Our first week of school is coming to a close and it’s been wonderful. In fact, our first student performance, “Much Ado About Nothing,” will be performed the evenings of September 11, 12, and 13th. This production is being mounted entirely by students who have been working independently throughout the summer. The play will be presented in room 118 at MSSPA at 7:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!
We welcome two new staff members this year. Special education teacher Andy Holmbo moved with his family to the St. Cloud area in June. Taking his place is Josh Dickinson, a special education teacher with diverse experience in technology, auto restoration, and percussion performance. Josh is innovative, passionate and committed to his students and has already established himself as an integral part of our arts education community.
Natalie Sasseville will fill the newly created position of educational assistant. Natalie’s enthusiasm and energy are contagious! Although she will be working with students and teachers wherever she is needed, most of her time will likely be focused in our new Learning Center.
The Learning Center is located in the newly renovated lower level of the school. The space has been set up to accommodate a computer lab for online learning offered through MSSPA, and using the PLATO accredited curriculum. This curriculum allows students to complete classes not currently offered at MSSPA or if offered, conflict with a student’s schedule. A teacher and/or educational assistant are present to assist, explain, and keep students on task. The MSSPA Online Learning Center, using PLATO, is an exciting addition to our program because it greatly expands curricular offerings, allows students to do online work without paying tuition, allows students to stay in the building and earn MSSPA credit for the classes, and provides teacher assistance for all classes. The online program also provides a wealth of supplemental learning programs for students who are struggling. For example, a student who continues to struggle with an algebra class can be assigned to complete a motivational tutoring segment in the area of need. All of the classes are accessible from personal computers as well, so students can continue to work at home.
One of our school goals this year is to reduce the achievement gap. This is also a priority for the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The achievement gap is defined as the difference between the lowest performing students and the highest performing students. Our goal is to meet the academic challenges of our most talented and gifted students while raising the achievement of the students who are struggling. We are doing this in several ways. First, the learning center described above will serve both struggling and gifted students and support teachers in curriculum development. Second, students struggling with math and reading will receive additional instruction and support both in the classroom and after school. Third, we have initiated an innovative weekly schedule that includes two 45-minute advisory sessions. These sessions will be used for tutoring, enrichment, and special activities such as arts meetings.
MSSPA continues to thrive and grow. Our exceptionally gifted staff continues to build a unique sense of community based on respect and mutual interest in arts education and performance. And as always, my door is open to talk with parents and students; please don’t hesitate to drop into the office and say hello!