With each new school year comes the excitement and enthusiasm for a variety of new learning opportunities for each of our nearly 8,500 students, 1,200 staff members, and 48,000 parents and community members. As I have often said, the task before us is great and it will require all of us working together to ensure all learners have the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society.
This ongoing commitment to teamwork and partnership aligns well with our 2015-16 school year theme — I am Edina Public Schools. The power of this year’s theme is two-fold. First, we need to recognize the many benefits that occur when all of us associated with Edina Public Schools (EPS) are actively engaged in accomplishing goals at the district, site and classroom levels. Second, we need to make sure that each of us has the necessary supports to be successful as a member of our EPS team. I am Edina Public Schools highlights the value and power of collaborative working relationships among all stakeholders.
The I am Edina Public Schools theme underscores the value of teamwork at all levels, which I believe is our district’s greatest strength. When we collectively share our talents with a commitment to the success of all learners, the benefits for both our students and our community are significant. We all have unique skills and gifts that bring value to learning experiences that occur both in and out of the classroom. I encourage all of us to seek out and apply our community’s bountiful talents to help advance our mission and achieve our Next Generation strategic goals.
I am Edina Public Schools also highlights the importance of relationships. It is imperative that we continue to take the time to get to know one another -- students, families, colleagues, and neighbors. Too often in this busy, fast-paced world, we forget how important these relationships are, resulting in forgotten friendships, minimized collegiality and lost connections. We must take the time to pause, listen, learn and find ways to support one other. Our community will be stronger when we know the stories, experiences, cultures and needs of all those associated with Edina Public Schools.
I thank you all for a great start and wish everyone a fantastic 2015-16 school year.
Proud to say … I am Edina Public Schools.
As Edina Public Schools concludes another school year, we are busy gathering feedback and data to assess our successes and areas of growth, which will in turn help guide our future plans. Throughout this data gathering, I have found that some of the best feedback comes from attending the many end-of-year culminating programs and activities across the district. These opportunities always provide me with valuable insights, whether it is learned from observing and participating in the events themselves, or from the many informal conversations I am fortunate to engage in along the way.
A favorite insight gleaned this spring was from one of our retiring teachers. When asked to summarize her career as an Edina teacher, she paused and said simply, “It’s all about the kids.” While simple, I find this statement to be very powerful. I have been witness to this focus on the kids played out in numerous ways over the past school year by many of our students, staff, families and community members. Edina Public Schools’ commitment to the success of all learners was felt throughout our schools this year, from our earliest learners entering their classrooms on the first day of school to the 673 graduates walking across the stage at commencement to the cheers of thousands of parents, relatives, friends and staff members.
Edina has a great tradition of being student-focused. During the last week of school, I visited with a graduate from Edina High School’s Class of 1955, which is planning for their 60th reunion this summer. Her reflections of her time in Edina included a “blend of teachers caring for the kids and challenging them to chase their dreams.” I am proud to see that this continues to be a successful recipe for our schools today, and it lays the foundation for what we need to carry with us in the future.
When I think about my nine years in Edina Public Schools, I am reminded of a key guiding question that Dr. Ken Dragseth, former Edina superintendent, used as district, school or classroom level decisions were being made. Just as the retiring teacher said in summarizing her career, Ken too would challenge all of those involved with the decision-making to first ask, “Is it good for kids?” It is clear that decisions rooted in being student-centered are always best and why it continues to guide decisions today.
I look forward to advancing this tradition and commitment as we plan for 2015-16 and beyond. While we have many changes and transformations ahead of us, Edina Public Schools will also continue to lead with our core mission question — Is it good for kids?
Thank you were the two words that first came to my mind upon learning that our community approved the bond referendum on Tuesday’s ballot. Thank you to the voters for trusting the district with their tax dollars. Thank you to the many people who helped shape and share the district’s facilities plan. Thank you to our amazing staff for their unwavering commitment to our learners. And thank you to our parents and families for trusting and partnering with us as we prepare all learners for success in college, career and life.
So what’s next for our school district?
The bond referendum is only a part of our promise to advance excellence in Edina. Our commitment to the goals and outcomes of our Next Generation Strategic Plan has not changed. We will continue to look at ways to better personalize learning for all students, to ensure a coherent and comprehensive educational program for all learners, and to promote effective and valued district partnerships. A key component of this commitment involves pursuing new ways to better align all of our resources, including facilities, to learning so that we can ensure all of our students have the skills they need to thrive in this rapidly changing, global society.
I am pleased that our voters gave us this vote of confidence with respect to how we can update our spaces for Next Generation learning. It is now the responsibility of all of us to continue to partner with and serve our students, families and community to the best of our abilities, and to be creative in our efforts to continuously improve and look to the future.
