Reflecting on the past to prepare for their futurePosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 11/10/2016
Well, here we are, the election is over. After a contentious and divisive campaign, we are now sorting through the realities of the outcome. For some, it is a time of celebration, for others, it is a time of sadness. For all of us, it is a time filled with many emotions and questions about what lies ahead.
Regardless of your political leaning or which candidate you favored, we can all admit that this was an election season that did not always show the best of what this country has to offer. Yes, we can applaud that the pillars of our democracy were upheld with an election process that advanced with little disruption or interference from outside forces. We can and should be proud that we live in a country that allows for individuals to vote according to their personal beliefs and ideologies. And yet, many of us remain troubled by some of the rhetoric and comments raised by candidates on all sides. Combine that with recent incidents and discussions of race and culture that we’ve experienced here in Edina and we are left with confusion on how to heal and unite.
During unsettling times, I often turn to others for inspiration and understanding. Over the last 24 hours I have listened to many about their feelings, taken time for personal reflection and sought insight from great minds of history. Perhaps not coincidentally, I find myself returning often to the quotes and passages that influenced the crafting of our CommUNITY theme for the 2016-17 school year. I have shared often the words of Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another,” as well as the many speeches and words of Dr. Martin Luther King. They and others talk of how we must work together to ensure that our actions serve to benefit all of us, and that we need to embrace the diversity of thought, background and experiences of each member of our community if we are to thrive and prosper.
When I think about the campaigns we just endured, I am not sure we were holding up that understanding. But now that the results are in, we need to put aside our differences and focus on what lies ahead. We need to lean in to challenging conversations where individuals may differ with us and not shy away from respectful debate. As Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” So, while it is true that the election is over and the transition of power has begun, we must not sit idly by. We must continue to encourage each other and our young people to stay engaged in the conversation. We know that there is work to do across our country to break down the division and seek understanding and cooperation. And we know that in our own community we have unresolved issues to address to make sure that Edina is a welcoming place for individuals and families from all beliefs and backgrounds.
One of the greatest things about working in education is the hope and enthusiasm our students have to make the world a better place. As adults, we need to encourage that motivation to make positive change. We need to prevent the pessimism and disengagement that sometimes follows a national election. Only through collective optimism and action can we challenge our leaders to continuously improve. By focusing on the needs of each other, we will ensure that Edina remains a supportive community of learning excellence.
Over the last few hours, days and weeks, we have been talking with students, parents and staff members on how to work together and move forward so that the youngest among us can thrive and reach their full potential. We need to model for our children how to have courageous conversations and challenge one another when we see wrongs in our midst, while also showing them the power of coming together, of partnership, of CommUNITY.
I thank all members of the Edina Public Schools community for their continued support and collaboration as we prepare our students for their future, a future that is filled with change and uncertainty, but also hope and promise.
Looking beyond differences in the name of CommUNITYPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 10/28/2016
It’s election season in our country again, and this year’s presidential election has been unlike any other. There have always been opposing sides and heated arguments in elections, but I am not sure I have ever seen a time in which the divisiveness has been so harsh, so intense. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum one sits or who gets elected, after November 8 we will all have some healing to do.
I am reminded of this need to come together everyday I walk the halls and meet with Edina Public Schools students, staff, parents and community members. When I came to Edina nearly eleven years ago, I was amazed at the sense of unity in Edina. I’ve spoken often of the history I’ve learned about the Grange Hall and spirit of collaborative problem solving here. It is one of the reasons why I knew our theme for the 2016-17 school year needed to focus on that coming together for the benefit of others. This theme, CommUNITY, is at the core of what we do every day in EPS. As members of this great community, we have a responsibility to act in unity with one another and to consider how each of us can address the unique needs of each of our 8,500 students.
EPS leadership has a set of essential questions that we ask ourselves when we advance recommendations or implement new initiatives, including who benefits or is advantaged by a decision, who is disadvantaged, and what is the impact on each group. These questions get at the core of our All for All mission and the theme of CommUNITY. We need to think about every child and how the decisions and actions we make impact their education and lives today and in the future.
Sometimes, in this climate of negative political ads and with the tenor of this election, challenging ideas and asking these questions can be difficult. A core strength in Edina is the amazing input we receive from our stakeholders. As educators we need to listen to the voices of our constituents and continue to build community. But we also have a responsibility to speak for those who may not voice their opinions, for whatever reason, or those who disagree with us. By ensuring we look at a variety of opinions or sides of an issue, we model for our students the importance and value of communication, engagement and critical thinking, skills align with the Educational Competencies that are at the core of our Next Generation Strategic Plan.
Regardless of the outcome in November, we all must come together to further exemplify the legacy and excellence of our Edina CommUNITY.
