Letters from the LJA Leadership

6/18/19


Dear Laura Jeffrey Academy community,


2018-19 has been a year of change for Laura Jeffrey Academy. In January we officially transitioned from a traditional model of leadership to an educator-led model. The leadership team--Anna Robinson, Cassandra Quam, Jacob Bonde, Lizzie Forshee and Terrence Thigpen--became responsible for the executive functioning of the school from our interim executive director, George Sand. George was a great caretaker and did well guiding the school and the leadership team as it explored the ways to govern our school that best aligned with the mission and vision for Laura Jeffrey Academy.


As part of that transition to being a more educator-led school, all LJA staff joined one of three new committees. The curriculum & instruction committee undertook developing and leading our weekly ongoing professional development, strengthening our teacher mentorship program, and developing a peer review system for implementation in the 2019-20 school year. The school culture committee focused on strengthening advisory, created monthly themes and lessons related to LJA principles or celebrations, and organized a fabulous Black History Month celebration. The family & community relations committee worked to develop documents to clarify lines of communication as we transitioned to this model. They also strengthened our presence at community recruitment events. Additionally, they worked tirelessly to create a new spring event, Earth Day at LJA, which had a very successful launch in April. We look forward to all the new work the committees can take on next year.


Another important change that has been discussed this year--and will begin next year--is the decision to use Saint Paul Public School busing in the future, and the subsequent calendar and daily schedule changes. LJA will run on Saint Paul’s school calendar next year, and our school day will be from 8:30-2:50. This change allows us to be more inclusive to all families hoping to access our programming, and also provides needed financial stability. We believe that in the long-term these changes will strengthen Laura Jeffrey Academy, and we are committed that these changes won’t affect our ability to offer strong programming.


On that note, in this year of transition, it’s important to highlight the things have stayed--and will stay--the same. Here are just a few:


  • We remain committed to our mission of empowering STEM scholars to be creators, thinkers, and problem-solvers with an inclusive, girl-focused education. We remain honored and privileged that you have chosen to share your brilliant scholar with us.
  • LJA is always seeking and developing partnerships to provide great experiences for our scholars. One of the most exciting new partnerships is with 3M. They’ve met with 8th graders for monthly Mentor Lunches. Additionally, various “Visiting Wizards” came in to teach club during quarter 3. Perhaps most excitingly, they ran focus groups with our students to help develop plans to create a true MakerSpace in the basement of LJA. After meeting with our landlords, Macalester College, we have been approved to keep developing plans (maybe even walls coming down?) for this MakerSpace, which 3M will pay for!
  • We will continue to find ways to offer unique and creative programming, even though schedule changes will result in the loss of intersessions and midday clubs. Our many partnerships will still allow us to offer sports,clubs and tutoring after school. We will still offer “J-term” classes in January to break up the winter doldrums with experiential classes. We already have several opportunities lined up for summer 2020 for students and families most disappointed in the loss of our year-round calendar.
  • Our scholars are still awesome! In addition to all the usual (and amazing) successes within these walls, our scholars were rocking it outside the building too. We had several students advance to state level of the History Day. Our scholars had a very strong performance in all-city Debate competition, including a pair of Junior Varsity champions. We had approximately 15 students complete 5Ks in both the fall & spring as part of Girls on the Run. We ran into alumni tabling at our Earth Day event (for an awesome woman-run farm in North Branch) and another one telling our whole school her role in Public Relations for the successful launch of High School For Recording Arts Rondo documentary.


Change is good. Change means progress. As we continue to work towards our mission we will have to morph our program accordingly to meet the needs of our larger community. We strongly feel like we have taken steps in the right direction this year. We are committed as a staff, our board members are heavily involved, and most importantly student voice is being heard.


6/7/19


Where to start? June Term is upon us and there are so many things happening at Laura Jeffrey Academy. Between our real-world-application based math classes, literary explorations, and experiential June-Term classes, scholars are bounding through the halls with summer energy and joy. The learning opportunities this June are everywhere!


This week we have two June-Term spotlights related to amazing community members who were in our building this week working to inspire your scholar(s).

Identify, Voice, and Community is a specialty class that will meet half a dozen times throughout June Term. The goal of this class is to support scholars build upon their self-confidence, self-advocacy and communication skills. LJA’s value to grow the whole child includes providing experiential based learning for all parts of mind, body, and soul. Ms. Madi, Ms. Jean, and Ms. Emma have been working to create a curriculum where our scholars can find themselves within LJA’s community and truly shine. Scholars had the opportunity to meet with Wing Young Huie and explore ways in which photography can be used to express our identify, and give voice to our community.


Ms. Annie created an opportunity where 20 Women from Engineering System Inc spent the morning at LJA illuminating the different kinds of work they do on a day-to-day basis. The engineers shared their academic and career pathways to becoming engineers within a multitude of STEM fields. Scholars were exposed to the ins and outs of Biomechanics, investigating explosions, and civil, structural engineering. It was a true blessing to watch our scholars explore alongside professionals; allowing our scholars the opportunity to see themselves in their shoes, knowing that they belong anywhere they desire.


Enjoy the beautiful weekend, and we can’t wait to share next week’s adventures.




5/17/19


We had our first taste of summer weather yesterday, and that means June-term must be around the corner! As the days warm up and the school year comes to a close, June-term is chance to switch things up

LJA scholars will participate in LJA’s June term for the entire month of June 4th - June 25th. In June term, scholars will be involved in three classes:

  • 75 minute Math Class,
  • 75 minute Literacy Class,
  • and 3 hour Experiential Learning class (scholar choice of class).


LJA will be offering six amazing Experiential Learning June Term Courses.


Media Literacy - Taught by YWCA’s Girls Inc and Ms. Peggy (6-8th grade)

Are you interested in the way media influences you? You will have the chance to dive deep into a mix of media literacy and healthy sexuality. You will think about media messages and analyze them through a gender equity lens. You will create your own PSA around topics that are important to you, and address beauty and gender stereotypes.

Makerspace - Taught by SPARCS @ MAC and Ms. Lizzie and Ms. Eileen

Do you love to design, create, build, deconstruct? Makerspace is the place for you to spend June Term. LJA scholars will be working onsite and spending five days off site at Macalester College to expand on their internal maker skills. This class will explore TinkerCad, Graphic Design, Raspberry Pi, Video Games, Stop Animation, and Podcasting. Makerspace scholars will also have a field trip to General Mills.

Theatrics - Taught by Ms. Jen and Ms. Annie

Do you love to be the center of attention? Express yourself in a number of ways? Are you interested in taking your acting skills to the next level? Scholars in this club will work on scenes from different genres of theater. The long term goal will be a performance for classmates and families. Scholars will also learn about how to find costumes and props that are green (both environmentally and budget friendly). Warning: EVERYONE in this club must perform to grow their skills and contribute to the theater community. If performing isn’t for you, please consider another club option.

Revolutionary Self Care - Taught by Ms. Anna

Audre Lorde said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." In this June term class, we will unpack Lorde's quote and explore various types of self-care including physical activity, mindfulness practices, nutrition, journaling, music, spending time outdoors, boundary setting, and more. We may even have the opportunity to set up self care spaces in the school so that others can benefit from our knowledge! This is for open-minded scholars who are ready to explore and experiment with the idea of revolutionary self-care. (Click here to look at this class' Amazon wish list!)

Keyboarding - Taught by Ms. G

Do you just love just creating music on a piano keyboard? Do you want to improve your piano skills? Are you willing "to “play well" with others? This June Term class will give you an opportunity to create music on the keyboard, explore the accompaniments (background drum beats, etc.), get better at sight reading music, and make beautiful music as a large group while you play your part independently.

Art: Open Studio & Professional Practice - Taught by Ms. Bianca

Do you enjoy making art and want to know more about how to document and present your work? In this open studio art class we will explore materials, techniques, and subject matter that interests you with the intention of putting together a final showcase. We will investigate how artists have displayed their work throughout history, how to participate in shows, and online resources for aspiring artists!


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We look forward to seeing the scholars spark new connections and try out different experiences as we finish the year strong!


LJA Leadership Team



4/26/19

We are so excited for our Earth Day at LJA event tomorrow! The show will go on, rain or shine! We have received lots of donations for our rummage sale. Some of the great items that will be for sale tomorrow are pictured below. We hope to see you all there!



4/19/19


LJA scholars are in full force highlighting their brilliance and celebrating their love and desire for learning. LJA scholars have been out in the community displaying their advocacy for girls education and a love for Mother Earth. This week, eight LJA scholars participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating Project Scientist, a national STEM Academy Camp for girls. Two LJA scholars participated in WCCO's Kitchen Pantry Scientist with Liz Heinecke promoting Earth Day activities. The entire school assembled 180 period kits working to remove barriers for girls who drop out of school because of the lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Global and local girl power!


Reading MCA’s have come to an end. Math testing will start this coming week. As always, thank you for your support in helping set the stage for your scholars success. Your support in ensuring your scholar(s) start their day off right with a good night of sleep, healthy breakfast, and extra words of encouragement goes a long way!


Don’t forget to spread the word about our upcoming Earth Day @ LJA event. We will be celebrating rain or shine. All are invited and all are asked to bring in any potential donations. Donations will still be accepted through Thursday, April 25th. If you are able to volunteer before, during or after, LJA would greatly appreciate your support.

Please email familycommunityrelations@laurajeffreyacadaemy.org with your specific area of support

Option #1 Organizational Support on Friday, April 26th

Stop by anytime between the hours of 3-5pm

Support setting up the rummage sale (tag, organize)

Set out tables and supplies for visiting organizations

Setting up event signage


Option #2 Rummage sale support on Saturday, April 27th

Commit to a 1 or 2 hour shift between 11-3

Help others shop, package up goodies, run the cash register

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Option #3 Rummage sale break down on Saturday, April 27th

From 3-4pm support packing up remaining rummage sale items for Epilepsy Foundation donation pick up

Take down tables and put away tables, haul garbage to the trash or recycling

4/12/19

Despite the snow, spring is in the air at LJA with excitement about learning and growth this quarter!

5/6 Quarter 4 Overview

  • 5/6 Music will be performing, performing and performing! Please support them as they share their talents on Saturday, April 27th and Tuesday, June 18th!
  • 5/6 STEM scholars have started working on learning about Forces and Newton's Laws of Motion. Scholars will be building their knowledge this quarter with lots of hands on experiments. The summative will be a team effort to build a model roller coaster. During June term they will present their summatives to scientists at 3M!
  • In 5/6 LASS this year our theme is Change, and in Social Studies we are focusing on MN history. This quarter will focus on industrialization and the Progressive era in MN and around the world and culminate in an investigation into current issues. In Language Arts, there will also be a focus on nonfiction this quarter which includes an “Article of the Week” that scholars will be responsible for reading and understanding. Students will set new reading goals for the quarter and can also expect to do more writing and sharing about their independent reading books.
  • 5th grade math will be working on Data and Graphing when we have finished prep for the MCAs.
  • In 6th grade math we will be working on probability, ratios, and percents. Scholars will be learning real-life skills like calculating tips, discounts, and taxes.

7/8 Quarter 4 Overview:

  • 7/8 STEM scholars are exploring Urban Gardening and identifying ways food impacts themselves and their communities. Scholars will have the opportunity to be stewards of their community by working at Trout Brook Sanctuary and designing and building their own urban garden at school.
  • Scholars in High School Now are solving absolute value equations & inequalities, and linear inequalities with two variables related to real world problems graphically and algebraically. Also they will explore quadratic relationships in many interesting real situations such as the path of flares and rockets, and solve them graphically and algebraically.
  • In High School Prep scholars will be learning about quadratic functions and the five forms of a quadratic function. They will practice using quadratic equations to solve problems. We will also be reviewing necessary skills for high school.
  • Scholars in 7th Grade Math are solving equations and inequalities with one variable algebraically related to real world context. Also they learn transformations and defining rational and irrational numbers. Later they will explore the linear relationship from patterns in tables, graphs, and equations in various situations.
  • In 7/8 LASS we will be focusing on the power of the spoken word by delivering public speeches and studying an example of sacred oral history passed down by the Powhatan Native American tribe. We will compare the true story as told by Pocahontas's tribe with the legends popularized by white colonizers and mass media. We will also explore how Native American women (with particular focus on MN based tribes) have fought stereotypes to reclaim their stories. Our speech study will emphasize empowerment and the use of one's voice to advocate for one's beliefs. It will culminate in an informative speech summative that asks scholars to research a social action movement that has fought for our American ideals. Our learning targets primarily draw from the speaking, listening and medial literacy portion of the MDE standards.
  • 5-8 Wellness: As part of our sexuality education unit, scholars will participate in a service-learning project by first viewing the academy award-winning documentary, Period. End of Sentence. Learning will be put into action as scholars work with a volunteer from Days for Girls to assemble reusable period kits that are delivered to girls who in the past have had to drop out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstruation. This project will normalize menstruation and give scholars an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.


We have started our state-mandated MCA testing this week. At LJA, we believe that there are many more holistic ways of assessing student achievement than standardized tests. However, as we are required to administer some standardized tests, we try to make the experience as comfortable as possible for students, and we use the data to enhance our program and tailor instruction to the needs of students. Some things that you can do to support your scholar on testing days are to ensure that they get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy breakfast, and also to have conversations with them about trying their best, while remembering that no test can fully measure their intelligence or worth.


Earth Day at LJA is coming up at the end of this month! We are so excited for this new community event and are hoping for much more spring-like weather so that it can be help both outside and inside our building. Please plan to join us on Saturday, April 27th from 11:00 - 3:00. There will be a food truck, musical performances from our ⅚ grade music classes, natural tie-dyeing, a rummage sale, and lots of environmental learning. Here are some things you can do to support Earth Day at LJA:

  • Invite your friends to attend! Please share our facebook event or the event flyer with anyone you think might be interested.
  • Donate items to the rummage sale! Drop off times are this Saturday at 1:00 and the following two Thursdays at 4:15.
  • Volunteer to help run sales at the rummage sale! If you are interested in working an hour or two during the event, your time is greatly valued.
  • Considering sponsoring the event! Sponsorships help us to cover the costs of the event, and surplus goes toward supporting LJA’s girl-focused, STEM programming.

