers work very hard and it is nice for that hard work to be recognized. Today was Mr. Khamratthanome's turn.

TIES is a technology consortium in the twin cities, owned by 39 school districts. TIES was created as Technology Information Education Services in 1967 to provide technology and information resources to school administrators, educators and students and they held their annual conferecne this week.

Here is more more information the publication that recognized the TIES Exceptional Teachers. You may click on the image to make it larger.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Barnes & Noble Book Fair

Thanks to all of the Sioux Trail families that were able to join us at our Barnes and Noble Book Fair on Saturday, November 14. We had a wonderful turnout. This is a fundraiser for the PTO, but I see it as a wonderful chance to celebrate the readers have at Sioux Trail and engage in one of the most important activities we do at Sioux Trail - read! We had wonderful guests including the following people:
  • Mrs. Willemssen and the 4th Grader Singers
  • Mrs. Sickman (Sioux Trail parent)
  • Author Patrick Mader - Big Brother Has Wheels
  • Miss Mulvahill
  • Mrs. Horwart & Mrs. Boche
  • Firefighter Principal Akin
  • Author Patricia Bauer/Illustrator David Geister - B is for Battle Cry

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tie Day

Thursday at Sioux Trail is unofficially Tie Day! Everyone is encouraged to wear any kind of tie. Occasionally we gather at the need of the day for a photo - here is the photo from yesterday (11/12).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

American Veterans - thank you for all that you have given.

Our sixth grade band started the day by playing our national anthem and then staff, students and parents had an opportunity to meet three veterans. Mike Murphy is the grandfather of one of our students, a Minnesota National Guard veteran and Mike helped make the visit possible. Mike introduced students to Louie and Gary, both veterans with a unique story. Gary and Louie participated in a re-creation of a military vehicle convoy that originally took place in 1919.

Nearly 90 years ago on July 7, 1919, the country's first Army transcontinental convoy of 81 brand new military vehicles departed from mile marker zero near the White House and headed cross-country via the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco, Calif.

The original convoy included 46 trucks, five ambulances, 11 military staff cars, nine motorcycles, a Maxwell caterpillar tractor, four kitchen trailers, a pontoon trailer, a mobile searchlight and a recovery vehicle. The punishing quest took the 295 young Soldiers through middle America down roads that ranged from concrete to tracks across quicksand and mud and over bridges that collapsed underneath the weight of the vehicles.

Two months later, on Sept. 6, 1919, and at 6 mph, the convoy crept into San Francisco, battered and bruised, but whole. Its mission was accomplished in showing the public the importance of a mechanized military and offering a brutal demonstration of the need for good roads. An unwritten objective was to say thanks to Americans for their support during World War I.

This summer, Louie and Gary recreated this trip, using a variety of military vehicles including their restored 1941 and 1943 World War II jeeps. Approximately 40 other participants made the entire trip, but they were joined by hundreds of others and they were hosted by VFW's and Legions across the county and were received warmly everywhere they went.

All three gentlemen had great stories to share with students and in turn, the students had terrific questions to ask. Having the vehicles in the gym helped build curiosity too. We concluded the visits with group photos for each class. Our guests were very impressed with the behavior of the students as well as the questions they posed.

Here is a link to their group's website: http://www.redbullhmva.com/

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Site Volunteer Coordinator

Jill Haddorff is our new Site Volunteer Coordinator! Heidi had too many projects underway and submitted her resignation earlier this fall. I am very grateful to Heidi for all of the work that she did and all of the time that she dedicated to Sioux Trail.

We had over 10 people apply for this position, which is a terrific number, considering that some schools have had no applicants and the principal has had to knock on doors. Jill is a regular volunteer at Sioux Trail, she has done a lot of work with the PTO, supports classroom teachers and has some great ideas to increase the number of volunteers at Sioux Trail.

Jill's contact information is as follows -
Email: jhaddorff@burnsville.k12.mn.us
Voicemail: (952) 707-3321

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where is Mr. Akin?

