A wall of colorful post it notes

Each year, a week is set aside in May for school staff appreciation. The timing finds Spring Lake Park Schools staff in the final weeks of school reflecting on the year that was as we also turn to the future.

In recent rounding conversations with nearly 100 staff, building and district leaders asked – “What are you proud of this year?” The responses focused our ability to adapt, the strengthening of collaboration and communication and the relationships that have been built despite the challenges of the year.  

When principals and teacher leaders gathered to share what they’d heard and learned, they filled a wall with Post-It notes  – each with an accomplishment.

“The points of pride we heard and the accomplishments our staff identified are impressive and inspiring,” says Jeff Ronneberg, superintendent. “We kept learning going through a pandemic in new and creative ways and continued to innovate. We maintained and strengthened relationships. We delivered all kinds of services in all kinds of new ways and maintained stability, financial and otherwise, despite the unstable environment.”

The list of accomplishments was shared with the Spring Lake Park School Board in their latest meeting and included a review of the district’s strong financial position.

“I appreciate how rare our Spring Lake Park Schools story is,” says Jeff. “I’m grateful to our staff, our families and our community for the partnership we’ve had in navigating a year of pandemic while continuing to improve our schools. While nothing is perfect, and this year certainly has not been, we have not let imperfect prevent us from making progress that is truly remarkable.”

Post-It Pride

So, what did our staff identify as accomplishments to be proud of? Here’s the consolidated list.

COVID-19 Response and Creativity

  • Designed three different learning models with student as the focus - Open Campus, Modified Campus Schedule (hybrid) and Extended Flexible Learning (distance).
  • Successfully started the year with students in buildings – PreK, K and 1 in-person five-days-a-week and others in a hybrid schedule. Then, created six additional first days of school as we managed required transitions between learning models with a priority for learning at school.
  • Created seamless arrival/dismissal procedures aligned to health and safety guidance.
  • Created technology toolkit to support staff, students and parents.
  • Created a safe school environment – redesigning schools multiple times to be safe and ready for learning, procuring personal protective equipment, training all staff in health and safety protocols and managing COVID-19 cases.
  • Developed multiple ways for families to access free food – onsite, curbside and within the community, and ensured families who qualified received Pandemic-EBT benefits.
  • Provided child care for essential workers.
  • Created and delivered Summer Counts 2020 summer programming – onsite and online.
  • Implemented different models of embedded professional learning.
  • Expanded social, emotional support for students during COVID.
  • Completed all of the CARES funding paperwork and received critical funding.
  • Creatively delivered experiences – virtual career exploration, field trips, theater, more.

Innovative and Personalized Learning

  • Launched team to support all teachers in understanding and implementing the four components of innovative and personalized learning within their classrooms – Competency-Based Learning, Learner Profiles, Personal Learning Maps, Flexible Learning Environments.
  • Made significant progress toward every student having a learner profile and a personal learner map — launched profiles for preschool and incoming kindergarten students.
  • Increased use of learner profiles to personalize learning experiences for students.
  • Enhanced connections between innovative and personalized learning and English Language learners, student services and gifted and talented.
  • Created short-term learner maps – identifying next steps in learning - for students who had a “not yet” or “no evidence” recorded for a course or learning outcome.
  • Used time and space more flexibly to match learner needs – teams created schedules aligned to learning needs for the day, Support and Extension Time (SET) 4 days a week and extended learning time on Wednesdays at the high school, no bell schedule at Westwood 7-8.
  • Completely reengineered high school offerings for 2021-2022 to provide more options and flexibility to match how students best learn. 
  • Introduced co-created courses at the high school where students work with a teacher to design their own learning experience to gain credit and align with passions and goals.

Curricular work

  • Identified, purchased and implemented a new core reading resources for K-6. Teachers are now using Wit and Wisdom and Fundations (Arriba in Spanish Immersion).
  • Launched Epic Game Design course (Westwood).
  • Revised our balanced assessment framework.

Professional learning

  • Prepared support materials and guidance for teachers to implement the three learning models and personalized coaching for Extended Flexible Learning and onsite learning.
  • Designed and delivered professional learning to support implementation of the new core reading resources for K-6.
  • Provided teachers hours of embedded time with their professional learning community (PLC) each week to provide time for teachers to align on what they need in the moment to support them in meeting student needs.
  • Implemented different models of embedded professional learning.
  • All teachers have begun use of backward design – working from learning outcomes to trimester overviews to unit design.
  • Created professional learner profiles for individual teachers and teaching teams to support their ongoing learning and development.
  • Aligned teachers’ goal to the elements of innovative and personalized learning.

Meeting Student Needs

  • Assigned high school teachers to students differently – 9th and 10th grade teams and 11th and 12th grade cohorts so teachers get to know students’ needs across courses.
  • Established new processes -- regular meetings, data tracking and communication – for students who go to Metro Heights to ensure students don’t get lost.
  • Met with 12th graders at risk for graduating to make a graduation plan.
  • Adapted pit crew processes at each school to identify and address social, emotional and behavioral needs and supports.
  • Increased connections between center-based programming and core curriculum.
  • Used WebEx and other technologies to deliver all kinds of services.
  • Advance specific cultural proficiency projects at Westwood and Woodcrest.

Operations

  • Enhanced communication infrastructure and aligned district, school and classroom communication to strengthen connections between leaders, staff and families.
  • Hosted weekly conversations between staff and families who speak Arabic and Spanish.
  • Raised more than $100,000 through Panthers for a Purpose for Panther Pantry / Weekend Pack Program.
  • Completed a Community Education study and assessment of 10+ years of significant growth.
  • Increased 3rd party billing and managed finances effectively; SLP is one of very few districts not making cuts for 2021-2022.

Leadership

  • Established new school leadership teams to create focused leadership at each school for innovative and personalized learning, student services and operations.
  • Reorganized coaches to work across sites.
  • Drove purposeful collaboration between teaching and learning and student services.
  • Conducted constructive conversations about race, class, culture among staff at all sites.
  • Used our leadership frameworks to align our approach as leaders.

Spring Lake Park Schools formally wraps up the year with an end-of-year report on the annual District Operational Plan in June. The annual plan and mid- and end-of-year progress reports are posted as part of the Strategic and District Operational Plans.