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District 191 Superintendent Battle's first 100 days - 2020 District 191 superintendent’s first 100 days- by John Gessner Jan 17, 2020 Burnsville Eagan Sun/Thisweek News

In her first 100 days on the job, School District 191 Superintendent Theresa Battle oversaw a successful levy referendum campaign and preparations to close three schools and redraw attendance boundaries.

“You have had quite a first 100 days, unlike, I’m sure, many, most superintendents, and you’ve handled the challenges with grace and thoughtfulness,” Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School Board Chair Abigail Alt told Battle Jan. 9.

Battle gave the board a report on her first 100 days, from her official start on July 1 through November. The longtime St. Paul school administrator replaced former Superintendent Cindy Amoroso, who retired.

Battle described her first employment phase as “listen and connect.”

“This phase was highlighted by a great deal of visibility for me as I got to know the stakeholders,” she said.

The period included an appearance at the summertime “Rockin’ Readers” program in Nicollet Commons Park.

“It was a wonderfully warm day, and the students were engaged, and we read a book about the sun and other planets,” Battle said.

Battle said she introduced herself further at a “welcome back” staff rally that kicked off the school year. Gov. Tim Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker attended.

On the first day of school Battle helped middle school students with their locker combinations.

“Which might be the most stressful part of the first day for some middle school students,” she said. “And I could still do it. I opened the locker — several of them.”

Other highlights included taking in a Burnsville High School pep fest, visiting the school’s Pathway classes and holding her first executive team retreat, Battle said.

Her “learn and connect” phase included “deep dives” into the district’s structures and systems, including student performance data, policies and contracts.

There were briefings on “topics that required immediate attention,” Battle said. Those included contract negotiations, the facilities study that led to a December board vote for three school closings, the successful November levy referendum that raised $1.7 million in new funding annually, the budget and enrollment.

Among the many community contacts she’s made, Battle said she joined the Burnsville Rotary, a tradition for District 191 superintendents.

“I have to continue to further strengthen relationships and build trust among all District 191 stakeholders,” Battle said.

“I try to get into schools twice a week for a minimum of two hours each day,” she said.

After introductions to the district, Battle said her leadership phase included refining priorities and setting specific actions for the levy campaign and facilities process.

“I cannot thank the community enough for the passage of our levy,” she said.

Leadership included writing a statement of response to an MPR News story about alleged racial tensions between some staff and students at Metcalf Middle School, she said.

Battle said she’s done several media interviews and submitted local newspaper columns.

Current tasks include preparing the 2020-21 budget and redrawing attendance boundaries, Battle said.

“We are about to embark on the boundary adjustments and are sharing those options with the community,” she said.

It was an exciting first 100 days, “but not as exciting as the first 100 days for the kindergartners,” Battle said. “If you’ve never experienced that when they celebrate, please talk to a kindergartner.”
Jan 23, 2020
John MetcalfSeptember 1, 1966 Dakota County Tribune: Former Superintendent John Metcalf for State Senate.Dec 18, 2019
John Metcalf dies Obituary for John Metcalf who died December 26, 1975.Dec 11, 2019
John Metcalf retiresJohn Metcalf retired as superintendent in 1967 after 12 years.Dec 11, 2019
A photo tribute to John MetcalfFollowing his death in 1975 this photo tribute of John Metcalf was published by the Sun NewspaperDec 11, 2019
Metcalf submits resignation 1966March 17, 1966 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: John Metcalf, superintendent of the Burnsville-Savage School District for the past 11 years has submitted his resignation under pressure from school board members....Nov 06, 2019
John Metcalf heart attackMay 4, 1959 - St. Cloud Times reports on John Metcalf's heart attack. Note the school district is called - Black Dog School District.Nov 05, 2019
Superintendent Theresa Battle message to community 2019September, 2019 Superintendent Theresa Battle's first column is published in the District 191 course listing.Sep 11, 2019
John Metcalf resignsMarch 19, 1966 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: The Burnsville Savage School Board accepted the resignation of John Metcalf, superintendent of the school district the past 11 years....Aug 01, 2019
The passion is there, Cindy Amoroso reflects on tenure as superintendent 2019Savage Pacer, June 25, 2019 story as Cindy Asoroso retires as Superintendent of School District 191.Jul 28, 2019
Theresa Battle, new superintendent 2019Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle, compliments of School District 191.Jul 25, 2019
Summer reading programDistrict 191 Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle was a "Rockin' Reader" on Thursday, July 18, 2019 at Nicollet Commons Park, located in the Heart of the City at 12550 Nicollet Avenue.The Rockin' Lunch Hour was sponsored by the City of Burnsville.Jul 25, 2019
Theresa Battle, new superintendent 2019Savage Pacer photo of newly selected Superintendent Theresa Battle, serving School District 191 starting July, 2019.Jul 25, 2019
Theresa Battle, new superintendent 2019 'I'm fulfilling my life's purpose'. Meet the new leader of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage-
By Christine Schuster Savage Pacer July 25, 2019

Theresa Battle’s childhood is marked by the influence of female leaders.

