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A Champion for all Children

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Lynne Kovash

On Valentine’s Day, we lost a piece of the heart of MASA. After what can only be described as her courageous 22-month journey through an awful illness, Dr. Lynne Kovash passed away.

Lynne spent her entire education career with the Moorhead Area Public Schools. She served as Superintendent for nine years, retiring after her cancer diagnosis in 2017. Prior to her superintendency, she was the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Supervisor of Planning and Assessment, Assistant Principal, and a Special Education Teacher.

What truly set Lynne apart was how she treated everyone she came into contact with. Lynne was a caring and compassionate person. She always had a smile on her face and made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.

Lynne wanted every student to be successful! She made decisions based on that desire. She was a magnificent role model for her staff and community.

She was an active member of MASA and AASA. She served as MASA President in 2014-15 and was a member of the AASA Governing Board. Lynne was a coach in the MASA Aspiring Superintendent Academy. Throughout her leadership career, she served multiple times on all of the MASA committees and the MASA Foundation Board.

Last fall, Lynne received the MASA Polaris Leadership Award in recognition of her excellent leadership and many contributions to Minnesota education. Although she was not feeling perfectly well, Lynne attended the event and when she accepted the award, she spoke about how grateful she was. With her humble servant leadership, Lynne has left us all a legacy of inspiration and learning.

We will miss her!

Broadening Our Circles of Discussion

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Deb Henton
Superintendent
North Branch Area Public Schools

Over time our discussions about weather-related cancellations have become even more collaborative than when superintendents just phoned the two or three surrounding superintendents seeking advice. Like me, you likely seldom pick up the phone and instead have been a part of group text messages that now start days in advance of an approaching storm. Through text messaging you learn what superintendents in districts miles and miles away from you are thinking. Sometimes it’s hard to remember which group is saying what as the thought circles coming across in text messages spin rapidly from one superintendent to another as we carefully craft our final decisions.

The evolution of how and when we make our weather-related decisions is just one example of how we are increasing diverse collaboration amongst MASA colleagues. It is gratifying to observe the communication reach in some areas is now well beyond just those districts who are like-sized, or nearby. Our decisions will always be enhanced by outreach that extends beyond the familiar.

So for a moment consider who you turn to when you need another opinion. We know it is essential to talk to our mentors and nearby colleagues, yet by connecting with someone in a not-so-similar setting, we may gain an awakening perspective that could forever impact the way we understand how another school district works, or how we might make a decision.

As spring approaches, I encourage you to contact someone in our organization that you don’t typically reach out to. Who you talk to matters. Commit this spring to enlarging your communication circle. We will all benefit from new connections that may lead to new solutions for some of our most wicked problems, and please share that learning with the rest of us, even those of us you don’t know very well.

May our days of collaborating on weather become a distant memory and our spring be bright and sunny!

MASA/MASE Spring Conference Preview

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What do you think of when you hear the words, “public education?” What do you think your students think of? How about their parents? District staff? Community members? Our audiences are many and diverse, and every individual has an idea of what “school” means to them – and therefore what schooling should be today. So what’s your story? A critical part of school leadership is cultivating an accurate narrative about the state of public education, and sometimes that can be challenging given the range of audiences and perspectives. Let’s take some time this spring and reflect on the stories of success, the opportunities provided by a system that is accessible to all, and the great presence of our schools in communities across Minnesota. Let’s celebrate public education!


Highlights

Arriving Wednesday evening? All are welcome to gather for refreshments and conversation at a casual reception from 8 – 10 pm in the Fireside Room at the Marriott. We will have snacks and a cash bar.

Thursday morning, we will kick off the conference by recognizing our MASE and MASE award recipients.

We are pleased to announce that MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker will be with us to highlight her vision for E-12 education in our state.

Be sure to attend the three rounds of Breakout Sessions to customize your learning and bring home great resources to address your specific areas of interest.

The Exhibit Fair is a convenient way to visit with representatives of companies offering the latest products and services. Sign up for the drawings! One lucky participant’s district will win a door prize – sign up at each booth to increase your chances. Our Dessert Reception after lunch on Thursday is a great event in the exhibit area, a chance to visit with our friends in business and sample delicious treats.

Participate in our spring fundraiser for the MASA Foundation. You can donate via our convenient app, or in person at the conference registration area. Again this year, we will have a guessing game with a wonderful prize — visit the Foundation table and you may win a Duluth Getaway Package including lodging, concert tickets for the band Chicago, and attraction passes.

On Friday morning, we will recognize our colleagues who are recipients of the awards below and our retirees, and we will hear from the MASA and MASE officer candidates.

If you would like your retirement to be recognized at this event, please visit the link on the registration page or by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DTPYYZR.

Our Friday program will also feature short (think TED Talk) presentations by the MASA Regions that received major professional development grants last year.  When receiving major grant support, regions agree to present the outcomes of their initiatives to the general membership at the conference.  These presentations not only impart useful learned content, but also provide ideas for other regional teams.

The final keynote speaker on Friday is Shane Safir presenting, “The Listening Leader ~ Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation.”

Legislative Update

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Valerie Dosland
Government Affairs Director
Ewald Consulting
MASA Lobbyist

The 2019 legislative session is well underway, and the place is starting to get into a rhythm. The new members in the House have been learning how that place works, the new committee chairs have gotten more comfortable chairing committees, and legislation is beginning to move through their required steps. The Governor has appointed his administration and many new staff, and he’s released his first budget recommendations.

While awaiting the Governor’s budget recommendations, committees have been hearing individual bills introduced by House and Senate members. MASA has worked with key legislators to advance our priorities and we have been partnering with the other education organizations where we have the same interests on advancing legislation. A majority of MASA’s legislative priorities have been introduced to date. Legislation has been introduced to increase the per-pupil formula, increase funding for school safety measures, fund the special education cross-subsidy, make changes to the special education funding formula, reduce special education mandates, and allow school boards the authority to renew an expiring referendum by board vote.