Seeking new ways to engage our CommUNITYPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 9/22/2016
I have written and spoken often about the great tradition in Edina of people coming together for the purpose of problem solving and creating a better community for all. This Grange Hall approach to civic engagement helped make Edina the great community it is today. It is this kind of powerful collaboration that is at the core of our 2016-17 school year theme — CommUNITY.
One of the “big three” goals of our strategic plan is continued partnership and meaningful engagement with all members of our community. Yet with people’s busy lives, expanding access to technology and the general noise we hear everyday over the airwaves, capturing input and feedback from all voices in our community is becoming more challenging. Thus for the past few years, Edina Public Schools (EPS) has been investigating new and innovative ways to collect this important information and advisement from our stakeholders.
While EPS will continue to seek input through more traditional measures, such as task forces, focus groups, surveys and community meetings, we are excited to announce the launch next week of a new online engagement tool that will help us gather anywhere, anytime input from our students, staff, families and district residents. The three-part virtual conversation, called ThoughtExchange, will collect ideas and allow district decision makers as well as participants to learn what community members value and prioritize on a variety of topics.
A ThoughtExchange is an online conversation with three steps:
- SHARE – where everyone shares their thoughts in response to a few open-ended questions. Share your thoughts from September 26 - October 5
- STAR – where everyone sees each other’s thoughts and adds stars to the thoughts they like the most. Show your priorities from October 10 - 19
- DISCOVER – where everyone’s thoughts and stars are shared publicly. Discover the results in mid-November
In this first engagement, participants will help define the future of EPS as it implements its Next Generation Strategic Plan and makes changes to learning spaces and programs in individual schools and across the district. The online conversation will be accessible in both English and Spanish, with an additional opportunity being scheduled for Somali speaking families to participate during the Share and Star periods.
EPS families and staff will receive an invitation email on September 26 with additional information about the process and directions on how to participate. Community members not directly associated with the school district can participate by signing up at signup.thotex.com/edina/whs. There you will be asked to enter your email address and provide some basic demographic information. You will then receive an invitation to Share your thoughts on September 26. For additional information about the ThoughtExchange process, visit participants.thoughtexchange.com
I hope all members of our Edina Public Schools community will take the time to join the conversation and help us create pathways and solutions that will ensure all learners are ready, as it says in our mission statement, to thrive in this rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society. In so doing, we will continue to capture the power of CommUNITY and carry the traditions of the Grange Hall into the 21st century.
We are all in the construction businessPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 6/3/2016
The school year is coming to a close, but as many of you have noticed, construction across the district is just ramping up. On both our east and west campus sites we can see the beginnings of our facility transformations. The entirety of the Transforming Spaces Facilities Plan will take place over the next few years. With any construction comes disruption, but we remain excited about what lies on the other side, knowing that our facilities will better meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s learners.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in our planning in support of the improvements we will be making through our construction efforts. Over the past year, more than 400 staff, parents, community members and students have teamed with our architects and construction managers to complete the necessary assessments and plans for these improvements, with teams continuing this summer for the middle school and renovations. It is exciting to see the plans come to life through the contractors and construction workers on site. We have amazing partners and together we will create amazing learning and activity spaces that will benefit the entire Edina Public Schools community.
As I reflect on the year, I’ve learned that education is in the business of construction well beyond our facilities. The district’s amazing staff partners with students, families and community members to assess, plan, create, learn and grow. We are constructing our community’s future through our students’ educational experiences at Edina Public Schools. Our mission statement includes this construction mentality in our commitment to building the skills, knowledge, creativity, and passion in all learners so that they can thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society. And just as the construction of our facilities has advanced, so too has the planning and designing for the implementation of our Next Generation Strategic Plan. Much study and planning has occurred this year and we look forward to continued engagement around program recommendations this fall.
In closing, I wish to thank everyone for their role in another successful school year for Edina Public Schools and the students we serve. You each are important members of an amazing team and I look forward to building another successful year with you in 2016-17.
May your summer be filled with a blend of relaxation, recreation, learning and adventure!
I Am Edina Public SchoolsPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 9/4/2015
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.
It's all about the kidsPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 6/30/2015
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?
Dear Edina Public School Families,Posted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 5/8/2015
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.
Edina's Amazing EducatorsPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 4/10/2015
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.
Design thinking and 'simplexity' are key to continuous improvementPosted by Superintendent Ric Dressen at 3/27/2015
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:
- Focus all actions on what is best for all students;
- Hold high expectations for success of all learners in academics, arts and extracurricular activities by providing choice, options and intervention supports;
- Value partnerships and personal relationships between and among our students, families, teachers and community members;
- Provide quality professional learning for staff;
- Ensure our graduates are prepared for postsecondary and/or career success; and
- Commit to continuous improvement through intentional planning and research.
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.