Subject: Metro ECSU - September 2020 edNews

September 2020, Vol. 28, No. 1
edNews is a quarterly publication of the Metropolitan Educational Cooperative Service Unit
Metro ECSU - 2 Pine Tree Drive, Suite 101 - Arden Hills, MN 55112
Front desk: 612-638-1500

edNews Editor: Colleen Feller
Educators have never been more important
A message from Julie Frame, Executive Director
As your needs change, we change
Distance Learning, Hybrid Schedules, Social Distancing, and PPE have all become terms that are second nature to me. The unique challenges schools are facing are being met head on by everyone involved in the creation of spaces in which children can engage in learning. The staff here at Metro ECSU are committed to providing high quality learning opportunities to help all of you do this important work. 

Every program, every learning opportunity has been re-developed in virtual formats. What does that include? PBIS conferences, MN Low Incidence Projects, all technical assistance to schools and families in the MN Deafblind Project, student academic programs such as Knowledge Bowl and Young Authors Conference, Metropolitan Educator Leader Network Series focused on leading during flexible learning, E-12 content training in areas such as the new science standards. Our Health and Safety program provides virtual learning in the ever-changing scene of physical space. Our Regional Response Team Coordinator is ready to help with any and all of your COVID-19 questions.

Since last spring we have all learned many things, we have gotten good at Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the most used phrase of the year will be “You are muted!" We are tackling gaps that have become more evident. We are sometimes working outside of our comfort zone. We have more questions than answers. The importance of educators has never been more visible.

What we have learned and what we will continue to learn throughout this pandemic will make all of us better equipped to serve all children, to meet their variety of learning needs in the future.

As your needs change, we change. It is what we have always done, it is who we are. We are here to support you through this journey. Not seeing what you need? Let any of us know and we will be on it.

Julie Frame, Executive Director, Metro ECSU
Metro ECSU is part of the Covid-19 Regional Response Team. You call. We will answer.
In the last month, our commitment to supporting members through the pandemic has expanded. In late July, Governor Walz created Regional Support Teams. These teams include specialists from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and a regional coordinator from each service cooperative. 

Regional coordinators made sure districts and schools received their allocated PPE. They will also provide support in three main areas:
  • Responding to questions regarding positive cases and close contacts,
  • Helping districts transition learning models, and
  • Covid-19 testing.
Bianca Virnig (pictured) is the regional coordinator for the seven country metro area, Region 11. Bianca has a strong background in Public Health Emergency Preparedness, and as the Metro ECSU Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, she is extremely knowledgeable about site issues related to Covid-19. Bianca can be reached at 612-638-1512 or

As we move into the new school year, Metro ECSU understands there are many unknowns that create new questions every day. We are dedicated to helping you as you navigate this unparalleled beginning to a new school year. 
Metro ECSU's Health & Safety Program responds to the pandemic
Over the past several months, the Region 11 Environmental Health and Safety program has hosted numerous educational sessions related to the pandemic on topics such as cleaning and disinfecting and maintaining and maximizing your HVAC systems.

