The Purpose of Mounds Park Academy

by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

“Do you know the purpose of Mounds Park Academy?” asked Mr. Kevin Breen, chair of our ISACS accreditation visiting team, of several seniors.

“The purpose of the school is to develop the whole child so that we can be fully formed adults,” said the first.

“And when we are more fully formed, we have the self-confidence to respect each other and value inclusivity,” added a friend.

“Yes, so in a way, the most important word in the motto is ‘do,’ as in do things; do right,” said the third. And then, after a pause, he added this: “And our teachers facilitate that. They make it easy to do right. They make volunteerism easy. They make civic engagement easy. They bring opportunities to ‘do right’ right to us.”

The vibrant and powerful mission of Mounds Park Academy, delivered by talented and caring teachers, is having a tremendous impact on the lives of our students each day. You share in that impact by the value you place on learning, the investment you are making in the education of your children, and your commitment to and support of Mounds Park Academy.

Monday will mark the beginning of our fall campaign, “Joyful Learning, Joyful Giving.” For the next five weeks, the MPA community will band together to raise the funds necessary to extend the impact and joy of an MPA education. Culminating with Give To The Max Day and the Faculty and Staff Lip Sync Assembly on November 15, our goal is to raise $300,000 to ensure joyful learning continues at MPA.

One could say that the joy of learning at MPA is dependent upon the joyful giving of parents, alumni, grandparents, friends, and alumni families. Mounds Park Academy, like all independent schools, relies on three principle sources of revenue to support its day-to-day operations: tuition, endowment, and annual gifts made by members of our community. Tuition does not cover the total cost of educating a student at Mounds Park Academy and the gap is bridged by annual giving.

Gifts made to the MPA fund during the “Joyful Learning, Joyful Giving” campaign are used exclusively to fund joyful learning:

  • Joy from throwing a pot in ceramics class.
  • Joy from singing the national anthem so beautifully at Homecoming events.
  • Joy from creating a squishy circuit that powers a light bulb in the Makerspace.
  • Joy from hard work, training, and teamwork that results in a soccer victory.
  • Joy from bringing to live a character on stage.
  • Joy from grasping the nuance of a novel, an aha moment.

The spirit of philanthropy and of joyful giving at Mounds Park Academy is vibrant. I humbly ask you to join me in increasing the impact of the MPA mission. Please know that every gift is valued and participation at whatever level feels right to your family is appreciated. You may also be interested in knowing that 100 percent of faculty and staff gave to the MPA Fund last year and I expect it will be the same again this year. We have the most caring, knowledgeable, talented teachers and staff who make joyful learning and joyful giving possible.

Look for more information in the mail, visit the MPA website, or contact the Development Office to make a gift. With your contribution, you make an impact in the lives of all those who learn, play, create, dream, and do at our school. Your gift directly impacts of the mission of MPA and the lives of our students.

Making Homework Positive, Meaningful, and Low Stress

Lower school student reading a bookby Renee Wright, Lower School Director

Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, you will find a guest blog post here from one of MPA’s division directors. We hope you will enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

How do I get my child to do homework without doing it for her? What should I do if my child is struggling with homework? How do I motivate my child to do homework? Have you ever asked yourself these questions as a parent? If so, you are not alone. Most parents of school-age children have encountered homework challenges and struggles. Read More

School Safety: Reflection, Research, and Action

two students holding handsby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Parenting is tough work. It seems that in today’s world, there are many more things to worry about than 25 years ago. One of those worries is school security. Despite the unlikelihood of a school shooting, the frequency and the publicity of such occurrences have parents and educators alike very concerned. The school shooting in Parkland, Florida last spring still looms large in my memory and has led to further reflection, research, and action on the part of MPA’s administration regarding school safety.

Tragic as it is, it is important to note that less than one percent of violent deaths are “school associated,” yet such instances do indeed feed our fears. No new threat or instance has provoked this communication or MPA’s updated approach that you will read more about below, but rather it reflects our ongoing commitment to keeping our students safe.