If you have any questions about Earth Day at LJA or would like to contribute, please contact Cassandra (cassandraq@laurajeffreyacademy.org) or Lizzie (lizzief@laurajeffreyacademy.org).



3/22/19

As Quarter 3 comes to an end, Laura Jeffrey Academy students and staff have many experiences to reflect upon and celebrate. Here are just a few of the accomplishments of our brilliant scholars this quarter.


On March 6th, our 7th and 8th graders were able to participate in the Youth Climate Justice Summit at the capitol where they networked with other youth leaders and met Representative Kaohly Her to share their concerns related to climate change and ask for her continued support with passing the New Green Deal. Come to hear more about our scholars work as they will present at LJA’s first ever Earth Day at LJA on Saturday, April 27th from 11 to 3pm.


Eleven of our 7th and 8th grade scholars participated in our regional History Day competition at the University of Minnesota. With the support and guidance of Ms. Jen, all eleven scholars worked incredibly hard on revising their Quarter 2 projects to get them ready for the competition. And it paid off! Two of our scholars--Olive & Greta--will be moving on to the state competition in May and four--Dekyra, Ea, Naomi & Zariyah received honorable mentions for their work. We congratulate all our scholars in their hard work and confidence in sharing their learning with others and look forward to cheering on those headed to state.


Our debate team has also excelled this quarter and several of our debaters will be moving on to the state level competition in debate! Thanks to the dedication and hard work of Ms. G and Ms Jen, all of our debaters have been well prepared and confident at all their debate matches. This year’s topic is Open Borders. The debate team has racked up the team and individual awards throughout the season. For example, at the final regular season debate tournament on Wednesday, LJA had 6 of the top 8 individual speakers in the rookie division, the top 3 speakers in the novice division and the 2nd placed varsity team. Five of our scholars--Ea, Olive, Hillary, Greta & Zariyah--are moving on to the championships next week on March 26th. Congrats and good luck!


LJA students rock! Enjoy your break and see you for a great quarter four!


LJA Leadership Team



3/15/19

“Empowering STEM scholars to be creators, thinkers, and problem-solvers with an inclusive, girl-focused education.”

Every year, LJA revisits its daily schedule and programmatic offerings to make sure we are doing the best we can to maximize our day to achieve this mission.

This year, this review was even more important as our shift in our school hours next year (to 8:30-2:50) requires some reshuffling of the schedule already. Our new daily schedule was centered around maintaining two elements of our program that we believe are integral to our mission--maintaining core classroom time and keeping daily advisory.


2019-2020 Daily Schedule

Advisory 15 minutes 8:30-8:45

1st Period 73 minutes 8:48-10:01

2nd period 73 minutes 10:04-11:17

Lunch/recess 50 minutes 11:20-12:10

3rd Period 73 minutes 12:13-1:26

4th Period 81 minutes 1:29-2:50


Maintaining core class time:

In this new schedule, classes, which are currently 75 minutes, lose only two minutes of instruction. This two minute loss is actually due to adjusting the schedule so that our final period of the day is 8 minutes longer than the others, to allow for end of the day processing. We believe this is a great time to build executive functioning skills--writing in planners, reflecting on the day’s learning, organizing ourselves for the night’s homework, etc.--that are vital during the transitional time of middle school.

Daily advisory

Advisory will still be every day, at the beginning of the day. Time will be reduced from 25 minutes to 15 minutes a day. However, as often as needed (more frequently in the beginning of the year, for example), classes can be shortened to 68 minutes so that advisory will be extended to 45 minutes to allow for more in-depth community building activities.

Programmatic Changes

In order to meet these two priorities, we have to make some changes in how we provide interventions and clubs. Both of these will still be offered, but at different times. This year, we already transitioned to offering our reading interventions in a pull out/push in model, rather than being part of our midday intervention offerings. Thus far, midyear reading data indicates that this has been successful and has allowed our robust reading program to maintain its strength. Next year, math would follow this same model. For some students, they’ve already experienced this with our Math Corps program, which will continue; and we’ll add some additional ways to support students in math.

Clubs will primarily be offered after school (and as much as possible, at different times than athletics, for students who want to participate in both). We will continue to explore partnerships to allow for more experiential opportunities during the course of the school day, including still offering our January “J-Term” classes.

In order to more fully flesh out our after school offerings, we ask returning families that have not already done so to please fill out our Family Needs survey.

We hope this plan addresses any anxieties of how LJA will maintain its core mission as we change our calendar and daily schedule. As always, if you have questions, concerns, comments or ideas please email leadershipteam@laurajeffreyacademy.org



3/8 /19

Dear LJA Community,

We hope this blog post finds you well. As of today, we are almost done with our third quarter, only two weeks to go. Our fourth and final quarter will begin on April 8th. This year is flying by!

This past Wednesday, the 7th and 8th grade scholars took a trip to the Capitol for the Youth Climate Justice Summit. At this summit they attended various workshops where they were able to discuss their passion for improving environmental issues. They were also given the opportunity to sit down with Representative Kaohly Her and Senator Richard Cohen. Our scholars did a fantastic job inquiring about the Green New Deal, and it was evident that adults speaking with them were impressed by their knowledge of the subject area and investment into the future of the environment.

The past two days have been spent at conferences. We would like to invite anyone who could not make it to conferences to schedule a one-on-one conference with your scholar’s advisor. It is important for you as caregivers to be informed about your scholar’s academic and social progress.

Upcoming student happening: Scholars participating in Intersession will be going on a three day overnight trip to Audubon Center of the Northwoods. At Audubon, scholars will have access to a climbing wall, archery, maple syruping, and many other activities. Experiences like these leave a lasting impression on our scholars. The amount of time they have to bond greatly strengthens their friendships, which positively impacts our community.

As mentioned earlier, we are about to begin quarter four. Our 8th grade scholars will begin to plan for their 8th grade trip, graduation, and life after middle school. Our 7th grade scholars will begin to make their transition to the new leaders of LJA. Our 6th grade scholars will make their way into what is arguably one of the most important years of their middle school career. At this point, the 5th grade scholars have cemented their spot in the LJA community. This advancement will make them leaders for our incoming 5th grade scholars. We believe our current 5th grade scholars will have compassion and empathy for the new class and all of the challenges they will face as they integrate into our community. These transitions are beyond exciting to watch from the exterior, but it is important that we support our scholars as they move forward with these life changes. We have to encourage them to take time to reflect on the progress they’ve made this year, and to think about what they want the immediate future to look like. And let’s make sure we continue to encourage them take time for adventure and fun along the way.

Best,

The Leadership Team



3/1/19

This week wrapped up Black History Month and ushered in Women’s History Month!

Scholars have spent time throughout the month of February analyzing poems written by black authors in advisories and highlighting black history in lessons across their classes. We hope your scholar has brought a portion of this joy and celebration home with them to share.

