Meet Boys Basketball Coaches Rich Harris, Nate Bander, and Matt Bander

Meet Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Rich Harris

Rich Harris in front of MPA BannerWhat was your playing career like?
I played four years in high school in Oklahoma and was the starting point guard my senior year. I then played point guard at Southwestern College, an NAIA school in Winfield, Kansas, graduating in 1996.

What coaching experience do you bring to MPA?
After finishing my college career, I stayed on for one year as a student assistant. Since, I have coached a variety of different levels of basketball and many schools. Some highlights include coaching the freshman boys team at Southeast High School in Wichita, coaching JV boys and then Varsity boys at the American School of Doha in Qatar (we went undefeated in 2011), assistant coaching girls Varsity and then boys Varsity at American School in London, coaching Middle School and High School boys at the International Schools Groups in Saudi Arabia (we went 21-4 record and won the conference championship during the 2018-19 season), and coaching girls JV here at MPA. The girls at MPA taught me compassion and commitment and I will never forget that.

What is it about MPA that makes it a great place to coach?
The kids! MPA has such wonderful students who want to succeed. Also, the faculty and staff has been very supportive. Read More


A Sense Of Urgency On Give To The Max Day

lower school student building in the makerspaceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I am a procrastinator. A proud procrastinator, no less. It’s not that I am not productive or do not fulfill my responsibilities. I’m not lazy, but I do get distracted. There always seems to be a good article to read that pops up on my newsfeed, a post on Facebook I find intriguing, a conversation to be had with a friend or colleague, or a good book to read. Oftentimes, what helps me most is a firm deadline or knowing that people are depending on me to act.

Today is a deadline of sorts as our Fall Campaign winds down and we celebrate Give To The Max Day, both in support of the MPA Fund. If you haven’t yet made a gift, I strongly encourage you to do so. I feel a particular sense of urgency this year as we together navigate the uncharted waters of the pandemic. The urgency comes as we, the school and parents, join together to ensure our children have what they need to be safe, healthy, and continue to learn and thrive. What I know is that this endeavor costs more—more people, more technology, more infrastructure. Read More


The Foote/Nelson Family Gives Peace Of Mind

The Foote/Nelson FamilyDuring the Fall Campaign, we are excited to share stories from our community about the impact the school has made on their children and their family. The Foote/Nelson Family shares the how their child grew more and more confident and comfortable, finding a home at MPA.

How did your family come to MPA?
We were looking at options for a new school for Odin and had a neighbor whose son had gone to MPA. Living in Minneapolis, it made an impression because they were willing to drive far but were so happy. That neighbor’s son became a literal rocket scientist. All of the conversations we had with them as well as Odin’s visit to MPA just seemed like a really great fit.

Our experience has been great. Odin has really transformed. He had been having a really difficult time and it had taken a big hit on his self-esteem. When he visited MPA he felt really welcomed by the students and teachers right away. He felt really supported to do the work in his class and enjoys being recognized for the work he was doing. It is a good balance for Odin – teachers pushing him to do more where they see it while also having a lot of respect for his boundaries and challenges. The biggest thing for us is seeing how the teachers are really empowered to do differentiated instruction. In our conversations with MPA’s teachers regarding past challenges Odin experienced, they listened and then shared that in some instances they may provide instruction differently for Odin and beyond that if they need to adjust, they just do. It’s made such a difference because in all of our previous conversations we didn’t feel heard. Now Odin has teachers that will overcome barriers.

MPA is a strong community for Odin. He’s friends with everyone and he just doesn’t have anything bad to say. MPA feels like home!

This year has been a year unlike any other. Can you share what it has been like being back on campus this school year?
We were really impressed and happy with how well the school pivoted in the spring with virtual learning. MPA was able to maintain structure due to effective teachers – throughout virtual learning. This year, being back on campus is huge. The in-person connection with teachers is incredible and I see a big difference in his engagement and attitude. And, he doesn’t mind his at home days and gets to sleep in a bit longer! I really appreciated MPA’s approach and philosophy of being ready to return to campus as soon as it was possible. Other schools waited, while MPA planned and didn’t wait. MPA was very prepared for either option.

