Superintendent Update February 2021 Transcript

Last Updated: 2/25/2021 3:13 PM

([An animated title screen appears. Text: Minnesota State Academies, Superintendent Update. February 2021. Video opens to Terry Wilding seated at his desk in his office.)


Terry: Hello. I am Terry Wilding. Today I'm in my office to bring you some brief updates and recent news. 


First off, it is important to recognize we have three new employees who have been promoted to a new position or joined our school. Let me introduce our three administrators. The first introduction is Amber Miller. She has been working in our finance department, processing our payroll. She recently was promoted to director of fiscal services. She is replacing Mike  Hopwood who recently retired this past January. Congratulations to Amber and welcome on board.


The second person I would like to introduce is Kathy Hamlin. She is our new director of food services. Her responsibilities are food and operating the cafeterias on both campuses. She joined February 1st. Kathy is replacing Katy Roth who moved to another job opportunity. Congratulations to Kathy and welcome to you.


The third person to recognize is Hope Miller in her new promotion. She was working in the dorms as a residential educator and now is in the role of assistant dorm program coordinator. Her responsibilities are to oversee the dorm program in the evenings making sure it runs smoothly, communicate well, and handle the situations that may arise in the evening. Welcome, Hope.


The second update is related to our budget. This past fall, we worked with the governor's office.  The discussion included our school's needs, our plans, and our forecast for the future.  The discussion assisted us in putting together our budget proposal. The governor, of course, looks at  the economy, our tax revenue, and projections as he plans his proposal to the legislature. In the governor's proposal was an increase to our budget for this year and next year, as we are in a  biennial cycle. For the first year - fiscal year - 2022, the increase is $262,000. In fiscal year 2023, our increase is $516,000, which is very good for us -- but it's not everything that we asked for -- but this will allow us to maintain our programs, operations and reduce the impact on the needs of our students.


Now is the time to work with our legislators. We have already presented to the house education  finance committee. I was able to explain about our school and the needs we have. They recently introduced a bill, house file 1065, and after reviewing our line item, the budget matches the amount the governor recommended in his proposal. The next step is to watch for the introduction of a bill on the senate side. We will work with our legislators to gain support for the increase to our budget, and that the proposal increase makes it to the final bill in the spring. We know there's a lot of challenges to navigate through. We will keep you informed of the forecasts, the economy, and the legislative planning sessions to hopefully keep the budget increase moving forward.  


We are also watching several other bills that may have the potential impact on our programs.  Most of them are not related to our school. They are more for the general state operations, which may affect us too. We will continue to give you updates throughout the spring.


And now I have some exciting news to share with you all. Scott Berglund, one of our teachers at the blind school, has just been recognized by KS95, which is a radio station. He was selected as their teacher of the week. This is a huge honor for Scott, and we are so proud to have him on our staff. When the recording from the radio station is ready, we will share that on our social media pages. And congratulations to Scott for this honor.


I also have a few updates to share with you.  First, most of our students have returned to on-campus learning at this point. Our schools are pretty much open at this point. Students returned on February 1st to resume in-person learning as well as activities within the school and the dorm. There are a few students that elected to remain in distance learning, but for the most part, most of our students are back on campus and teachers and school staff have been preparing for this transition and making sure certain health and safety protocols are in place to ensure our students stay healthy. We have rules and procedures that have been in place 

for quite some time now to assist in that process.  


I did also want to add -- as some have been wondering are campuses still closed to visitors.  If we do have events on campus, attendance will be limited to students only, or a select few. If we do have opportunities for some of our events to be live streamed, or to be held on Zoom, that information will be shared with the community. One example that could be live streamed is our  graduation ceremonies, and that way you can attend graduation without actually coming to campus. This is a change that we'll have in place for a while now. As we get closer, more information will be shared on our social media pages or on our website. 


The next section is now to give an update on our construction projects. Most of you are aware we received funds from the legislature last fall so we can build a new safe secure connection between three buildings at the deaf school campus. At this point in the process, we are looking for an architect. We recently had a group of people who may be interested in putting in a bid to become our architect, to take a look at the site. They will submit paperwork, which we will review and select an architect. 


