Recent Posts

Talk of the District: A Tax-Neutral Bond? It Sounds Too Good to be True

It sounds too good to be true – that’s what some people have told me. How can we ask voters to approve a $97 million bond proposal without increasing their taxes? Well, let’s look a little deeper into all the facts to understand why. 

Right now our school district has annual bond payments of just over $10 million. This is debt that the district has incurred over time to build and maintain its facilities. But much of this debt is nearly paid off. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area School Board Approves Cuts to Nursing Staff, Special Ed

The Stillwater Area Board of Education last week approved a list of $1.3 million in budget cuts for the 2015-16 school year that isn’t sitting well some parents and district nursing staff members. Among the cuts approved last week was $135,000 to Health Services, which could result in replacing three elementary school registered nurses with health paraprofessionals. Special education staff will also take a hit next year cutting nearly $300,000, which could result in the loss of 3 full-time positions. Health Services staff were notified about the cuts a day before the vote. During the open forum portion of last week’s meeting, a handful of parents spoke emotionally about eliminating the nurses who care for their elementary-age children who have Type 1 diabetes, and are too young to care for themselves. To care for diabetics during the school day, nurses are constantly testing and monitoring blood sugars, administering and adjusting insulin dosages — and giving glucose if needed — as well as tracking trends in blood sugars. Continue Reading →

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Rachel Steil is a Finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Stillwater Area High School teacher Rachel Steil has been named a top 10 finalist for 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Steil teaches English and is a Newspaper Advisor for the Pony Express. She began teaching in 1998 and joined Stillwater Area Schools in 1999. Steil’s professional accomplishments include interning at KARE 11 and Nightline with Ted Koppel. She earned a B.A. in English, Education, and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota, Morris, a Master’s of Education from Hamline University and her K-12 Administrative degree from Hamline University. Continue Reading →

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Absentee Voting Begins for Stillwater Area Public Schools $97.5 Million Bond Request

Absentee voting began March 26 for the Stillwater Area Public Schools $97.5 million bonding request. On May 12, 2015 voters will take to the polls to weigh in on a “tax-neutral” bond request to improve facilities, including an addition and renovations at the high school, construction of a new elementary school in the south part of the district and a new transportation hub. (Note: If you are viewing this post on mobile it’s best to turn your device horizontal to see the video and tables.)

The “tax-neutral” bond request would not raise taxes above what residents are currently paying, according to Stillwater Area Public Schools. Existing debt is scheduled to drop off in 2016 and 2018 — so the bond request asks voters to maintain taxes at their current levels to fund the projects. Watch video discussion about the Long Range Plan and the $97.5 million bond request. Continue Reading →

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Afton-Lakeland Students Give Their Friend, Taysha Hein, the Gift of Song

A fifth grader battling leukemia isn’t fighting alone. Students at Afton-Lakeland have been joined by some of country music’s finest to record a song of encouragement and support for their friend Taysha Hein, a student currently undergoing treatment for blood cancer. “We really want Taysha to feel that she has a lot of friends and that we care about her a lot,” said Gracie Bancroft, one of Taysha’s fifth grade classmates. Students wrote Taysha’s Song as part of a week-long music residency with Nashville songwriter, Jeff Dayton. They performed the song for Taysha via Skype during an all-school assembly and assumed that was the end of that. Continue Reading →

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Class Will Start Before Labor Day in 2015-16 for Stillwater Area Public Schools

Classes will start before Labor Day this year in Stillwater Area Public Schools. The Stillwater Board of Education on Thursday approved the 2015-16 school calendar. The school year will start Monday, Aug. 31, and end on Friday, June 3. “With the Labor Day holiday falling later into the month of September, a pre-Labor Day start would allow school to wrap up the first week of June,” the committee’s recommendation to the Board reads. In 2015, Labor Day is Monday, Sept. Continue Reading →

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Denise Pontrelli Chosen as Next Superintendent of Stillwater Area Public Schools

The school board unanimously selected Denise Pontrelli as their top choice to lead Stillwater Area Public Schools. The board will now enter into negotiations with Pontrelli, and expect to vote on a contract at their March 26 board meeting. Pontrelli currently serves as the assistant superintendent/director of educational services for Spring Lake Park Public Schools. “Everyone we spoke to had exceptional things to say about Ms. Pontrelli,” School Board Chair Tom Lehmann said in a prepared statement. “She is a proven instructional leader who is focused on improving learning opportunities for students. We are excited to have her join our district and look forward to working with her to move Stillwater forward.” Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area School Board Considers Starting School Before Labor Day

