By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

As a former history teacher, I enjoy learning about and from the past. It was about a year ago I was hired into the position of superintendent in Alexandria. Just before the world changed due to COVID-19. I think about all of the experiences from the past 12 months that may not have existed or been as common prior to COVID.

  • Watching church from our living room

  • More family dinners

  • Kids learning how to cook

  • Going for a walk -- just for fun

  • Ordering take out

  • Getting creative with workouts at home

  • ...and finally making a reservation at a restaurant so we can eat in a fish house!!

All of the innovation and change in behavior came out of the challenge of COVID. For us, as a school district, we are looking to our next steps as an organization as we look to turn the corner on COVID.

As a district leadership team and school board, we did some foundational work around what are the next steps for our school district. Alexandria Area High School has been going through an Academy Model Review. In partnership with Shakopee High School - the only other full academy model high school that I am aware of in the state of Minnesota - it was timely for us to pause, reflect and gather insights about how we can be our best to serve our students and families. We have conducted focus groups with students and staff to help gather feedback to help set the direction for what’s next.

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Now we need to hear from our students, parents and staff about their desired daily experience. All three groups have grown their technology skills this past year. Which experiences do we carry forward and what do we exit ASAP? How might we use our technology experiences to inform our future? What cannot be replicated or duplicated through a screen?

As Alexandria Public Schools begins the process for District Strategic Planning through the fall of 2021, we are starting with a survey of students Grades 5 – 12, Parents / Guardians, and employees for your descriptors of what you would like for daily experiences and outcomes. These stakeholder groups will be asked two simple demographic questions and then asked to enter one to three descriptors of their desired daily experience. Students, parents, and employees are asked to provide input for what applies to them. All responses will remain anonymous, and initial processing of all results will be provided by an external partner. We will also look to conduct some focus groups to gather additional insights in the coming months.

Our hope is to take some of the innovation and creativity that COVID thrust on us and apply some of the ideas as well as new ones to forge the future experience for our students and families. Our schools are at the heart of the community. Your support, interest and engagement are always valued.

Rick Sansted is the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.