Dayton presents school district with Award for Excellence in Education

On a half-hour tour of Bemidji High School Monday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn., got a glimpse of the variety of educational programs offered to students in the Bemidji School District.

On a half-hour tour of Bemidji High School Monday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn., got a glimpse of the variety of educational programs offered to students in the Bemidji School District.

Dayton visited BHS to present the school district with the Award for Excellence in Education. According to the senator's office, Dayton created the award to publicly recognize the "thousands of individual success stories that occur in Minnesota schools each day."

"It's really well-deserved," Dayton said of the school district's recognition.

He added that he believes the caliber of the students in the school district and the emphasis on excellence in education shows districtwide excellence.

"As a school district, we're very proud of the wonderful things that occur in Bemidji schools everyday," Superintendent Jim Hess said as he accepted a plaque from Dayton in the BHS Lumberjack Room.


Dayton also presented Hess with an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

The senator is visiting six schools across northern Minnesota Monday and today to present them with the Award for Excellence in Education. He had already presented the award to 25 Minnesota schools and school districts. Awards will be given continuously throughout the school year.

All schools or school districts that are nominated and meet or exceed expectations for providing high-quality education will receive the award, according to Dayton's office.

"We decided we would apply as a district," said Kathy Palm, director of curriculum and administrative services.

When applying for the award, the school district noted several highlights from its schools: student achievement throughout the district; various elementary, middle and high school programs; after-school and summer programs; and Bemidji Community Education.

"We feel like we're doing a great job and it's nice to be recognized for that," Palm said.

Hess agreed.

"There are many good things that are occurring in our school system today, and to recognize some of these programs I think is very important," he said. "We could have listed many more programs than what we did, so I think everyone can feel very proud of this recognition and understand that this was well-deserved by our students, staff and our community."


During his stop at BHS, Dayton took a few questions from the students, teachers and administrators who had gathered for the award presentation. He answered questions ranging from funding for education to American action in Afghanistan to his position on the Patriot Act to why he decided not to seek re-election as senator.

"I'm for more funding for education - period," Dayton said in response to the first question.

He also noted the need for more federal funding for higher education programs.

Dayton, who has visited Afghanistan once, also spoke about his views on the American presence in that country.

"We have really failed in Afghanistan to do anything constructive with the country to help the country," he said.

In Afghanistan, he said, the United States has the opportunity to showcase its economic system and social system.

"And we haven't done that," Dayton said.

On the Patriot Act, Dayton said he supported it despite some misgivings.


"It's hard to be against the Patriot Act," he said, noting the title of the act.

As far as not seeking re-election, Dayton said he doesn't like being in the minority in the Senate because it's difficult to accomplish certain goals. He also noted that he doesn't enjoy the fund-raising that goes along with being a candidate.

But, he said, he still plans to be active in some type of service after his term ends.

"I'm going to find another way to be actively involved," Dayton said.

Before wrapping up his time at BHS, Dayton stressed the importance of education. He said his first job out of college was teaching for two years at a high school in New York. He noted that he has always said it was the toughest job that he ever had.

"The fact that all of you succeed together here is really a tribute to all of you," Dayton said of the students and staff in the Bemidji School District.

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