APS Column: Busy month ahead for Austin Public schools

Published 5:57 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

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By Dr. Joey Page

Austin Public Schools Superintendent

Greetings Austin community members, and happy February! As we approach the midpoint of meteorological winter, I wanted to take a few moments to update you on a few things that are happening at Austin Public Schools.

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First, as I’ve mentioned previously, we are continuing to work on developing our strategic plan, which is a big part of ensuring that we work together toward the future we want for our students. As you might imagine, it is a thorough and lengthy process that requires a lot of time and work, but the payoff for taking our time now means that we will have greater success pursuing our goals in the future.

Next, our district has contracted with the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) from the University of Minnesota to evaluate our district-wide implementation of a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework. The Minnesota Department of Education defines MTSS as a ”systemic, continuous improvement framework for ensuring positive social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and academic outcomes for every student. MTSS provides access to layered tiers of culturally and linguistically responsive, evidence-based practices and relies on the understanding and belief that every student can learn and thrive. In addition, it engages an anti-bias and socially-just approach to examining policies and practices and ensuring equitable distribution of resources and opportunity.”

Our District is planning to use this information to help prioritize, design, and implement academic, behavioral, and mental health services that align with best practice research and the needs of students. This evaluation is being conducted using a continuous improvement framework to create a roadmap to help the District continue to improve programs, practices, and outcomes for students. This process acknowledges that all systems can improve and that opportunities for improvement are built upon our District’s current strengths, history, structure, and resources.

Over the next several months, the CAREI team will be collecting information from our District. The CAREI staff will be conducting several group and individual interviews about MTSS implementation. The CAREI team will be reviewing a wide array of existing information to analyze, including student outcome data, staffing information, professional learning opportunities, and district policies. We expect all information to be summarized by June 30, 2022. Following the completion of the evaluation, the CAREI team will be facilitating a process to prioritize needs and develop an action plan with the District.

Finally, the Austin Public Schools will join school districts throughout the state to salute their local school board members during Minnesota’s annual School Board Recognition Week February 21-25. This commemorative week recognizes the contributions made by Minnesota’s school board members, including the Austin School Board, who are charged with governing public education under state law.

Minnesota school board members are chosen by their communities through election or appointment to manage local schools. Statewide, school board members oversee multimillion-dollar budgets which fund education programs for more than 893,000 students in more than 2,000 schools. Their personnel decisions affect more than 58,000 teachers and thousands of administrators and support workers.

These volunteer leaders are also responsible for formulating school district policy, approving curriculum, maintaining school facilities, and adhering to state and federal education law. Legal concerns and the complexities of school finance, including budgeting and taxation, require them to spend many hours in board training programs and personal study to enhance their understanding of these issues.

We salute the public servants of the Austin School Board whose commitment and civic responsibility make local control of public schools in our community possible. Our deepest appreciation is extended to the dedicated men and women who make it possible for local citizens to participate in education in our community. Please join us by saying thank you to our school board members during Minnesota School Board Recognition Week: Angie Goetz, Kathy Green, Cece Kroc, Don Leathers, Evan Sorenson, Katie Ulwelling, and Peggy Young.