About 40 residents showed up at the Cloquet High School cafeteria Monday, Nov. 4, to share opinions and ideas for the future of the school district.

After Superintendent Michael Cary introduced Bruce Miles of the St. Cloud-based Big River Group consultant group, he left the building. He explained he wanted residents to be able to speak freely about concerns or opinions about the district.

A breakdown of the online surveys completed by school staff and residents were distributed.

The surveys answered the same questions residents were asked at the meeting: What is going well in the district? What could be improved? What programs could be added? Are there any co-curricular activities that don't currently exist that may be considered?

Miles said he was impressed that staff offered solutions to problems instead of throwing fellow staff members under the bus.

The staff said they feel they work well together and there is a good variety of offerings for students, including AP, Community Education and industrial tech, athletics, art and language classes.

The biggest concern of staff was student behavior and accountability. Miles said several staff members wrote the most about that subject.

Staff and residents both would like to see smaller class sizes districtwide.

Teachers and residents agreed they would like to see more vocational training or life skills classes about housing, money management and job applications.

Teachers prioritized co-curricular activities such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), STEAM (STEM, also including arts), robotics and coding over athletics.

Residents said they would like to see a boys swimming program added again. They listed lacrosse and cheerleading under potential athletics programs and would like to see more fine arts classes, including a school paper.

There were several students attending the meeting, including Boy Scouts from Troop 171.

Cloquet Boy Scouts from Troop 171 hold up lists made by residents attending the Cloquet School District strategic planning meeting at the high school Monday, November 4. The boys earn "citizenship in the community"  merit badges by attending a public meeting. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Cloquet Boy Scouts from Troop 171 hold up lists made by residents attending the Cloquet School District strategic planning meeting at the high school Monday, November 4. The boys earn "citizenship in the community" merit badges by attending a public meeting. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

“I am excited to have a say,” said Jennifer Hamilton, who has a child in middle school and another in elementary school.

Everyone was separated into groups of three or four and answered the same questions asked in the online survey.

The students spoke of concerns about school bus safety from being over crowded. A parent said she is late to work every day because she drives her kids to school due to the wait time for the bus.

Students also said they would like healthier lunch options.

Positives listed for the district include the school resource officer, the new middle school building and the opportunities that has provided. A resident said she was happy with community support for programs like the recently opened student closet at the high school as well as good state test scores.

Negative feedback was listed regarding athletic program fees, vaping issues, lack of consistency when dealing with behavioral issues and consequences.

Traffic and parking issues were a large concern of several people, as was the cost to families to insure iPads provided by the school. One resident suggested the money could be returned to the parents if the iPad was returned in good condition..

Once the lists were completed, they were hung in the hallway. Everyone was given three green dot stickers to place on what they believed was the most important issue on the list.

According to those attending the meeting Monday night, mandatory accounting and life skills classes before graduation should be required, as was hiring the best teacher despite system politics. The third-most popular was preparing students for life beyond high school by the time they graduate.

Miles gathered the results from the night and presented them to Cary on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“I feel it’s going in the right direction,” Miles said.