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June 2021

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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Continue reading "The Henton Headlines: June 24, 2021" »

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!

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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 


Continue reading "The Henton Headlines: June 17, 2021" »

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

Continue reading "The Henton Headlines: June 10, 2021" »

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

Continue reading "The Henton Headlines: June 3, 2021" »