The Henton Headlines: July 29, 2021

July 29, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Do we have to do contact tracing in 2021-2022?

If you are like me, when I read the latest MDE/MDH guidance, I was left wondering. MDE clarified the answer:  conducting contact tracing is strongly recommended, yet is a district decision. 


MASA member receives national award!

At their Summer Leadership Conference, the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) awarded Southwest West Central Service Cooperative Executive Director Cliff Carmody with the 2021 Peter C. Young Award in recognition of his service to educational service agencies. Congratulations Cliff!


Excellent additional resources on racial equity and Critical Race Theory, CRT:

See links below links to racial equity and Critical Race Theory information shared by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development:

Partnership for the Future of Learning

FrameWorks Institute 

FrameWorks Racial Equity in Education 

*Also recommended to take the time to read this one-page document, if nothing else, the last paragraph on CRT written by the outgoing Executive Director of the Council of Great City Schools-so very well said.

Leadership Matters:

“Leadership is for those who love the public good and are endowed and trained to administer it.” - Thornton Wilder

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The Henton Headlines: July 22, 2021

July 22, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Early bird registration now open for AASA’s National Education Conference:

AASA members received an email this week allowing them to register for the February 17-19 conference in Nashville. The link is for AASA members only and may be accessed here

Emergency connectivity fund:

As part of the American Rescue Plan, $7.1 billion was allocated for school districts to apply for funding to better connect their students and staff at home. The application window closes on August 13, 2021. If you are a member of AASA, you received an email from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech on July 20 providing additional information. Here is also a link for more information on the application process

AASA needs your help!

Help bring the ARP dollars to life! AASA’s advocacy team needs your assistance in helping Congress understand and see what these dollars mean to your district, how they are being used, and what a difference they make as it relates to your work to open schools, support students, and address learning recovery. Take a few minutes today to complete this brief survey.

Leadership Matters:

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions." - Albert Einstein

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The Henton Headlines: July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Online Learning Guidance:

MDE hopes to release information for school districts considering offering online learning as an option for the 2021-2022 school year today, July 15. School districts will not be required to offer online learning. The guidance that will be released is for those school districts who want to provide an online learning option for students and are not approved online learning providers.

Will school districts have to do another “Safe Learning Plan” for 2021-2022?

According to Commissioner Mueller, the answer is no. Governor Walz’s Executive Orders have ended and school districts are not required to submit learning plans to MDE for the next school year.

Watch for guidance to come by the end of July from MDH/MDE regarding health recommendations.

Federal Advocacy Conference:

This past week, MASA’s AASA Governing Board Representatives, John Cselovszki, Dan Bittman, David Law, and Craig Oftedahl attended the annual July AASA Federal Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C. I joined them in meetings with the legislative assistants of Minnesota’s two senators and eight representatives. A meeting was also held with staff from the U.S. Department of Education. 

We advocated for increased funding for child nutrition and to include reauthorization of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs as part of reconciliation, funding for schools to improve their school facilities, IDEA full funding, increase in internet access for all students, and much more. 

We believe the legislative assistants were supportive and that they will share this information with the senators and representatives.  We expressed our desire to meet in person with the senators and representatives upon a return visit during the upcoming school year.  

Leadership Matters:

“Sincere enthusiasm is one of the most transformational attributes of leaders.” - Kate Danella

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The Henton Headlines: July 8, 2021

July 8, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Office of the Legislative Auditor request:

I have been asked to share the following information with you along with the opportunity to provide input:

“The Office of the Legislative Auditor is conducting an evaluation of the Minnesota Department of Education’s role in addressing the achievement gap.  OLA has established an internet site for people to give us input on this year’s evaluation projects, including the achievement-gap evaluation. Here is the link

Example of Equity Policy work:

The link below was shared with me by MASA/MASE member and Southern Plains Education Cooperative Director Sarah Mittelstadt. The information in the link along with responses in the Frequently Asked Questions section might be helpful if you are getting questions about your school district’s equity work. Thank you, Sarah!

Leadership Matters:

Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says "Go!" - a leader says "Let's go!" - E.M. Kelly

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The Henton Headlines: July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Synopsis of MASA Board of Directors Retreat

The Board of Directors met on June 24 and 25 in person at the Marriott Northwest. The meeting included a presentation on leadership by Joe Cavanaugh, Founder and CEO of Youth Frontiers, and an update on MASA equity work provided by members of the MASA Equity and Excellence in Education (Triple E) Steering Committee, Katie Pekel Principal in Residence at the U of M and Sebastian Witherspoon Executive Director of Equity Alliance. 

