Each year, the Minnetonka School Board sets goals for the school district. The Board’s goals for 2021-22 for Minnetonka Public Schools have focused on maximizing opportunities and ensuring excellence for students academically, socially and emotionally.
The goal for Excellence in Student Learning and Support outlined efforts to enhance academic excellence at every level through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), the expansion of Tonka Online full e-learning program opportunities, the strategic use of District space and the ongoing monitoring and implementation of the District’s COVID-19 Safe Learning Plan. The goal for Excellence in Student Well-being and Belonging continued districtwide efforts to build a culture of positive self-regard, connection and inclusivity.
“The District has made purposeful and meaningful strides this year toward both of the School Board goals,” said Chris Vitale, School Board Chair. “It takes the shared dedication and daily efforts of teachers, administrators, staff, students, families and community members to make Minnetonka excellent, and we are proud of the steps taken to enhance student learning, support, well-being and belonging this year, all of which will have a ripple effect for years to come.”
As the school year ends, here are the ways the District fulfilled the Board goals this year. (Note: this report focuses largely on actions that occurred from February-June; for additional updates from September-January, view the Mid-year Update on 2021-22 School Board Goals.)
Excellence in Student Learning and Support
Minnetonka Schools focuses on learning models and efforts that support personalized learning to meet students’ unique needs, abilities and interests.
During the 2021-2022 school year, the District worked with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) to complete Phase 2 of an evaluation of the District’s MTSS Framework by addressing questions related to the impact it has had on special education services. The first phase of the CAREI evaluation took place during Spring 2021 and focused on the District’s MTSS alignment across Minnetonka’s school buildings and programs. The purpose of the evaluation was to further identify priorities specific to individual student groups, with a targeted focus on special education.
Minnetonka uses MTSS to deliver high-quality, targeted instruction for core academic subjects, as well as for social and emotional learning. MTSS maximizes student success by providing support for all students aligned with their specific needs.
CAREI utilized data from focus groups, teacher and staff surveys and a random sampling of Individual Education Plans and Positive Behavior Support Plans to analyze the impact of the MTSS framework on special education. Additionally, evaluation of the effectiveness of special education programming to meet the needs of students with disabilities was examined.
At the May 19 School Board Study Session, Dr. Amy LaDue, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, and Christine Breen, Executive Director of Special Education, together with the District’s Teaching and Learning and Special Education teams, presented an update on the 2021-22 MTSS action plan and a three-year action plan to address implementation for 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25. The action plan was developed throughout the year based on recommendations and feedback from CAREI.
The MOMENTUM Design and Skilled Trades expansion at Minnetonka High School opened for classes at the start of the spring semester. It housed automotive courses, as well as Physics in Home Renovation, which combines a required science credit with hands-on learning experiences related to construction, electrical work and other trades field opportunities.
Construction of the new VANTAGE/MOMENTUM Building was approved, and a groundbreaking celebration was held on May 5. Construction will continue throughout the 2022-23 school year, and the building is scheduled to open for classes in Fall 2023.
Tonka Online completed its first year as a comprehensive, diploma-earning program for students in grades K-12. Throughout the spring, planning for next year took shape. The District looks forward to continuing the program’s success and growth with signature elements, such as expert teachers; rigorous, district-developed curriculum; live specialist classes; and innovative instructional techniques. Expanded opportunities for 2022-23 year include outside enrichment options, a K-1 Immersion option, student opportunities to further social engagement and strengthening the school-wide community, including an organized parent group.
Safe Learning Plan
The District continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing, reviewing and revising the Safe Learning Plan throughout the school year. The choice to participate in an online instructional model was available to all K-12 students during the year through Tonka Online. The District maintained its weekly COVID-19 reporting dashboard throughout the year. N95 and KN95 face coverings were made available to students and staff at no charge, and in the spring, a District partnership with OralDNA offered free PCR testing onsite at Minnetonka schools for students and staff.
Excellence in Student Well-being and Belonging
The well-being and belonging of students is a continuing priority for families and the District.
In support of this goal, each school identified barriers that had a detrimental effect on students’ well-being and sense of belonging as well as barriers to student academic success. Each school made efforts to address the building-specific needs aligned to the District goals. These goals and their results were shared as part of the June 2, 2022 School Board Meeting.
Belonging Committees have been formed at all schools. Committees’ efforts continued throughout the 2021-22 school year to share experiences and insights for ways to improve student opportunities and experiences.
