by Dennis Dalman
Cold Spring Elementary School was recently given a rare, coveted honor when it was named “School of Excellence” by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association.
It is only one of six elementary and middle schools in the state to be so honored.
The MESPA awarded the honor to Cold Spring Elementary’s principal, staff, students and residents for working as a team to strengthen education. They did so by undertaking the research-based Minnesota School of Excellence school-improvement process, which included a school-wide self-study, development of a school-improvement plan and implementation of that plan, which is aligned with six national standards of excellence: Learning Centered Approach, Diverse Communities, Century Learners, Quality Instruction, Knowledge and Data, and Community Engagement.
There are close to 500 students grades K-5 in the school, led by Principal Eric Skanson, who will accept the award on behalf the school and Cold Spring residents.
“As principal,” Skanson stated on the school’s website, “I have some core beliefs that guide my leadership. I believe in public education, whole-child education and collaboration. These core beliefs can be found in the everyday experience at Cold Spring Elementary in the way we approach the students’ day. I believe ROCORI is a great place to live and work.”
In an interview with the Newsleader, Skanson said he learned of the honor earlier this summer but had to keep it quiet until later, although he did “clue in” a few staff members.
Skanson, some staff and some parents will receive the award at a banquet in October, then they’ll return to Cold Spring for a communitywide celebration.
Being honored with the award is satisfying, he said, but it’s not a time to rest on laurels.
“What makes this school unique,” he said, “is the level of commitment from both parents and staff. A one-dimensional this school is not. It is student-centered, highly collaborative and parents have a sense of ownership. We have set a high bar. We are not complacent.”
Skanson said it took two years of intensive work to do the self-study and self-improvements required for the School of Excellence program.
Cold Spring Elementary has what’s known as “The Spartan Pledge” that students aim to live by. It goes like this: “As a Cold Spring Elementary School student, I promise to respect all people and property, to be responsible and do my best at all times, to recognize the rights of others, the differences between right and wrong, and the achievement of a job well done.”
Skanson praised others for the award.
“I’m so proud of the Cold Spring Elementary staff and their work on the School of Excellence process and their validation,” Skanson said. “Our school is great because of the people who make it great – the staff, students and parents. The Cold Spring staff is an incredible group of professionals who will do anything for the success of our kids . . . “
The School of Excellence process was an arduous challenge but a gratifying one, as noted by teacher Gwen Anderson.
“We did a TON of work on the School of Excellence application,” she said. “Outlining all of it in one document was overwhelming. We sure gave all of ourselves in many ways. This validation of our hard work is a win for our school, earning recognition for us. It’s rewarding to see how our continued work is paying off, most importantly with student growth.”
Cold Spring Elementary has a number of committees on which staff and parents work together as members for all aspects of school-related decision-making, such as Response to Intervention, Student Assistance Team, Teaching and Learning, Parent-Teacher Committee and School of Excellence.
One example of the committees’ success is the activities during Academy day – a full day of professional development with the goal of staff members learning from one another, sharing innovative ideas and even having “fun” together.
“Our inventiveness and determination surfaced through the (School of Excellence) process,” Skanson said. “We aren’t afraid to step forward and try something new, and we work relentlessly to make it successful. Our staff has always been collaborative, but the School of Excellence process has brought us together in a collaborative approach to our school that will benefit us for years to come.”
The five other schools honored as Schools of Excellence are:
- Carlos Elementary School and Miltona Science Magnet School (both within the Alexandria School District).
- Cedar Park Elementary School (Rosemount/AppleValley/Eagan Public Schools).
- Groveland Elementary School (in the Minnetonka Schools system).
- Lake Park Audubon Elementary School.