Yes! Meetings are a large part of the principal's week and take me away from Sioux Trail for a couple hours each week. This isn't the most exciting blog topic, but I thought it might be an informative post. Today's principal meeting started at 12 (noon) and ended at at 4pm. Our agenda included:
  • An hour on preparing for the next late start on November 17 and instruction on explicit comprehension
  • An in-service on School Reach, which allows staff to send messages to all families that we have an active phone number for. Initially we will use this tool to get messages out for instances like a snow day or other school cancellation (power outage anyone?), reminders about late starts and other opportunities that require us to get out information to you quickly
  • Updates on the data we get from the MAP assessment
  • Discussion around our Professional Learning Conversations that we host at Sioux Trail on Thursday mornings
  • An update from Superintendent Clegg on the data that is being collected by the ISD 191 school board
  • Discussion with the Director of Special Education on report cards and meetings that require classroom teachers
I hope this insight into the life of an elementary principal was interesting - keep posting comments and sharing ideas!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Teacher

In this Friday's folder I sent home a letter to the families of Third and Fifth Grade students announcing our newest addition to the Sioux Trail team! Here is the letter I sent home. As soon as I can I will post a photo of Katie so that you can help me welcome her when you are at Sioux Trail. Here is the letter that went home on Friday:

Dear Families of Sioux Trail Third and Fifth Grade students,

I am writing to provide you with an update on our class sizes and our staffing for grades three and five. As you probably know both third grade and fifth grade classes have more than 30 students in each classroom. I have been well aware of these class sizes, but I did not have access to additional resources to hire an additional teacher or teachers. I have been submitting updated enrollment to the superintendent's office weekly.

On Monday, October 19, the Superintendent and his staff reviewed our enrollment and recommended that additional staffing be allocated to Sioux Trail because of the large class sizes. On Thursday, October 22, the school board authorized this recommendation and assigned one additional full-time teacher to Sioux Trail. I had anticipated this possibility, completed interviews in early September and I forwarded our hiring recommendation to the Human Resources office earlier this week.

I am very excited to welcome Katie Mulvahill to Sioux Trail. Ms. Mulvahill is recent graduate from the University of Iowa. She has a degree in elementary education and journalism and she is an avid soccer player. Ms. Mulvahill will be working with students in both third and fifth grade and she will start work on Monday, November 2. Ms. Mulvahill will not have a traditional elementary classroom; instead she will be working with students in small groups or teaching in one of the classrooms so the classroom teacher can meet with small groups of students.

At the third grade level her focus will be reading and at the fifth grade level her focus will be with mathematics. She will have an office in room 214 and once she has an email address and telephone number she will share that information with you. Adding Ms. Mulvahill to our staff will help reduce the class sizes in third and fifth grade. She will be great asset to Sioux Trail as we continue to strive to be the best we can be.

Several of you shared your concerns about class sizes with Superintendent Clegg and me. Thank you for taking time to do this. As we continue with the 2009-10 school year please continue to stay in touch with me to share concerns or successes.

Thank you for your continued support,

Friday, September 25, 2009


Hola! Yesterday we hosted the informational session on our first ever Spanish class. This is an exciting opportunity for students K-6 at Sioux Trail. This is an after school class organized through Community Education, but taught by teachers from the University Language Program in Minneapolis. They are currently working with over 1,000 students in other school districts (196 has several sites). The class costs $599 and interested families are encouraged to contact Deb at Community Education to discuss payment plan options. The class is organized by grade level and Spanish speaking ability; the cost includes 48 one hour lessons on Tuesday and Thursday right here at Sioux Trail.

The registration deadline is October 8 and based on last night's attendance there is definitely interest in the program.

If you have questions please feel free to contact me at 952.707.3301 or Deb (Community Ed) at 952.707.4150. You can get more information on the program by calling the University Language Program at 612.379.3823.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Clean Up

Yesterday (Saturday, September 19) we hosted the second annual Sioux Trail school clean up event. The number of participants was smaller than our group last year, but we were just as successful. One of our first grade students was in charge if the sign in sheet and she counted at least 35 people! The primary focus was weeding and we added some plastic edging around the air conditioning unit.

What I get excited about is that parents, students and staff truly own Sioux Trail. It is our school and this is demonstrated by the willingness to give up part of a Saturday to come in and take care of our school. In addition to owning the outside of the school we ALL need to own what happens inside the school. We need more volunteers inside the school, if you can help our volunteer coordinator can match you with the right opportunity. Please continue to pass the good word about Sioux Trail and please let me know about areas where you think change should take place.
Thank you to everyone that participated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day

Yesterday was a wonderful day at Sioux Trail! I was able to greet all of the students that arrived by bus and there lots of bright white sneakers, new haircuts, big smiles and yes, a couple tears too. The first day of school was wonderful success and I look forward to a school year that continues down this same road of success.

