From the Office of the Superintendent 4/30/20

Weekly Briefing for ISD 709 Faculty & Staff

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, when Governor Walz ordered school closures extended through the end of the school year he also directed school districts to use Friday May 1 and Monday May 4 to plan for the extended distance learning period. To allow for planning and training, teachers will not be available for office hours May 1 and 4. We will continue to serve free breakfast and lunch, deliver and pick up curriculum packets and provide emergency child care on May 1 and 4.

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.

May 1 is School Lunch Heroes 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 4 - 8 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.

May 6 is National School Nurse Appreciation Day, and the theme for this year is School Nurses: Supporting Students in Times of Crisis. The efforts of our school nurses and health personnel have been especially heroic during the pandemic, we're grateful for the experience, skill and authoritative voice of these professionals.

This week I'm pleased to share with you that Tom Tusken will serve as principal for Denfeld High School. Tom will begin his new position August 2020. Many thanks to Laurie Knapp for her service as Interim Principal over the past year.

Please help spread the word about Kindergarten registration. Due to school closures we weren't able to host Kindergarten Roundup events this year. We encourage families to register their children now for September 2020 Kindergarten using online enrollment or downloading paper copies and submitting them to their school.

Thanks for all you do!

Kind regards,


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

Duluth School District Announces New Principal Selected for Denfeld HS

Tom Tusken will begin as principal in August of 2020

Following a thorough search process and with the assistance of a team of Denfeld staff, parents, and district administrators, Duluth Public Schools officials announced that Tom Tusken will serve as Principal for Denfeld High School. Tom will begin his new position in August of 2020.

Tom's previous experience includes Assistant Principal, Dean of Students, Barr Program Coordinator, PBIS Team Member & Coach and football coach for Denfeld High School, District Social Studies Curriculum Specialist, and Social Studies teacher for Denfeld and Duluth East High Schools.

He holds K-12 Administrative Certification from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota; a Master of Science in Education and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin - Superior; and a Bachelor of Applied Arts Teaching Secondary Social Studies and Certification in Coaching from the University of Minnesota - Duluth.

Tom is a recipient of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award for Minnesota. He served on the Staff Development Committee and Denfeld Site Council; as a Duluth Federation of Teachers Building Representative and worked with LINK Crew and the Summer Transition Academy. Community experiences include the Community School Equity Initiative Group, Marie Saltwick Scholarship Committee, Duluth Boys and Girls Club Scholarship Committee, Darin Cannon Memorial Scholarship Committee and Kids Voting Coordinator.

Many Thanks to Members of the Duluth Federation of Teachers

Ethan Fisher on Distance Learning: It's All Hands on Deck

Fisher, DFT President, says Duluth Public Schools teachers, social workers, counselors, psychologists, school nurses, speech-language pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists, among others, have stepped up "big-time" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The governor calls school and says you have eight days to prepare for distance learning. It’s all hands on deck,” said Fisher. “In a matter of two weeks, our members completely changed how K-12 education is delivered."

DFT members got going quickly in a spirited, united response to one of Duluth's most challenging times in recent history. “Teachers would prefer to be teaching in their classrooms, but they’re showing up every day, digging in and doing what they have to do,” said Fisher. Across the district, and as expected, Duluth teachers are concerned mostly about the well-being of their students, Fisher said.

“For some teachers, they’re trying to track down kids,” said Fisher. “Social workers are checking on the social and emotional well-being of the kids, and the physical education teachers are providing structural content to help get kids outside and active. To be sure, there’s a whole lot of telephoning and emailing going on.

“Our district is equity-centered, ensuring that all kids get instruction at the same pace and level. Distance learning creates challenges because some kids don’t have access to the internet at home and are walking to their bus stops for food and curriculum.” Fisher said his three children tell him on a daily basis how much they miss their teachers and friends.

“It’s unlikely that K-12 education will go back to what it was, with the new virtual world will create both opportunities and challenges for our teachers and students,” said Fisher. “Teachers are collaborating with other teachers and coming up with new ways to deliver a new curriculum."

Register Now for September 2020 Kindergarten!

Families are encouraged to register now for September 2020 Kindergarten. Enroll online any time or download paper forms and bring to school.

ISD 709 Elementary Schools

How to Enroll/Begin Online Registration

Kindergarten Informational Flyer

ISD 709 Employee COVID-19 Information

Staff in Human Resources are compiling information for Duluth Public Schools employees and posting it online. Information currently includes:

  • Duluth Public Schools Coronavirus Response Guide
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
  • PEIP Information Related to COVID-19 Coverage
View the Page

From the MN Department of Health: Is It COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. This may be similar to other illnesses, like the flu and common cold.

Many people with COVID-19 have mild or few symptoms, and some may have no symptoms at all. If you are able to manage your symptoms at home, you don’t need to seek care or get a COVID-19 test.