At Minnetonka High School, the Student Belonging Committee’s goals were to educate and celebrate. Morning announcements, Schoology messages and a school-wide cultural fair held this spring engaged students and staff in these efforts. Other examples include the Holi celebration hosted by a student group, providing an opportunity for other students to learn about the holiday’s cultural significance, and Ally Week hosted by a student group in April to expand awareness about how to support LGBTQIA+ students in feeling safe and comfortable at school.
At MME and MMW, the promotion of shared school values and expanding student co-curricular and extracurricular clubs and activities have been some additional belonging and well-being efforts. Both MME and MMW have Women of Color and Men of Color groups, as well as LGBTQIA+ groups. Other student activity clubs with topics ranging from fantasy football and film to chess, tea and yoga have been started to provide students with avenues to connect with one another and build friendships. Both MME and MMW have also focused on mental health awareness initiatives this year to equip students with skills and tools to face challenges.
In elementary schools, some additional belonging and well-being efforts have included celebrating World Culture Week, fostering student leadership through co-curricular clubs and grade level retreats, and participating in Best Buddies, which is an organization that works to promote opportunities for one-to-one friendships and community connection for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Minnetonka began its Best Buddies partnership by piloting the program at Clear Springs Elementary, Excelsior Elementary, Minnetonka Middle School West, Minnetonka High School and S.A.I.L.
The Tonka Prep program at Minnetonka High School, which supports underrepresented students of color with additional academic and community support, launched during the 2021-22 school year. The program has added a new staff member to expand in 2022-23.
Teachers and staff continued training with the Search Institute on the Developmental Relationships framework, which focuses on five ways to powerfully impact students’ lives through relationships. The framework’s elements include “express care,” “challenge growth,” “provide support,” “share power” and “expand possibilities.” School Board members also engaged with the Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships training during the April School Board Study Session.
Students in grades 4-12 were surveyed regarding their experience with the five elements of developmental relationships in their connections with adults in Minnetonka schools. Those results were analyzed to provide further training and insights to building leaders and teachers to help equip them for additional efforts in this work. Another student survey will be conducted in 2022-23 to measure growth in dimensions of these relationships.
Human Resources participated in nine hiring events to promote the hiring of staff with diverse backgrounds. Three events were national in scope, and each promised to gain exposure for the District among a wider candidate population. Three fairs were Minnesota-based and heavily attended by local job candidates. The remaining three events were university-based at schools around the country that are known for enrolling a diverse student body. Additionally, Minnetonka Schools has obtained a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education to provide relocation assistance to teachers from diverse backgrounds who are moving to Minnesota.
Three Belonging Summits were held this year to provide a venue for administrators to share the belonging efforts at their sites or in their departments in support of the District goal to ensure each student experiences a sense of belonging as a valued member of our school community. Because this goal was not finalized until after the first quarter was over, three Belonging Summits were held. These summits occurred on February 17, April 18 and June 2.
The School Board updated its Vision for the Future document to ensure alignment with the District’s commitment to child-centered excellence, well-being and belonging. The updated document is available to view on the Minnetonka Schools website.
Student voice in relation to well-being, health and mental health continues to be sought out, elevated and addressed. The Teaching & Learning Student Advisory group met quarterly to discuss the embedded health model and offer thoughts/recommendations for the health curriculum that is currently under review. This advisory group’s overall purpose is to provide an ongoing opportunity for student voice and engagement in District teaching and learning processes and programs. It has also convened to discuss mental health, needs of students and the impact of COVID on students.
The MHS Student Wellness Group meets weekly, and work began to incorporate, partner and support the work of this group with the overall focus and effort around well-being and mental health. Annie Lumbar Bendson, the Director of Health Services, will continue to collaborate and meet with the group monthly during the school year to strengthen and support its work.
The District’s Mental Health Advisory Committee hosted a virtual event this spring for parents and caregivers entitled “Supporting Our Kids Through Challenging Times: Building Resilience for Healthy Well-Being.” The event featured psychologist Dr. Darryl Goetz. Resources from the discussion are available on the District Well-Being Guide website.
Mental Health Awareness Week in May also offered an opportunity for staff to connect with students specifically about mental health resources and support. Resources about boosting mental health and reducing mental health stigma were shared in schools. The District will be moving forward with a partnership with DIALL, a mental health app developed by a Minnetonka alumnus. The app provides vetted resources and information to support student well-being. It will be launched for high school student use in the fall.
Results of the Minnesota Student Survey, which was administered in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11 at the end of the 2021-22 school year, will be reviewed, prioritized and considered as a resource to inform the District’s well-being and belonging efforts for the upcoming year.
The community can learn more about the year’s progress on the 2021-22 School Board Goals from School Board Meeting and Study Session reports, which may be found in the Archives of the School Board Meeting webpage.