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


Innovating Our Future

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Happy new year! I hope that you and your family had an enjoyable break, spending quality time with friends and loved ones.

It was journalist and author William Vaughan who said, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” I suppose I am neither as I was in bed by 10:30 PM on New Year’s Eve. However, I do consider myself an optimist and while as a family we experienced tremendous loss in 2021, I do recognize the many good things that happened. As head of school of Mounds Park Academy, I am grateful that we were safely in-person and on campus for the majority of the year. The dedication and hard work of our amazing faculty and staff, a strong partnership with parents, and the resiliency of our students are certainly to be celebrated.

A new year brings new beginnings. A new year holds promise and opportunity. As a school, we begin the year with a new strategic plan, 2024ward. The new plan builds upon our former plan, Momentum 2020, and captures the energy to embrace the future with opportunity and enthusiasm. Strategic planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the MPA Board of Trustees.

Planning began in early 2019 by a constituent represented task force commissioned by the Board but was halted by the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Instead, the focus of the Board of Trustees and administration shifted from long-range strategic planning to the development a comprehensive scenario analysis and effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Given the demand on the school’s fiscal and human resources necessary to successfully navigate the ongoing pandemic, the board and head of school agreed to embark on an alternative, abbreviated approach. Read More


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


Charting Our Path Forward

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

As we approach the end of the calendar year, the song “Auld Lang Syne” will be sung at New Year’s Eve gatherings, a related song by Dan Fogelberg from 1980 will be repeatedly played on Sirius/XM radio, or folks will sing along at the finale of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’ve never quite been able to remember, let alone pronounce, the words to the song, “Auld Lang Syne.” Nor can I carry a tune, for that matter. And yet I find the meaning behind the lyrics and music particularly poignant this year.

Just a year ago, there was great hope and optimism that the strife of 2020 would give way to a better year. And yet, in so many ways, it seems as though we are in nearly the same place as a year ago. It is clear to me that we will be battling with the virus for quite some time and working through its aftermath. Over the last year, we have faced both joys and challenges, managed hopes and anxieties, experienced growth and endured hardship, suffered isolation and celebrated community, persevered and remain mired in an all too familiar place.

There is much to be learned by reflecting upon our individual and collective journey over the past year. All of us—students, parents, teachers, and staff—are re-learning what it means to “do school,” how to be in relationship with one another, and the values that hold us together. All the while with masks on our faces and risk mitigation measures that sometimes have the unintended consequence of keeping us apart. Read More


Early Dismissal Logistical Information

After careful review of this afternoon’s forecast, we’ve made the decision to dismiss school at 1 PM today.

All of MPA’s buses will depart school shortly after 1 PM with the exception of District 622 buses. They are not able to depart until 2:10 PM and 622 riders will be cared for at MPA until then. MPA’s St. Paul and Minneapolis routes will be combined into one route. The families of our bus riders should watch for a separate email with their specific route information.

For those who do not ride a bus, Panther Club/Den/Study Hall will not be available after school today and all afterschool activities including games, practices, and meetings are cancelled this afternoon.

Please come pick up your child up at 1 PM—we will, of course, remain on campus until the last child leaves for the day, but Panther Club will  not available.

Be safe on the roads and enjoy the beautiful snow!


A Deep Commitment To MPA

from Gina Wallraff, Chief Financial and Operations Officer

One Thursday per month you will see a guest Head’s Message from a member of the Institutional Advancement Team. We hope these additional perspectives will help you catch a glimpse inside the innerworkings of your school.

The Board of Trustees for Mounds Park Academy is the governing authority of the school. It has ultimate responsibility for the school’s financial stability and integrity. The board is made up of parents, alumni, parents of alumni, and other professionals. Along with Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school, I have the honor and the privilege of working with this group of dedicated people who are deeply committed to the health and vitality of the school.

Among other roles related to the mission and vision of the school, the Board of Trustees and its subcommittees, like the Finance Committee, has responsibility for the following:

  • determination of tuition levels;
  • effective financial oversight; and
  • realistic budgeting and monitoring of budgets.

This article aims to provide a glimpse into how the board approaches these responsibilities and the annual cycle of budgeting and tuition setting.

The annual budget process for the next academic year begins soon after the current school year starts, 10 months before the start of the next school year. First, an enrollment forecast is created. In this early stage the forecast is an estimate based on historical trends for current students leaving and new students joining. The enrollment forecast is reviewed by the Admissions team and the Head of School to evaluate the reasonableness of the estimated number of new students and projected total enrollment. Read More


Exceeding What We Dared To Dream

dr. Hudson talking to prekby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

“There are four main ingredients contributing to the success of our school. First is the student body which is made up of a diverse group of individuals, each with their own strengths, talents, and enthusiasm. Second is a dedicated faculty that enjoys and really cares about students and individuals. Third is an administration that truly believes in establishing an atmosphere of support for the students, faculty, staff, and parents. Fourth is a board of trustees which is actively committed to overseeing the entire operation of this school.”

Does that sound like something you might have read in one of my recent Panther Post messages? Perhaps. Instead, they are the words of MPA co-founder Bob Kreischer in a document shared with the founding Board of Trustees of a school with no students, no teachers, no building, and no name on December 11, 1981. Yet there was a vision, what founding Lower School Director Joanne Olson described as “a dream and a shoestring with no assurance of success.” Read More


Let’s Join Together: The Power Of Community

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

The power of community was on display the week of November 8 as we celebrated the success of our Girls Volleyball Team and their run at the state championship. I was incredibly proud of our team—the grit, tenacity, and resiliency they displayed, and the way in which they positively represented the school. I was also full of pride for the way our community came together to support the team. Students, whether they attended the game in person or watched the livestream at school, cheered loudly and proudly, and with extraordinary school spirit.