Women’s History Month will continue scholarly learning about Ms. Laura Jeffrey, the namesake of our academy! Ms. Jeffrey was a long-time Minnesota resident whose life exemplified the love of learning and service to community. Ms. Jeffrey was an honors graduate of Macalester College and the only African-American in her class. After earning a master's degree in library science in night school, she became one of the first African-American librarians in the St. Paul library system, rising to branch librarian. Ms. Jeffrey built a life that exemplified personal strength, intelligence and a passion for her beliefs. Scholars will also use Women’s History Month as an opportunity to dive deeper into the reasoning behind having a girl-focused school.

At LJA, black history and women’s history are not just for the months of February and March. We lift up the voices of underrepresented groups in our curricula all year long! However, these months give us an extra opportunity to vocalize the importance of learning about these perspectives.

Next week is paraprofessional appreciation week! At LJA we have several paras (we call them EAs) who support students in managing behaviors and accessing the curriculum. Our EAs are some of the most talented and dedicated staff in the building! If your student works with an EA, please take a moment to thank them next week. Don’t know which of our staff are our EAs? That would be Ms. Emma, Ms. Geonia, Ms. Jeannie, Ms. Maggie, and Ms. Mariah!

Don’t forget to sign up for parent-teacher conferences next week! Or if you prefer to meet with individual teachers rather than the whole team, open house times are 6:00 - 7:00 pm on Thursday and 2:00 - 4:00 pm on Friday.



2/22/19

Dear LJA Community,

The educators at LJA take our mission -- Empowering STEM scholars to be creators, thinkers, and problem-solvers with an inclusive, girl-focused education -- to heart in all that we do. Over the last year and a half, we have designed and brought to life an educator led model that we believe will best meet the needs of our scholars and ensure the realization of this ever important mission.

We hope to continue to provide clarity and ongoing communication about our model and the work we are doing. In addition to the Leadership Team, we have several committees that are working very hard to not only successfully implement our programming but to also improve upon it.

Family and Community Relations Committee

Mission: Creating and maintaining a system where LJA can acknowledge, respond to, and act upon the needs of all members of the community, in order to strengthen our unique girl-focused, STEM-focused education.

To meet this mission, the committee will create space for families to be heard and become part of the solution and maintain strong partnerships that bring resources to our scholars. This committee is currently working on coordinating LJA’s presence at various spring community/recruitment events, as well as planning our new spring event - Earth Day at LJA. The goal of Earth Day at LJA is to bring awareness about environmental capacity within our community and to provide a space for community resources to gather together to inspire one another and celebrate the beauty our Earth has to offer. The Family and Community Relations Committee is also excited to help facilitate the creation of a parent/family organization to support the needs of our scholars and their families.

School Culture Committee

Mission: Establishing strategies and supporting implementation of social emotional learning and community building throughout Laura Jeffrey Academy.

This year, the School Culture Committee has been creating monthly advisory lessons based on our school’s principles (http://www.laurajeffreyacademy.org/our-promise). For the month of February, the committee has spent time putting together lessons for Black History Month and planning our Black History Month Celebration that will take place on March 1. At the end of this day of celebration, families are invited to join us from 2:45 to 4:00 for social time accompanied by the band Soul Beautiful (learn more about the band at https://www.soul-beautiful.com/). Everyone is also invited to bring snacks or treats to share in a potluck style.

Curriculum and Instruction Committee

Mission: Empowering staff to develop and maintain rigorous, dynamic, and responsive teaching and learning using interconnected curriculum and ongoing professional development.

The committee used data and staff feedback to help decide on instructional strategies that we have focused on in weekly professional development meetings. Additionally, they have been working hard at researching and setting up a system for Peer Review as a way for staff to become even stronger and more reflective educators ensuring we carry out our teaching/learning framework to the very best of our abilities.

Our newly founded Fundraising and Grant Writing Committee is working in conjunction with LJA’s Board of Directors’ Development Committee. This committee will pursue funding avenues that align with LJA’s mission to ensure financial sustainability that supports and strengthens our community while enhancing LJA’s interdisciplinary and experiential programming.

Thank you for all that you do to support Laura Jeffrey. As always feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns or ideas!

LJA Leadership Team



2/15/19

Dear LJA Caregivers,

Thank you to those who attended Wednesday’s Calendar & Busing Q&A Session. We had good discussions and feedback about the reasoning for the changes for the 2019-2020 school year and began to brainstorm and problem-solve around challenges that this may present to some of our families.

Some things that came out of this meeting:

Clarifying reasoning. Our mission is “Empowering STEM scholars to be creators, thinkers, and problem-solvers with an inclusive, girl-focused education.” The calendar shift was motivated by the inclusive aspect of this mission. Alignment with the SPPS calendar provides more access for families who, for multiple reasons, aren’t able to juggle students on multiple school schedules. Increasing access to our unique program should also increase enrollment, which is vital to the long term sustainability of our school. Our current enrollment numbers are lower than we would like, and we hope to grow our school, not to become a "big" school, but to reach a more stable and sustainable number of at least 100 students within the next 3 years. The busing change that coincides with the calendar change provides significant financial savings that are important for our sustainability as we work to thoughtfully increase enrollment. If you know of families who you think would like to join us next year--or this year for 5th-7th grade!--please spread the word, especially if you happen to know some for whom this calendar change might be a benefit.

Interest in restarting a PTO/PTA type organization. We’ve had various forms of these in the past and would love to reestablish one and find ways to sustain it. If you have interest in helping get this started, please contact familycommunityrelations@laurajeffreyacademy.org, and a member of that committee will be in touch to help support you. We are hoping that we can have a few people in line by conferences (Mar 7 & 8) so that we can connect with more families who might be interested during that time.

Surveying family needs. We will be sending out a survey to get some more specifics around family needs and wants that might have arisen as a result of this change for the 2019-2020 school year. Please look for that in the next few weeks.

Programmatic Changes. One of the main reasons behind the charter school movement was to allow schools to more quickly adapt to the needs of students and families than the bureaucracy of large districts allows. Laura Jeffrey Academy has always taken advantage of this aspect to make programmatic changes that we believe strengthen our school. Throughout the course of our history, we’ve changed the timing and frequency of advisory (and renamed it!), added clubs and interventions to the middle of the day, changed from having optional July programming to optional intersession programming, and many more, including myriad small tweaks to improve our curricular approach. We have always kept our mission at the core and next year will be no different. There will again be a need to make programmatic changes to improve and strengthen our school. We have been discussing how the change in our daily schedule will affect our programming and will continue to do so. It’s important to us to get this right, so we will balance speed of change with discussion of as many factors as possible. But please know, we intend to maintain the integrity of our teaching/learning framework and keep our mission central to all programmatic changes.

Communication. We’ve learned some things about communication from this change. At LJA we recently underwent another large transition, from a traditional principal model to an educator-led model. One of the reasons for this change in leadership structure was to develop strong relationships with our families, which is why one of our three educator-led committees is the Family & Community Relations Committee. As we continue to learn as an educator led school, we’ve made additional changes that we believe will improve communication and relationships with families, and we will be trying some new things as a result of what we’ve learned recently. Your feedback on communication issues is always appreciated.