Bianca Virnig, our Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, has coordinated these programs and brought in the experts from OSHA, CCLD, and the State Fire Marshal. Bianca has her ears and eyes on the environmental health and safety needs critical at this time. She is becoming well known across the state for her expertise in the above areas as well as her ability to make quick connections with the individuals who have the information you need. To learn more about these services or for information about future sessions, visit Metro ECSU's Health and Safety website or contact Bianca at
Submit your students' artwork and writing to our "Back to School in a Pandemic" gallery!
Success Beyond the Classroom (SBC) desires to capture this unusual back-to-school experience through students’ eyes by curating an online gallery of students’ writing and art work. Students in grades 3-8 are invited to document their school experiences this fall through their medium of choice. Examples could include: personal reflection/journal entry, a poem, photograph, spoken word video, drawing or painting. The SBC website will host this virtual exhibit during this fall.
SBC reinvents student programs to offer pandemic-proof enrichment
Like all educators this fall, Success Beyond the Classroom staff are utilizing their creative powers like never before. We are offering all of our programs virtually this year. No field trips? No problem. We have affordable programming available for students who are distance learning, in hybrid formats, or attending school full-time in person. Our programs are available for either teachers or parents/guardians to access. Keep reading and visit SBC's new website to learn more.
New content each month for Young Authors Conference, STEMLink, and the Creatives
We have turned our field trip programs into a monthly subscription service. Registrants receive access to all pieces of a program for the months of their choosing. New content each month starting in October. Schools can choose a full school year subscription (October-May) or purchase subscriptions in two-month segments. Content includes recorded and live sessions with activities, blogs, live interviews and Q&As, student artwork galleries, book club, open mic, and more. 
The Creatives! A virtual blend of the Creativity Festival and CreativeCon
From October to May, Virtual Creatives will feature unique content each month, including:
  • Two recorded sessions and one live session featuring activities led by talented, local teaching artists from the creative fields. The live session will be recorded and posted; October's live dance session will feature Karla Nweje (pictured);
  • A blog where professionals in the arts will share what creativity means to them and how they use it in their everyday lives; and
  • An online gallery for students to share their experiences and projects that they created while participating in Creatives sessions.
From October to May, Virtual STEMLink will feature unique content each month, including:
  • Two sessions with STEM professionals that feature a hands-on activity and an introduction to various STEM fields. October's live session (Code Your Own Video Game) led by Microsoft educators (pictured);
  • “A Day in the Life” career blog updated weekly featuring STEM professionals sharing what they love about their work, demonstrating tools of their trade, and providing a glimpse of their workplace; and
  • Live Q&A with a STEM professional (twice a month).
Young Authors Conference
From October to May, Virtual STEMLink will feature unique content each month, including:
  • Two recorded and one live session led by professional writers. Live session will be recorded and posted; October's live session will feature May Lee-Yang (pictured)
  • Q&A with local writers that is topic-specific (for example, developing characters, sports writing, dialogue, the writing life);
  • Weekly blog featuring videos created by members of the Minnesota writing community sharing their creative writing passions, tips and tricks, and highlighting new and bestselling YA and children titles;
  • Teacher/Parent Resource – Virtual Book Club;
  • Monthly Virtual Open Mic; and
  • Space for SBC to feature the work of our young writers.
Young Authors Conference author, Geoff Herbach, introduces Virtual YAC and shares a great story related to our theme, Words Have Power.

Virtual Knowledge Bowl - Yes, students can compete!
Success Beyond the Classroom is finalizing details, so you should start practicing! A new online game design allows teams to play together, even if they’re apart, against teams from other schools across the metro (and the state!). Virtual coach trainings on the new platform are happening throughout the month of September. If you want your middle school and high school students to have this amazing opportunity to build community through competition, smarts, and with players from around Minnesota, connect with Betsy Narr at today!
Future City Competition - Perfect for hybrid or distance learning
From September to February, 6th-8th graders design a concept for a future city and convey their ideas through an essay, city model slideshow, recorded presentation, and live Q&A with engineer judges via a virtual meeting platform.

Future City has made several adaptations due to the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding the school year and extracurricular activities. These include:
  • Teams can complete the deliverables in-person (i.e. in a classroom or afterschool program) or remotely (collaborating online while learning from home);
  • Teams may be led by either a teacher or parent coach and are paired with a volunteer engineer mentor;
  • The competitions (regionals and Finals) will take place online, rather than in-person;
  • Mentoring and judging will take place 100% virtually.
This year’s Future City theme is Living on the Moon. Students will design a lunar city and provide examples of how the city uses two moon resources to keep citizens safe and healthy. The city will be set at least 100 years in the future and will have already gone through many years of development. The premise is that the city started as a collection of lunar landers that expanded into an outpost. Gradually it grew into a village, then a city. The students’ job is to build on this history, describing the complete city that is there.

To learn more and register, visit or contact Colleen Feller at 612-638-1511 or
MELN 2020: Virtual trainings focus on leadership in this changing environment
This year’s Metropolitan Education Leaders Network (MELN) Leadership In-Service Series is focusing on Flexible/Distance Learning. How can leaders best support teachers in today’s learning environment?

MELN's virtual two-hour workshops will be specific to our current situation and will explore how to provide equitable and student-centered instruction in distance learning modalities, whether that is a part or all of their instruction. Workshops will include virtual 1:1 and small group formats to investigate research-based concepts and strategies, create concrete plans, and gain insight from peers.