The Board of Directors worked on draft belief statements to be included in the next continuous improvement plan and unanimously passed an equity statement, and two definitions around equity and race equity. Those will be provided to members as the continuous improvement plan process continues to move forward.  

Finally, the Board of Directors conducted an evaluation of me. I am happy to report that I will continue to be the MASA Executive Director and today already marks the beginning of my second year! I am so honored to support the staff and members of MASA.

Know someone who has lost his/her COVID-19 vaccination information?

Here is a helpful link:

AASA Critical Race Theory Resources:

Leadership Matters:

“The true measure of a man isn't how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges” - Dr. Martin Luther King


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The Henton Headlines: June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week

Philosophical differences between parties leads to absence of language regarding Distance Learning in tentative E-12 agreement so now what?

Leading up to the special legislative session, both the House and Senate had language in bills regarding Distance Learning. The Conference Committee discussions did not produce agreement between the bills and the tentative E-12 Omnibus bill does not address Distance Learning in any fashion.

In discussion with Commissioner Heather Mueller on Monday, she acknowledged that there were philosophical differences between the two Houses that led to no agreement on Distance Learning and that MDE has been having near daily discussions about Distance Learning for weeks. She stated what we know: that some school districts want to be able to offer Distance Learning programs as they have last year without being approved as an online provider. Commissioner Mueller said that within 1-2 weeks there will be direction from MDE for those school districts who want to offer Distance Learning to in-district students during the 2021-2022 school year.  She noted that MDE is working to develop something that is “...within the spirit of the law.”  

Here is what you are already able to do with Distance Learning/Blended Learning. A number of school districts plan to use this guidance moving forward and a number have already used this in the past-pre-pandemic.  Where this is in use, or planned to be next year, those school districts have designed blended courses where students are online the majority of the time and in person one day, or one class period per week depending on grade level. 

Commissioner Mueller said MDE will be using the Blended Learning model guidance and the application to become an online learning provider to develop what might be used for school districts wanting to voluntarily offer a Distance Learning program in 2021-2022. Again, we were told that information about what MDE plans to develop should be released in 1-2 weeks and will be within the spirit of existing law.

As of this writing, there has been no discussion with legislators, or with MDE about a mandated Distance Learning program for all school districts as was required via Governor Walz’s Executive Order during the 2020-2021 school year. All discussions to date with Conference Committee Chairs Jim Davnie and Roger Chamberlain, along with Commissioner Heather Mueller, have been around voluntary programs where school districts make local decisions about whether or not to offer Distance Learning.

Manahoy Area School Dist. v. B.L.: Significant Supreme Court decision:

This case involves a student who was suspended for using vulgar speech and symbols on Snapchat following her school’s decision not to place her on a varsity cheerleading team. The student was suspended for a year for her actions. The Supreme Court decision indicated the suspension was a violation of the girl's right to free speech.

There will be more information to come surrounding this case as it has reached national prominence given the potential effects for school districts dealing with students posting vulgarity online that has some connection to the school. I advise you to stay tuned in the days ahead to learn more about how this case might impact similar situations moving forward.

Leadership Matters:

A little summer fun from retired Superintendent Jerry Ness who continues, without fail, to send me a quote for you every week! Thank you, Jerry!

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The Henton Headlines: June 17, 2021

June 17, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week...

Might automatically enrolling children into F/R priced meals without a form be the answer?

As you know, it has been exceptionally challenging during the pandemic to have all qualifying families complete the necessary form for F/R priced meals, which in turn affects the amount of compensatory funding school districts receive. In most cases, school districts will be receiving a decline of this funding stream as there was not an incentive for all families to complete the form.  With this in mind, the information below might provide an optimistic view of what could be to come:

USDA Responds to AASA's Request to Expand Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project

On June 11, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) submitted a response to AASA's allied coalition letter requesting that the department extend and expand opportunities for states to participate in the Direct Certification with Medicaid (DC-M) Demonstration Project, which currently enables 19 states to use Medicaid data to directly certify students for free or reduced-price school meals, under the authority provided in Sections 9(b)(15) and 18(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Specifically, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack stated that "USDA is actively working to identify possible options for building upon our existing DC-M demonstrations, and we look forward to offering expanded opportunities in the near future."    

