From the superintendent

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Dear Colleagues:

After a week like the one our country just had, I am more grateful than ever for the opportunity to spend time in our schools. Being with our students helps me understand where I want to prioritize my time. 

While our federal leaders were shutting down the government, I witnessed the gratitude of children as they received uniforms delivered courtesy of the Assistance League, a generous community partner that knows not all students come to school with their basic needs met.

I realized that SPPS affects these children’s lives in so many ways: We teach them. We love them. We nurture them. We feed them. And with the help of groups like the Assistance League, we clothe them. Said one excited little man, “Schools are like malls now! You can shop here!” I never cease to be amazed by our students’ perspectives.

Some would argue that school districts also serve as a bank. For the past five years, lawmakers have delayed payments to school districts as a means of meeting other financial obligations. One ray of financial sunshine this past week, however, was that Governor Dayton paid back a good chunk of those funds ($636 million) to school districts across the state. These are not new dollars, but are school district funds that the state essentially borrowed for the short term. Governor Dayton was committed to returning those funds, and his timing couldn’t have been better.

We enter the second week of the federal government shutdown with an eye to the future. Some predict that the shutdown will last for weeks. If this happens, my greatest worry is for our children. Last week, 19,000 youngsters nationally went without federally funded Head Start services. Some 800,000 people are currently without work. Once again, our most vulnerable are affected. How else will they be affected if the shutdown continues? What about children whose parents are out of work? 

Like almost every staff member -- and especially our teachers -- I am constantly scrambling to find additional resources to meet the needs of our children. An important part of doing that is smart financial planning: finding creative new ways to meet critical needs. We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results. Today, for example, all SPPS students have access to:

  • Open libraries in their schools
  • Health services when they feel unwell
  • Music, art and physical education instruction that rounds out a child’s learning

Four years ago, that wasn’t the case. I have a feeling these services are going to be more important than ever in the coming weeks. Let’s keep an eye out for changes in our children’s moods and behavior as our country faces more difficult days -- then get help for them as soon as we can.

Your very proud superintendent,

Valeria Silva