Every child has only one chance to experience school. Let’s make certain that we give our students the best experience that we can provide during their time with us, especially as we wrap-up another school year.
I look forward to this next chapter in Edina Public Schools, and am excited for opportunity to continue working together to advance our Edina excellence for all learners.
Ask residents why they move to Edina, and many will say because of the schools. Ask families what they like most about Edina Public Schools, and you will hear stories of a special teacher or staff member who made a difference in their or their student’s life.
At this time of year, I am especially cognizant of the many great educators in Edina Public Schools. I use educator in the broadest sense of the term — as we all play a role in the planning, directing and instructing of learning and learners.
In terms of our Edina Public Schools staff, I thank those of you who have served our learning community these past years, and for some, decades, and will be formally leaving our organization at the end of the year. You may be retiring on moving on to other adventures, but your impact on our learners, their families, and your colleagues, will not be forgotten.
I also value those educators who will continue to be a part of our 2015-16 district team. I am excited about the future and feel fortunate that your talents and skills will help create new successes and solutions for our learners, both in and out of the classroom. Similarly, I am appreciative for the educators who are seeking employment with our district. Each will bring with them tremendous potential and expertise that will help shape the Next Generation of Edina Public Schools.
Finally, I continue to be amazed with the abundance of talent and creativity that our extended team of educators — parents, volunteers and community members — bring into our schools everyday. It is truly a team effort that helps define Edina Excellence, and will be a continued partnership of all of us as we look to advance that excellence in the future.
Our world, including the world of public education, continues to evolve and change. We are routinely faced with numerous challenges and unlimited possibilities. Edina is fortunate in that our amazing educators are discovering, designing and implementing strategies that will ensure our schools stay strong and our learners are ready to thrive in this rapidly changing world. It is important that as a district we work hard to find creative ways to support all of our educators. By providing appropriate training, time and tools for all educators, we can capitalize on the talents of us all.
Being an educator is hard work, but, as we often hear from former students and families, it is also incredibly rewarding. I extend a big thank you to all of our amazing Edina educators. I am humbled to work with you as we forge a new path of success and excellence.
Edina Public Schools is driven by our educational mission, which has framed the district’s commitment to continuous improvement for over 25 years. The last nine words of our mission statement challenge us to educate all individuals to “thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society.” We’ve responded to this challenge by making improvements at every level—from district-wide initiatives to daily classroom lessons—as we prepare our students for a future very different from our present.
Our recipe for success is to stay true to our mission and core values, focusing our efforts on defined areas of “educational excellence.” Insights from students, families, staff and community members have helped us to better define this Edina Excellence, which tell us that we are strongest when we:
Our ability to advance our Edina Excellence is supported by our desire and need to collaborate. I am continually impressed by the passion and hard work of the entire EPS community as we work together to support the needs for our current and future learners. This team effort allows us to address the educational challenges we face and make the changes necessary to encourage growth and improvement.
To help frame our work, we have been using Stanford University’s “design thinking process.” This process allows us to understand the experiences of those involved, accurately define the “problem,” and to explore a variety of ideas and possible solutions. Through the development and assessment of options and pilot projects, we are able to transform our thinking and ideas into action. Continued engagement of stakeholders then allows for the refinement of options, creating a more successful solution in the end.
Such thinking will inevitably involve change. Educational researcher Michael Fullan encourages “simplexity” when problem-solving and working through transformational change. He stresses the use of common sense and clarity in the solution-seeking process (simplicity), while also promoting the importance of understanding the depth and dynamics of the changes necessary to ensure positive results (complexity). This simplexity concept aligns well with our design thinking approach and is part of our district’s continuous improvement efforts.
We know that we cannot simply apply a change and expect a given result. But by working through a thorough design process, acknowledging the various levels of a change proposal, and listening to all voices, we will be able to ensure our that our next generation of learners are ready for the rapidly changing world that awaits them.
The 2015 Minnesota Legislative Session is well underway, and there have already been several initiatives and bills discussed that impact public schools. This is an important session for schools throughout the state, including Edina, as legislators and the Governor discuss options and enact policy and distribute funding for a variety of education programs and services. Recognizing that in Edina Public Schools, we receive 72 percent of our general operating funds from the state, and nearly 85 percent of our work is mandated by state or federal regulations, it is important for us to monitor the discussions at the Capitol and provide our representatives with accurate information on how policy and funding decisions will impact our local students, teachers and community.
We are fortunate to have good working relationships with our local legislators — Sen. Melisa Franzen and Reps. Ron Erhardt and Paul Rosenthal — who regularly seek our input on issues and understand our educational priorities. I appreciate how these three elected officials continue be committed to public education and are responsive to our needs.
This year, in addition to our involvement in several professional associations and educational organizations, such as the Association for Metropolitan School Districts, the School Board and district leadership team are collaborating with Education Minnesota/Edina (our local teachers’ union) on common legislative priorities that align with our educational mission, our Next Generation strategic goals, and the needs of our students, staff and families.
For this 2015 legislative session, we are focusing our advocacy in four key areas that can positively impact Edina Public Schools:
The key to making these priorities a reality and the 2015 Legislative Session a success is everyone’s engagement in these core issues. I encourage each of us to take the time at both the state and federal level to seek support for our young people and their learning. Your energy and efforts are important and impactful and will help keep Edina Public Schools a premier school district both in Minnesota and across the country.
To see details on the Edina Public Schools’ 2015 Legislative Priorities, click here.
I still recall my first grade teacher sharing her excitement about our new school. It opened the previous year and included a shiny tiled-floor classroom and exciting new furniture. The classroom was large, with chalkboards adorning the walls at the front and back of the room. The desks and chairs were separated from each other, which was a big deal, as they were no longer physically nailed to the floor. My teacher took advantage of this new space and the quasi-moveable furniture, organizing our desks into different groups to enrich her teaching and our learning. It was quite revolutionary, for 1961.
Edina Public Schools has always done what it can to ensure that our school buildings support the instructional needs and practices of our teachers. In the 1950s and 60s, our district enrollment was growing fast, so the community supported construction of new schools to respond to increased demand. In 1972, our “newest” school, Edina West High School, was built to address continued enrollment growth and the changing practices occurring in secondary education at the time.
While our district has not constructed any new buildings since 1972, we have taken great care to maintain and update our schools and classrooms in order to continue providing relevant educational environments that enrich instruction and learning. For many years, the district maintained the schools within its current budget. But when facility needs grew beyond current available resources and more significant updates were needed, the Edina community supported bond referenda to update and refresh our schools in October 1992 and November 2003. This community support and additional investment in our facilities has been consistently focused on three areas: enhancing school security, improving instructional spaces, and maintaining building infrastructure.
This “every decade” approach to updating our schools has been an effective model, allowing our aging buildings to remain effective places of learning for our students and community. We are again at that point where a refresh is needed in our schools to improve our facilities in ways that bring them into alignment with 21st Century needs. In January, the School Board approved a dynamic Next Generation Facilities Plan that follows the same referendum themes, improving learning spaces at all 10 school sites. Not only will this plan maintain our community investments, but also allow us to provide relevant and rigorous educational experiences for years to come.
Although my elementary school has been closed for several years, I know that I benefitted from an updated classroom in 1961 that enriched my teacher’s instruction and kept pace with the learning needs of the time. I am excited that our Next Generation Facilities Plan will provide a similar transformative opportunity for our schools and enhance the learning experience for students and staff. I look forward to dialogues with our community over the next several months to share the details of the plan and engage everyone in the great work of Edina Public Schools.
We in Edina Public Schools are committed to our 47-word educational mission statement, which places a high value on partnering with students, staff, families and the community to educate all learners so they have the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly global world. A key leadership strategy to advancing our mission is the maximizing of our available educational resources, including time, talent (staff), funding and space (facilities).
We have a long tradition of successfully using this resource alignment strategy to support student learning. Some examples include being among the first districts in the nation to start high school later in the morning to accommodate physiological changes in adolescents; using a creative budgeting tool to address funding shortfalls; and providing extensive training opportunities to enrich our teachers’ skills. And about once every 10 years since the 1990s, the district has received community support through a bond referendum to ensure our school facilities meet the evolving educational needs of our learners.
We are proud that the effectiveness and efficiency of our available resources are continuously assessed and improved through this alignment process. The power of creative ideas and appropriate use of technology continues to enhance our efforts by enriching our access to data, streamlining operational procedures, and improving internal and external communications. As we look ahead to the 2015-16 school year and beyond, we will continue to utilize this resource alignment strategy in everything we do.
In our budgeting process, we will be seeking additional school formula funding support throughout the 2015 legislative session. We will continue examining our evolving educational program needs to ensure we are placing our financial resources squarely on the district’s educational priorities. And we will continue to partner with the Edina Education Fund to seek creative new revenue opportunities to support educational innovation that advances our Next Generation Strategic Plan.
As we look at time, we will continue assessing the benefits and limitations of various school year calendars, with the goal of implementing new approaches in the fall of 2016. In addition, we are studying elementary and secondary daily schedules to ensure they allot time in the most effective way to maximize learning for both students and staff.
Finally, on Tuesday, May 5, district voters will weigh in on a bond referendum to update our school facilities to enhance building security, create a variety of learning spaces to meet a variety of learner needs, and improve district infrastructure. If approved, renovations and/or additions will be made at all 10 of our learning sites, including additions at our west campus to accommodate the future move of grade nine to the high school. As with most school construction projects, the detailed design process will commence after we receive voter authorization, but in the meantime, we continue our input gathering from staff, families and community members as we refine the concept plans approved by the School Board in January and work to align our spaces with educational program and learner needs, to serve our community well into the next decade.