If you were unable to make the info session or just have further questions or comments you’d like addressed, you are always welcome to email us at leadershipteam@laurajeffreyacademy.org.

LJA Leadership Team


2/8/19

What a start to February - Chilly with a dose of snow and dash of sun!

Even with our frigid beginning, February is a month which has LJA educators fiercely looking at their curriculum. LJA educators bring fire and passion to creating experiences and lessons that honor all voices within the curriculum. Things we ask ourselves: How am I including all voices? How am I honoring those that have struggled with adversity to achieve their full potential? What can I do better?

February is Black History Month! LJA’s School Culture Committee has been and continues to work on Black History Month lessons to support each other in learning and talking about this important celebration. Throughout advisories and within the classroom, LJA scholars have have been exploring lessons that highlight the strength, accomplishments, and beauty of black. As we celebrate and reflect on Black history, we will continue to find ways to also address racism which is still alive today.

Advisory teachers are using poetry as a venue for scholars to: explore our own attitudes and prejudices; create a space to host safe and honest conversations; and combine scholar ideas to create ways as individuals and as community to show up for others. For example, scholars will read Still I Rise by Maya Angelou: Finding lines that resonate with themselves and identifying why we celebrate Black History Month.

In 5/6 LASS scholars are studying immigration and migration. A few people of interest you can ask your scholar about are Marian Anderson and her concert at the Lincoln Memorial (she was barred by the Daughters Of the American Revolution from renting a concert hall in DC so sang at the memorial in protest to a crowd of 75,000 in 1939), Me’Lea Connelly who is starting a black-run credit union in North Minneapolis, and George Bonga, who is believed to be the first African American born in Minnesota.

In 7/8 LASS, scholars are identifying American ideals as outlined in key historic documents and then looking at ways people fought to meet those ideals, starting with the Civil Rights Movement. Scholars are also encouraged to dig into books from black authors which are being highlighted throughout the month.

February is also a time to starting fleshing out the details of planning next school year.

Leadership will be hosting a Calendar and Busing Q&A session on Wednesday, February 13th from 5:30 - 6:30. Please stop by if you have any questions or wonderings.

We are in enrollment season. If you know of any families who may be interested in joining LJA’s community, please let them know about our two evening informational sessions: February 21 (5:30-6:30) & March 5 (5:30-6:30). We also offer tours on Tuesday at 10 am, Friday at 2pm and by appointment. Thanks for getting the word out and sharing about the magic that happens at Laura Jeffrey Academy.


1/18/19

Dear Families,

Laura Jeffrey Academy is continually evaluating, envisioning, and working to create a learning environment that best serves the needs of its scholars. It is clear that LJA is serving its mission of providing quality education - with a STEM-focused, girl-focused curriculum. In order to continue our work, we are looking to increase enrollment and ensure LJA is an accessible option for more families. To support Laura Jeffrey Academy’s mission, we will be moving from a year-round calendar to a traditional school calendar. This transition will not only broaden access to serve more families, this plan allows for a significant financial savings.

Laura Jeffrey Academy’s Calendar Change

LJA’s change in calendar will align with St Paul Public Schools’ calendar. LJA’s school hours will be from 8:30 - 2:50. The 2019-2020 LJA Calendar for Families is attached. LJA’s calendar change offers the following opportunities:

  • Alignment of instructional days for families who have scholars at multiple Saint Paul Public School sites.
  • Increased access to bus routes - LJA scholars will have access to approx 17 bus routes. SPPS transportation routes aim to not exceed 45 minutes per bus route.
  • After-School Activity bus - LJA scholars will have access to transportation home after all after-school activities (October to May, Monday thru Thursday).
  • Summer School Learning Opportunities: LJA is exploring summer programming to support year-round learning experiences for scholars. Such organizations include but are not limited to: Freedom School, Concordia Language Villages, SPARC’s, Twin Cities Theater Camp, and SheRock SheRock.

Laura Jeffrey Academy’s Programming

LJA’s instructional programming will remain consistent and intact. Scholars will have access to rigorous and relevant STEM-Focused, Girl-Focused curriculum. Their day will continue to include Advisory, Math, STEM, LASS, Wellness, Art/Music, Mid-day Enrichments/Interventions, and Club Time. LJA will continue connecting with and maintaining its partnerships with outside organizations to give scholars exposure to intersession style programming and J-Term classes throughout the school year.

Laura Jeffrey Academy’s Transportation Change

Our first priority is to maintain safe and consistent transportation for our scholars across our wide geographic area. LJA will be partnering with Saint Paul Public Schools for transportation during the 2019-2020 school year. LJA scholars will ride St Paul Public School buses alongside scholars who attend Ramsey Middle School. This change supports LJA’s mission of continuing to provide equitable education to scholars and families across the city of St. Paul.

What this looks like for scholars using LJA’s Transportation

  • In the mornings, LJA scholars will arrive at Ramsey MS, transfer to their LJA-bound bus, and arrive at LJA for the day.
  • In the afternoons, LJA scholars will leave LJA, arrive at Ramsey MS, and transfer to their home-bound bus for the day.
  • There will be approximately 3 minutes for LJA scholars to transfer buses.
  • LJA signs will be in all relevant buses to support scholars find their transfer bus.
  • LJA staff will be present to support scholars arriving and leaving Ramsey MS.

You may have questions about how this new model will work and how your own family will be affected. Change, even when positive, is often hard and we value your support as we grow and adapt. You can find additional answers within LJA Transportation FAQ. We invite you to join us as we address any concerns or clarify remaining questions at our upcoming Calendar and Bussing Q&A Session. - Wednesday February 13th 6:30-7:30pm



1/11/19

LJA is in the depths of its J-Term learning. It is such a pleasure to walk around the building and listen in on scholar conversations. In book club, scholars are debating conflicts, intrigued by twisting plots, and calling each other out for reading ahead. In math, scholars are thinking hard and it is evident as they complain, “My brain is melting!” During the afternoon J-Term classes, scholars are hard to be found, as their classes have exploded to all parts of LJA’s campus and surrounding neighborhood. You can completely see, feel and hear the joy from scholars as they take foot to their next adventure.

LJA’s annual mid-year celebration is quickly approaching. LJA will be out hitting the slopes at Green Acres this year. Please make sure your scholar is prepared for all that MN winter beauty has to offer as we head outdoors next Friday, January 18th.

Keep your eyes open for our Spring season of Girls On The Run. Girls On The Run Spring season is 10 weeks long and will begin in March. Girls On The Run is more than a running program. It is a national program that uses running alongside a research driven curriculum that focuses on self-esteem, team building, and more. More information will be coming next week. If you are interested in supporting this program, Mr. Terrence is looking for more volunteers. Thank you for considering and supporting this empowering opportunity for our scholars.

LJA has begun it enrollment for the 2019-20 school year (and we even have a few spots in grades 5-7 open for the rest of this year). Share with your networks the joys and successes of your scholar’s experience at LJA.

LJA Leadership Team


1/4/19

Welcome back! We hope everyone had a great break and that the new year is off to a great start!