You can check out AASA's initial letter here, and the USDA's response by clicking here.

Happy Father’s Day to all MASA members who are dads!

Screen Shot 2021-06-17 at 9.59.08 AM

We celebrate all our dads and are grateful for being, or having been under their guiding light!

Leadership Matters:

"Truly great leaders spend as much time collecting and acting upon feedback as they do providing it." - Alexander Lucia 


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The Henton Headlines: June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week...

Significant changes to the August MDE Back-to-School Conference!

I am pleased to report that MDE Commissioner Heather Mueller responded positively to MASA’s suggestion to change the conference to one that is conducted virtually and within two hours. Annual surveys of our members indicated displeasure with the timing of the conference and many noted that August is team planning time for the upcoming school year. We hope that eliminating travel time and hours spent in conferences will be beneficial to you.

Please mark your calendars for 8-10 am on Wednesday, August 4 for the MDE Back-to-School Conference themed by Commissioner Mueller as “Reconnecting!”

Have you had a chance to renew your MASA membership for 2021-2022?

This is such a busy time of year that you might have missed the message about renewing your membership. Here is a link in case you need to check this off your to-do list!

Please note the dues have remained the same and that we are now asking for demographic information. It is difficult to know if we are making progress in diversifying our membership without our members sharing their demographic information. In addition, we are frequently asked by individuals doing research, the media, and other organizations to make this information available. The MASA Board of Directors supports this collection of data and we appreciate your consideration of sharing this information and fully understand if you opt-out.

Leadership Matters: 

"Don't wait for a crisis to start communicating with your team. Start now and you'll be strong when adversity hits. Wait and it'll be too late." - Jon Gordon

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The Henton Headlines: June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week...

Letter to Commissioner Heather Mueller and MDE Director of  Government Relations Adosh Unni:

Given that the “Global Agreement and Working Group Framework” announced by Governor Walz on May 17 includes commissioners in the dialogue between legislative committee chairs, I worked with AMSD, MREA, MASBO, and MSBA to author a letter to Heather and Adosh regarding the ESSER 9.5% flexible spending available to Governor Walz.  

Here is a link to the letter. Heather responded shortly after she received it writing that, “We are taking this feedback very seriously.”

Where did the requirement for seeking community input on the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ESSER) dollars come from?

I have received many concerns regarding the need to seek public input on school district plans for use of the ARPA funds. The timeline is very short.

At this link you will find in A-4 beginning on the bottom of page 12 and continuing on to page 13 a section where this requirement is discussed.  There are a number of other questions answered in the document that you may want to reference at some point even though it is 61 pages long!

Leadership Matters: 

“We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.” - Zig Ziglar

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The Henton Headlines: May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week...

Waiting for answers...

During separate May 24 conversations with House Education Finance Chair Davnie, Senate Education Chair Chamberlain, Commissioner Mueller, and MDE Government Relations Representative Unni, it appears we will not know anytime soon how much to expect in additional dollars on the basic formula and whether increases will be tied to inflation, what dollars might be directed to the special education cross-subsidy, loss of enrollment, sustaining VPK, increasing EL funding, increasing Teachers of Color, loss of compensatory funding, equalization, and much more, not to mention the policy issues around distance learning, student discipline, the World’s Best Workforce, the ability of school districts to renew existing operating levies with school board approval, and the list goes on and on.

The funding targets agreed upon by Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Gazelka do not provide much room for a typical formula increase and little else over the next biennium. 

We continue to advocate and remain in contact with those influencing the top three decision makers-Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Gazelka. We are grateful for you contacting these three directly and sharing your stories/needs.

Unfortunately, it appears we will continue to wait for answers…

Aspiring Superintendents’ Academy:

A very successful second session of the Academy was held in person at the Marriott Northwest last Friday and Saturday. There are 38 aspiring superintendents eager to learn more about the work of superintendents. They are supported by eight superintendent coaches who are assisting them during this important professional development series that consists of five two-day sessions held this spring and next fall. We are grateful for Mia Urick, MASA Director of Professional Learning, who does a phenomenal job of planning all of the sessions, and all of the coaches committed to ensuring we have a qualified pool of incoming superintendents!

Leadership Matters: 

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices." - Harry S. Truman


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