We all met in the gym at 2pm for an all school "Welcome Back" assembly and one of the students told me "Mr. Akin, thank you for welcoming me back to school" - that told me we were doing the right thing.

I told students (a.k.a. the Panthers) that they only had two jobs to do this year:

* Be Here (except when you are sick)
* Do your Best

I did let them know about AYP in a student friendly way and that we need to continue to work hard and highlight all of the many ways that Sioux Trail is great.

All of the Sioux Trail staff spoke to the students about success by taking students on a tour around the gym and introducing them to the words on the walls. These words are the traits of a successful Sioux Trail student. There are 10 words, they are:
Enthusiasm (demonstrated by Mrs. Boche and Mrs. Engdahl in the photo)
Persistence (demonstrated by Mr. Kleven and Mr. Khamratthanome - trying to make shot)

Staff members had terrific ways of sharing these words - and I posted photos of two examples.

We concluded our assembly by singing the Sioux Trail Rouser and Shadow was on hand to help with the symbols!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to School Speech

Thanks to all of the families that have called or emailed with questions about the president's welcome back to school speech. The first day of school at Sioux Trail will not involve watching President Obama's speech. We will be orienting all students to Sioux Trail and getting another successful year off of the ground.

Personally, I look forward to hearing what the President has to say about education, because he will set the rules for our work with students much like President Bush with No Child Left Behind. The No Child Left Behind Law has a large impact on what we do and now that Sioux Trail has been identified as not making AYP it will have an even greater impact. I'm curious to see what is next and I will read or watch the speech on Tuesday after school.

Some classrooms at Sioux Trail may share the speech later in the week (if it fits with their instruction), but parents will be notified before hand. Please contact me or your child's classroom teacher directly with questions or concerns. Additionally please watch for a "first day of school" post and keeping telling other Sioux Trail families about Panther Pages.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What is LINK?

In the last post I referenced a program named LINK and since the post I have had several questions about LINK. Please keep the questions coming - I'm glad people are reading the blog!

LINK is Language Immersion for New Kindergartners. Nationally this instructional model is known as KLDM - Kindergarten Language Development Model, but we wanted a name unique to ISD 191 and something that was a little easier to remember.

LINK is focused on immersing our Kindergarten ESL students into an English rich environment so that we give them an instructional boost at the earliest possible opportunity. This program does not have a negative impact on non-ESL students; it is not costing anything extra or pulling staff from another program. In ISD 191 ESL teachers are staffed at a ratio of 40:1; 40 students to 1 teacher. During the 2008-09 school year we observed that there were approximately 20 ESL students in our kindergarten program and began to explore other instructional models.

During the 2008-09 school year Mrs. Gonzalez was working with 2-4 students at a time for approximately one 1/2 hour with each group. For our ESL students this meant they were in and out of their Kindergarten classroom and for the students in a half day program almost half of their day was spent out of the classroom receiving Title I asnd ESL services.

With the LINK program in place our ESL Kindergarten students will be in the morning Kindergarten classroom with Mrs. Peterson. They will stay in school for lunch and then move the LINK / ESL classroom for the afternoon. Instead of pulling the students out of the classroom for ESL and Title I services the students will be together in one classroom and all of the services will be provided there. This is not All-Day Kindergarten for free, but it is a creative way to deliver ESL services. The LINK students will only be in Mrs. Peterson's Kindergarten classroom for the half-day program and then they will be in the ESL classroom for the remainder of the day. I believe that if this program is successful we will see long term benefits for 1-6 classrooms, our ESL students and other students as this changes how our teachers teach.

I welcome your feedback on this exciting opportunity for our students.

Friday, August 21, 2009

We're Ready - well almost!

Summer is moving right along - there is only one more week until all of the teachers report back to duty and two weeks until all of the students are here. Almost all of the teachers have been coming in to school to check on their classrooms and starte getting ready.

I've added several photos to give you a sneak peak into some of the classrooms. Those are posted at the bottom of the page.

Here are some updates from Sioux Trail.

Placement letters:
They are ready to go and we mailed them today. In the the school district "mailing" them means they leave Sioux Trail, go to the Administrative Service Center, get processed there and then get handed over the US Postal Service. My best guess is that they start arriving in homes this weekend (8/22) or early next week.

