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We went through it together

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Dr. Deb Henton
Executive Director
MASA

No matter the words used to describe the 2020-2021 school year, we all know it was a year unlike any other for our school leaders.  At various times throughout the school year, and out of necessity, education became secondary to the health needs of students, staff, families, and communities. Some of our leaders themselves became ill, were hospitalized and returned to lead in unprecedented times.

School leaders turned into quasi-medical professionals making decisions with no formal medical training and input from many, usually pleasing one stakeholder group only to anger another. The days were long, hard, contentious, and uncertain.  

Yet, we got through this together. We did so by meeting often, sharing what we knew, finding time for camaraderie before and after meetings, vocalizing our frustrations, sharing what was working, being open and honest with our vulnerabilities exposed, finding opportunities when it seemed none existed, and displaying unparalleled positive attitudes in the face of adversity.

We have often said that things cannot be the same. We told each other we must respond to what we learned through this experience and come out better for having been fortunate enough to survive this pandemic when more than 590,000 Americans did not. 

We learned that when times are really tough, as in pandemic tough, collaboration needs to be taken to a whole new level and we did that.  The spirit of generosity and care for one another got us through while at the same time demonstrating the strength, compassion and intelligence of our school leaders for all to see.

As you go into summer and reflect upon the last year may the lesson of togetherness stick with you. We got through this together. It is the lesson of our time for those we lead. 

Until we meet again, may you have a summer of togetherness with your family and friends! 

Leadership matters,

Deb

#FinishingStrong

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Jeff Elstad
Superintendent
Owatonna Public Schools
MASA President

We have made it to the end of a school year like no other. To say our teachers, students and families have been through a lot would be an understatement. I liken the end of a school year to running a race – and in this case, it’s been a marathon. As a former track and field coach, the best advice I could give my athletes, other than run fast and turn left, was to start every race strong, maintain your pace during the middle, and finish strong. And that is exactly what our staff and students have done!

Given the challenges the pandemic created for schools, I hear people wonder if students lost learning. I can assure you that our students learned a lot this year – in new ways and about new things. Dealing with adversity can bring out the creativity in people, young and old alike. Our teachers and administrators learned how to juggle changing schedules, new uses for technology and engaging with students at a distance. To that end, we have learned to live by the mantra, “we will know more, when we know more.”  Although this has been frustrating to say the least, it has created a new resilience within each of us to rise up and lead when the “chips are down.”

Although this school year has not been exactly what we had planned and hoped for, I can tell you that our educators have risen to the occasion and made this the best year it could be. Our passionate and caring teachers, administrators and staff have kept this school year strong and have kept our students engaged in learning while making them hungry for more as we think ahead to next school year.

Through this difficult year, our organization has remained steadfast and strong.  I have heard many colleagues indicate that the advent of virtual meetings and the need to connect has made our professional ties even stronger.  We also have much to be proud of as we have gained key seats on the MSHSL Board of Directors and are forming a purposeful path forward to ensure equity for our leaders and for the students and families we serve. I look forward to working with Dan Bittman and Laine Larson as they transition to the roles of president and president-elect.  Our organization will only continue to grow and prosper under their courageous leadership.

I see amazing growth and resilience every day in all of you – even under these strange circumstances. Thank you for the honor of being your president over the past year. On even the most difficult of days, I have been proud and humbled to lead this great organization. I continue to be grateful for the collective intelligence and bold leadership it provides. I look forward to my continued growth and commitment to MASA and to working with all of you to provide our next generation the opportunities they deserve.

Cheers!

Federal Advocacy Update

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Dr. Dan Bittman
Superintendent
Elk River Area School District
MN AASA Governing Board Member
MASA President-Elect 2020-21

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) is a service organization representing more than 900 Minnesota superintendents, directors of special education, curriculum and technology leaders, central office administrators, higher education administrators and professors, as well as more than 250 retirees. In addition to providing professional learning opportunities, legal assistance, mentoring, and association communications to its members, MASA also provides legislative advocacy within Minnesota and throughout the nation. 