As has been our history, Edina Public Schools is focused on keeping the needs of learners at the forefront, implementing a strategic plan that is committed to creatively using our various resources. The continued support of our entire district community will ensure that we are preparing each learner to achieve success in college, career and life. The strong support our district receives from our community will ensure this plan will be successful.
The start of another year always brings the opportunity for everyone to make their New Year’s resolutions. While I believe in the continuous improvement process and value the steps of planning and goal setting often identified with making such resolutions, it’s the review and reflection steps that I find most beneficial. Similarly, when we looks back on 2014 as a school district, Edina Public Schools’ students, staff and families can and should be proud of all that we have accomplished — from the school program/site level to the individual learner. All of these accomplishments are in large part attributable to our individual and collective response to adversity and challenge.
Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, found that when individuals or groups have a “growth mindset,” they demonstrate a clear focus on improvement and growth through both application and experience. As a result of this stretching effort, the growth mindset in turn brings greater success. I believe our school district community is filled with people who have this mindset in their work, learning and living.
Edina Public Schools recognizes the importance that all learners ‑— no matter the age — have this growth mindset. In fact, one of the educational competencies our district has identified as critical for ensuring a successful future is that of growing motivated lifelong learners, who:
As we continue to update our programs and curriculum to reflect the needs of Next Gen learners, we will be embedding this core competency into learning experiences throughout our students’ educational journeys. This mindset of persistence and grit is truly a college, career and life ready skill, and one that we have the responsibility to not only help our students learn, but also model and grow ourselves.
So as you move forward with plans for resolutions or new goals for 2015, I encourage us all to celebrate our many accomplishments of 2014 with a focus on how those accomplishments occurred. I am guessing the growth mindset described above played an important role in your overall success, and with each individual achievement. I ask that we apply this same persistence and grit to our 2015 continuous improvement efforts to help ensure all learners, including yourself, have the key skills to thrive and grow in the future.
Edina Public Schools has always done a masterful job of using our available school facilities to compliment student learning. We’ve successfully repurposed, remodeled, renovated and added to our school facilities since our most recent new school was built in the early 1970s. This has been a team effort involving creative staff, expert construction professionals and a supportive community.
As our school district moves forward with implementing our Next Generation of Edina Public Schools Strategic Plan, we know that our facilities and structures are integrated with the programming transformations. As a district we have been studying our facilities for several years, including the recent Facilities Advisory Task Force (FATF), comprised of students, staff, parents, alumni and community members. The work and recommendations of the FATF continues to guide School Board and administrative discussions as we work toward a concept proposal to bring to the community for a vote in May.
Throughout our study of how to improve and update our facilities to ensure they support the learning needs of current and future students, we have heard from a variety of voices on what is needed and desired. As with any remodeling or construction project, there is never enough money to do everything we hope. Yet, we are working to make sure that all of our schools and programs have the opportunity to see improvements to help advance our Next Generation work. We also know that we need to address some basic infrastructure improvements, including safety and security upgrades at our schools and fields.
The time is now to align our strategic programming efforts with our spaces, and we will do this through a collaborative approach. In the next few weeks, the Board will identify a basic framework for a facilities improvement proposal, which will then be followed by several months of information sharing, dialogue and engagement. Much of the detail work with the Next Generation spaces will play out following a community vote on the concepts. I look forward to the many staff and community conversations that will occur over the next few months. But even more, I look forward, presuming a successful referendum in May 2015, to the innovative and creative ideas that will be generated by students, staff, families and community members when we enter the design phase next summer and fall. This will be an opportunity to create classrooms and learning spaces that complement the educational needs and demands of our future students, which will require us to build a variety of learning spaces that provide flexibility to adapt to the ever changing needs of learners. Just as we know that a one size fits all approach to learning does not meet the needs of all students, so too do uniform, factory style classrooms not meet the needs of all learning styles and instructional strategies.
By including a variety of spaces in our future plans, we will be able to address the needs of direct instruction as well as individual, small and large group learning. These spaces will align with our strategic programming work that include future learning experiences for early childhood, elementary (grades K-5), middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12), in addition to continued learning opportunities for all ages.
These next few weeks and months will go by quickly, with increasing detail and information being shared and input opportunities along the way. I appreciate how busy everyone is, especially this time of year, but I encourage all of us to be involved in this important process and stay informed on the proposals coming forward. Our current and future students are counting on us to provide diverse learning environments, both programmatically and structurally,that help all of our learners thrive and achieve.
To read more about the district’s facilities planning, visit www.edinaschools.org/FacilitiesPlanning.