Contact your medical provider for any symptoms that are severe. For medical emergencies, such as difficulty breathing, call 911.

Check the MDH Chart

ISD 709 News

We know there are a lot of great things going on in our schools (in building or distance learning) - let's make sure we're letting everyone else know, too! Share your school, student, staff accomplishments, projects and events with Kathleen.Kaufman@ISD709.org, they'll be used in email newsletters, social media, websites and other communication venues.

Tawnyea Lake Receives Outstanding Faculty Recognition

Dr. Tawnyea Lake, Director of Assessment, Evaluation and Performance for Duluth Public Schools, is the recipient of the 2020 Capella University Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award.

The award recognizes the top tier of high performing part-time and adjunct Capella GuidedPath faculty who have consistently demonstrated excellence in teaching and doctoral mentoring. Congratulations!



Denfeld Student Qualifies for Nationals and Congratulations Special Distinction Speech Award Recipients

Congratulations to Nikolai Breimon, Denfeld HS, qualifying in Senate Congress to the 2020 National Speech and Debate Tournament!
Congratulations to Northern Lights 500 Club Special Distinction Award recipients Anna Huber & Sydney Olson, Duluth East High School and Brecken Caroon, Sydney Rabold, Abigail Longnaker and Nikolai Breimon, Denfeld High School, well done!
#Inspire709 #GoHunters #GoHounds

Lowell Student Participates in National GeoBee Kahoot Challenge

Nathaniel Bateman participated in the National Geobee Kahoot Challenge held in April. Nathaniel was invited as a state qualifier to join in a virtual recognition ceremony. During the event, students from all 50 states had an opportunity to test their geographic knowledge against students across the country. The Geobee Kahoot Challenge consisted of 30 questions from state-level competitions - all for fun and without the pressure. Congratulations, Nathaniel!

Thank you, Cindy Upton, for the photo and information.



Ordean East Students Competing at Virtual State History Day

Students are taking part in the 2020 Minnesota State History Day Virtual Competition. They researched and created their entries beginning in October and were given the additional challenge of developing technology skills required to enter their projects.

State History Day 2020 is a virtual contest through first and final rounds of competition, which will recognize the top two entries in each category and division as National Qualifiers, 3rd-5th place as Medalists, and Honorable Mentions. Through a separate judging process, State History day will also award Topical Prizes. All judging is done remotely.

Individual Exhibit

Esme Kershaw The Fight for Anti-Vivisection

Abigail Linsten Ada Lovelace

Hannah Mason Gallaudet University: Breaking Barriers in Deaf Education

Molly McNamee Eunice Foote, Suffragist Breaking Barriers in Climate Science

Group Exhibit

August Capps & Kenna Huot Freedom Summer Breaking a civil rights barrier

Garin Hackbarth & Samuel Phillips Sesame Street: Breaking Barriers in Children's Television

Individual Documentary

Jacqueline Brock Service Dogs

Group Documentary

Macey Kelley & Kora Webster Silent Springs: Breaking Barriers for Environmental Movement

Maddie Singer & Ceili Otis Different, not Less

Group Website

Tavin Roth & Aleta Anderson

The Radical Barriers That were Broken: The Highlander Folk School

Thank you, Glenn Tracey, for the photos and info.



Students Celebrate Earth Day

Congdon Park childcare for essential workers had so much fun taking care of our community and picking up trash! Happy Earth Day!



Bike to School Week 2020

Join the neighbors of Lester Park and Congdon Park Elementaries, Ordean East Middle School, and Duluth East High School as they Ride Together Apart

This year, we can’t gather together to celebrate Bike to School Day, but it’s still a great time to focus on safety, fun and community connection. We’re offering a week of ideas from May 4 to May 8 to help do just that. Though not every idea will fit every student and family, we encourage you to pick among the options that make sense for you and are safe for your area or home. And, of course, if you can get outside for a walk or bike ride every day, great!

Please help continue the strong sense of community that makes Bike to School Day so powerful by posting pictures on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and using the hashtag #BiketoSchoolDay #ISD709Biking Send photos to your principal!

Check Here for Daily Ideas

Denfeld I Time Lessons

BARR Coordinator Jennifer Wellnitz continues to support the social emotional well being of Denfeld High School 9th graders by making weekly I Time lessons available for paper packets and Google Classroom.



From Duluth East Teachers to the Class of 2020

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Lowell Elementary Expressions of Gratitude

Pinwheels and drawings of appreciation can make us all smile

What are you grateful for?

#Inspire709 #LowellLions2020


School Spirit

Piedmont families, students and staff celebrated Virtual Spirit Week with Hat Day, PJ Day, Jersey Day and other fun ways to show #PantherPride!



From the Lester Park Facebook Page

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