Talk of the District

with Tom Nelson, Superintendent

Talk of the District is a site to post your questions, concerns, ideas and participate in an on-line discussion with the Superintendent and other community members.

Superintendent Tom Nelson can be contacted via email at nelsont@stillwaterschools.org.

We like opinion polls.  We find it fascinating to know what others are thinking.  Do they agree or disagree with us on items of importance?  We poll just about everything.  How is the President doing his job?  Is the economy improving?  Do we approve of the Governor’s performance?  Should we raise the minimum wage? Who is ahead in the race for Senator?  We all have an opinion and most of us like to share those opinions.

For many years, the Gallup Poll has interviewed people in all 50 states to understand perceptions concerning public education in the individual states.  In a recent Gallup Poll, residents were asked to rate the quality of education in their state.  The list goes from the best in quality to the worst, and yes, Minnesota was ranked third highest in terms of quality out of all 50 states with 81 percent of those surveyed giving our schools excellent or good ratings.  North Dakota was ranked first (83 percent) and Iowa second (82 percent). Most of the high ratings went to mid-western states with Massachusetts being the lone exception.

This poll also asked residents if they believe their state’s public school system prepares students for success in the work place.  Once again Minnesota was near the top of the list at number five.  Again, it was all mid-western states plus Massachusetts. 

Now I know that there are a few who may not give public education a high rating. We hear their loud complaints from time to time in the media. But over the years - 42 and counting for me - our overall public has been supportive of public education in Minnesota. The same can be said for our own Stillwater schools.  Our recent referendum successfully helped to demonstrate support for the work of our schools.  In return our students have responded with the highest ACT (American College Testing) results in the history of the Stillwater schools. Our Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) state tests in reading, math and science were well above the state average and some of the highest in the east metro area.  Our own Marine Elementary School is ranked #2 in the state, based on students’ performance on the MCA tests. More than 92 percent of our students graduate, with more than 90 percent going on to a two or four year college. Each year we recognize outstanding alumni who have amazing careers in science, medicine, entrepreneurship, public service and more. It’s no wonder we are proud of our schools.

So, it does not come as a surprise to me to see Minnesota’s support for its public schools.  Minnesotans value education and know the importance of quality schools for our own children and for the state’s future.   Great schools and great communities go together.  Where you find one, you will always find the other.

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Contact Tom Nelson at

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