We are now a fully educator led school; George Sand has officially retired. Please do not hesitate to contact leadership if you would like to schedule a time to come in to chat about this transition. You can always email the leadership team at leadershipteam@laurajeffreyacademy.org.

J-term: this is a fun time of the year for us. We have three weeks of programming and then another two week break. During J-term, scholars dive into a book club of their choice, continue their math minded explorations through math class and end the day participating in a 3-hour experiential course. The J-term course choices this year include: winter survival, creative coding, knitting and design, urban planning and papier mache, and origami and geometry.

Winter intersession: The theme for winter intersession this year is Leadership, Creativity, and Calm. Intersession is optional programming that takes place on the Tuesday - Friday of the first week of our break (1/22 - 1/25). We have 7 class options with activities like improvisation, acting, creating and performing songs, team building, and mindfulness, and gaming. There will also be an ice skating field trip on the final day! Remember that there are scholarships available and we encourage everyone to sign up and participate.

Looking into the future: we are in the preliminary stages of planning our Black History Month focus for February. We would like to make sure that our time spent is relevant to our scholars by creating connections with local black history and achievements, and that it establishes pride for our program at LJA. The plan is for us to have our scholars research the history of the Rondo neighborhood and the life of Laura Jeffrey. We believe this will improve the culture and pride for our program and help our scholars recognize that we are not just a school but connected to and part of the larger community.

LJA Leadership Team


12/21/18

Hello Families and Friends.

As 2018 comes to a close, we think about all the growth and change we have seen so far this year at LJA, in our scholars as well as educators in the building. It is always a wonderful moment, such as a History Day presentation, to see a student realize how powerful they can be when given the opportunity by supportive and challenging teachers. The scholar finds their voice, the educator fulfills their purpose.

The key to growth and change is creating a sustainable school culture where adults and scholars are given the time and space to forge authentic relationships. A teacher can’t really challenge a student unless there is a trusting relationship. Adults can’t challenge other adults unless there is trust between them. A school can’t fulfill its promise without everyone being on the same page with their goals and the mission to be accomplished. And this can only happen through trust, communication, and the disciplined practice of building professional and personal relationships.

The question then becomes; “What is the best way to foster such a school culture?”

There have been numerous studies that highlight the fact that when educators are more closely involved in decision-making at multiple levels of school management, scholars have greater academic success and educators have higher levels of satisfaction in their profession. Here’s a list of findings from a University of Pennsylvania study based on a survey of roughly 900,000 teachers in 25,000 schools across the country from 2011-15. (The data source for this study was the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Survey (TELL), administered by the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, CA)

The University of Pennsylvania analysis generated five key findings:

1. Schools with higher levels of both instructional leadership and teacher leadership have greater student achievement.

2. Those specific elements of instructional leadership that are most strongly related to student achievement are:

a. Holding teachers to high professional standards for delivering instruction;

b. Providing an effective school improvement team; and

c. Fostering a shared vision for the school.

3. Those specific areas of teacher leadership and teacher decision-making that are most strongly related to student achievement are:

a. establishing student discipline procedures and policies; and

b. school improvement planning.

4. Schools often do not emphasize those elements of instructional leadership and areas of teacher leadership that are most strongly related to student achievement.

5. High-poverty schools often have lower levels of both instructional leadership and teacher leadership, which could put their students at an academic disadvantage.

As a charter school our mandate is to implement educational practices and innovations that ensure the greatest success for all students. LJA has always taken this mandate seriously and with purpose from the very beginning of its existence.

The research around the effectiveness of teacher leadership is solid and the implementation of this program model seems to be a good fit for the long-term health of Laura Jeffrey. LJA has a history of teacher leadership in the areas of curriculum and instruction and teacher professional development. It seemed a logical next step for the school to evolve into a fuller realization of the power of educator led schools.

However, it is important to be skeptical of innovations in education in order to make sure they are actually good for scholars instead of being mostly for the benefit of adults. Especially if the innovation is implemented in a haphazard or rushed manner; which is typical of most educational innovations and improvement efforts.

For the past year and a half, the school leadership team has been working hand-in-hand with the LJA School Board and educational experts to thoughtfully implement the transition to an “educator led” school. (We use this term instead of “teacher led” because all the adults in the building are considered educators and are invested in the process of supporting student success.)

We base our work on the firm belief that educators are professionals similar to lawyers, architects, and engineers where, as professionals, they are responsible and accountable for the success of the business. And charter schools, unlike traditional schools, need to consider themselves a small business that relies on buy in from families, staff and the larger community. This work demands discipline and attention to detail in the areas of planning, communication and decision-making, and educator commitment.

As professionals, educators must be involved in the critical decisions that impact the mission of LJA without getting bogged down in all technical aspects of day to day operations of running a school. Educators need autonomy and decision-making opportunities, but these opportunities must be student focused and tied to larger school goals. For LJA this decision-making focuses on three key areas: curriculum and instruction, school culture which includes implementing discipline policies, and maintaining community and family relationships.

In order to keep the focus on these three critical areas LJA will continue to have a leadership team that is responsible for staff supervision, financial oversight, compliance, school operations, and maintaining strong board/staff relationships. The LJA Leadership Team has been fully functioning since the beginning of the school year with support as needed from the LJA Interim Director, George Sand. Beginning in January 2019 the team, Jacob Bonde, Lizzie Forshee, Anna Robinson, Cassandra Quam, and Terrene Thigpen will take over fully as the LJA Interim Director position is completely phased out.

This is an exciting time in the next phase of Laura Jeffrey Academy and we thank you for the opportunity to work with your scholar and to have the support of such a terrific community of families and friends. Have a joyful and peaceful winter break. See you in the new year.

LJA Leadership Team



12/14/18

Dear LJA Community,

We know this time of year can be a stressful. As the calendar year ends, many of us are scrambling to be prepared as deadlines approach. Or working hard to organize and communicate with friends and family. For LJA students, school deadlines are approaching as well and stress levels--for some--are rising.. Students are hard at work preparing for summatives: history day projects, music performances, researching diseases, essays, etc.


But this time of year can be joyful as well. We make it to the finish line and celebrate. We look back at the year and what we accomplished. We hope that, if you find yourself or your scholars, feeling those stress levels rise, you take a moment to celebrate all that you have done this year, all the accomplishments, all the hard work and friendships and joys and laughter. If the stress is specifically about school, you might want scholars to reflect:

  • What is something that you are working really hard on right now?
  • What is a recent piece of work that you are proud of?
  • When is a previous time where you persevered through stress and ended up achieving your goal?


It may not feel like it now, but by the end of next week, students will be finishing work and they will have something to be proud of. Let’s not forget to celebrate that!



12/7/18

Dear LJA caregivers,

TGI(early release)F! As we mentioned before, we use this time to work on our transition towards being teacher-led. We hope you all value us investing this time to continue to improve our program. When thinking of where we are, two words come to mind: momentum and forward moving. Those words accurately describe Laura Jeffrey these days as we are picking up momentum and moving forward.