Classes will likely start before Labor Day this year for students in Stillwater Area Public Schools. The Stillwater Board of Education on March 12 will discuss a recommendation from the calendar committee to start the 2015-16 school year on Monday, Aug. 31, and end on Friday, June 3. Traditionally, Stillwater schools have begun after Labor Day. “With the Labor Day holiday falling later into the month of September, a pre-Labor Day start would allow school to wrap up the first week of June,” the committee’s recommendation to the Board reads. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area High School’s Mock Trial Team Heads to State for Second Consecutive Year

For the second year in a row the Stillwater Area High School Mock Trial Team has advanced to the Minnesota State High School Tournament. Last year, in its inaugural season, Stillwater’s Mock Trial team finished in seventh place at the state competition. In the team’s second year, they remained undefeated in regional and sectional competitions and will compete March 5-6  in the state competition held at the Hennepin County District Court. The Stillwater Area High School Mock Trial program has grown from one competitive team last year to two teams this current season.  The team competing in the state tournament this year is comprised of all seniors – Alex Eitzman, Alexander Screaton, Adam Johnson, Mitchell Sell, Holly Fena, Rachel Hartwig, and Nick Sabin – with support from underclassmen Natalie Sims and Justin Hannasch. The Stillwater Area High School Mock Trial Team was started last year by high school students and sponsored by the Stillwater based law firm Eckberg Lammers. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater’s Rachel Steil Named Minnesota Teacher of the Year Semifinalist

Stillwater Area High School language arts teacher and newspaper advisor Rachel Steil has been named a semifinalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Steil was selected from more than a hundred applicants and is one of 30 remaining teachers vying for the award. Steil began teaching in 1998 and joined Stillwater Area Schools in 1999. She teaches English 10 Enriched and English Newspaper/Pony Express. Steil’s professional accomplishments include interning at KARE 11 and Nightline with Ted Koppel. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area Public Schools Superintendent Search Down to 4 Finalists

The Stillwater Area Board of Education has selected four finalists for the next superintendent of Stillwater Area Public Schools. The final four candidates for superintendent are:

Richard J. Spicuzza, the deputy superintendent for Mounds View Public Schools

Denise Pontrelli, assistant superintendent/director of educational services for Spring Lake Park Public Schools

David Dude, chief operating officer of the Iowa City Community School District

Richard Lahn, interim superintendent for Nashwauk-Keewatin Schools

Final interviews will take place March 2-5. The school board expects to hire a new superintendent in mid-March. The new superintendent will begin work on July 1.

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Update: Stillwater Area School Board Sets Special Election for $97.5 Million Bond Vote

The Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday voted to put a $97.5 million building bond on the ballot for a special election that will be held in May. “The proposal has a price tag of $97.5 million,” Carissa Keister, the district’s community engagement manager said. “The district’s debt will drop in 2016 and again in 2018 when existing bonds are paid off. The bond request would ask voters to maintain taxes at their current levels to fund the facility improvements.”

The Stillwater Area School Board approved a resolution to hold a special election on May 12. If approved, the proposed bond would pay for:

An expansion –and classroom equipment — at Stillwater Area High School to accommodate ninth-graders moving from the junior high schools to the high school;

Construction of an activities center at the high school;

The acquisition of land and construction of a new elementary school and transportation terminal;

Construction of upgrades at Pony Stadium and other athletic fields in the district; and

Purchasing and installing new HVAC systems for elementary schools. Continue Reading →

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Six Candidates Vie to Become Next Superintendent of Stillwater Area Public Schools

The Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education has narrowed the candidates for the next superintendent down to six. The new superintendent will replace interim superintendent Tom Nelson after his contract expires on June 30. The six candidates are:

John Bezek, assistant superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools;

David Dude, chief operating officer of the Iowa City Community Schools;

Rick Lahn, interim superintendent for the Nashwauk-Keewatin School District

Denise Pontrelli, director of education services in Spring Lake Park Schools;

Lori Simon, executive director of academics and elementary schools for the Robbinsdale Area School District; and

Rick Spicuzza, deputy superintendent of Mounds View Public Schools. The Stillwater Area School Board will interview the candidates on Saturday, Feb. 21 beginning at 8 a.m. at Central Services Building, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater. Continue Reading →

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What Do You Think About Starting the School Year Before Labor Day?

