by Mike Knaak
Two local legislators visited Kennedy Community School Nov. 4 to learn about the school’s unique programs and hear from school leaders what state government can do to help education.
Rep. Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) and Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) toured the school with Principal Anna Willhite and Assistant Principal Richmond Tweh.
On a walk through school, which serves about 800 pre-school through eighth-grade students, the visitors saw how leaders organized the school and programs to serve a student body with a wide age range.
During the hour-long tour, the group visited classrooms, the cafeteria, watched students enjoying recess in the gym on a cold day and toured the library.
“During the interim, I had made it a goal to visit all the school districts in 13A to have a better understanding on how they work, their strengths and needs,” said Demuth, who served on the Rocori school board for 11 years.
“I wanted to know the faces of Kennedy – the staff, students, what did the school look like,” Demuth said. “I’m real(ly) visual. When I hear about the school I want to picture that in my mind.”
When the group visited a sixth-grade science classroom, it didn’t take much coaxing for the students to sing the school song.
“I was most impressed with the sense of community between staff and students and student to student,” Demuth said. “Even the Colt Way song. The middle school students were proud to do it. There was a true sense of community and culture in that room.”
Demuth, who serves on the House Education Finance Committee, is especially interested in funding early childhood education. From her school visits she’s found some common themes.
“What I’m hearing are common needs for preschool funding and transportation,” she said.
In addition schools need help from the state and federal governments funding special education.
“If we are going to put extra mandates on the schools, there has to be funding to help schools cover those costs,” Demuth said.
She’s been appointed to the Minnesota P20 Education Partnership, which forms policy for preschool through secondary education, so the Kennedy visit was particularly important because it serves such a wide age range.
Demuth said it was “very impressive” to see a school that was working – preschool to eighth grade. “There’s a sense of community and partnerships with foster grandparents, Big Brothers Big Sisters and working with colleges.”