Dear Northfield School District Families:
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, we think of all the brave people who gave their lives for our nation, what President Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” We are grateful for their sacrifice.
There will be a community celebration on Monday, May 30, at Northfield’s Veterans’ Park beginning at 9:00 am. Consider attending the event to honor this most important holiday.
Uvalde, Texas Tragedy
I want to re-share the resources you can use to discuss the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas with your children.
These tragedies pierce our hearts in ways that are nearly impossible to fully understand. We struggle to explain how this can still happen in a modern society. As educators, we care deeply about your children and want them to be physically and emotionally safe.
Student safety is our top priority. No school district or community has all the answers. We work hard every day to create an environment where every student feels valued and supported. As parents, we want to explicitly share with you things we are doing to achieve that goal.
We start with relationships, prevention, and support:
- We prioritize relationships and use surveys to measure that middle and high school students have at least one adult they trust at school. If students trust an adult, they will share their concerns about their friends. This metric is part of our middle school and high school continuous improvement plans.
- We have a formal social/emotional learning instruction in grades PreK-8th grade (Second Step curriculum.)
- We have an innovative program at Northfield High School called Students Supporting Students. This program trains around 30 student leaders using a program developed by Hazelden. These trusted students help direct students in need to the right services for mental health or other issues.
- 10th graders are trained in teen Mental Health First Aid. This training helps students to identify, and how to respond to, friends and peers who are demonstrating signs of mental health challenges.
- We use the National Association of School Psychologists’ PREPaRE program with our building crisis teams to prevent and prepare to respond to crises.
- We use a community-wide anonymous reporting system called Tip 411 to report any concerns about violence.
- At each of our elementary schools, we employ a licensed school social worker, a school psychologist, and a behavior coach.
- We employ a licensed school social worker, a school psychologist, and several school counselors at our secondary schools. This year, we added an additional school counselor to each of our secondary programs (middle school, high school, area learning center, and online program). They will continue as we move forward.
- We have a strong relationship with local law enforcement. Our current school resource officer had a career in social work before becoming a police officer.
- Staff members complete required anti-bullying training.
- Each school has a threat assessment process that reviews concerning student situations.
- We have a comprehensive district crisis plan that is reviewed annually. We conduct the five state-required lockdown drills annually.
We also have made physical improvements to our schools designed to enhance security while maintaining a welcoming learning environment:
- Every K-12 school has a secure front entrance where visitors must be “buzzed” into the office and/or the building once the school day starts.
- Each classroom door is able to be locked from the inside without a key. That may not sound significant, but it is not the norm on classroom doors in schools before the last decade.
- Every building has a lockdown button in the main office that automatically locks all entrances in that building and alerts 911. We have a button in the district office that locks all the exterior doors at all buildings and alerts 911.
Bright Spot: Middle School and High School Career Exploration Day
The career exploration day event returned to Northfield Middle School on May 17 with 38 different companies present. Middle and high school students were able to interact with these companies or organizations and learn about different technical career opportunities. This day is important because students see successful people in their field who are passionate about their work. This experience can help create a positive future vision of themselves as they begin to see what role they might fulfill in the workforce as adults. At the end of the day, seniors had the opportunity to interview with some of the companies and potentially receive job offers to begin their careers immediately after graduation.
Many thanks to John Stenz, Heather LaCroix, and Force America for the vital role they played in this event’s planning and execution. Northfield Middle School assistant principal Michael O’Keefe and Northfield High School counselor Mark Ensrud were instrumental in helping coordinate the day for the school district. And, as always, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) was a strategic partner in supporting this event.
Northfield High School Principal Selection Process
Northfield High School Principal Dr. Joel Leer has taken a new role as a professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. We thank him for his 16 years of dedicated service at NHS and wish him well in his new job! You can review the plan for selecting a new Northfield High School principal here. Please contact me directly with any questions about the process.
School Board Meeting Update
The school board held a regular board meeting on May 23. The board packet & table file are located on our website. The board approved the consent agenda, approved a new five-year contract for Arcadia Charter School, and approved policy updates. They also heard reports on the community education budget, the general fund budget, and the draft 2023-24 school calendar. A video of the regular board meeting is available on our website and you can listen to my recap of the meeting on KYMN radio.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support. Enjoy the long weekend!
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools