Gideon Pond celebrates 5th graders; class showed amazing growth

Posted on June 8, 2018
Gideon Pond 5th Grade Celebration

At a celebration on the last day of school, Gideon Pond Elementary Principal Chris Bellmont called this year’s class of 5th grade students a shining example of how honoring diversity can raise everyone up.

“This group is so strong together,” he said.

While the celebration was primarily to wish the students well as they finish their time at Gideon Pond and head toward middle school, it was also a time to celebrate their amazing growth over the past several years.

According to Bellmont, when this year’s fifth graders were in second grade, less than 30 percent were measured as “proficient” on standardized tests. Now, three years later, more than twice as many students scored “proficient” on the MCA literacy test according to preliminary data.

Bellmont said there were many changes made that helped support these students, including focusing on culturally proficient practices, using individual student data, and the new Making Meaning literacy curriculum. But he added that the wrap-around support from staff, parents and the community is what truly allowed the student to start to shine.

Congratulations to this year’s Gideon Pond fifth graders!

Posted in Academics, Student Success | Tagged gideon pond, fifth grade, MCA, achievement, proficiency

BHS student completes ‘Rites of Passage’ program

Posted on June 8, 2018

Marcellus Dees, a student in the Burnsville High School Class of 2018, was recently honored for completing a six-month Rites of Passage Program (ROP) sponsored annually by the Minneapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

The program is designed to recognize and assist young African-American men in the transition into leaders of tomorrow while learning and respecting the collective history as people of African descent. Each year the ROP selects high school seniors from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area who are college-bound, have cumulative GPAs of 2.5 or higher, are actively engaged in community service and meet other specific criteria.

In the Rites of Passage Program, students are paired with an African American adult male mentor to focus on topics such as time management, collegiate application and financial aid process, men’s health, legal rights, life skills, social and personal responsibility and communicating a positive image in a digital world.

The program culminates in an Afrocentric semi-formal ceremony in which the initiates perform a step routine, are dressed in African attire and are presented to their families and community as young men, ready for the next challenges in life.

“Marcellus is a quiet young man who never ceases to amaze me and all of us,” said his teacher Julie Miller-Hays. “He is truly a role model to others and he exemplifies the gifts his parents and family have given him. I know he will do great things.”

Miller-Hays says a quote from Marcellus’ Rites of Passage paper provides insights into him. He wrote: “My life has had many obstacles and challenges, but through the valleys and peaks, I feel I have maintained a quiet power. As a young man with epilepsy and autism the world tends to pre-judge my capabilities. However, I continue to disprove society daily with everyday a-ha moments.”

Marcellus is the son of Andriel and Michael Dees of Burnsville.

For more information, visit 

Photo: Marcellus Dees, at the Rites of Passage Program celebration, is second from the left.
Posted in Community | Tagged bhs, marcellus dees, community, #futureready, #communitystrong

Standout science student earns invite to STEM day

Posted on June 8, 2018

Matt Trussell, Metcalf Middle School student, received many accolades and awards at the Metcalf Science Fair, the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair and the MN State Science Fair for the 2017-2018 school year.

The award that stood out the most for him, Matt said, was from DiaSorin, a diagnostic biotechnology company located in Stillwater. The company honored Matt with their Merit and Relativity Award at the state science fair. In addition to receiving this award, Matt and four other middle school students from Minnesota were invited to attend DiaSorin’s STEM Day.

For STEM Day, Matt presented his science fair project, Water vs. Oil, to students, parents, teachers and 20 scientists who are employed by DiaSorin. When he completed his presentation, DiaSorin employees asked him about his interest in ecology and even where he got all of his supplies to absorb oil out of water. One sample for absorption was hair and Matt explained how he went to Great Clips to get hair samples.

“I wore gloves,” Matt said. "You have to do what you have to do for science. You can’t be afraid of a little hair!”

Matt, his mother, Jeanne Trussell, and teacher, Tracey Plante, were invited to attend STEM Day with Matt. They toured the lab rooms seeing all of the equipment and technology that DiaSorin uses daily.  

“This experience has really motivated me to work in the STEM field," Matt said. "I do like ecology and helping the earth but this has opened my eyes to other career opportunities such as analyzing blood for diseases and deficiencies.”  

To give further opportunity to Metcalf students, Bruce Lueddecke, Staff Scientist, came to Plante’s three science classes to present blood analyzer biochemistry. Lueddecke invited students to participate and students were better able to understand the process of analyzing blood from an experiment that Lueddecke presented to each class.

In order to provide enrichment and expose students to career opportunities in STEM, Plante said she plans to have other guest speakers for her science classes for the 2018-2019 school year.

Posted in Academics | Tagged science, DiaSorin, Matt Trussell, tracey plante, metcalf

'Oobleck' gives students hands on lesson in non-Newtonian fluids

Posted on June 8, 2018

During the last week of school at Metcalf Middle, students were given an opportunity to take their shoes off for some science fun! For 6th grade science, student standards are for physical science. In order to better understand matter and properties such as elasticity, students were able to run across a kiddie pool of oobleck which is a non-Newtonian fluid.  

The oobleck was made using 25 pounds of corn starch and 1.5 gallons of water. Students learned how oobleck reacts to pressure such as running across it or pressing down upon it. Tracey Plante, 6th grade science teacher, explains “Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that reacts to a force such as pressure and has a very high viscosity since it is made out of cornstarch and water.  It is really easy to make as it is as equal ratio of water and cornstarch. You might need to add a little of each to get it just right”.

Carissa Chow sixth grader states, “It’s really fun to do something hands-on...It’s really a cool way to learn about matter like this.  You can feel the oobleck sucking your feet down...Science is so much fun!”

Suhayb Mahamed states, “When I first saw it, I thought ‘this is really messy’.  But, now I know if I could jump in a pool of oobleck I would!” Suhayb did not mind that oobleck was on his clothes as it easily washes out.  “If I have to do laundry--oh well!”

Alpha Dinos explained, “I thought it would be like slime and that I would sink into it.  I was surprised when I didn’t sink but then I realized it is non-Newtonian so it reacts when I push on it--like my feet stepping on it.”

Students were given the opportunity to go into the oobleck pool multiple times. Clean-up is easy and many students were going to go home to make oobleck with their friends and family to share what they have learned in science.  

Posted in Academics | Tagged science, oobleck, metcalf, tracey plante

BHS musicals earn recognitions from Hennepin Theatre Trust

Posted on June 7, 2018

The Burnsville High School Theatre Guild began participating this year in Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education, a program that evaluates casts, crews and technicians as well as providing master classes for high school theatre students.  

The school’s two musicals, “The Music Man” and “Mary Poppins,” both earned outstanding rankings in recent recognition from Hennepin Theatre Trust. Along with these high ranks, came specific feedback for many individual performers both on stage and behind the scenes.

“We are one of a handful of schools that earned Outstanding ranks for two shows,” said theatre director Amy Stead. “The entire cast of each show is invited to perform a medley at Spotlight’s Showcase in mid-June, and the individual award winners are invited to participate in the opening number alongside the individual winners from other districts. Quite an honor.”

Recognition for “The Music Man”

Full Cast:

  • Outstanding Overall Production (high honors)
  • Student Orchestra - Outstanding
  • Overall Technical Team - Outstanding
  • Costume Crew - Outstanding
  • Light and Sound - Outstanding

Individual Awards:

  • Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role: Maddie Stuart (Marian Paroo)
  • Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role: Daniel Akah (Harold Hill)
  • Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role:  Sofia Versalle Suffert
  • Outstanding in Technical Leadership: Shealyn MacMahon (Stage Management), Greg Johnson (Lighting Design), Thomas Dang (Sound Designer)
  • Honorable Mentions: Andre Finney (Quartet), Jon Butler (Quartet), Maxwell Taylor (Quartet), Sam Scheuneman (Quartet)

Mary Poppins

Full Cast:

  • Outstanding Overall Performance
  • Ensemble Performance - Outstanding
  • Movement/Dance by an Ensemble - Outstanding
  • Overall Technical Team - Outstanding
  • Light and Sound Board Operators - Outstanding

Individual Awards:

  • Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role: Jon Butler (Bert), Sofia Kemeny (Jane) and Sophie Herzog (Michael)
  • Outstanding in Technical Leadership: Shealyn McMahon (stage management), Greg Johnson (Lighting design), Thomas Dang (sound design).
  • Honorable Mention for performance in a Leading Role: Kaitlin Johnson (Mary Poppins)
Posted in Arts, Student Success, Achievement | Tagged theater, mary poppins, Hennepin Theatre Trust, awards, amy stead, bhs, theatre guild

Art teacher receives Inclusive Practices Award in District 191

Posted on June 7, 2018

Art is a universal language that everyone can understand and all students are artists, according to art teacher Kelly Rae Vo.