Something big on the horizon is our winter concert. The focus of this performance is women's triumphs over 100 years of misogyny. Our scholars will be doing various performances and showing off their musical talents. We would love it if we had as many of you present to show our scholars support. We would also love it if you invited other people from your network so they can see our brilliant scholars in action. We are proud of their continued hard work and would love to show them off. The performance will be at Macalester's Kagin Commons auditorium on December 18th, beginning at 2:30.

Another happening on the horizon is J-Term, which is from January 3rd -18th. A refresher about J-term is that scholars will have a book club and math class in the morning. Their afternoon will be filled with one of the following class options: Winter Survival, Creative Coding, Knitting and Design, Urban Planning and Papier Mache, and Origami/Geometry.

In closing, it is important to assist our scholars in their ever-changing-forward-moving lives. To help with this transition we had a high school fair at LJA on Wednesday this week. Scholars and their parents were excited to begin thinking and talking about their life after Laura Jeffrey. What an exciting thing for some of our scholars to have on their radar!

On behalf of our LJA staff, enjoy your weekend. Thank you for all that you do to make Laura Jeffrey an amazing place!



11/21/18

Dear LJA Caregivers,

On behalf of the school, we would like to take a moment to express how grateful we are for you. We recognize the strength of our community and know that it is only possible because of your contributions. We appreciate how willing you all have been to help out with events, connect us to community resources, and provide feedback about how we can improve our program. Community can be defined as a unified body of individuals working towards a common goal. We, including you, embody just that.

As we approach the end of 2018, we would like to formally announce the latest update to our transition towards an Educator-Led school. George Sand has served as the LJA Interim Executive Director since August of 2017. It has always been the intent of this position to serve as a transitional role until the new management structure of the school was established.

In the Spring of 2018 it was decided by the LJA Board of Directors that LJA would implement an educator led model for school management and decision-making beginning in the fall of 2018. A part of this model is the establishment of a school Leadership Team that is accountable to the Board for leading ongoing excellence in teaching and learning at LJA as well as overseeing day-to-day operations of the school.

As the Leadership Team has become more comfortable in this challenging role, George’s time and position has been gradually phasing out. With this phasing out in mind, it has been decided that his last day will be December 20th, 2018. George would like to let everyone know how much he has appreciated his time at Laura Jeffrey Academy and he looks forward to its great success in the future.

LJA will be closed for the next few days. Many of us will be taking time to relax, refocus, and enjoy quality time with our loved ones. We hope that all of you are able to do the same.

With gratitude,

Laura Jeffrey Academy


11/16/18

It was a busy week at LJA! We opened the week with a rigorous day of professional development for staff and ended the week with Bring a Friend to School Day. As I looked around the busier-than-usual lunch room today, I was reminded of the feeling of the first day of school, with so many fresh faces in the building and a noticeable sense of excitement coming from the students. It was a good reminder to me that there are exciting and innovative things happening every day at LJA, and sometimes it just takes the presence of newcomers to really notice!

This was our first year expanding on a typical shadow day with the idea of Bring a Friend to School Day. We hope your scholars found it to be valuable to be able to share their LJA experiences with a visitor for the day (whether they brought a friend themselves or just had some visitors in their classes). We would welcome any feedback on whether or not we should make this an annual tradition and any ways that we could improve the day for next time.

With conferences coming up on Monday and Tuesday, I hope you will take a moment to express gratitude to the amazing teachers at LJA who are working constantly and diligently with your students. Teachers everywhere go above and beyond to positively shape the lives of young people, and I have made it my goal this Thanksgiving to express gratitude to those who taught my throughout my own education.

I hope as many of you as possible will visit LJA on our two conference days next week. Remember, even if you don’t sign up for a conference, you can just drop by during the open house times to talk to teachers!

I wish you all a very pleasant holiday filled with delicious food and moments of laughter with family or friends!



11/9/18

Tomorrow LJA will send 15 scholars participate in the Girls on The Run 5k at the Mall of America. Go cheer them on if you’d like, and at least send them warm thoughts!

Training for a 5k is great metaphor for the work we do here at Laura Jeffrey Academy. For most people, you can’t instantly be able to go that distance. In learning, sometimes we can be frustrated that we don’t have the answer already, that we haven’t mastered the skills yet, that we don’t fully understand the answer to the questions we are asking. But it takes practice, and showing up everyday and pushing yourself to be a little bit better than the last. To learn a little bit more, grow a little more, build on what we accomplished yesterday. It is important for us to all remember this that growth takes time, and hard work.

This applies to our principle of the month as well, Building Empathy. There’s no shortcuts. Building empathy takes time. It takes intentional practice. It takes the courage to take the first steps. It might require breaking some bad habits in our ways of thinking, and admitting that those bad habits aren’t helping us. Some days will be harder than others. But, slowly but surely we get to new place, a new level and we can be proud of what we accomplished...and we are a healthier, happier person on top of it!

As our scholar-athletes know, improvement also takes motivation and teaching from peers, coaches and mentors. In this regard, LJA is excited to kick off a new mentor program this year. On Thursday, fourteen of LJA’s eighth graders kicked were joined by mentors--women from a diverse array of STEM fields. They had lunch (thanks mentors!), played games, and got to know one another. We look forward to seeing this program grow.

What are the dreams, goals or accomplishments you envision for our scholars here at LJA? What is one small step they could take in that direction?

LJA Leadership Team



11/2/18

As I type this, I can hear through the windows the laughter of students playing in the sunshine and I find myself reflecting on what an honor and joy it is to work with the scholars of Laura Jeffrey Academy. It is a privilege to work with and support them as they grapple with the big issues in their lives - from organization and time management to navigating interpersonal relationships to analyzing world events. We are so fortunate to have a dedicated staff who work tirelessly in supporting your scholar’s academic and social-emotional learning and growth. (We look forward to the opportunity to discuss your scholar’s learning and growth at conferences November 19 & 20.) Because of our community - staff, families, and especially the students - Laura Jeffrey Academy is a place of hope and growth.

This week I had the honor of discussing with students their power in the world and it was amazing to hear them brainstorm all they various ways they can use their voice to make change. One way that was identified was to talk to the adults in their lives who are able to vote and to share their views and opinions on issues and candidates. If you haven't already, take some time this weekend to hear what they have to say! Then, on Tuesday, vote (if you haven't already)!

You can find your polling place by following this link: https://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/

Enjoy the weekend,

LJA Leadership Team


10/26/18

Thank you for all who attended the Chili Cook-Off. It was a great night of joy, laughter, and scholar pride. We tasted 17 different chili’s that ranged from vegetarian, traditional, spicy and wild card. The opportunity to slow down, enjoy each others company, and give the scholars an opportunity to showcase their learning is so very appreciated. LJA is always looking to improve our events. If you have suggestions on making LJA’s annual Chili Cookoff even better, please send an email to Annie Lien and she will relay your feedback to the Family and Relations Committee.

LJA has great news! Madi McAndrews will continue as our full time social worker. Ms. Mollie has decided to continue her duties as a full time, stay at home mom. We are very thankful for Ms. Madi’s continued dedication and passion for LJA and its scholars.

