Founders’ Day 2022

middle school students playing in the leavesby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I invite you and your family to our annual pancake breakfast next Wednesday, December 7, from 7-8 AM to celebrate Founders’ Day. Founders’ Day celebrates the official date that the school was established. This is a very special celebration, and what better way to mark the school’s founding than with a delicious pancake breakfast made by members of the MPA Board of Trustees?! This year, the day is being made extra special with an all-school pajama day in honor of the Book Festival.

My family spent a quiet Thanksgiving with my husband Ross’ brother and sister-in-law. We gathered for the annual Olson Family Lefse and Flatbread Making Day on Saturday. True North Dakotan Norwegians Willard and Vernita would spend a day making lefse and flatbread for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to enjoy over the Christmas holidays. Now that they have both passed away, we started a new tradition of getting together as a family to make the lefse and flatbread. It is a beautiful day of remembering, telling stories, arguing over which of Vernita’s lefse recipes we should use, working together to roll the perfectly rounded lefse, nurturing a shared identity, and sharing a meal. Read More

Afterschool Activities and Care Canceled This Afternoon

Due to the weather, all afterschool activities, including games, practices, Panther Club/Den, Middle School study hall, and meetings are canceled this afternoon, Tuesday, November 29. MPA will remain in session until our regular dismissal time of 3 PM.

The families of District 622 and Minneapolis bus riders will be communicated with directly as soon as possible regarding modified bus schedules. All other buses will run as usual, although they may be running late.

PreK Panther, Panther Club, and Panther Den will remain open until all children are picked up; however, families are asked to arrive as quickly as possible after 3 PM so our faculty and staff can travel home as well.

Email if you have any questions. Please drive safely!

Our Community Is Powerful And Strong

from Bill Hudson, head of school

Throughout the day, you have undoubtedly received multiple messages from MPA and other non-profits urging you to make a gift today. Give to the Max Day in Minnesota is a fun and exciting way to maximize your giving to make a tremendous impact on schools and non-profits. For instance, we have an opportunity today at MPA to unlock $100,000 in gifts if we raise $250,000.

In determining your philanthropic priorities, you may ask, “Why give to MPA? Why give philanthropically when I already pay tuition?” That’s a fair question. From one perspective, an MPA education is transactional. Families pay tuition and, in return, receive an excellent education. However, I would venture to say that the relationship between the students, faculty, staff, and families is much more than a simple business transaction. It is transformative, and that is what motivates me more than ever to give to MPA. Read More

Forward Together

from Bill Hudson, head of school

It is nearly impossible not to notice that pumpkin spice has overtaken the grocery aisles. According to NielsenIQ data, pumpkin spice products accounted for more than $231 million in sales over last year, 27% higher than the year before. Someone even noticed a sign at a service station offering pumpkin spice oil changes. While I am not a fan of anything pumpkin spice flavored, it does serve as a reminder of fall and the season of gratitude. It won’t be long before many families and friends gather for Thanksgiving and share with one another. In the midst of passing the gravy and turkey, we will share all the reasons we are grateful this year.

As we move into a season of gratitude, our annual fall fundraising drive launches this Monday, November 7, and continues through Friday, November 18. Give to the Max Day is Thursday, November 17, and includes our own special tradition of a faculty and staff lip sync competition and all-school assembly.

Our fall campaign theme, “Forward Together,” represents the momentum we are experiencing as we come together as a community, both metaphorically and literally. After two and one-half years of isolation, separation, and distancing, our building is full again with parents, grandparents, friends, and special guests, adding even more joy to an already joyful school community.

Last Friday was a good example. If you don’t know, MPA has had a longstanding tradition of Lower School students parading through the halls of the school in their Halloween costumes, much to the delight of Middle and Upper School students who take a break from their studies to join in the celebration. Students, faculty, staff, and parents line the hallways to smile, wave, and applaud the Lower School students. I can never decide what I appreciate more—the faces of the young students on parade or the older students cheering them on! Read More

Prioritizing Safety

from Bill Hudson, head of school

Like many of you, the first indication of a security issue was the generalized alert I received on my cell phone yesterday morning. MPA did not receive any advance notification or information. The school is fortunate to have a very constructive relationship with the Maplewood Police Department and I was caught off guard by the notification on my cell phone. Fortuitously, MPA has a very detailed and comprehensive emergency preparedness and crisis plan and we have drilled enough times that emergency response is instinctive. We are able to quickly implement a safety and security plan with the information we have available that is also flexible so that we can adapt to an evolving crisis.

