Great Schools Depend On Great Teachers & Staff

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

This is the second of a four-part series of Head’s Messages that dives deep into MPA’s new strategic plan, 2024ward. Today we will outline this priority: Affirm and inspire our exceptional and dedicated faculty and staff through competitive compensation. The first article may be found here. An overview of 2024ward may be found here.

“It’s like baking a lasagna and baking a cake at the same time in the same kitchen, but you can only use one bowl,” responded one teacher when asked in a national survey to describe what teaching has been like during the pandemic. Teachers have demonstrated and modeled incredible resiliency as they pivoted to remote learning, to hybrid learning, and back to in person learning (and back to remote, unfortunately) along with a number of health and safety measures layered upon what typically happens in a classroom. Together with those in the medical field, public health, and first responders, teachers have been real heroes over the last two years.

Nowhere was this more evident to me than observing master teacher Mari Espeland one day in the fall of 2020. Mari was teaching music to two first grade classrooms simultaneously, one via Zoom, without singing. I marveled at the ease in which she transitioned between three distinct learning activities within 30 minutes. However, as a teacher myself, I know that what appeared to be effortless required a great deal of planning, a deep knowledge of music education, a thorough understanding the developmental needs of young learners, and many years of experience. Despite the limitations brought on by the pandemic, the students in Mari’s class were engaged, joyful, and learning about rhythm. Read More


Upper School Division News January 13, 2022

from Mark Segal, Upper School Director

Those of you who drop off your children at school each morning know that Mr. Comfort, Mr. Haase, and I are at the north door eagerly awaiting student arrival, regardless of the temperature, daily. This morning, however, was different. The shift to virtual school left me missing this important part of the day. Welcoming and checking-in with students as they arrive at school is as important for me as it is for them. Their face mask covered smiles and high-fives help me start the day on the right foot and help me establish the right mindset for the day ahead.

I am confident that the time away from on campus, in-person learning will help to stop the current spread of COVID impacting the MPA student community. Just because we are not physically together does not mean that we will forego the important human connection that is part of the MPA ethos. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “those with strong social-emotional skills are better able to manage daily challenges and advance academically and socially.” Although we will be physically distanced for the next few school days, we will continue to focus on building these social-emotional skills to connect us socially.

As we look ahead to the next week, teachers will check in with their students and advisees to see how they are doing and gauge if they are in a cloudy, rainy, or sunny disposition. We will meet via Zoom as a community next Wednesday (January 19) to kick off the second semester and third quarter with a Wednesday edition of our weekly Monday Morning Meeting. Important information will be shared, laughter will happen with the Student Council facilitated Monday Morning Memo, and Mr. Comfort will grace us with one of his “groan-worthy” jokes.

Please remind your student that they should follow their regular schedule and plan to “attend” each of their classes synchronously. This does not include any scheduled study halls. As if we were meeting in person, attendance will be taken at the start of each block and students should be dressed appropriately and ready for class. Please make sure your student has set aside an appropriate, well-lit workspace (NOT their bed) to attend class. Computer cameras are required to be turned on and pointed at your student’s face. Read More


Middle School Division News January 13, 2022

from Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School Director

Our covid environment is a lot like a giant rollercoaster and that rollercoaster has highs and lows, twists and turns, each day and sometimes moment to moment. So, too, are our emotions and, most especially those of our young people. While we cannot control the environment around us, we can control our response to it—so I’m asking you all to help your students “buckle up” for the loops and bumps in the next few weeks as we navigate this surge and find our way back to the loading platform, all together!

For my younger middle families who are still on campus:

  • Please continue to be diligent about symptom monitoring. The omicron variant of this virus is sneaky and quick—watch for stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and headache.
  • More, do your best to limit high-risk activities and exposure points as best you can—not just for you, but for those around you. The key to our remaining on campus is limiting spread within our community and we need your help for that to happen.
  • Enjoy the time on campus with a little more room to wiggle.

To our big kids and their grown-ups:

  • Symptom monitoring, even at home, is critical! If your student or you are experiencing any viral symptoms, please us know. Tracing, tracking, and ensuring that exposed folks are quarantining for required amounts of time, help us to return safely.
  • Remember, as I shared on our Zoom the other night, please take some time to schedule in advance a Covid-19 test toward the end of next week ahead of our January 24 return date. While most sources are outlining this surge will soon pass, we don’t want to come back to school, together, and find ourselves right back in this spot.
  • Enjoy the time at home—I know that seems weird to say and virtual school is not easy, and not as fun or awesome as being on-campus, but there are some perks in the short term. More time to sleep, more snuggles with pets, better snack options, and, as we approach the end of the quarter, a long weekend to look forward to!