Vo’s inclusive classroom and instructional practices have resulted in her being named as the recipient of the Inclusive Education Practices Award for the 2017-18 school year in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191, according to Stephanie White, the district’s director of student services.

The award was created by the District 191 Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) to recognize staff members who are fostering meaningful inclusion of students with disabilities in classrooms and extracurricular activities. SEAC is comprised of parents, community members, school staff and administrators who advise the special education department on policy and program planning.

Students enjoy Vo’s art class and know they are honored as people and that all of them have an “art gift”  to share and express themselves, according to two teachers who nominated Vo for the award: Mary Borrell, a special education teacher at Vista View Elementary, and Emily Goldsmith, a speech pathologist at Vista View and William Byrne.  

“Kelly inspires her co-workers, families, and students to believe in themselves and to hold high standards for all students no matter their disability area,” wrote Borrell and Goldsmith. “She is the definition of inclusion and it is evident in how students, staff and families see her as a teacher. "

Vo provides clear and concise directions for students and will show a model of the finished product. She recognizes different learning styles, incorporates classroom behavioral contracts that include all students, and finds an "Art All-Star" everyday.

Vo is the daughter of an art teacher and has always had art as part of her life. She joined District 191 five years ago and taught this year at Gideon Pond, Vista View and Marion W. Savage Elementary Schools.

Her goal is to create classrooms where all students are accepted, feel welcomed and included and can participate.

“Students bring fresh ideas,” said Vo. “I’m inspired and amazed by their ideas and originality every day.”  

“I’m honored to receive the award and be noticed for dedication and passion for our students and their learning,” she adds.  

Others nominated for the award this year are:   

  • Amy Stead, Molly Holmes, Ann Bakken, and Jaclyn Anderson, members of Burnsville High School theater team
  • Jenn Carlson, Hidden Valley
  • Alexandria Wills, Hidden Valley
  • Stephanie Jorgenson, Burnsville High School
  • Jacqueline Parkinson, Eagle Ridge
  • Brionna Meisner, Edward Neill
  • Emily Rasmusson, Gideon Pond.
Posted in Achievement, Academics | Tagged special education, inclusive education, Kelly Rae Vo, vista view, gideon pond, marion w savage

District 191 graduates earn recognition for bilingual skills

Posted on June 7, 2018

Fifteen students are graduating with a new distinction in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 this year.

They have earned a bilingual seal or certificate of proficiency that will be noted on their transcripts.

“It’s one thing to say that I’m bilingual,” said graduate Christopher Fuentes Chevez, “but now I have tangible proof.”

State law changed a few years ago to allow Minnesota school districts to award bilingual and multilingual seals and certificates to graduates who demonstrate required levels of language proficiency in speaking, writing, reading and listening in languages other than English.

“This is a way to honor the bilingual skills of our students whose home language may not be English, and provide them with credits at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities,” said Julie Krohn, the district’s K-12 English Language coordinator. “We are proud of their mastery of their home language in addition to the English language.”

“This opens doors for our students in so many ways,” said Dr. Stacie Stanley, director of the district’s System Improvement and Student Achievement department. “Not only are these students college ready, they are also career ready, as being bilingual is an asset in every career field.”

These students also have the advantage of serving as interpreters, who are paid from $40 to $60 or more per hour. “For many, this is a living wage that opens opportunities that their parent’s generation did not have,” added Stanley.

“While this was a pilot year in which we focused on our Spanish-speaking students, we plan to expand this opportunity to more students and add additional languages in upcoming years,” said Krohn.

