from Bill Hudson, head of school

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Greatness is not where we stand but in what direction we are moving.” Last week, I shared with you the results of the most recent Net Promoter survey. The Net Promoter is one of many ways MPA seeks parents’ feedback and spurs continuous improvement. MPA is not content to rest on our laurels, and we are always on the move. Our school’s strategic plan, 2024ward, drives us onward and is the roadmap that guides us as we strive for excellence.

Each year at this time, I provide a brief update on the progress we have accomplished as we implement 2024ward in the past year. I will follow up this message with a “State of the School” address at two meetings next week. The first meeting is in person on Monday, January 30, 8:15-9:15 AM in the PCR (Porter Conference Room) in Upper School. The second is a virtual evening meeting on Tuesday, January 31, 7-8 PM. The sessions will be similar, so please choose the one that works best for your schedule. I hope you will join me for one of these important opportunities.

While we do not currently have a formal vision statement, the first priority of 2024ward, “Empower students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society,” stands much like one. In a society marked by so much by rapid change, uncertainty, division, and discord, MPA exists to partner with parents to prepare students to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented to them. And yet, preparing them is not quite enough. Rather, we need to empower them—give them the confidence, agency, resiliency, perseverance, skills, and knowledge to succeed and thrive.

To do that, 2024ward charges us to “Create customized pathways of learning for students through curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology.” The implementation of this goal is ongoing and in progress:

  • Create a “Portrait of a Graduate” to guide curricular decisions and the movement toward mastery and personalization.
  • Harness cutting-edge technology, such as FastBridge in the Lower School, to aid in assessing students and design individual interventions to spur learning.
  • Conduct a comprehensive curriculum review and implementation of curricula that reflects new and emerging research on teaching and learning.
  • Addition of a second Curriculum Technology Integrationist and the development of PreK-12 technology standards.
  • BOLD days dedicated to curricular innovation.

Empowering students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society also requires that we create and sustain a school community that reflects the richness in diversity that students will encounter in the larger society, in college, and in their eventual professional lives. Our second strategic priority is to “Ensure an equitable and inclusive community.” We do that by deepening our commitment to diversity, equity, and belonging and ensuring it is reflected in our policies, programs, and practices and in the life and culture of the MPA community:

  • Created a faculty and staff committee to lead efforts in curriculum and programmatic review.
  • Hired an assistant director of equity and belonging to work directly with students and teachers.
  • Established affinity groups for Upper and Middle School students, employees, and parents.
  • Creating a dashboard to track progress and hold ourselves accountable.

The strength of any school is the faculty and staff. MPA is very fortunate to have exceptional teachers who know and care deeply about their students and are highly knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled in teaching. Priority three of 2024ward is “Affirm and inspire our exceptional and dedicated faculty and staff through competitive compensation.” MPA must continue to recruit, retain, and reward exceptional faculty and staff.

A recent report compiled by Minnesota’s Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board found that 84% of school districts in the state are “somewhat significantly” or “very significantly” impacted by the teacher shortage. As today’s labor market tightens, MPA must be able to offer a competitive compensation package that includes a salary that aims to keep pace with inflation, affordable healthcare, and a reasonable retirement program, all of which are largely dependent on tuition. And while compensation is very important, so too is fostering a culture in which teachers are empowered to make an impact on their students, where they feel supported by colleagues, where they enjoy a large degree of classroom autonomy, and with small class sizes that enable them to truly know each student individually. To that end, work underway includes:

  • An analysis to benchmark faculty compensation relative to other independent schools in the area and in the region, as well as local public schools.
  • A review and update of the Employee Handbook.
  • A study of teacher workload and prep time.
  • Increasing professional development time and funding.

You are most like aware that MPA celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding last year. To continue our mission over the next 40 years, we need to enhance our institutional capacity by continuing to strengthen financial sustainability, our fourth priority. Paramount to doing so requires a long-range financial plan to meet our mission, realize our vision, and prioritize affordability:

  • Conducted a strategic marketing and enrollment study.
  • Completed a comprehensive facilities lifecycle assessment.
  • Underwent a data-driven revenue and expense analysis.
  • Conducted a master site planning exercise.

I have long championed the unique approach to learning at MPA, our distinct way of bringing together hands-on experiential learning with developing the whole child. Reflected in our motto, “Dream Big. Do Right.” we understand that education has the potential to be transformative, not simply transactional. Transactional learning is centered on the curriculum, textbooks, and testing. Transformative learning is more than delivering information. It is creating opportunities for students to be the architects of their own learning and fostering skills like empathy, critical thinking, and creativity and applying them to solve complex problems. Educational reformer John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” Now is the time to confidently move forward with our commitment to empowering students to live, learn, and truly thrive.

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