In the Know Column: A Culture of Continuous Improvement

Posted by Rick Sansted on 6/23/2021 9:00:00 AM

By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools 

Alexandria Public Schools is committed to building a culture of continuous improvement. This ensures that we live out our district mission as a lifelong learning organization. With that in mind, this year we initiated an Academy Model Review. We partnered with Shakopee Public Schools, which also has an academy model high school, to conduct a comprehensive review of our programming and student experience. Included in the review were focus groups with students, staff and school board, analysis of survey data, academic data and participation data. 

The recommendations from the Academy Model Review will be presented to the School Board in July.  One of the affirmations from our Academy Model Review included the great partnerships that exist with our business community. To that end, Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) will be hosting an Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Wake Up event on Friday, July 16th at 7:30 a.m.  We will share highlights of our programming, hear from our students and get a tour of the high school.  If you are new to the community or a parent in the district who would like a tour of the school, our student ambassadors will be available that morning.

One of the recommendations of the Academy Review was to continue to enhance the classroom and business partnerships.  On Monday, June 7th, AAHS teachers spent the morning in businesses throughout our community.  The intent of these externships - or visits to our local businesses - is to build authentic experiences for students through our classroom curriculum.  We are so grateful to our business community for supporting our teachers.   

Student voice and choice
Each school year our school board meets with students in grades 6, 8, 9 and 12 in meetings known as Student Connections. Two to three board members and administration have the opportunity to hear from, and gather feedback from, a dozen or more students in each of the grades mentioned.  Student Connection forums provide greater opportunity for student voice to be considered in planning and decision-making. Students affirm parts of school they appreciate from course offerings to teacher support.  They also provide feedback on what might be missing. This past fall, one student shared that he really wished we had an aviation course.  After some research regarding high school aviation programs, additional conversations with our students and staff and reaching out to Kreg Anderson, manager at the Alexandria Airport, we will have two sections (60 students) enrolled in our aviation class this coming school year. 

One of our goals with the Academy model is to provide opportunities for students to earn career-related certifications. The aviation course intends to prepare students to pass the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge written exam. This is an example of an additional certification that adds to our current options.  A few of our students connected to our new aviation class will be on Open Line on the morning of Wednesday, June 23rd at 9:05 a.m. I invite you to tune in and learn more about this exciting new opportunity for high school students.

Your interest, support and engagement in Alexandria Public Schools is appreciated as we continue to provide quality experiences for our students and families.