ISD 709 News 5/7/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

This week Governor Walz announced significant new information regarding Minnesota's fight against COVID-19. As this is being interpreted by the MN Department of Education, we will continue to update you on how it affects our current and future programming. We look forward to sharing more as soon as possible.

We are celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Week, National Principal Appreciation Day and School Lunch Heroes Day. There is no way to fully share how grateful I am for the work of our staff. The struggle, loss, fear, and the degree and frequency of change have been unlike anything experienced in our professions, but it has been surpassed by the resolve and creativity, the professional learning, flexibility, resilience, drive, and especially the profound caring that staff members have shown.

Last week, I shared information about the work we are doing to meet our district’s current needs through our Operational Plan. More detail will be shared in the coming days but I want to clarify messaging in a critical area.

With the key areas of our Operational Plan taking shape, I shared these four in various forums:

  • Student learning, including learning loss

  • Social emotional learning and mental health of students

  • Understanding and application of our equity framework

  • Blended learning initiative implementation - devices, access and training

I’ve highlighted “learning loss” as it’s a term being used with great frequency and I would like to be the first to begin changing that.

In the Atlantic article, Our Kids Are Not Broken, Ron Berger reminds us that the mindset around meeting the current learning needs of our students is vitally important. If students hear again and again that they are broken, they will begin to believe it and will perform accordingly. In Yong Zhao’s article, Build Back Better - Avoiding the Learning Loss Trap, the author points out the dangerous traps that this mindset might have on decision making by leaders, whether governments or school boards. Some of the dangers he points out are a push for even more standardized testing, focusing just on the core, as well as the idea that remediating “learning loss” won’t take away from more important universal instructional time.

Instead, the article states, we have to focus on BBB - Build Back Better. We can do this in the following ways:

  • Meeting students where they are - don’t treat them like a homogenous group

  • Pay attention to ALL educational outcomes - what might be needed by future learners and workers?

  • Engage learners as partners of change and owners of their learning - students are not passive recipients but active creators of learning

  • Keep families engaged - families have had to be more actively involved in their students’ education and we should find ways to ensure that continues

  • Keep online/remote learning - this innovation should be kept so that teachers and students can bring global resources to the classroom and participate in global learning programs.

The language we use makes a difference. When we know better, we do better. As your superintendent and as a district, we will be moving away from the use of this term.

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email: ReturnToLearn@ISD709.org

From Assistant Superintendent Anthony Bonds

Marnita’s Table selected for student, staff and community engagement regarding ISD 709’s School Resource Officers Program. Information regarding process timelines, engagement events and discussions, and ways to stay informed will be provided over the next few weeks.

In July of 2020, the School Board adopted a resolution - School Board Support for School Resource Officer (SRO) Contract Negotiations, Policy and Procedure Review and Engagement Efforts. The resolution directs "District administration to launch dialog sessions with high school student groups to discuss issues of equity, race, and power, including a focus on the role of the School Resource Officers."

The resolution also directs, "District administration to assess the impacted communities' experience of, and perspective on, the SRO program and seriously consider that input for possible structural or contractual changes if future contracts are pursued."

The national and statewide pandemic delayed this engagement effort as the District shifted its focus and resources on developing and implementing learning model changes.

Work commenced in January 2021 as the District began seeking an organization with the skills and structures to conduct a thorough, unbiased, and non-predetermined stakeholder engagement process. A request for proposal was developed and the following organizations were contacted:

  • Marnita’s Table

  • Millennium Learning Concepts

  • Research in Action

  • TeamWorks International

  • Inspire to Change

  • Rainbow Research

  • Equity Alliance MN

Marnita’s Table was selected primarily because of their reputation for conducting high quality community and organizational stakeholder engagement that actively seeks input from all stakeholders, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

If you have any questions, please contact me at Anthony.Bonds@ISD709.org,

Thank You, Duluth Teachers

May 3 - 7 is National Teacher Appreciation Week, a great time to #ThankATeacher for the important work they do to educate and inspire students. We appreciate ISD 709 teachers for making a difference in children's well-being and success and for their incredible efforts as we continue education in this time of pandemic.



Thank You, Duluth Principals

May 1 is National School Principals Day, recognizing the vital role of school leaders in supporting families and students. Duluth Public Schools principals have gone above and beyond as we work to bring our district and community through a time of intense challenge and change. Thanks to all Duluth Principals for the work you do each day to support students, families, teachers and staff and for your ongoing leadership and collaboration.



Celebrating Duluth School Lunch Heroes

May 7 is School Lunch Hero Appreciation Day! Between preparing healthy meals for Duluth's students during a pandemic, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, our school nutrition professionals are true heroes, many thanks.



May: AAPI Heritage Month

Information from the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC):

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed annually in May to celebrate the contributions that generations of AAPIs have made to American history, society, and culture.