Aside from the situation on Tuesday, we had an actual medical lockdown at the end of Grandparents and Special Friends Day on October 19 and a full lockdown drill on Monday, October 17. We are required by the State of Minnesota to hold five lockdown drills each school year. Research by our own current parent, James Densley, professor, author, co-founder of The Violence Project and a national authority on mass shootings, demonstrates that despite the high-profile nature of school shootings, schools remain one of the safest places. Knowing how to respond during a crisis helps everyone stay calm, understand their role, and act as safely and efficiently as possible. Again, balance is essential between being prepared and causing anxiety about something unlikely to occur. Read More

Our Mission Is Our Compass

from Bill Hudson, head of school

As I walk about the building each day, I see powerful signs of how the mission of MPA is brought to life and animated by students, teachers, staff, and parents. For instance, the Lower School gathered yesterday in the Family Commons to celebrate CHAMP Day, parents met on Monday to launch the inaugural Parents Association Diversity and Equity Committee, and students from across all divisions celebrated Maker Monday in the Makerspace honing their skills in designing and creating.

You may be aware that last year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Mounds Park Academy. During events throughout the 2021-22 school year, we took the opportunity to celebrate the founding ideals and mission of the school as they were lived out over the last 40 years. This summer, I was fortunate to be invited to lunch with several founders of MPA: Bob Kreischer, who, together with his then-wife Sandy Kreischer Smith founded the school; Harvey Kaplan, who deftly negotiated the lease and the eventual purchase of the school building; Karen Benz, who with her late husband George Benz, engaged and inspired other parents to philanthropically fund the school; and Jim Gardner, the founding member of the finance committee of the board whose fiscal stewardship established the school’s financial foundation.

It was inspirational to hear their stories about the successes and challenges they encountered and the joy, creativity, and passion that fueled their work. As I joined in the revelry with the founders, I shared ways in which the mission they established continues to live daily. I also became acutely aware that I, the board of trustees, and the entire MPA community, have the awesome and awe-filled obligation to advance the mission we’ve inherited for the next 40 years. The school’s mission is entrusted to us, and we have the existential responsibility to ensure the mission not only survives but thrives well into the future. Read More

Meet William Kim ’20

William Kim '20What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am a student at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University in London, Ontario, Canada (also where I currently live), studying Percussion Performance and entering my third year.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I was able to get to where I am today because of the numerous opportunities MPA and the Twin Cities provided for me. While in the Twin Cities, I got to play in the Symphony Orchestra of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies organization. I got to perform in venues such as Orchestra Hall and Ted Mann Concert Hall, mentor younger musicians in other orchestras, and tour internationally in Eastern Europe (2018). This past June, I was invited by GTCYS as an alum to come back to Minnesota to perform and tour internationally with them in Southern Italy–it was wonderful to come back and visit all my old friends and relive fond memories at MPA!

It all started for me with MPA’s ensembles, who inspired and shaped the musician I am today. While at MPA, I participated in Concert Band, Varsity and Concert Choir, and Percussion Ensemble. In addition to developing my musical abilities, each ensemble helped to develop my confidence and teamwork skills, very important skills to have when majoring in music and in life.

While in Minnesota, I also took private lessons at the University of Minnesota under the tutelage of Dr. Adam Rappel. His patience, dedication, and guidance helped to get me to where I am today, and I don’t know where I would be today without him and my MPA teachers Ms. Wantock and Mr. Habermann.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA inspire you to dream big and do right?
MPA’s faculty inspired me to dream big and do right by serving as excellent role models, and leading by example. Every faculty member I interacted with impacted me through their respect, responsibility, leadership, and methods of keeping us engaged and fostering learning through multiple flexible approaches that included Socratic seminars and frequent in-class discussions, a learning environment very few schools have. Given the nature of my current major (Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance), which involves a lot of performing in large ensembles and working in “teams,” MPA has given me the lifelong skills necessary to lead and collaborate with my colleagues effectively.

What’s next? Do you have any aspirations, personal or professional, that you’d like to share?
To keep learning and performing!

Essential Arts Education

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

One of my favorite times of the year is early fall, when the first round of student artwork is displayed throughout the school. Bare walls come alive with beauty, creativity, and splashes of color. With just a few weeks of the semester to cultivate ideas and build skills, I am astounded by students’ accomplishments. This year is no exception. A quick walk about the school will be rewarded with marvelous displays of shape, lines, textures, shading, and values.