Federal Advocacy remains a priority for each of us and is an opportunity to establish and maintain communications with Minnesota’s eight U.S. Congresspersons and Minnesota U.S. Senators. Although we are still navigating the pandemic and may be tired from the year, we must continue to ensure our voices are heard and that decision makers have the information they need to best support our students, families, staff, and communities.  Below you will find a few talking points to include within your advocacy efforts:

COVID 19 Related Funding

  • Thank your members of Congress for COVID-19 related funding.  Remind them these dollars have made a significant difference and are being used well and to provide direct support for our students, families and communities.
  • We recognize the intent of the Congress is to provide local school districts flexibility to use this funding in accordance with needs relevant to the populations they serve and for the additional funding and processes not be difficult to access, overly burdensome, or restrictive. We ask Congress to continue to ensure that State Education Associations, as well as other decision making bodies, do not prescribe additional restrictions and/or policies that conflict with the intent of Congress.
  • Congress must continue to prioritize investment in critical formula programs designed to level the playing field, including IDEA, Title I and Title IV.

IDEA

  • Please support full funding for IDEA so that school districts can continue to provide appropriate services mandated by law and necessary for all learners to succeed.
  • Congress should also provide districts with a local waiver to reduce IDEA spending. Unlike Title I, IDEA has a 100% maintenance of effort requirement and no opportunity for a local waiver due to a precipitous decline in financial resources. 

Every interaction we have and effort we make, provides a better, and more effective system for our children. Thank you for being a strong advocate and for being part of the solution.

Legislative update – E12 budget Remains Unresolved

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Valerie Dosland
Government Affairs Director
Ewald Consulting
MASA Lobbyist

The 2021 legislative session ended without a lot of fanfare or much accomplished. No agreement was reached on any part of the state budget and many policy differences were left unresolved. Legislative leaders and the Governor did, however, agree on the framework of an overall budget and laid out expected timelines for the process over June.

The new target for E-12 education is $525 million over current law for the FY22-23 biennium and $675 million for the FY24-25 biennium. This much-lowered target will make it challenging to increase the formula by 2% along with the other spending priorities that both bodies have. For perspective, the Governor’s proposed formula increase of 1% and 2.5% costs $300 million for this biennium and $505 million for the FY24-25 biennium. To increase the formula by 2% per year costs $399 million for this biennium and $575 million for the next biennium.

Although legislative leaders established deadlines for budget negotiations, the process has hardly been transparent. The finance chairs were expected to finalize the budget details by May 28 and policy provisions are to be worked out by June 4. This is all in advance of a June 14 special session the Governor is expected to call to renew his peacetime emergency power. The thought on the last day of the session was that they would also use this time to pass the budget. However, legislators have yet to finalize any budget details and it is doubtful any policy will come together soon so it is now very likely any resolution on the budget will not happen until the end of June.

The process unfolding is extremely frustrating but know that your time spent connecting with your elected officials has not gone unnoticed. We know this is a busy time for you, but your calls, emails, and visits have made a difference in helping legislators understand the myriad challenges you have faced this past year and the funding needs that lay ahead.

Renew Your Business Partner Membership!

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Renewing your membership will be easy because we have established an online platform for your renewals. You can renew your membership online at this link: https://events.resultsathand.com/masa_bp/1362. Simply click on the “membership form tab” on this page and you can arrange and pay for your membership. Each level of partnership and the related benefits are described on the form.

We sincerely hope that you will renew your business partner membership and consider moving up a level for the 2021-22 school year! If you would like a reminder of your current membership level, you can check on our website at https://www.mnasa.org/uploads/4/7/7/9/47793163/nov_24_2021_bp_signages.pdf or of course call our office (651-645-6272) or contact deb.larson@mnasa.org. For those of you who are interested in arranging your newsletter and directory advertising, note the advertising link on the page as well. Business Partners receive discounted advertising.