From the Office of the Superintendent 4/3/20
Weekly Briefing for ISD 709 Faculty & Staff
We are experiencing a time that future students will learn about in their history classes.
It's not something any of us planned for or expected to be doing this year and we are all unsure of what comes next. We all think about the possibility of becoming sick or seeing a loved one become ill. We think about the possibility of losing someone close to us.
Our lives have changed. And yet, our commitment to serving the children and families of Duluth remains. Creating a distance learning plan in eight days. Searching diligently to find a way to communicate with every student and family. Feeding children each day, providing childcare for critical workers, keeping our buildings sanitized in the face of a pandemic.
Across every department, school and bargaining unit, it's awe-inspiring to see the dedication of the people who work for Duluth Public Schools.
As we head into spring recess next week, some thoughts on grace and space. This period of time will not be perfect - in fact, it is likely to be messy. The greatest of intentions may fall short at times but our commitment to our students and our community will not.
Our staff and students will connect. They'll continue their supportive relationships and students will learn. Perhaps not at the same rate, but let’s allow room for grace and space, and remember why all of this is happening. Let's support each other and rely on one another like all those people we learn about in our history books. People who found strength together in times of great struggle.
I am proud to work with an amazing team who are going above and beyond to support our Duluth community in so many ways during this difficult time.
Thanks for all you've done and all we'll do together in the coming weeks and months.
If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email: Superintendents@ISD709.org. Twitter: @billgronseth
Thank you to our educators and school staff for their tireless work to help Minnesota’s students. Every single person in our schools plays an important role in our students learning. We are incredibly proud of how you have stepped forward to lead in your communities.
Community response to the tremendous work of all of our people.
We Are An Amazing Team. Many Thanks To...
We had just eight days to prepare hundreds of staff to provide distance learning for thousands of students. Our team has been working day and night to create an equitable, accessible system of distance learning for all students. Some students are well prepared and well equipped to jump right in. Others are not - we have hundreds of students without internet access or devices. Our plan from the beginning was to ensure that all of our students would have access to distance learning. We will continue to develop skills and capacity as we go along.
The work of reaching every student is nothing short of remarkable - from teachers, Integration Specialists and American Indian Home School Liaisons, to Community Schools personnel to our staff who support homeless families, many thanks.
Much appreciation to the people in our ISD 709 Print Shop, taking on the complex task of producing curriculum packets for distribution to families who need hard copy for distance learning.
Piedmont Elementary cafeteria manager Maria Karon (right) jokes with Holly Mattila Jouppi as the school's experienced and hard-working staff prepares free, nutritious breakfast and lunch bag lunches for distribution. Child nutrition staff across the district are preparing and distributing about 3,600 meals each day - over 15,000 per week.
People who work as paraprofessionals in our schools are helping deliver breakfast and lunches, prepping chromebooks and curriculum packets and assisting with emergency childcare for essential workers.
Bill Elliot, left, is a 25+ year veteran paraprofessional for the Duluth School District. He's standing with KEY Zone director Talerie Johnson. Bill talks about the program at Lowell.
"Our lives all took quite a change when this started and the Governor said we'd be doing daycare. There were a lot of concerns at first, but once we got here and we were with the kids it was totally awesome. The kids are great, we do so many projects and activities during the day. We're always moving around, we're either outside or we're doing different craft projects - or else eating, which is a favorite of the kids. It's going so well and I'm so impressed with how KEY Zone has this going for the kids, supporting the families that really need this right now because they're doing so much for our community."
ISD 709 Maintenance Staff
Dan Lane, a longtime utility department employee at Denfeld High School, said the coronavirus pandemic is "uncharted territory for everyone, including for those of us with Duluth Public Schools."
"We're regarded as essential employees, and there's things to continue to take care of -- boilers, general maintenance and such," Dan said during a break from outside work. "Sanitization is a big thing right now, as we do our best to protect the people that come and go here at Denfeld. The teachers are working hard to teach their students online. The best thing we can do is take it one day at a time and hope for the best."
Within days, Transportation Manager Steve Johnson and his staff created routes for delivering free breakfast/lunch to students and then routes for delivering curriculum packets. Drivers are on the road, helping make sure children are fed and curriculum delivered to support distance learning.
Throughout it all, the people in these key positions keep offices and schools organized and work to meet the needs of our families and students. A tough job at any time but especially during the fast-paced, often chaotic and ever-changing transition to school closure. What we do is only possible with their help and expertise.
During a time of pandemic, many thanks for the experience, skill and authoritative voice of these professionals. They help keep us up to date on the latest from the MN Department of Health, screen children, advise and train our staff and families on the best ways to prevent illness and so much more.
The Governor's Executive Order to close schools, evolving directives from the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC - all require the people in our HR offices to navigate complex changes and work to understand how they impact ISD709 employees. Like trying to drink through several fire hoses all at once - and they've handled it with grace and professionalism.
Throughout school closure and this time of uncertainly, it's comforting to know that the basic business activities of the school district continue. Payroll goes out, invoices are paid, mail and materials are distributed, budgets are managed and planned, interoffice mail goes from building to building. It keeps us grounded.
ISD 709 Technology Staff and Chromebook Preppers
Addressing the challenge of social distancing required changes to the way we conduct classes, school board meetings and departmental meetings. All required support from our Technology Department.
It takes many hands to clean and disinfect Chromebooks and cables to be loaned out to families in need. Thank you to paraprofessionals, teachers, engineers and technology/media coordinators for pitching in.
We Have Amazing Heart...
Over the past several weeks, principals, teachers and staff have worked together to reach out to students and families in dozens of ways. Just a few examples.
Lester Park staff provided photos and messages, Kelsey Bryant put them together to a song called One Step at a Time by Jordan Sparks. Kesley is a Lester Park Elementary
Phy. Ed Specialist.
Liza Tarnowski, 1st Grade Teacher at Laura MacArthur, reading to students via Facebook. Many teachers are doing this to reach out and share books and face time with students.
Duluth Principals On Distance Learning"So much has changed since then. But one thing hasn't. The love for the kids. "The first thing I'd say is that we miss them terribly," said Beth Shermoen, principal at Piedmont Elementary."
Thank you, Duluth Principals, for all you do and for all your work during closure.
Lowell Elementary principal Jen Larva, reading a bedtime story online for her students.
Duluth East staff shared positive thoughts for students and created a slideshow video for the school's Facebook page.
Double Duty MessageA Facebook message for families in our Early Childhood Family Education program. Plus, it's a sensory fun activity for the little ones - shaving cream finger painting. (For children old enough to not try tasting it!) We're told adults enjoy the experience just as much as children.
A Wonderful World
Matthew Wade from Piedmont Elementary, singing a story for our students. ♥️ our Special Education teachers.