The Stillwater Area Public School’s calendar committee is looking for community feedback as they consider revamping the 2015-2016 calendar “to better meet the needs of students, families and staff.” The committee has developed two proposed calendars for the 2015-2016 school year. According to Stillwater Area Public Schools:

Option 1

“In an attempt to keep teachers in the classroom in front of students, Option 1 was designed with more professional development time built in throughout the year. This would mean teachers wouldn’t have to be pulled out of class to attend trainings, and instead, would have training days built in around holidays and other natural breaks.” 2015-16 School Calendar Option 1

Option 2

“Option 2 is a more traditional calendar. Continue Reading →

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Photos: Totino-Grace Tops Stillwater in Football Section Finals

No. 2 seeded Totino-Grace (9-1) will return to the state tournament after beating Stillwater 29-13 in the crossover matchup in 6A playoff action. Stillwater running back Zach Knox did set a new Ponies rushing record in the battle rushing for 75 yards on 16 carries. Overall, the Ponies were held to 168 total yards. Here’s a photo gallery from Friday night’s game: (All photos by Joe Isaacs)

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Zach Knox Zeros in on Stillwater’s All-Time Rushing Record


Running back Zach Knox is chasing Stillwater’s all-time rushing record. The senior needs just 24 yards to surpass all-stater Aaron Runk’s record of 3,028 career yards set from 1993 to 1995. Knox enters Friday’s game against Totino-Grace with 3,005 yards. Knox told the Stillwater Gazette, he’s more focused on winning the game than setting the record. “I’m going to love to have it, but playoffs is so many steps ahead of that for the team,” Knox told the Gazette. “I feel like I’ve worked hard for that, but clearly the playoffs mean more to me right now and playing as many games as I can with my teammates for our last year — for a lot of us, our last year.”

Knox was forced to sit out two games this season because of a concussions. Had he played in those games, he surely would have broken the record by now. Earlier this season, Knox broke Runk’s all-time carries record of 500 and is currently at 554. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Takes on Roseville Friday Night in Section 4AAAAA Postseason Opener

The Stillwater football team opens the postseason tonight against Roseville at Pony Stadium. The Ponies (6-2) beat Roseville (3-5) 20-0 in the season opener. The winner of Friday night’s Section 4AAAAAA quarterfinal game winner will face the highest seeded-team remaining after the Section 5AAAAAA quarterfinals in a cross-over game on Friday, Oct. 31. Maple Grove (7-1) is the No. Continue Reading →

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Mounds View Beats Stillwater 34-20 to Clinch SEC Title; Playoffs Start Next Friday

Mounds View Clinched the Suburban East Conference title—and likely the top seed in the playoffs— Wednesday night beating Stillwater 34-20 at Pony Stadium. The Ponies end the regular season with a 6-2 record. The Suburban East Conference coaches met at Stillwater Area High School Thursday morning to determine the Class 6A Section 4 playoff seedings. Mounds View (7-1), who beat East Ridge last week, is the No. 1 seed. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Hosts Mounds View in Final SEC Gridiron Battle

The Stillwater Ponies look to upset SEC rival Mounds View Wednesday night in what will be the last chance to be crowned conference champions. The Ponies (6-1) take on the No. 3 ranked Mustangs (6-1) at 7 p.m. at Ponies Stadium. If Stillwater wins, the Ponies will earn a share of the Suburban East Conference title. The Ponies have won 22 conference titles. Continue Reading →

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Football: Stillwater Plays Mounds View Wednesday for Share of SEC Title (Photos)

Stillwater will play Mounds View for a share of the SEC title Wednesday night at Pony Stadium. The Ponies (6-1) bounced back after their only loss of the season, and pounded Woodbury 47-20 Friday night at Royal Stadium. Stillwater running back Marques Williams ran for 85 yards and 3 touchdowns filling in for the injured Zach Knox. Quarterback DJ Skie threw for 4 touchdowns against the Royals (1-6) — three of them to wide receiver Brooks Carroll and one to tight end Matt Anderson. The Ponies blocked a  punt, recovered an onside kick and defensive back Johnny Randazzo had two interceptions. Continue Reading →

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Photos: Cretin-Derham Hall Hands Stillwater First Loss of Season

Cretin-Derham Hall handed the Ponies their first loss of the season on a windy, wet and cold Friday night at Pony Stadium. The Raiders came into Pony Stadium on Homecoming night with a chip on their shoulder–after losing to Stillwater last year during Cretin-Derham Hall’s Homecoming–and beat the Ponies 32-14. Cretin-Derham Hall (4-2) got off to a 19-0 first quarter lead and never looked back. Senior Brooks Carroll scored both touchdowns for the Ponies. Raiders running back D’mitri Walker ran for more than 170 yards and two touchdowns against the Ponies defense. Continue Reading →

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Photos: Ponies Spoil White Bear Lake’s Homecoming, Improve to 5-0

The Ponies spoiled White Bear Lake’s Homecoming last week with a 35-7 win in the state’s oldest rivalry. Stillwater improved to 5-0 on the season, and moved up to No. 6 in the AP’s football rankings. The Ponies are keeping pace with Mounds View (5-0) and East Ridge (5-0) at the top of the Suburban East Conference.  