First of all, instead of talking only about school security, I would rather focus our efforts and thinking on school safety, a larger umbrella that includes both school security and school culture. It may seem to split hairs, but there is a difference. Security refers to the practices, protocols, hardware, and other such measures and is increasingly referred to as “hard” security. School culture is the set of values and beliefs that connect people to one another. As head of school, my job is to strike the right balance between school security and school culture. Read More

Y’all Come Back Now. You Hear?!

lower school at homecoming 2017by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I am showing my age and asking you to perhaps share yours. Growing up in the 70s, that phrase is very familiar to me. I heard it an inordinately, embarrassing number of times, sprawled on the living room floor, watching reruns of the “Beverly Hillbillies” television show. It is not proper English for a number of reasons and it may well be a stereotype of the South, but I think it conveys a family-like warmth and means, “We all belong here.”

“We All Belong Here” is the message of homecoming at MPA and the reason we celebrate all next week, culminating in a day-long celebration on Saturday, September 29. At many schools, homecoming pertains only to older students, athletes, and alumni. At MPA, homecoming is an inclusive, community-wide celebration. Throughout the week, and on Saturday, students of all ages will take part in the festivities. Parents, grandparents, and all family members are invited to join in the fun. It is for all of us. Read More

Reflecting On The Past And Embracing The Future

Dr. Hudson at the south entranceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Both my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts were abuzz this week, notifying me of a very important anniversary coming up. September 16 is the five-year anniversary of my first day working at MPA. Professionally, and personally, it is an important date for me and one I truly celebrate each year.

  • It is the date I found a home, a community that embraced my family and me, where I experienced what inclusivity really means.
  • It is the date that I discovered what I think a school should be and the very best of what education is all about.
  • It is the date that marks the beginning of a journey that continues to be a source of great joy and fulfillment.

Read More

We Are a Mosaic

dr. Hudson at lower school lunchby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

“Each individual piece of our mosaic is essential to forming the beautiful whole. Our diversity in age, cultures, talents, interests, and personalities paints an array of colors that make our mosaic vibrant.”

As quoted from the introduction of the 2017-18 school yearbook, the yearbook committee presented a powerful visual image that so eloquently captures the essence of our school’s commitment to equity and inclusion. The students went on to describe each student as unique, their own piece of a beautiful mosaic, that when fitted together, form an exquisite piece of art. Read More

Culture Starts With Connections

eagle bluff 2017by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

There was great excitement on a recent morning as I greeted students at the south entrance, particularly from eighth grade students. With sleeping bags, pillows, duffel bags, and suitcases in tow, our eighth graders prepared to depart for three days and two nights to Eagle Bluff, an environmental learning center in Lanesboro. I found myself chuckling as students looked like they packed for a three-month backpacking trip across Europe rather than several days in southern Minnesota!

The eighth grade trip has been an MPA staple for many, many years. It is a time to reconnect with friends, form new friendships, and grow as the “leaders” of the Middle School. At Eagle Bluff, the eighth graders will challenge themselves individually on the high ropes course and as a team through group challenges and GPS orienteering. Time to bond and reconnect over free time and everyone’s favorite camp activity—the bonfire and s’mores—make this the perfect beginning of their final year in Middle School. Similarly, sixth grade just returned from a trip to Audubon.

The ninth grade class spent time together at the State Fair for a scavenger hunt to foster relationship-building and class identity. In small groups determined by their advisory, new and returning students worked together to accomplish a series of tasks. Problem-solving, communication, and collaboration are critical skills students must employ to be successful. As new Upper School students, the day is symbolic of the independence they now enjoy and the accompanying responsibility of representing themselves and the school respectfully and positively.

This summer, I read an article published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education about school culture. The article emphasized that a positive and healthy school culture starts with connections—strong and overlapping interactions among all members of the school community.