Earlier in the week, this amazing community pulled together to host a vaccination clinic, providing members of our school community and our surrounding neighborhood, the opportunity to vaccine our younger learners and boosters to adults. The clinic was emblematic of our community’s response to the pandemic: draw upon the can-do spirit of MPA and on the strength of our relationships to overcome an urgent need.

Forty years ago, a different urgency led to the founding of Mounds Park Academy. A group of parents and teachers established a shared community to provide children with a new and unique student-centered whole-child education that didn’t exist in the east metro area. Forty years of gratitude and joining together: we’ve collected quotes from community members you can access here. By joining together, that early community overcame numerous obstacles to succeed and thrive.

Our challenges today are different than those 40 years ago. In a time of rapid change and volatility, young people need stability and a safe, welcoming place to learn and grow. They need kind and caring teachers and staff who truly know them and can accompany them through uncertain times. Students deserve an education that is both challenging and meaningful, one that provides the foundation to succeed in a future with jobs that don’t yet exist.

Today is Give to the Max Day and we are nearing the end of our Fall Campaign. This year’s campaign is especially meaningful because it coincides with our 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of our school. Like the founding families, our school wouldn’t be what it is without you and your family. We have a $200,000 goal today and we need to raise $150,000 in one day to access $50,000 in bonus challenge gifts from anonymous community members. I humbly implore you to join together with other parents, trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, parents of alumni, and grandparents and make a gift to this amazing school.

Every gift of every size makes an impact. Let’s join together in support of our community! Make a gift here!

Be sure to follow along in your email inbox and social media as we share live results and unveil our special virtual Lip Sync Battle with beloved teachers, staff, and students today!


Gathering The Community Together

from Jennifer Rogers, Director of Development and Community Engagement

I was fortunate enough to join the MPA community in 2018 as the director of development and community engagement. And to top it off, my two kids fell in love with the school right along with me and joined as new students at the same time. As with many things from the pre-pandemic world, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to predict how my role would change, let alone education and all of society due to COVID-19.

I’ve loved seeing the direct impact hard work has had on our students and community:

  • building our new Family Commons and the Martin Lenz Harrison Library thanks to the generosity of our donors;
  • hosting joyful events for grandparents, special friends, extended family members, and the local community;
  • building a foundation for the future through legacy giving;
  • providing parents the opportunity to volunteer and connect with one another;
  • engaging alumni and parents of alumni around the globe;
  • and ensuring our teachers and students have the supplies they need every year through the annual fund.

None of these accomplishments would be possible without our community joining together to make them happen. For this guest spot, I initially thought I would focus on the impact our community’s giving has had. But after being fortunate enough to witness the tremendous effort of this week’s Vaccination Clinic in our building, I couldn’t think of a more perfect representation of what it means to me to be a part of this community.

Read More


Let’s Join Together

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

Helen Keller, one of the great American authors, activists, and advocates, said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” These are such simple, yet enlightened words, that illustrate the profound power of community collaboration. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that schools should be epicenters of deep collaboration—among students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, and other community members.

Just this week on campus, students, faculty, and staff came together to do so very much:

  • Upper School physics students worked in small lab groups using a bicycle wheel to understand rotational motion by feeling it between their hands.
  • STEM Ed Club students created curriculum for and hosted a Nature Event for their Lower School friends.
  • Student Council members organized a Nitro-Ball Tournament to benefit future projects in a fun and joyful way.
  • Volleyball players rallied the student body to show up for them at sections and show their support in a huge way.
  • AP Spanish students worked in discussion groups, debating topics such as regional/cultural/religious differences, after having only been in class for two days.
  • Middle School students lined the hallways in small groups, using marshmallows and spoons to investigate math and science in a three-dimensional, dynamic way.
  • Lower School faculty Mari Espeland and Heather Mastel collaborated on their annual second grade production of “The Tales of Anansi the Spider” for the sixth year in a row.
  • Staff designed and implemented a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic on campus in just 24 hours, benefitting the MPA community and beyond.
  • Faculty and staff brought concerts back to MPA with both a successful livestream and an in-person way to engage with the Instrumental Concert.
  • Eighth grade faculty collaborated on the Future City project, providing an interdisciplinary approach for students designing a waste-free city 100 years in the future utilizing a circular economy.

I could go on and on, but none of the above would be possible without collaboration, connectedness, and community.

Now, its our turn to come together—literally and figuratively—to show our support of MPA and the experiences created here each day. This year’s Fall Campaign, “Let’s Join Together,” launches November 8 and lasts until November 19, culminating with our Give to the Max Day of Giving on November 18. A very special, in-person kick off, will be held outdoors on Friday, November 5, from 2-4 PM. Come to campus, come together, and celebrate the start of this very special time at MPA.

This year’s Fall Campaign is particularly meaningful because it coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of our school. Our goal this year is to raise $350,000 to support students, teachers, and to bridge the gap between tuition and the cost of an MPA education—tuition only covers approximately 80 percent of MPA’s expenses. Your gift will ensure students, faculty, and staff have the tools, resources, and support they need to come together today and tomorrow to do so much.

I want every family, especially our new families, to know that giving at MPA takes on many forms. Every gift is valued and participation at any level is deeply appreciated. Sentiment matters more than size and we encourage every family to give at the level that is right for them.

Joining together at MPA may look a little bit different for a little bit longer, but whether we’re together in spirit or in person, we can accomplish so much. You can learn more about the Fall Campaign and what the MPA Fund supports by visiting moundsparkacademy.org/support-mpa.