Post by Ponies Football. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Homecoming: List of Events from Sept. 27-Oct. 4

Next week is Homecoming in Stillwater. Here’s a list of events beginning Saturday, Sept. 27 until Saturday, Oct.4:

Saturday, Sept. 27

Homecoming Kickoff Dance and Senior High Homecoming King and Queen Nominee Announcement

Walk for Water 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Stillwater Junior High School track: Join community members, staff and students to raise funds to benefit the organization H2O for Life – Water for South Sudan. Learn more here. Continue Reading →

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Ponies Pound Park 56-7, Improve to 4-0

The Ponies pounded Park Friday night to improve to 4-0 on the season. Stillwater’s offense exploded for 484 total yards. Zach Knox scored 4 touchdowns and rushed for 181 yards. Brooks Carroll rushed for 2 TDs (29 and 50 yards), while Nick Wanovich broke free on an 81-yard touchdown run. Once again, the Ponies defense was stingy, allowing Park just -2 rushing yards. Continue Reading →

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Football Friday: Stillwater Routes St. Paul Central 56-15 in Home Opener

Stillwater got things rolling right out of the gate Friday night and never looked back beating St. Paul Central 56-15 in the Ponies home opener. The Ponies improved to 2-0 on the season, and head to Forest Lake (0-2) next week. East Ridge and Mounds View each improved to 2-0 on the season and in the SEC Friday night. East Ridge (2-0) beat Cretin Durham-Hall 23-7, while Mounds View pounded White Bear Lake 49-0. Continue Reading →

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ACT Test Scores Reach All-time High at Stillwater Area High School

News Release from Stillwater Area Public Schools:

For the fourth year in a row Stillwater Area High School students have increased their average composite score on the ACT test, a national test that gauges how well prepared students are for college. This year’s average score of 24.5 has bested the school’s previous record and is significantly higher than the state average of 22.9 and the national average of 21. “We’ve made significant structural changes to ensure our students are prepared for college, and our ACT results show it has made a difference,” said Ryan Laager, executive director of curriculum and secondary education. “We’re putting more kids in high level courses, giving them more opportunities to take high level tests, and as a result, they’re performing at higher levels.”

In the past six years, Stillwater’s average ACT score has increased by 1.3 points. During the same time period, the number of students who have elected to take the exam has also climbed. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Schools to Present Details of St. Croix River Crossing Based Curriculum

Since October 2013, Stillwater Area Public Schools has been working with partners to turn the massive St. Croix Crossing Project into a learning opportunity for students. The curriculum is currently being written and  will be in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms in the 2014-15 school year with the goal of getting all students curious and excited about engineering. Next week, Denise Cote, Curriculum Lead managing the project, will present information on student learning and participation in the St. Croix Crossing project to the school board during a learning session. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area School District Reaches Contract Agreement with Teachers Union


The Stillwater Area Public School District and the teachers union have come to terms for a new contract. The school board approved a settlement that establishes salary and benefits for the 2013-2014 school year, as well as the 2014-2015 school year. The contract covers about 560 positions such as teachers, counselors, nurses and coaches. According to the Stillwater Area Public School District:

First Year of Contract

Within the first year of the contract insurance benefits will not change and salaries will be frozen at the previous level. Step movement within the salary schedule was delayed for part of the year, which helped reduce the overall cost. Continue Reading →

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PHOTOS: Anderson Fifth-Graders Take Over Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop

A group of fifth-graders from Andersen Elementary will be running Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop on Monday, May 19 and Tuesday, May 20 from 4-8 p.m.

Over the last few weeks, Roxy Humphrey and Mark Schwietz’s P.I.E. 5 Class has been learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business from advertising, serving, decorating and other important areas of the business. Now they’ll test what they’ve learned with an opportunity to run Leo’s. //

Post by Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop. The students will be serving a variety of the menu items from hamburgers and chicken sandwiches to salads, and of course, Leo’s famous malts and shakes. The class is inviting you to come to Leo’s to partake in this event. Continue Reading →

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Annette Sallman Selected as Stillwater’s New Director of Community Education

Annette Sallman has been selected as the Stillwater Area School District’s next Director of Community Education. Sallman has served as the director of community education in Mahtomedi for the past two years. She will now oversee, lead and direct Stillwater’s Community Education programs. Prior to working in Mahtomedi, Sallman spent six years working in Stillwater. The school board members is expected to approve the hiring this week. Sallman will begin her new position this summer. Continue Reading →

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Stillwater Area Schools Offer Free Summer Meals for Kids and Teens

Stillwater Area Public Schools will offer free breakfast and lunch to area children this summer, thanks to a special program provided by federal funding. The goal of this program is to make sure all youth in our community have access to nutritious meals while school is out for the summer. The Summer Meals Program will run Mondays through Fridays, June 16-Aug. 22 (closed July 4) at the Stillwater Junior High School cafeteria. Breakfast will be served 8:15-8:45 a.m. and lunch from 11:15-11:45 a.m. for any interested children ages two to 18 years of age. Continue Reading →

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