As we approach the long weekend, please note that we do not have school on Monday, January 17, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, nor on Tuesday, January 18, for a teacher professional development day. Grades 7/8 will remain virtual for the rest of next week, while 5/6 will resume classes, on campus, Wednesday, January 19. Read More


Lower School Division News January 13, 2022

from Renee Wright, Lower School Director

PreK–Grade 6 Students Remain On Campus
As you have already learned by now, Dr. Hudson and the Administrative Team have made the difficult decision to shift to virtual learning in grades 7-12 starting Wednesday. The intent is that everyone will return to campus on January 24. This change does not impact Lower School. Students in grades PreK-6 will remain on campus. We know our little ones learn best in person and I am grateful that we are seeing fewer cases in Lower School, in part because of their more recent vaccine eligibility. The shift of grades 7-12 to virtual learning will reduce the density and exposure risk on campus for Lower School students as well. We will continue to monitor cases in grades PreK-6 very closely and will shift on a grade-by-grade basis, if essential. Students who are at home due to choice or illness, are being provided personal learning plans so that they may continue to learn asynchronously. We are being very attentive to mitigation strategies to ensure the health and safety of everyone on campus. These strategies are listed below:

Mitigation Strategies in Place

  1. Encouraging the use of N95 or KN95 masks. These masks are available on campus for our students.
  2. Less mixing of classes will occur and group and partner work will be minimized.
  3. More attention to keeping students 6 feet apart whenever possible.
  4. Further enhanced cleaning of their classrooms will begin.
  5. Scheduled handwashing and restroom breaks.

CHAMP Assembly On Wednesday This Week
The CHAMP theme for the school year is accountability. Part of being accountable is self-regulation and self-control. Making good choices and thinking before saying or doing something is an important part of self-control. First Graders shared a delightful message with everyone in Lower School about self-control. All students did follow-up activities in their classrooms to reinforce the concepts learned and will practice their self-regulation skills on a daily basis.

Myles Moore Joins Lower School
MPA has hired Myles Moore, an experienced paraprofessional, as an assistant teacher serving in Lower School classrooms. This added support for our youngest learners will help us provide more one-on-one attention to make up the progress students may have lost due to the impact of Covid-19. Myles came to MPA through the upper school basketball program. His most recent school experience has been in the Osseo School District. Upon reviewing his resume, we were intrigued by his experience. Myles will work in grades K, 1, and 2. His schedule will be determined based on the specific needs of students. Read More


Welcome To MPA, Rachel Westmoreland

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School and College Counseling Assistant

From what school/organization are you coming?
Academia Cesar Chavez

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I have worked in office administration in a variety of industries for 20 years. My education and background in health and wellness has allowed me to serve as a community resource in some form or another throughout my career, “it’s my calling”. My most enjoyable work experiences have always involved helping people and fostering meaningful relationships.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I was drawn to the mission and sense of community at MPA. Everyone I spoke with had a positive attitude and strong motivation to create an extraordinary experience for the students.

What’s your big dream?
I would love to continue to learn Spanish and spend a summer traveling through Spain with my family.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
We love being outdoors, staying active, and trying new activities together. Most recently paddle boarding has been our kick, next on the list is snowshoeing!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
My family has a pet dragon named “Alfonso” (he has a beard).


Welcome To MPA, Holly Metzler

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Health Office Nurse

From what school/organization are you coming?
M Health Fairview

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I completed my nursing degree in December 2021. This is my first job as a nurse and I am very appreciative of the opportunity! Early in life, I earned a BA in Literature/Art History and a MS in Human Services.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I’ve heard great things about MPA and wanted the opportunity to work with children of all ages.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to get to know the children at MPA and take good care of them while they are at school 🙂

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I have two children—Indira is in eighth grade and Everett is in sixth grade at Stillwater Middle School. We enjoy traveling together, trying new activities as a family, and both kids are involved in sports such as lacrosse, skiing, football and golf. In my downtime, I like to exercise, spend time with family and friends, and plan trips.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
My hobbies include singing, songwriting and playing guitar. And I look forward to getting back to music now that nursing school is complete.


Meet Retired Faculty Member, Jim Schwieger

Position while at MPA
Science teacher

How many years did you work at MPA?
26 years

What do you miss most about MPA?
The energy, the students and employees.

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
Some volunteer work!


Connect With MPA Parents This January

Parent Education Night
Save the Date for a Zoom Parent Education Night! January 27, 6:30-7:45 PM, please join MPA families to learn about neurodiversity in our school community.

Attention Middle School Panthers and Parents
The annual Middle School Café is going tubular this year! Stay tuned and get excited. While we can’t unveil all the details just yet (sorry!), we can say, SAVE THE DATE, Friday, February 25th from 2:30-5:30 PM.

