Dr. Matt Hillmann
Northfield Public Schools
MASA President

Minnesota superintendents have a history of demonstrating class, perseverance, and grace under pressure. Much is required of our superintendents and central office administrators. We are an essential component of a thriving democracy in more ways than many people know or understand.

In November, 75% of Minnesota school districts with a referendum earned approval from their voters on at least one ballot question. I offer my sincere gratitude to those MASA members who worked so hard to inform the public to secure additional resources and facilities improvements for their students and congratulate those who won voter approval. As everyone reading this publication knows, leading a referendum informational campaign is a case study in patience, fortitude, and forgiveness. 

This November, many articles were written nationwide about the partisan nature of school board elections. I hope that former New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s perspective that candidates “campaign in poetry and govern in prose” becomes true as new school board members take the oath of office in January. School governance is political but can and should be non-partisan. School leaders work with those elected to ensure the focus is on what is most important — assuring all children have a genuine fair chance to pursue their version of the American dream while being good stewards of the resources entrusted to them by taxpayers. Once again, MASA members will be the ones bringing communities together after the tumult of the mid-term elections. We are engaged leaders who want what is best for our communities.

Additionally, we must be present and assertive during the dialogue that will formally begin in St. Paul this January. There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to complete substantial improvements and reforms for our state’s constitutionally-mandated “uniform system of public schools.” Legislative advocacy is not a spectator sport. It requires patience and persistence, tact and tenacity, and being ferocious in principle yet willing to compromise for the greater good. It takes a commitment to learn the nuances of the legislative process and to participate in it fully.

Our approach cannot prioritize lamentations or excuse-making. We must cast a vision of what public education can do for Minnesota and our communities. We must foster the relationships and create the systems that yield results. Emerging from the pandemic, we must lead our schools in delivering tangible results that make our students stronger and well-prepared to meet the promise of their futures. We must model an altruistic public service ethos that inspires our communities and unequivocally reinforces the truth that public education is the foundation of our democracy. We must prove that their faith and investments are well placed — that we are the engine that produces the next generation of leaders, thinkers, innovators, artists, and tradespeople who will help America realize its immense potential. 

It starts with your leadership. I have confidence in our MASA members to chart a trajectory that will yield excellent results for every student, for every community, and all of Minnesota.

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