I am sometimes asked why MPA considers the arts an integral part of our academic program. Shouldn’t a college-prep school focus solely on subjects such as math, science, and English? The arts are considered electives or optional in many schools, but not at MPA. Unfortunately, many schools are forced to cut art education to free up funding and make time for standardized assessments. In contrast, we firmly believe that art education is essential to developing skills, mindsets, and attributes in the whole person both during their time at MPA and throughout their lives.

Many of us are familiar with the term growth mindset. A growth mindset is a belief about the malleability of intelligence and is associated with a wide variety of positive academic outcomes, including curiosity, resilience, and improved achievement. Guided by their teachers, students see that there is more than one way to approach a problem and that every solution, when well executed, offers a unique perspective. As a result, they learn that instead of mistakes being a failure to replicate an ideal, they are opportunities to expand ideas and use the process as an opportunity to creatively problem solve. “I love the process of designing a visual challenge,” says Middle and Upper School art teacher Renee Sonka. “Preparing students to meet that challenge, and then stepping back to see the incredible variety of beautiful solutions that result from that process.” Read More

Supporting Autonomy

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

Is there a cliff involved? It’s a question I frequently ask myself or my husband Ross. It comes from MPA’s former school psychologist, Steve Kahn, and is one of the best pieces of parenting advice I have ever received. In fact, it came up over this past weekend when Ross had reached a point of frustration with our 16-year-old daughter. He was venting over her making time for soccer, friends, and her boyfriend but not for her behind-the-wheel driving experience. “At this rate, she’s never going to get her license!” he exclaimed. Calmly, I looked at him and said, “Is there a cliff involved?”

My article last week focused on forging a strong parent-school partnership and I wrote about parenting being demanding, lonely, and hard. It’s hard to find the balance between allowing our children to have agency and to make their own choices without overparenting, micromanaging them, or preventing them from failing. This is particularly difficult when it comes to school. Many of us have a hard time keeping school performance and homework in perspective.

You’ve heard me say a number of times that parental engagement plays an important role in academic success. Researchers Wendy Grolnick (Clark University) and Eva Pomerantz (University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign) analyzed decades of research on parent involvement and found that it is “an important and necessary ingredient in children’s academic adjustment” and can contribute to student motivation, engagement, and learning. Studies have found that this is especially true when parents’ role is affectively positive (showing joy, love, and satisfaction helping their children) and when it promotes children’s autonomy.

Many years ago, when I was conducting research for my dissertation and when learning management systems such as Schoology were first introduced, I interviewed a ninth grader who bemoaned the fact that his parents often knew before he got home for school that he didn’t turn in an assignment or was called to the principal’s office. “Geez,” he said, “I don’t even get a chance to take care of it myself before I get in trouble at home.” Sound familiar?! Read More

A Source Of Stability

from Bill Hudson, head of school

It was wonderful to see so many of you over the past week! We had a fantastic turnout at the New Parent Dinners, Curriculum Nights, and Homecoming. I enjoyed the many engaging conversations I had, the strong community spirit, and the beautiful stories about how well the school year has started. The strong partnership between families and the school is something I think is quite unique about MPA. This partnership is crucial for student success, built upon trusting relationships, open and transparent communication, and shared values. Perhaps now, more than ever before.

Parenting is demanding. Because of the VUCA world we live in, research shows that today’s parents are spending more time on child-rearing activities than ever, with mothers spending an average of 104 minutes a day tending to children in 2012 versus only 54 minutes in 1965. Unfortunately, the added time spent with their kids has meant sacrificing their own sense of social fabric, as adults are increasingly unaffiliated and uninvolved with other adults.

Parenting is lonely. Studies found that more than one-third of adults 45 and older felt lonely in 2020, a number that jumped to 71% when it came to Millennials. Adults today report a significant decline in the number of close relationships with friends, neighbors and coworkers and a decrease in involvement in houses of worship.

Parenting is hard. The complexities of child-rearing in today’s world, along with the increasing anxiety many parents are experiencing because of rapid societal change, a racial reckoning, political discord, economic volitivity, and a public health crisis, have left parents feeling acutely vulnerable. Many parents look to schools as a source of stability in this time of uncertainty. Read More