“A culture will be strong or weak depending on the interactions between people in the organization. In a strong culture, there are many overlapping and cohesive interactions so that knowledge about the organization’s distinctive character—and what it takes to thrive in it—is widely spread,” it reads.

The article defines culture in light of five interwoven elements:

1. Fundamental beliefs and assumptions
2. Shared values
3. Norms
4. Patterns and behaviors
5. Tangible evidence

At MPA, we frequently describe the school community as a family. Implicitly and explicitly, our core beliefs and shared values are translated into norms of behavior expressed through patterns and actions. The results include traditions and experiences, such as the eighth grade Eagle Bluff trip, the sixth grade Audubon trip, and the ninth grade day at the Fair, that foster the connections essential to building a strong school culture. These are just three of the countless tangible manifestations of the incredible school culture that is intentionally strengthened and nurtured throughout the school year.

Author’s Note: I’d like to make my weekly message more interactive. Click here to offer your thoughts on school culture. I will incorporate your feedback into future Head’s Messages. Thank you!

Welcome Home

dr. Hudson welcoming students on first day of schoolby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Welcome home to MPA! It was wonderful to see you Tuesday evening for Back to School Night. There was great energy and optimism in the school as we welcomed 80 new students and families to MPA and re-connected with returning families. The packed bleachers in the Lansing Center was a sight to behold and filled me with gratitude and great pride. As I stood at the south entrance on such a beautiful morning, the hugs, handshakes and high fives reminded me how fortunate I am to lead this amazing community. Thank you for the joy your family brings to our school.

A common theme emerges when students, parents, teachers, or staff are asked to describe MPA in one word. Family. The strong relationships that form between members of the MPA community resemble the bonds between family members. Because of those bonds, our students develop the confidence to discover and pursue their dreams and uncover their purpose in the world.

In October, we will welcome educators from independent schools across the Midwest who are serving on our accreditation visiting team. After one year of self-reflection here on campus, we seek their review and affirmation of the plans and priorities we offer as part of our commitment to continuous improvement. They will make a recommendation of accreditation to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS), validating who we are as well as offering suggestions that will enhance our school. This is a very important part of the life of an independent school and I am looking forward to the process.

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Welcome Home, Panthers!

Back to school nightWe are looking forward to seeing everyone at New Family Orientation and Back To School Night to start off another fantastic school year! Grab your new school supplies and head to campus on Tuesday, August 21, for time with your teachers, an all-school assembly, and snacks! Welcome home, Panthers!

New Family Orientation: 3:30-5:45 PM

3:30-4 PM – Students and parents stay together to meet homeroom teachers, put away school supplies, and locate and/or practice lockers.
4-4:45 PM – Students separate for an activity with Mr. Purdy, Extended Day Coordinator, while parents meet with Ms. Wright, Lower School Director, in the Library.
4:45-5:30 PM – Enjoy dinner in the cafeteria.
5:30-5:45 PM – Meet Head of School Dr. Hudson and the Leadership Team.
6:15-6:30 PM – All-School Welcome Back Assembly in the Lansing Center.
6:30-7:30 PM – Additional time to visit homeroom and specialist teachers and classrooms, organize school supplies, and practice student lockers. Refreshments available. Read More

Witnessing Growth

first and seventh grade in the makerspaceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

At the door this morning, a kindergartener excitedly showed Ms. Wright and me her wiggly tooth. “Look! I’m losing another tooth! Right next to the one I already lost!” she said as she worked the tooth back and forth with her finger. For several weeks earlier this spring, we received daily updates of the process of losing her first tooth. It is stories like this that I tell when people ask me what I love most about my job.

Losing teeth, “high water” pants, and deeper voices are all outward signs of growing students. Not as obvious are the maturity and confidence students develop over their time at MPA, whether over the course of one year, or many. I see it in the way they carry themselves in the hallways and how they perform on the stage or playing field. Nothing is more rewarding than to witness this growth and to somehow be a part of it.

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