Next we will select a small committee to assist us with design plans, which then will set us to be ready for the next bid process of selecting a contractor. Once that is complete, construction will  begin. I'm not sure of the timeline yet, but we will communicate more later. We are also continuing to work on other projects using a different source of funds, called asset preservation. This fund is used for preserving our campus, maintaining our buildings on both campuses. We have different projects planned for the spring and summer -- for example, improvements to sidewalks, roof, heating systems, as well of a few other projects. That is in our plans for the upcoming years.  


Thank you for your patience, if these projects impact your workspace.  We are trying our best not to disrupt areas, but sometimes moves will need to occur. We will continue to communicate with you when the projects will start.


Lastly, today I want to share a spotlight. One of our alumni, who also is a current employee. Her name is Charissa Johnson. She is also a parent of two of our students. I recently recorded a spotlight interview with her explaining her role as a parent representative on our site council. Go ahead and watch the video.


(Video cuts to a Zoom recording of the interview between Terry and Charissa. The video cuts back and forth as each person speaks.) 


Terry: Let's go ahead and have you introduce yourself. Tell us about your background and just do a short introduction.


Charissa: Okay. Hello. I am Charissa Johnson. I am an alumnae of MSAD. I began as a  kindergarten student and stayed until graduation. I left Faribault, did my own thing, and eventually returned to Minnesota with two deaf daughters, both of whom are students at MSAD. One is in first and the other is in third. I'm excited to watch them grow. I know what MSAD gave me as a student, and I hope I can provide them with the same experiences.  


I've been involved in many school activities at MSAD, and one of my current roles is PTSA,  which is the Parent Teacher Staff Association. They were looking for some new members, so I joined. I was eventually elected vice president and am now the president of PTSA. PTSA this  year is currently on hold due to COVID, but that hasn't stopped my involvement. I am now a parent representative on the MSAD site council and I'm excited to continue contributing to the school.


Terry: Do you mind explaining site council? What does that mean? What do you do?


Charissa: Sure. I'm sure many of you are wondering what site council is, so let me give you a brief history of it so you have a better understanding. Back in the 80s and 90s, there was no board or site council. Administrators would often come together and make decisions without the input of teachers, staff, or other community members. At that time, the school was under the Minnesota state board of education, and after gathering some input, a consultant was brought in to do a large study. From this, site councils were set up on each campus.


Later in the 90s, issues came up again, and consultants were brought in and this established our board. So the board oversees the superintendent, and they're also responsible for the site councils. So that, in short, is a history of site council.


Terry: how many people participate, and how often do you meet? And what are the rules and responsibilities of each site council member?


Charissa: There's a total of 14 site council reps, so when administration has a big decision to make or wants to discuss something, they'll bring it to the site council first. Each member has a responsibility to then discuss it with the communities they represent and bring feedback, opinions, concerns back to the site council where it will be discussed. Administration listens to all the perspectives then brings this back to the board to make a  decision. That's how we make sure everyone is included in the decision-making process.  


Site council has been meeting once a month on Wednesdays, and these occur during the school year. These meetings are also open to the public. Anyone is free to watch meetings. Typically it happens on campus, but because of COVID, we've been meeting through Zoom. If anyone is curious and wants more information, they can look at the MSAD website under governing board, and you can find more information there.


Terry: you began your role as a parent rep on site council. What is your vision moving forward in your new role?


Charissa: I'm excited to become a parent rep for site council, and I'm excited to help facilitate  communication. I'm a new member, but it's my goal to continue doing this moving forward.  I'm planning to communicate through MSAD's PTSA Facebook page. If you're a parent and you haven't joined yet, do it. Communication will happen through there, but that's only one way of communicating, and it's not enough. I know some parents don't have Facebook, so I want to be able to connect through email. I'm trying to grow my parent email list, which is why this is a perfect opportunity. If you want to join the email list to learn more about site council, be part of the decision, and share your concerns, contact me at the email address at the bottom of your screen: 


I will add your email to the list and going forward, there will be transparent communication via email. I am really excited and I want to see more parents involved, because the more parents that are involved, the stronger the school becomes. And stronger schools empower our children to thrive and grow. I'm looking forward to reaching out to all of you.


Terry: One of our school goals is to include parents and families and community members more,  so thank you for being assertive and taking more action to include more parents with our schools. We look forward to working with you in the future.


Charissa: Yes, thank you for having me today. Thank you.

(Video cuts to an animated slide, showing the MSA logo.)