She attended an all-girls public high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and her kindergarten class was taught by a black woman. In elementary and high school, her principals were women. At home, she looked up to her great-grandmother, who was born in 1882 and lived to be 102.

This month, Battle became the first African-American woman to serve as superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District.

“I really think I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose, and that is to help children and teenagers’ dreams and hopes become reality,” she said in a recent interview.

Battle brings 37 years of experience in urban and suburban districts as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant director of curriculum and assistant superintendent.

Nationally, women are 70% of educators but only 30% of superintendents, Battle said. In Minnesota, only 16% of superintendents are women.

“I recognize I’m a pioneer, and with that comes a responsibility,” she said.

‘A great listener’

Most recently Battle was an assistant superintendent in the St. Paul Public Schools district, where she spent over 28 years across two tenures.

Battle said Burnsville-Eagan-Savage’s values, diversity, dedicated staff and supportive relationships with the local government and businesses drew her to the position.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” she said.

She named budgets and ensuring equal opportunity and outcomes for all students as some of the district’s biggest challenges, referring to millions of dollars in budget cuts in recent years and concerns about racism and the student achievement gap.

This spring, a group of Burnsville High School students participated in an equity innovation lab where students expressed their desire for a culturally competent city and school, Battle said.

“That was about respect, seeing the individual student and seeing them as their authentic selves,” she said. “Those are the challenges, to make sure everyone feels welcome and respected and seen and valued in our community.”

Dana Abrams, a longtime friend and former colleague, said Battle is up for the job.

“She’s a great listener,” she said. “She listens, she’s humble, she knows what the best practice is and always, always, always keeps the success of students as her desired outcome.”

Abrams and Battle met in the teacher’s lounge at Central High School 25 years ago. Battle was working with special education students, and Abrams worked with teen moms. Their education careers continued to intersect over the next two decades.

“You’re never going to see her as an authoritarian,” Abrams said. “It’s about team. She surrounds herself with people who know what she doesn’t.”

Battle’s approachable manner and willingness to help made an impression on students, too, Abrams said.

Recently, Abrams and Battle attended a walk-out at a St. Paul school where students took a stand against racism.

Abrams said many students congratulated Battle on her new role, and she remembers a few female African American students saying, “’I know somebody who is going to a superintendent who looks like me.’”

“Even though she’s not going to be in St. Paul anymore, she’s going to have people here who look up to her,” Abrams said.

Family ties

Battle, who loves to cook, remembers her great-grandmother prepared a Sunday dinner every week for her family. After high school, Battle said she knew she wanted to work with children and teenagers.

She attended Hampton University, where she studied special education with an emphasis on emotional behaviors, and later the University of Minnesota, from where she holds a master of arts degree and an educational doctorate.

Battle is a first-generation college graduate. Her father left school after fourth grade to help his family sharecrop in Virginia, and her mother completed high school.

But Battle said she and her five older brothers were always surrounded by educational opportunity and good conversation.

Books, encyclopedia sets, Reader’s Digest and Ebony and Jet magazines filled the home, she said, and her father always read two newspapers every day.

Battle spent summers horseback-riding, swimming, practicing archery and hiking at camp in the Catskill Mountains.

“A wonderful childhood,” she said.

Battle married her college sweetheart, and as a Minnesota resident for now nearly 36 years, she jokes that love brought her to Minnesota.

Her son is currently a chef, and her daughter is studying strategic communications at New York University.

Outside of education, Battle said she loves to read and go to the beach. Abrams said Battle is also a sports fanatic, and she has been spotted wearing a Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings bracelet at the same time.

Hope for the future

Before long, around 8,300 students and 1,300 staff members will be arriving for a new school year.

“I like standardization, but not at the expensive of stifling innovation and creativity,” Battle said. “That’s where I have to find a balance.”

In recent years, district officials have cut millions from the budget in efforts to offset declining student enrollment and a lack of state and federal funding.

Battle said the “three h’s” — “the heat” of being held accountable, “the hope” the district will do better and “the help” it needs to help students succeed — guide her as she prepares to move through difficult decisions, such as the possibility of closing one or more schools to help balance to the budget.