Members of the Class of 2018 who have earned bilingual recognition:

Platinum Bilingual Seal (4 semesters of college credit):

  • Maria Aguilera Araya
  • Christopher Fuentes Chevez
  • Cristian Pina Flores

Gold Bilingual Seal (3 semesters of college credit):

  • Leslie Becerra Medina
  • Melanie Gomez Mejia
  • Derik Pina Flores
  • Fatima Soriano Garcia

World Language Proficiency Certificate (2 semesters of college credit):

  • Lysandra Alvillar
  • Erick Blandon
  • Josue Lopez
  • Melissa Lopez-Angeles
  • Vanessa Lopez-Barrera
  • Litzi Rodriguez Torres
  • Manuel Ruiz Pineda
  • Pedro Ruiz Pineda
Photo: Seated from left, Derik Pina Fores and Christopher Fuentes Chevez; Standing from left, Melanie Gomez Majia and Cristian Pina Flores
Posted in Academics

New mural brightens lunchroom at Nicollet Middle School

Posted on June 6, 2018

A large colorful mural has transformed the lunch room at Nicollet Middle School this spring.

About 150 students in grades 6-8, who had art class with teacher Kacie Wilson second semester, helped create the new mural under the guidance of Twin Cities artist Shane Anderson.

Students brainstormed with Anderson about Nicollet concepts, programs and features that could be included in the mural which takes up most of a 60x12 foot wall. Worked into the design, are the words “AVID” and “Nice” along with academic, artistic and athletic items.  

Students learned about color theory and different painting techniques from Anderson and then painted the mural.

“The finished project is fun, bright and colorful,” said Samantha Schenkelberg, instructional behavior coach, who said the cost was funded by a grant. “It has a cartoony style that feels updated and just right for this age group.”

See more photos

Posted in Arts | Tagged mural, nicollet, arts

BHS teacher selected to attend seminar on Kennedy presidency at Boston University

Posted on June 5, 2018

Kathryn Wendling, a social studies teacher at Burnsville High School, has been selected to attend a week-long professional development seminar at Boston University this summer about the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

The seminar is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute and will be led by historian Barbara Perry, who is the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia.

The seminar will ask the question: "More than fifty years after its tragic end, the presidency of John F. Kennedy continues to fascinate people in the United States and around the world. Why should a mere thousand-day presidency continue to attract such universal attention?"

“That really resonates with me and I am very excited to be able to look at JFK's presidency in a scholarly way with Dr. Barbara Perry, a biographer and Kennedy expert,” said Wendling.

Seminar participants will explore the successes and failures of Kennedy’s presidency more than 50 years after his assassination, including the Cold War, the Peace Corps, civil rights and the arts, through media, leadership theory and public policy. They will tour President Kennedy’s birthplace, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, and the Edward Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Full room and board and a travel allowance are provided to all participants.

Wendling, who has a master’s degree in political science, has been fascinated by the Kennedy presidency since childhood. “I have always read anything Kennedy-related I can get my hands on and I have a collection of Kennedy books and magazines in my classroom,” she said.

She previously was selected to attend a professional development seminar at Stanford University on the U.S. Supreme Court -- also through the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the leading American history nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 education while also serving the general public. For more information, go to

Posted in Academics | Tagged bhs, kathryn wendling, Gilder Lehrman Institute, boston university

Gifted program position, some middle school athletics added back to proposed budget

Posted on June 4, 2018

At its May 24 meeting, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 Board of Education heard a plan to reinstate a gifted program position at Harriet Bishop Elementary, as well as middle school wrestling and tennis programs as part of the proposed budget for 2018-19.

The two items had been marked for elimination, with middle school sports combining with high school programs, in an original proposal presented earlier this spring. The proposal to create combined middle and high school (grades 7-12) cross country and dance programs is still in place.

To help cover the cost of continuing the middle school and other athletics programs, the proposal includes increases in fees across the district. The specific proposed increases are:

Middle School Sports

  • Fees for all sports increase from $80 to $105

High School Sports

  • Competitive cheer and spirit cheer, from $105 to $140
  • Olympic weightlifting and weightlifting, from $115 to $150
  • Cross country, adaptive soccer, dance team, tennis, adapted hockey and adapted softball, from $135 to $175
  • Soccer, volleyball, basketball, alpine ski, nordic ski, wrestling, track and field, from $155 to $205

At Harriet Bishop, the full-time teaching position to be reinstated supports the school’s gifted and talented program. Executive Director of Business Services Lisa Rider said the plan was to reinstate the position for the 2018-19 school year, during which time Principal Ken Essay would work with staff to develop a model for delivering a high quality gifted program moving forward.

The School Board will adopt a budget for 2018-19 before June 30. For more budget information, go to

Posted in Finance | Tagged budget, 2018-19