Interactive Calendar - events each day

Learning for Justice

AAPI-Resources; History

Liang-Pi Yang, Duluth Public Schools Integration Specialist, created a presentation for use during AAPI Heritage Month, thank you for this resource!

View the Slideshow

Safe Gun & Ammunition Storage

As adults, we’re responsible for keeping kids safe. Adults should always assume children and teens know where guns are stored, and it’s our responsibility to keep them locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition.

An estimated 13 million households with children in the U.S. have at least one gun. Not all of these firearms are stored securely: approximately 4.6 million children live in a household with at least one gun that is stored loaded and unlocked.

In incidents of gunfire on school grounds, up to 80 percent of shooters under the age of 18 obtained the gun(s) they used from their home or the homes of relatives or friends.

An overwhelming majority of unintentional shootings by children could have been prevented with secure storage. Unloaded firearms should be secured with a firearm locking device, such as a jacket or cable lock, or in a locked location, like a safe or lock box. Ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm in a secure location.

Research indicates that secure gun storage practices, including storing household guns locked, unloaded, or separate from the ammunition, are associated with reduced rates of child firearm suicide. One study showed that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers.

For information about responsible storage of firearms and preventing child access to unsecured guns, check out the following resources:






Has COVID 19 made it hard for you to pay your bills? RentHelpMN may be your answer.

COVID 19 Emergency Rental Assistance is available to Minnesotans struggling to pay their rent and utility bills because of the pandemic. If you qualify, you could receive help with rent and utility bills for up to 15 months.

Apply today: www.renthelpmn.org

Or if you have questions, call 211. A RentHelpMN representative will be happy to guide you through the process. We want you to get the help you need when you need it most.

Sources of Wellness: Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! As a community, nation, and world we have learned so much about Mental Health through this pandemic. For many of us our own mental health struggled with the loss of normalcy and isolation. This month is about awareness and reducing the stigma in getting help. Take care of every part of you and help those that are struggling! We will continue to share conversation starters, activities and relevant links bi-weekly. If you have ideas about topics to include please email Jacob Laurent at jacob.laurent@isd709.org

Conversation Starters:

  • What grade would you give your mental health right now? How do you care for your mental health and well-being?

  • What does stigma mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

  • What can you do to spread awareness of Mental Health?



Mental Health America Tools 2 Thrive Outreach Toolkit

Student COVID Reporting Form

Families, please use the Student COVID Reporting Form for sharing the following COVID information with your school:

  • Student tested positive for COVID-19 (lab confirmed case)
  • Student experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and awaiting test results
  • Student experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but has not been tested
  • Student's been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Student's household member experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19
Student COVID Reporting Form

COVID Vaccines: 16- & 17-year-olds

The Minnesota Department of Health has created a resource with information about COVID-19 vaccines for 16- and 17-year-olds.

At this time, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that has been studied and authorized for use by 16 and 17 year olds. Data from Pfizer vaccine studies show the vaccine is safe and effective for this age group. Other vaccine manufacturers are also studying their vaccines in younger age groups but have not yet received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

COVID-19 Vaccine Quarantine Guidance

If a person (including students) has completed COVID-19 vaccination (two doses in a two-dose series or one dose in a one dose series) and are identified as a close contact, they do not need to quarantine if all of the following are true:

  • The COVID-19 exposure was at least 14 days after their vaccination series was fully completed.

  • The COVID-19 exposure was within 90 days of their final dose of the vaccination series.

  • They do not currently have any symptoms of COVID-19

If COVID-19 like symptoms develop, the individual (including students) should stay home, be tested for COVID-19, and quarantine until test results are received per the MDH decision tree. Families should send updated vaccination records to their school health office with vaccine administration dates.

For more on quarantine guidance, please review the Minnesota Department of Health’s Quarantine Guidance for COVID-19.

In The News

KBJR-TV6: Principal Tom Cawcutt spoke with KBJR-TV about summer support from 10 Americorps volunteers. Their work will be part of the Duluth Area Family YMCA, ServeMinnesota, and several other agencies' efforts to launch the second Minnesota AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative.
Denfeld National Honor Society Induction

Students from Denfeld High School were inducted into the National Honor Society this week, congratulations! The ceremony was held in the historic Denfeld Auditorium with family present.

The National Honor Society (NHS) elevates a school’s commitment to the values of scholarship, service, leadership, and character. These four pillars have been associated with membership in the organization since its inception in 1921.



Piedmont Students Attracted to Science

In Mrs. Petrovich's 4th grade science investigations classes students are learning about magnetism and electricity. They're inducing magnetism in paper clips and making paper clip strings (their record is 9!). They also work with partners to build circuits and test which materials are conductors and which are insulators.

#Inspire709 #PantherProud


National Walk/Bike to School Day

Students from Lester Park Elementary had a great time walking and biking to school this week! Thanks to the Duluth Police Department for their support.



A creative message of appreciation at Duluth East High School...

Big picture

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