A district consultant this month recommended closing two elementary schools and one middle school and selling the Diamondhead Education Center at the end of next school year.

Board of Education Chairwoman Abigail Alt said she’s been impressed with Battle’s focus on getting to know the schools and community.

“She’s definitely digging in and wanting to make sure that she understands who we are at this point in time and leads us in a way that ensures we continue to be a viable school district with high-quality programming,” Alt said.

She said Battle’s leadership also brings opportunity for district officials and staffers to look for new ways to approach their work.

“For me, (success) is that the children are better off when I leave this position than when I came,” Battle said.
Jul 25, 2019
School board thanks Superintendent Cindy Amoroso 2019.The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District Board of Education thanked Superintendent Cindy Amoroso on June 20 for her service to the district during Amoroso’s last board meeting before her retirement. - Photo source - The Savage Pacer.

From left to right, Darcy Schatz, Eric Miller, Lesley Chester, Abigail Alt, Cindy Amoroso (superintendent, retired June 30, 2019), Dr. DeeDee Currier, Jen Holweger, Scott Hume.
Jul 25, 2019
New Superintendent Theresa Battle brings wealth of experience 2019July 18, 2019 Burnsville Eagan Sun/Thisweek news reports:

New superintendent brings wealth of experience- by John Gessner July 18, 2019

Challenges ahead include school-closing recommendation

Theresa Battle has been busy checking boxes in her opening days as superintendent of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.

She joined Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, Police Chief Tanya Schwartz and others for a July 8 “Today” show interview about the city’s abundance of female leaders.

July 12 included a visit to Burnsville High School, her eighth school visit, and coffee with Principal Dave Helke at Jo Jo’s Rise & Wine in the Heart of the City.

Battle has visited all three schools in Savage, getting a crash course in local history from Marion W. Savage Elementary Principal Renee Brandner.

“And Dan Patch — I had no idea,” Battle said, referring to the early 20th century superstar pacing horse stabled in Savage by owner Marion W. Savage. “We all know Dan Patch from the State Fair, and that’s us! I’m very thrilled to be a part of all three communities.”

Even before her official July 1 start date, the former St. Paul school administrator launched a 100-day plan that included consultation with outgoing Superintendent Cindy Amoroso, who retired.

Battle’s acclimation period has included some serious business around school closings. The School Board received a consultant’s report July 8 recommending that after 15 years of declining enrollment and with more ahead, the district close two elementary schools and one middle school after the 2019-20 school year. Boundary changes would accompany the closings.

“You’re not just talking bricks and mortar,” Battle said in a July 12 interview. “You’re talking children and families and memories, so that’s the first approach. ... We just received this, so we’re still trying to make sense of it. Part of my listening and connecting is that information-gathering.”

Raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Battle began her career in 1985 as a junior high teacher in Hampton, Virginia.

She worked for the St. Paul Public Schools for 28 years over two tenures, serving as a classroom teacher; special education facilitator; assistant principal; assistant director for curriculum, development and instruction; principal; and assistant superintendent. Battle has also been an assistant superintendent in Minneapolis and interim assistant superintendent in Osseo.

She left St. Paul as an assistant superintendent in charge of 14 secondary schools.

“Very similar in size to Burnsville-Eagan-Savage,” Battle said.

She graduated from Hampton University with a bachelor of science in special education and received her doctorate of education from the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, the Maplewood resident is a member of St. Peter Claver Church, serves on the Greater Twin Cities YMCA Mission Impact board, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and supports the PROCEED annual tour of historically black colleges and universities.

“Dr. Battle is bringing a breadth and depth of knowledge along with a love of students,” Wendy Drugge, president of teachers union the Burnsville Education Association, said in an email. “We are very much looking forward to her leadership and partnering with her.”

The final phase of her 100-day plan is leading, Battle said.

“Because we need to get ready for the 8,300 students returning after Labor Day,” she said. “We have 1,300 staff returning the week of Aug. 26.”

Battle said she has “seven bosses now,” referring to the School Board members who signed her to a three-year contract.

“But I will still be connected to students, because that’s the focus of our work,” she said. “Our core business is learning and teaching. ... Right now, at least two days a week, I will be visiting schools. And I hope what I’ve started this week and will continue with next week, visiting with every principal and getting out to every school, will be the model for the rest of the year.”

For an academic snapshot, Battle pointed to the district’s 2017-18 scorecard on Minnesota’s Worlds Best Workforce metrics.