Sioux Trail did not make Adequate Yearly Progress according to the Minnesota Department of Education. There is a letter along with the placement Information that explains this in greater detail. For Sioux Trail teachers this means that our challenge now has a label on it. We will continue to do our very best to meet the needs of every single child and will analyze what we're doing and make sure that we're doing in the smartest possible way.

The short message is that we need as many volunteers as we can get. There is a list of opportunities that is being mailed home and I hope that you will sign up to help in any way that you can.

The interior and exterior of Sioux Trail look great! Here are a couple photos to give you an inside sneak peak of what is happening.

Mr. Glende is applying wax to the floor in one of first grade classrooms. The classrooms on the lower level are getting fine tuned this week and next week. They were used by Project Kids throughout the summer and now that summer is coming to a close Mr. Glende is able to get in and give the remaining classrooms a top to bottom cleaning.

This classroom is clean and ready to go - it is waiting for a teacher! Several Sioux Trail staff members have been in and started setting up for the schol year, but that is voluntary. Teachers will return in force on August 31 for the first official day of work.

Here is the finished product! This is our LINK classroom. LINK stands for Language Immersion for New Kindergarteners and it is part of the ESL program. Sioux Trail and Hidden Valley are conducting research around the idea of immersing Kindergarten ESL students into english instruction. Keep watching for more details.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Outdoor Updates

Assistant Superintendent Sandi Novak was at Sioux Trail at the end of May and she commented on the signs that were posted by the front entrance stating that the Envrionmental Club was doing some work and to keep watching for changes. Sandi said, "I keep watching, but nothing is changing!". Well now the changes are complete and I hope these changes continue to make Sioux Trail a warm welcoming place. The benches that were added were part of an Envrionmental Club project from several years ago. Three benches were added, one on either side of the main entrance and one by the parking lot door and the project is now complete. If you are in the neighborhood please stop by and make use of these great resting places.

Where is the flag? Another change the folks in the River Hills neighborhood have noticed and comented on is the disappearance of the stone flag. This was a school project in 2001 that Sioux Trail staff and students created. I made the decision to remove it because the paint was coming off of the rocks and some of the rocks had been moved or removed. We plan to seed the area and grow grass where the flag was. A resident called, spoke with Mrs. Cenci and told her he was sorry to se the flag go as it was one of the best things the school ever did and that if he knew we needed help taking care of it he would have helped. I'm glad that we have owenership of this wonderful school in our neighborhood and volunteers are always welcome - simple call or stop in and we'll happily use your talents!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Sioux Trail tradition calls for sending off our wonderful students with the wave. Here are two photos, first of staff getting organized and then the wave in motion.

We hope that the summer is a safe, relaxing experience for all students. It is very important that students read and get to practice math skills. There is lots of research to indicate that students suffer from academic regression (they forget what they have learned) over the summer if they are not engaged in some type of academic work. This can be anything from taking a class to reading a book, or helping plan and execute the weekly grocery shopping trip.

You can check out the Sioux Trail web page for various links to web sites that will keep helping the brain grow.

Thank you for a great school year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Love Burnsville

The City of Burnsville and Highland Bank sponsored the I Love Burnsville Essay Contest. The contest was open to all third grade students who reside in Burnsville and over 160 students entered the contest. Four winners were selected and those four winners were recognized at last night's Burnsville City Council Meeting. Mrs. Engdahl and I attended the meeting to recognize Dana who took first place in the contest. This is the second year of the contest and Sioux Trail students have received awards both years. Dana had an opportunity to read her essay to the Burnsville City Council, she received a $200 Savings Bond and a $100 check for Sioux Trail. Dana is meeting with Mrs. Engberg today to select the books she is going to buy with the money she won for Sioux Trail.

Congratulations Dana!

Left to right in the photo are: Mrs. Engdahl (Grade 3), Mr. Akin, Brian from Highland Bank, Dana and Mayor Kautz

Monday, June 1, 2009

The last days of the 2009-10 school year

We started of the school year with a new science teacher, Mr. Khamratthanome. He has done a wonderful job developing the skills of inquiry with our students. One of his first experiments was dropping Mentos into 2 liter bottles of pop. The post on Wednesday, September 10 featured this same experiment. Here is the experiment being done by a student and with a lot more than one Mentos.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Third Grade Spring Performance