On February 19, Governor Walz released his budget recommendations. While his recommendations are not exactly as our priorities, they are very much in line with the MASA legislative platform. His E12 education priorities include:

  • An additional $189 in the per-pupil formula in FY20, a 3% increase and an additional $130 in FY21, a 2% increase.
  • $77 million increase over the biennium in a new special education formula to ensure no district’s cross-subsidy increases.
  • Allowing school boards to renew an expiring referendum by board action but along with that voters would be able revoke the board renewed authority in a reverse referendum; districts would have to provide notice to voters that the referendum may be renewed by the school board; and this authority would only apply to any referendums approved after July 1, 2019.
  • An increase in safe schools revenue for from $36 to $45 in FY20 and to $54 in FY21
  • $4 million per year increase for the Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers programs and $2 million per year for teacher mentor, induction, and retention program grants.
  • $10 million increase over the biennium for school-linked mental health grants.
  • $4 million for full-service community schools.
  • An $8 million increase over the biennium to expand the regional centers of excellence system.
  • $59 million to maintain funding for VPK/SR Plus.

With the release of the Governor’s budget recommendations, the focus now turns to the House and Senate who will review his priorities and then begin crafting their own, in the form of omnibus appropriations bills. The first step in that process is the establishment of budget targets for each budget committees, likely to come out mid-late March. After that, both bodies began putting together the details of their appropriations bill. We will get a good look at the appropriations bills in early April.

Decisions haven’t been made yet, but the House and Senate are having conversations and deciding what their next steps will be. So now is an excellent time to remind your local legislators of the needs of your school districts. They rely on these connections and your advocacy makes a difference. Thanks for all you do!

The Unsung Heroes of Technology in Rural Minnesota

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Cindy Lee Olson Executive Director of RMIC Region II Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium (ARCC)

 Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium (ARCC) is a Regional Management Information Center (RMIC) authorized by state statute and organized as a Joint Powers entity. ARCC’s region covers the seven county Arrowhead of NE Minnesota. We serve 31 public school districts, two special education cooperatives, and a number of joint powers entities.

Our smallest public school district serves 55 students and our largest serves just over 4,000 students. Our smallest district geographically covers 42 square miles and our largest covers over 4,200 square miles. In the sparsest district you would need to cover 3.33 square miles before you found one public school student (on average). Sixty-one percent of our member districts serve between 228 and 944 students.

Our region has five of the 10 oldest public school buildings in the state. Our oldest school building in Ely is 93 years old, the second oldest is Chisholm at 92 years old. Think about that…… At the time those schools were built, electricity was only in about half of all houses in the nation. About a third of all houses didn’t have flushing toilets and over half of all households still heated their homes with coal.

Many of our member districts don’t have a grocery store in their town and have to drive over an hour one way to get groceries. There are spots along the way that even the two largest cellular providers can’t reach, and spots where the only way to get internet to your house is with a “dish” on your roof and no precipitation in the air.

By now you can tell that I am a numbers person. Statistics and facts fascinate me, and I felt it was important to paint a picture of rural Minnesota for those who may have visited, but never lived there.

Small schools can’t hire a network engineer, and a software specialist, and a hardware repair specialist, and a wireless specialist, and an integration specialist, and a help desk person… their budgets are limited to one, maybe two people with very limited amounts left for equipment and technology services.

A recent survey of Technology Coordinators/Directors in our region showed that they are responsible for normal technology items like the network, servers, switches, network filters, firewalls, wireless access points, management of Chromebooks and iPads, repairs of Chromebooks and iPads, smart boards, printers, 3D copiers, active directories, backing up data, and help desk staffing. But in small schools they are also responsible for applying for E-Rate funding and Telecom Equity Aid funding, for the phone system, fire alarm, digital signage, bell system, security cameras and doors, intercoms, auditorium lights, broadcasting emergency alerts, library staffing, library systems, state testing coordination, student information systems, staff development technology, e-sport coaching, shoveling sidewalks, HVAC systems, and boilers. Yes boilers. Keep in mind we are talking about one, maybe two people.

Oh, I forgot to mention keeping your network safe from, or recovering from, ransomware attacks, phishing schemes, and other malicious hacking.

Beyond the day to day work they do, we see some pretty amazing things happening in rural Minnesota, for example:

  • Elementary STEM Makerspace.
  • Students creating History Day Documentaries.
  • Media production classes (think kids with green screens).
  • Robotic teams.
  • High school e-Sport teams.
  • Telepresence classes to share foreign languages, advanced math classes, PSEO classes, and electives that aren’t financially possible in small schools.
  • A Spanish class taught by a teacher living in a southern state.
  • Intern programs where juniors and seniors have the opportunity to learn technical and customer service skills AND earn credits towards graduation.
  • Help desks staffed with students.
  • Evenings where the community comes in with their technology questions and devices to get free technical assistance. These events are staffed by student interns.
  • Neighboring districts technology staff stepping in to help each other when there is a crisis (think ransomware).
  • Regularly scheduled TUG (Technology User Group) meetings. Technology coordinators and directors from the region meet six times a year. They share what works and ask for advice. They research products together, coordinate staff development for the group and negotiate group pricing on technology related items.

I am amazed at each TUG meeting to see what they have done in their district to help staff and students succeed. You will find rural technology coordinators and directors spend more time on the “other tasks as assigned or apparent” in their job description than most.

So, if you can access your technology in your rural school without problems, if your students are successful at navigating technology, and if your teachers are fearless with technology, you should thank your Technology Coordinator/Director. They are the unsung heroes of technology in rural Minnesota!