“We need more of our students ready for kindergarten,” she said, noting that the percentage dropped from 41.6 percent in 2016-17 to 38.1 percent in 2017-18.

District results on the ACT college entrance exam are “pretty similar to the state,” Battle said. The 2017 Burnsville High School graduate rate of students attending all four years is “good” at 85.5 percent, she said.

“However, you have to look at the story behind the numbers and disaggregate” to find and target achievement gaps between subgroups, Battle said.

“Unfortunately, on too many of the metrics, our black students are not achieving as we know they should. You have to understand, sometimes the assessments don’t always show the brilliance of our kids. That’s why we have to look at multiple assessments.”

The district’s continued net outflow of students was noted in the board-commissioned report by consultant Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors. People interviewed for the report “expressed that a combination of the reputation of the school district’s middle schools and high school and changing demographics of the communities/student population” have exacerbated the exodus.

“Humans build systems that are imperfect,” Battle said. “I’m not sure why people think that the things we built are going to be perfect when we’re not perfect. But it’s really, What are you going to do about it? How do you engage people?”

She said she understands that “perception is reality.”

“We need to keep giving information and have others share our story, especially our students,” Battle said, adding that she hopes the district’s youth will be “better off when I leave than when I started. That’s my goal. You always want to touch people.”
Jul 21, 2019
Cindy Amoroso completes two eventful years as superintendent 2019July 3, 2019 Burnsville Eagan Sun/Thisweek News reports:

Amoroso completes two eventful years as superintendent

by John Gessner Jul 3, 2019

‘Great things happening’ in District 191

Teacher unrest, social media headaches and budget cuts came with Cindy Amoroso’s two-year tour of duty as superintendent of School District 191.

But the self-described “off-the-chart extrovert” isn’t dwelling on unpleasantries as she contemplates what she’ll miss in retirement.

She expects to wake up brimming with ideas for the welcome-back staff workshops in August. Even a random mention of third grade reading scores had Amoroso peering ahead during an interview.

“I will be watching what our scores are when they come out in the fall, even though I won’t be in the district anymore,” she said, reviewing a finding that 48.8 percent of third graders met reading proficiency on spring tests in 2018, three points better than the district’s goal. “Because our teachers have worked so hard the last two years with our literacy framework, and I’ll really be anxious to see how that works out, on this one in particular.”

Amoroso retired June 30 when her two-year contract ended; she is replaced by Theresa Battle, a former assistant superintendent in St. Paul.

Amoroso was curriculum and instruction director in Mankato, where the former English teacher spent most of her career, when she applied for the job of assistant superintendent in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage in 2013. She was hired by then-new Superintendent Joe Gothard and agreed to the School Board’s request to serve the two years left on his contract when he was hired as St. Paul superintendent in 2017.

In her one performance review as superintendent, the board praised Amoroso’s “accomplished leadership” — particularly for continued progress on the district’s Vision One91 redesign plan and for a successful 2017 levy referendum.

Assessing the district’s academic trajectory in recent years, Amoroso took a page from Minnesota first lady Gwen Walz, the former assessment coordinator for Mankato schools and a guest speaker at Amoroso’s farewell ceremony last month.

“What Gwen always taught us to say is, ‘This is going in the right direction,’ ” she said. District 191’s racially and economically diverse student body tends to lag state averages on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores by grade level and subject, but Amoroso said some student subgroups in some subject and age groups score better than their state peers.

“What I find more compelling with data is the story around the data,” she said. “What’s happening with this? What else is going on? When you break this down into smaller groups of students, what are we seeing happening with smaller groups or at certain grade levels or certain buildings? Data always tells a story.”

She warned against stereotypes around what particular student groups can achieve.

“We need to have rigorous expectations for all of our students, because they can meet those rigorous expectations,” Amoroso said. “Some may need more support than others. But every one of our students deserves us having those rigorous expectations of them, because they can meet them.”

In addition to the district’s headline achievements since she arrived — the Burnsville High School expansion and other Vision One91 building improvements, grade reconfiguration and a technology levy — Gothard and Amoroso presided over an expansion of “wrap-around” supports for students’ social and emotional health.

Elementary school social workers were added, school psychologists were more integrated into the elementary schools, people of African American and Native American descents were added to the cultural liaison ranks, and more Somali and Latino liaisons were added, Amoroso said.

“Every district is experiencing the need for those mental health, social-emotional supports,” she said. “It applies to all of our students, it applies to all of our families, regardless of socioeconomics, regardless of race or ethnicity, regardless of where they live in the community or the school district.”