Participants will also receive one year of access to BetterLesson Professional Learning Lab where educators will have access to premium strategies that are aligned to district priorities and tailored to support growth. Four workshop topics are featured, with two dates for each topic.Click on each workshop's date for more information and to register.
For more information, contact Susan Frame at 612-638-1543 or
MNCoE using technology to Connect-Support-Empower
As we all adjust to life in a pandemic, Minnesota Centers of Excellence for Young Children (MNCoE) remains committed to their vision to Connect-Support-Empower Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Education (EC/ECSE) Programs in using evidence-based practices to improve outcomes for young children and families.

In this time of social distancing, MNCoE staff are working to stay connected. In August, we held two Listening and Q&A Sessions for our partner innovation sites to learn more about the adapted supports available this school year. We heard questions as well as brainstormed solutions together, all online!

While teaching in early childhood may look different this year, we know children and families continue to need support from EC/ECSE professionals. MNCoE has moved all trainings to a live, virtual format for 2020-21 to allow equitable, consistent access to high quality professional development across Minnesota. Each training follows best practice for virtual events, including break out rooms for collaboration, reduced presentation time, and short breaks every hour. MNCoE staff are also recording webinars to create more flexible professional development options. 

MNCoE, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), has invested in an online data application which will empower local districts to easily collect relevant innovation data and make decisions about their professional development efforts. The Minnesota Innovation Implementation Data System (MIID) is powered through Education Identity and Access Management (EDIAM) and is available to partner programs this school year.

If your early childhood program is interested in learning more about partnering with MNCoE, please visit to contact the Professional Development Facilitator in your region.
Local educational interpreter honored with national award
Congratulations to Melissa Barg (pictured) for receiving the Leilani Johnson Leadership Award! This national award is granted annually to an interpreter working in education who exemplifies leadership qualities, models professionalism, advocates for the field, and strives for excellence in services for all students.
It is an honor to have Melissa as the Co-Facilitator of the American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters Share Shop for the Regional Low Incidence Projects at Metro ECSU. Melissa leads the field in coordinating professional development and mentoring opportunities for ASL Interpreters. She actively seeks out local and national presenters to bring training to our Minnesota interpreters based on current needs within the field. The training topics she secures are so popular that interpreters from other states are requesting to attend!
Melissa has more than thirty years experience as an educational interpreter and has mentored more than 115 non-certified interpreters over the past twenty years. Her growth mindset, years of dedication, and service to students is astonishing. Thank you, Melissa, for all you do for the field and our students.
Metro ECSU welcomes Jennifer Blank, a new ESCE Professional Development Facilitator
Jennifer Blank (pictured) is an ECSE Professional Development Facilitator for Region 11. She has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist in early intervention since 1997 and brings experience from the St. Croix County Birth to Three and Hudson School District ECSE and 4K programs. Collaboration with families, teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, administrators, and other community partners has always been her goal when supporting high quality inclusion for preschoolers. Jennifer’s service model practices include PSP/coaching, itinerant services, co-taught/full inclusion 4K, Headstart/ECSE partnerships, preschool speech-language groups, individual SL therapy, and SL consultation. Leadership projects around Child Find, 4K-5K Alignment, Primary Service Provision, Engaging Families in Early Literacy, EC Networking, and Crisis Response round out some of her involvement and interests.
Jennifer moved to the upper Midwest from the Philadelphia area in 1994. She holds a BS in Speech Language Pathology from the College of New Jersey with an MA earned at the University of MN-Twin Cities. She holds her educational Speech-Language licenses in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and her Certificate of Clinical Competence through the American Speech Language Hearing Association. She lives in Hudson, WI with her husband, three daughters, and no-less-than-three dogs. You can reach Jennifer at 612-638-1540 or
Save time and money using Cooperative Purchasing Connection
Cooperative Purchasing Connection (CPC) has entered into a number of emergency agreements to ensure that schools and districts have access to PPE and Covid-19 related products at contractually negotiated prices.

Most recently, CPC has contracted with Hanes for adult and youth-sized reusable masks at $1 each.

Also, CPC created a Covid-19 resource page on their website that is receiving a lot of interest. This page links to a spreadsheet of COVID-related products including gloves, disinfectants, masks and more.
Stay safe, Minnesota!
Metro ECSU, 2 Pine Tree Drive, Suite 101, Arden Hills, MN 55112, United States
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