What does MPA give to your children and your family?
We’re happy that our son is happy and growing. MPA provides an environment where Odin feels safe, both emotionally and physically. In social interactions and academically he feels respected by his teachers and doesn’t feel singled out for the challenges he has with his ADHD. Instead, the teachers understand the balance of providing challenge for a kid who has a lot going on and is super smart which really sparks his energy.

We know first-hand that this isn’t a given and we know it’s a lot of work to make MPA’s community what it is.

Why do you give to MPA?
MPA has just been so impressive to us. It has been worth every penny. With everything thrown at the school this last year, the focus has been on the students, communication has been solid, and the teachers deliver.

What would you tell other parents who are considering making a gift to MPA?
We’re in Minneapolis and we are committed to getting him here. The school is definitely worth it for us in time and money. Having the Minneapolis bus has also been really nice. We definitely use it and it helps Odin’s connection to the school because other kids are getting on the bus from the neighborhood.

One of the things I’ve recognized is how much time and stress we had with Odin’s previous school experience and what we have now with MPA is peace of mind.


Ms. Dale Gives Belonging

ms. dale helping one of her studentsDuring the Fall Campaign, we are excited to share stories from our community about the impact the school has made on their children and their family. Middle School social studies teacher Marina Dale shares the joys and sense of home that MPA gives her and her family on a daily basis.

How did your family come to MPA?
I came to MPA when Hannah was a year old and I needed a change in my teaching career. Over my 20 years at MPA, I have seen the joys of all three divisions, and the sense of home that the faculty and community has created for my children. As a teacher and a parent, I can’t imagine our family being a part of any other community.

Hannah, my oldest, came to MPA in Kindergarten and she graduated as a “lifer.” Through those experiences, she had the freedom to be creative, be herself, ask questions, and fill her insatiable desire to have knowledge and know why. Because we had such a great experience with Hannah, Simon followed soon after in Kindergarten. Simon loved that he could do drama, plays, art, and read whatever he could get his hands on. My youngest, Aiden, followed suit, started at MPA in PreK. I knew we had found the right place for him when I walked into the PreK room one day and the teacher was rocking my three-year-old to sleep when he was having a difficult day. It reinforced once again that this was home for all of us.

This year has been a year unlike any other. Can you share what it has been like being back on campus this school year?
COVID has really put into sharp focus what is important. My relationships with my students, that they feel valued and heard remains my primary focus. We are thriving and delivering on the MPA promise thanks to being back in every capacity. Even for those who are virtual this year that I haven’t even met, I have made a connection with them and they do feel MPA is their home.

What does MPA give to your children and your family?
MPA has given my kids: critical thinking skills, compassion, and curiosity. All three of my kids will leave MPA curious about the world and wanting to learn more.

MPA has not only enriched my family, it has also honored me with the ability to connect with a family’s student during the turbulent adolescent years, encouraging, and validating them. I feel very honored I am entrusted to play a role in helping other children weather this storm. I hope my students emerge on the other side with the skills necessary to find success in Upper School and beyond. I have loved being everyone’s second mom at school. I go home at night knowing I have made a difference.

Why do you give?
MPA embodies what I believe is important in nurturing and helping students achieve and I give to MPA to make sure that vision and mission continues beyond the years I will be here.

Make A Gift


Rejoining The Community: Alumni Back At MPA

Rejoining The Community: Record Number of MPA Alumni Back on Campus as Employees

A record seven MPA alumni, from the class of 1998 all the way to the class of 2019, are working at MPA in the 2020-21 school year. Each has found joy in returning to MPA and rejoining the community that helped shape them into who they are today. Read their stories below!

Maddy Wolfe talking to Anne Atchison through a TVMaddy Wolfe ’12, Middle School English Teacher

I never imagined working at MPA, although I do remember thinking that it would be a place I would enjoy working. Teaching was something that was in the back of my mind for a while, and because I enjoyed my time as a student at MPA so much, working here felt like a dream.