Amoroso was buoyed by her first look at results from the latest Minnesota Student Survey, which she said show a very high percentage of District 191 students report feeling safe and unbullied in school.

“It totally contradicts what the bad messages are that are out in the community about how violent our schools are,” she said. “Our schools aren’t violent. Our schools are safe.”

Amoroso admits to taking slights against the district personally.

“It’s hard not to, especially when some people intentionally make them personal,” she said. “When I see something out on social media that someone has said about our students and our schools, it is just so discouraging and disheartening when you know, on a daily basis, the great things that are happening in the schools.

“I see them. I’m in classrooms. I’m talking to kids. I stand in the hallway at the high school during passing time. I know what’s going on in the buildings, and I’m just very proud of our students and staff.”

Negotiations on a two-year teacher contract turned bitter in 2018 over an impasse in procedures for handling unrequested leaves of absence. Departing from a strict “last in, first out” seniority system, the district and its teachers union, the Burnsville Education Association, agreed on a sequence of criteria that included seniority but also layoff protections for teachers in some “priority” programs.

The district wanted to add language allowing teachers who had a disciplinary action in the previous five years to be laid off ahead of others, regardless of seniority. The union objected, and prevailed, with the district dropping its language a year after negotiations had begun and after teachers had marched in the street.

The message many union members got was that the district wanted a way to dump its highest-paid teachers in the event of layoff-forcing budget cuts of tenured staff, Amoroso said.

“It absolutely had nothing to do with budget,” she insisted. “It had to do with keeping our best teachers for our students.”

Asked for comment on Amoroso’s tenure, union President Wendy Drugge said: “I would like to thank Cindy for her years of service to the district, and I’d like to wish her well in retirement.”

Some comments on the “Friends of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Educators” Facebook page that launched during the standoff and is still active have hurt the district’s image, Amoroso said. Newly approved budget cuts for 2019-20 totaling $6.57 million caused dissension in 2019.

Amoroso leaves at a time when the district still faces chronic enrollment decline marked by more district families enrolling outside the district than outsiders enrolling in.

“This is the life of a suburb, in some respects,” Amoroso said, pointing to similar cycles in Roseville, Robbinsdale and Richfield, which she said are now rebounding.

“We may continue to drop, but we’re going to hit a point, and then we’re going to become the district that does a great job of meeting the needs of that population, and it’ll come back up,” said Amoroso, who lives in Lakeville with husband, Gary, a former Lakeville superintendent and executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. “I really, firmly believe that.”
Jul 05, 2019
Superintendent Hugh Holloway 1967 - 1975Hugh Holloway, Superintendent.May 14, 2019
Robert Tschirki 1975 - 1981Superintendent Robert Tschirki 1976.May 14, 2019
Board approves three year contract with new superintendent. 2019.May 3, 2019 Burnsville Eagan Sun/Thisweek News: Board approves three year contract with Theresa Battle, as new superintendent.May 07, 2019
Dr. Theodore Foot 1981 - 1986Superintendent Theodore Foot.May 01, 2019
Dr. Robert Tschirki 1975 - 1981Superintendent Robert Tschirki.May 01, 2019
Introducing Superintendent Joe GothardApril 19, 2013 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the selection of Joe Gothard as the new superintendent.Apr 28, 2019
Ben Kanninen is 2005 Superintendent of the yearThe Minnesota Association of School Administrators has named Dr. Ben Kanninen, Superintendent of School District 191, as the 2005 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year...Apr 28, 2019
Theodore Foot to take superintendent job in New York 1986August 12, 1986 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that School District 191's Superintendent Theodore Foot has accepted a job in upstate New York....He has been in Burnsville almost five years...Apr 28, 2019
Burnsville school district selects Michigan woman as superintendent 1987March 27, 1987 Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Sally Bell was named Superintendent of School District 191 replacing Theodore Foot who left in November to become Superintendent in New York...Apr 28, 2019
Burnsville's school chief Sally Bell works toward goal of being best 1987Minneapolis Star Tribune - July 30, 1987 features Sally Bell, School District 191's first woman superintendent...Apr 28, 2019
Superintendent Ben Kanninen retiring 2007St. Paul Pioneer Press - November 29, 2007 reports on the upcoming retirement of Superintendent Ben Kanninen, who joined District 191 in 1998.Apr 28, 2019
Oliver Bakken 1966 acting SuperintendentPage 43 - Acting Superintendent Oliver Bakken.Apr 27, 2019
Theresa Battle 2019April, 2019 Theresa Battle selected as Independent School District 191's next superintendent.Apr 25, 2019
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