Third Grade students at Sioux Trail had to stay after school! But it was for a wonderful reason - Our third grade students performed their spring music program this afternoon. They did an outstanding job and we had a fantastic audience. In addition to singing songs they had rehearsed with Mrs. Willemssen they also sang the Birthday Rap to her, which was a complete surprise to her. It was, of course, Mrs. Willemssen's birthday today!
Mrs. Willemssen has been hosting music programs for every grade throughout April and May. The programs provide an authentic opportunity for parents to observe music instruction, and witness the results of all the hard work that the students and teachers engage in.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Jump Rope for Health

On Thursday, May 7 all Sioux Trail students had the opportunity to participate in Jump Rope for Health, a program through the American Heart Association. There is a fund raiser as part of the event and students can win prizes, but the important part of the event is jumping! Our Physical Education teacher, Mike Sweeney, organized the event with staff from the American Heart Association. On Thursday students had the opportunity to show of the jump roping skills and some won prizes like jump ropes and water bottles.

In the background of the photo you can see that there have been some changes in our gym. Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Glende (our custodian) did a makeover of the gym during spring break. They added some sharp looking red and black stripes along with some adjectives that describe successful people. The adjectives are a result of some brainstorming that student did with Mr. Sweeney in Physical Education class and the final product really brightens up the gym , recognizes the type of people we want to be.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thank you!

Today we held the first of our volunteer appreciation events - the volunteer drive through. A group of teachers worked with our volunteer coordinator, Heidi Lindstrom, to plan the event. We had a terrific turn out from staff who were ready to say thank you. We stood at the ready to thank anyone who would drive in and accept a hot cup of Caribou coffee, a doughnut from Donut Star or a flower from Madelin Rose Floral. Shadow joined us and was full of antics throughout the morning. We had a good turnout from volunteers, but there were still leftover doughnuts when we cleaned up at 8am, so we need to get more folks in next year.

Our next volunteer appreciation event is the always popular Treats Under the Trees on Wednesday, May 27 at 3:00 p.m. Please join us to celebrate all of the work that our volunteers do to make Sioux Trail great!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Finished Product

I have posted several blogs that highlighted the progress of our wonderful mural in the cafeteria. The official unveiling will take place before our carnival on May 1, but it is available for you to see anytime Sioux Trail is open. This wonderful piece of art has captured the spirit and energy of Sioux Trail and made our cafeteria a much brighter place.

Special thanks to Nancy Birch, Mark Glende and our artist Jane Elias. This project would not have been possible without their ideas, leadership and expertise.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Science Fair

This is a shot of the large group of families that gathered to support all of the hard working students who created exciting science and learning fair projects. There was a wide variety of projects and a great deal of excitement. Mrs. Mosey joined us for the day (she taught science at Sioux Trail last year and is teaching science at Hidden Valley Elementary this year) and she was a great help to Mr. Khamratthanome and Mrs. Whittcow.

Twenty students from Sioux Trail qualified to go take their expertise to Mankota in May. This is not decided easily, the students can decide if they want to be judged or not and then those student that are judged have their work evaluated by two teams of judges. The judges work in two teams and we get help from a wide variety of people. The first group of volunteers are Burnsville High School students; many of these students are Sioux Trail alumni and it is great to have them back at Sioux Trail working with students who will hopefully follow in their footsteps as BHS students and judges. The second team of judges is made up of adult volunteers from a wide variety of careers and backgrounds. These judges include former Sioux Trail teachers, school board members (past and present), spouses of staff and other volunteers that are willing to give up some of their time to be a part of the excitement.

Congratualtions to all of our students that took time to work on their projects and participate in the science fair. Best of luck to the students that will represent Sioux Trail in Mankato.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mural Update

On Monday, February 23, the transformation continued! Sioux Trail Second Grade students partnered with Third Grade Students from Christina Huddleston Elementary in Lakeville and started to add color. I have posted several photos to help you visualize the transformation. The in-person experience was wonderful as the students were very excited to be a part of the work. There were several spots when there was a group of painters painting and not a word was being said. On Monday, March 2 the work continues!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mural Update

During the past week more progress was made on our mural. Jane, our artist and several students began the work of transferring Jane's ideas onto the wall. As you can see from the pictures the wall was completely primed (Mr. Glende did the final finishing touches) and the pictures are coming to life. On Monday Jane and our student artists will be hard at work adding color to the mural. Some of the Sioux Trail second grade students will be at Christina Huddleston in Lakeville painting some of their mural and third grade students from Huddleston will be here doing some painting. This is a very exciting project and we'll continue to share details.