Not only that, but the adjustment has been seamless, mainly because my colleagues are so amazing! Their kindness, warmth, and willingness to help and collaborate banished any possible awkwardness. It’s even better that I’m familiar with the school culture, community, and values, and so those automatically fuel how I want to conduct my classroom and what I want to instill in my students.

Elizabeth Flinsch ’98, Visual Art Teacher

I never envisioned I’d be working at MPA when I was a student. While my MPA teachers had a huge impact on me, I didn’t think I was going to be an educator back then.

It has been so rewarding getting to know some of those who taught me as fellow professionals. Lisa Buck was a hero and mentor of mine since graduating and now we work together. How cool is that?
One amazing moment was during our accredidation review a couple years ago. Bob Cooke, who had been my history teacher and champion in Upper School, was on the visiting review team. He walked into my classroom of eighth graders and beamed with pride. We both started crying – a little awkward, but amazing for things to come full circle! I have also spend my fair share of time reminiscing over lunch about softball games long past with Mr. McGaha and Mr. Scinto.

My students are often surprised to hear that I went to MPA. I enjoy telling them stories about the teachers they have now who I had back then. Read More


Plan The Work, Work The Plan

ninth grader racing their mousetrap carby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I benefitted from the guidance of a mentor whose mantra was, “plan the work, work the plan”. The constant drumbeat under his leadership helped me develop an appreciation for strategic thinking and long-range planning. Along the way I learned the necessity of looking ahead and the discipline required to achieve progress. Without an end in mind, as Alice learned from the Cheshire Cat, any road will suffice.

Mounds Park Academy has a long history of strategic planning designed to advance the mission of the school and to meet the emerging needs of students in an evolving and increasingly globalized society. Setting the vision of the school and establishing strategic direction are among the most important responsibilities of the MPA Board of Trustees. Our most recent plan, Momentum 2020, guided the MPA community through the last five years and came to an end last May. Momentum 2020 has been instrumental in setting forth a direction and providing strategic priorities that led to the incredible success and growth we’ve enjoyed over the last five years. Read More


Thanks For Kicking Off The Fall Campaign With Us!

middle school student painting in the makerspaceThank you to our generous community for joining us on Monday for our virtual 2020 You Give Fall Campaign Kick-Off. Thanks to our community’s participation and giving, we were successful in reaching our goals to receive a $10,000 challenge gift in support of the school! The Fall Campaign will culminate in next week’s Give to the Max Day, so be on the look-out for ways to give, participate, and help us during this important time.

When you make a gift, you ensure our students, faculty, and staff have the tools, resources, and support they need for today and tomorrow, especially during these challenging times. Tuition only covers 82% of the cost of an MPA education. Your gift will bridge this gap and help us to maintain our unique learning environment, top-notch facilities and resources, and small class sizes. Every gift of every size makes an impact. Your participation is what counts. By everyone doing what they can, we all can benefit and thrive.

Make A Gift


Meet Simone LaBonté ’06

Simone LaBonté HeadshotSimone LaBonté ’06 is in her sixth year as the Director of Person Centered Practices at New Directions Inc. Under her leadership, New Directions Inc. partnered with local organization Woodbury Thrives to construct a community garden at a New Directions Inc. residential home in Woodbury, creating a resource for the home’s residents and the greater community.

Tell us more about your community garden project and your work with New Directions. How did the garden come to be?

I work for New Directions Inc., a small company that helps people with developmental disabilities lead fulfilling lives. People with disabilities are often isolated or segregated from their neighbors. The community garden is one of the ways New Directions is trying to change that and create connections with the local community.

Three of the men that New Directions serves and I partnered with Woodbury Thrives, a community building organization, and applied for a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant through Washington County. They ultimately funded the first year of a community garden project in the pre-Covid era (spring of 2019). The garden was hosted by the three guys–it was built and planted in their yard. We invited neighbors to a community get-together by going door to door to introduce ourselves and our idea. We also hung flyers and handwritten notes on people’s doorknobs. Read More


The Baldwin Family Gives Hope

the Baldwin familyDuring the Fall Campaign, we are excited to share stories from our community about the impact the school has made on their children and their family. Heidi and Ryan Baldwin, two of our Lower School parents have seen the belonging their girls Audrey and Anna have experienced since joining MPA.