January Walks with Dogs
Join Michelle Mick Friday, January 14 for a walk in a local dog park. Bring your dog or not, we’ll meet at Battle Creek Dog Park, a lovely, big, off-leash dog park with 35 acres at 8:15 AM. Parking is off Upper Afton Road, in the parking lot next to the dog park. Look for Michelle and her dog (Rufus), near the entrance of the dog park.

For your GPS, the address is: 2350 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood, MN 55119. The contact person is Michelle Mick, and please feel free to SMS or call 651-328-7312 if you can’t find us!

Microfunding Grants
Looking for Microfunding for your club or classroom? It’s not too late to apply for these PA grants. Please send your applications to Natalie King, our micro-funding chair at natalieking10414@gmail.com. Applications can be found here.


COVID-19 Update December 30, 2021

Dear MPA Community,

In advance of next week’s return to campus, I have important updates and recommendations to share with you.

1. TEST: Regardless of vaccination status, we strongly urge you to test your student for COVID-19 prior to their return to campus. You can learn more about testing options here. Molecular (PCR) and/or antigen tests are all recommended for clearance testing prior to Monday. If you are unable to obtain a test or receive a positive result, please contact covid@moundsparkacademy.org.

2. REPORT: If your student or any member of your family has tested positive, experienced symptoms, or been a close contact over winter break, it is vital you email covid@moundsparkacademy.org prior to Monday for recommendations and next steps.

3. MONITOR: Symptom monitoring remains one of the most important ways we can all stay healthy and safe during this pandemic. All students, regardless of vaccination status, must stay home and seek a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning if experiencing the following: fever, new onset and/or worsening cough, difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, muscle pain, excessive fatigue, new onset of severe headache, new onset of nasal congestion or runny nose.

4. VACCINATE: If a member of your family or your student is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine or booster but has not yet received one, we strongly encourage you to obtain that as soon as possible. You can learn more and find available appointments at the Minnesota Vaccine Connector website. If your student is eligible for a booster but has not yet received it, as of January 10 they will no longer be considered fully vaccinated and exempt from certain quarantine requirements at MPA until that booster has been received.

Read More


Connecting With MPA Parents

Thank You!
A huge thank you from the MPA Parents Association goes out to all the volunteers who took part in the Annual Holiday Gift Wrapping event on Monday, December 13. Paper, ribbons and bows were flying as volunteers wrapped a total of 192 gifts for 15 very grateful Faculty and Staff. And only one reported paper cut! Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible!

One Last December Walk with Dogs
Join Michelle Mick Friday, December 17 for a walk in a local dog park. Bring your dog or not, we’ll meet at Battle Creek Dog Park, a lovely, big, off-leash dog park with 35 acres at 8:15 AM. Parking is off Upper Afton Road, in the parking lot next to the dog park. Look for Michelle and her dog (Rufus), near the entrance of the dog park.

For your GPS, the address is: 2350 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood, MN 55119. The contact person is Michelle Mick, and please feel free to text or call 651-328-7312 if you can’t find us!

Parents Connect: January Events
We are looking forward to connecting with MPA families in the new year! Upcoming events and opportunities to look forward to include Family Education Evenings, All-School Sno Daze activities, Lower School Valentine’s Day party, and Middle School Café. Keep your eye on the Panther Post for sign-ups and opportunities to volunteer!

January Walks with Dogs
Friday, January 7 and 14, join Michelle Mick for a walk in a local dog park. Bring your dog or not, we’ll meet at Battle Creek Dog Park, a lovely, big, off-leash dog park with 35 acres at 8:15 AM. Parking is off Upper Afton Road, in the parking lot next to the dog park. Look for Michelle and her dog (Rufus), near the entrance of the dog park.

For your GPS, the address is: 2350 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood, MN 55119. The contact person is Michelle Mick, and please feel free to SMS or call 651-328-7312 if you can’t find us!

Winter Wonderland Walk at 7 Vines
January 28, 5:45-9 PM, $55.00. Come enjoy a winter evening with MPA Parents at 7 Vines Vineyard in Dellwood, MN! Ticket Price includes a complimentary beverage (mulled wine, kombucha, fancy coffee), four rounds of Bingo for prizes, making s’mores while chatting around the fire, and the use of snowshoes (with help putting them on!) for a walk around the vineyard lit by twinkling candlelight ice luminaries. If you start to feel hungry, 7 Vines will have exclusive pricing on food and wine that evening. Hot Chocolate and cider are free of charge! The Parents Association has reserved some spots for this event, but it does sell out. Please let us know if you are interested in joining in the fun by January 10. Contact Staci Banks, sbhehe42@icloud.com, or Venmo the cost of the tickets to @Staci-Banks-Hehenberger. Tickets are unfortunately not refundable.