How did your family come to MPA?
We came to MPA because our older daughter Anna was at a different school for her PreK years, and it was not the right fit for us. She was experiencing some bullying and we did not feel supported in the response from the school to keep her safe and protected. At that point, we started the search to look for a new school for our family. When we visited MPA, it felt like home. When we met with teachers, administration, and the staff, we knew it was the right fit for us and that proves to still be correct today. MPA works so well because of its mission, vision, culture and values. These aren’t things we just say, they’re things that everyone at our school stands behind, lives, and breathes.

Can you share your motivation for volunteering and giving back?
It feels amazing to be able to give back to this wonderful school and community that means so much for us. It means so much to our daughters and us as a family. We get to meet other families and dream big and do right for our school. It also instills in our daughters the value of volunteering and giving back and encourages them to get involved and make a difference.

This year has been a year unlike any other. Can you share what it has been like being back on campus this school year?
We’re so proud to be part of the MPA community. Last spring with the virtual learning pivot, the quality, learning, and connection with the teachers was still present. We know teachers, administration, and staff have worked tirelessly since COVID began to make sure we had a seamless experience in the spring and this school year. The commitment, communication and clarity have been incredible. To see our daughters back on campus has been so incredible and exciting for our family. It has meant everything to us because we know the commitment and the level of safety protocols, that when we drop our daughters off at school, we’re not worried. MPA has put in multiple safety protocols and it’s very clear that MPA takes this quite seriously and has done an excellent job to execute and bring students back to campus.

What does MPA give to your children and your family?
The first word that comes to mind is joy. MPA also gives our family safety with the peanut and tree nut protocols as well as the robust Covid-19 measures. It really connects back to MPA’s philosophy of teaching the whole child. MPA is strong academically, in building character, giving the children a sense of security, and instills an overwhelming sense of joy. We see all of these characteristics every day in our daughters.

Why do you give to MPA?
The why is easy. We give because we 100% support MPA in every way. We’re also thankful for the families who have given before us. Our daughters have benefitted from so many who made MPA possible. We give so all students can continue to experience all that MPA has to offer and appreciate the benefits from this incredible school. It’s easy to give to MPA because of everything we experience as a family, the planning and preparation, and everyone at MPA has gone above and beyond to make school fun and safe, especially during times like we are currently experiencing.

What would you tell other parents who are considering making a gift to MPA?
You will share in the sense of pride and see the incredible things that can be accomplished through your gift. We know we’ve had a part in those accomplishments, and it’s a remarkable feeling. It’s also an investment in the future of MPA and what it will continue to give back to current and future students. We are so thankful for MPA. Every day, we count our blessings and we know our girls are safe and looked after. Everyone at MPA cares about every student and every family. It’s the perfect fit for our family and we truly love MPA.

Make A Gift


You Give Joy

lower school student sliding down the slideby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Life these days seems a little like standing in a dinghy in rough seas, not knowing when the storm will be over. It has been difficult for many of us to get our sea legs, to find our balance. Over the last eight months, I have often felt tossed about in my own little boat, alone and at the mercy of factors outside of my control. The responsibility of reimagining and reopening school safely in the midst of a pandemic at times seemed crushing. Finding balance felt illusive.

And yet each day I spend in the midst of this amazing community is pure joy and offers a renewed sense of purpose. Yesterday was a perfect example. Lower School students gathered virtually for the second time this year to further explore their CHAMP (Character Happens At Mounds Park) character trait for the year, “perseverance”. The theme was brought to life through the delightful new book, “I Promise”, written by LeBron James, and was read to students by the book’s illustrator. The assembly ended with a special chant led by Lower School music teacher Mari Espeland, followed by students making an “I Promise” pledge to persevere through adversity. I was inspired by the students and a specific line from the book, “Get right back up and let my magic shine.” Read More