It has been an exciting first week back and great start to Quarter 2. The 5th and 6th grade scholars had the opportunity learn from the University of MN Neurology Department. Scholars explored a number of hands on stations that expanded their Brain Awareness and classroom learnings from Quarter 1. The 7th and 8th grade scholars kickstarted their LASS experiences by learning about the 2018-19 History Day theme: Triumph & Tragedy. Expect an email/letter from Anna and Jen within the next week or two with more details.

Between now and end of November, LJA scholars will dig into LJA’s Principle "Building Empathy" during advisory time. Staff introduced “Building Empathy” with an all school assembly. Advisories will continue to expand on its meaning through lessons and activities. We will continue to turn-key our understandings to application by identifying and acknowledging peers who embody the principle in their everyday interactions.

Lastly, please mark your calendars as next Friday, November 2nd, is LJA’s Halloween Party. This is a fun night for current scholars to enjoy their peers and teachers with a night of activities, relaxation, and another chance to show off their Halloween costume.


October 5, 2018

Greetings LJA Families and Friends,

We’ve come to the end of our first quarter and there was a veritable buzz of activity this past week as students finished up their quarterly summative projects for their classes. There is always a bit of anxiety and stress around this work, but mostly it is a time of deep concentration as scholars strive to meet deadlines for completion.

We are going to continue the practice we started last year of having scholars present their summative work to interested people during the annual LJA Chili Cook-Off. This ensures an audience for the work and it is an excellent opportunity for scholars to practice their presentation skills.

Speaking of the Chili Cook-Off, it is coming up quickly on October 25th. Please make an effort to attend even if you don’t feel like you have the most brilliant chili to enter into the judging. Everyone is welcome to come and eat whether they bring chili or not, there is always LOTS of food, and it is a fun time to get to know other families who have scholars at LJA.

As we continue our transition to an Educator Powered school, we are relying more and more on educator committees to become driving forces in our school community. An example of this is the work the School Culture Committee is doing around embedding the LJA Principles into the day-to-day functioning of the school. (As you well know, in the hurly-burly of the school day, it easy to forget guiding principles and values.)

To make the LJA principles more “alive”, staff are focusing on different principles each month in Advisory conversations and throughout the day in classrooms. In September the focus has been on Mutual Responsibility and Individual Accountability. A monthly assembly is then held and scholars who are exemplars of the principles are acknowledged. This talk about principles can be seen as a typical thing most schools do, but at LJA it takes on more significance because staff are serious about the work and scholars quickly realize, “Oh, they’re serious about me having principles! “

One last acknowledgement goes out to the 7/8 team for the planning and implementation of an environmental stewardship project this past week where LJA scholars worked with Great River Greening. The project was designed to give scholars an opportunity to help with clean water sampling and planting erosion controlling plants along the Mississippi River. Happily, everyone go their hands dirty. This is a yearly event and returning volunteers sign up specifically when the know LJA scholars are going to be working on the project. We love this kind of community feedback!

Have a happy weekend and thanks for all you do for your scholar and LJA.

The Leadership Team



September 28, 2018

Dear LJA Families,

It’s hard to believe, but 1st Quarter is almost over! Students are hard at work on their summative projects, which they will finish next week. The 5th and 6th graders are working on either math games or their special number poster for their math summatives. In LASS, they can choose between writing and defending a bill or a narrative writing assignment. In STEM they are creating models of ecosystems; in Art they are making self-portraits; and in Wellness their summative project is a stress kit and mind map. For the 7th and 8th graders, their summative projects are writing a profile for a political candidate in LASS, a keyboarding performance in Music, the stress kit and mindmap in Wellness, a linear relationship poster in Algebra, and using genetics principles to breed imaginary dragons in STEM (Pre-Algebra has a different timeline for their summative). Summative time can be a stressful part of the quarter for students, but it is amazing to see them putting together what they have learned over the whole quarter. I hope you will ask your student about their summatives and take pride in their learning.

Today and yesterday students were asked to decide which of their summative projects they would like to showcase at the Chili Cook Off. This is an annual event at LJA where the whole community comes together to enjoy food and appreciate student work. Summative projects will be displayed, and select students will be performing during the event. Please mark your calendars now for Thursday evening, October 25th from 6:00 – 8:00pm. This is a beloved event in the LJA community and a chance for you to show off your best chili! We hope that many of you will be able to come and see the fabulous work that your scholars have been doing. Ask your scholar what they will be showcasing!

Have a great weekend!



September 21, 2018

Dear LJA friends and families,

Leadership Team rep here to give you a quick update about our week at LJA.

To start, T.G.I. (early release)F! Some of you might be wondering why we have these early release days. This is our second one of the year. It should be known that these days have been intentionally placed throughout our school year to support our shift towards being an Educator Powered school. When the scholars leave for the day we break into one of three committees: Curriculum and Instruction, Family and Community Engagement, and School Culture. During our pre-committee meeting today we had a brief discussion about why we are making this shift to being Educator Powered. One of the themes that came out of that discussion was that this shift will address the need for civic engagement and service.

Along with the energy being put towards becoming Educator Powered, we are particularly focused on the implementation of Restorative Practices at Laura Jeffrey. We recognize that it is important to integrate this into our culture and we try to use these practices as often as possible. Sometimes Restorative Practices happen in the form of short check-ins with scholars and other times it involves a larger and more thorough process. These practices allow for time and space to constantly grow as a community. All of our scholars deserve opportunities, without judgement and/or punishment to learn and grow from their actions. This investment in growth only strengthens our community.

Some things to keep on your radar:

  • Our New Family Picnic - September 24th from 5:30-7:30
  • Picture Day - September 27th.
  • The last day of our first quarter - October 4th.
  • Intersession from October 8-12th.
  • No school from October 15-19th.
  • Chili Cook Off - October 25.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns that you have. We deeply value your opinion.

To conclude, we hope everyone has a great weekend doing activities that allow you to kick back, relax, and enjoy the Fall weather.

LJA’s Leadership


September 14, 2018


This was a week to be thankful for all our great partnerships. We had three different groups join us this week.

On Wednesday, tutors from St. Kate’s started assisting in our midday math classes, allowing students to get a lot of individualized attention working on the skills they need. They will be here every Monday and Wednesday throughout the school year. Thank you St. Kate’s!

On Thursday, students from the University of Minnesota were here to show off promotional trailers for their intersession classes. These students are all post-graduate getting their teaching license in Communication Arts & Literature. As part of their program, they design unique, creative, engaging classes that they then offer to our students as part of our intersession programming in October. Ask your scholars if there were any classes that stood out to them. Students should receive intersession registration forms on Monday, and we will be revisiting some of the class trailers in advisory in the coming weeks. Thank you U of M students!

Then today, employees from Brooksource were here. Brooksource is an IT company that formed a partnership with LJA last year. Last year, we got very generous donations of school supplies, and today we received a donation of $10,000! To give back for this generosity, LJA students and Brooksource employees today participated in Operation Gratitude, where students made care packages to send to the families of service members. We stuffed 45 bears, wrote/drew 184 cards and made 50 bracelets. Thank you Brooksource!

As we think about all community partnerships that we are thankful for, it’s important to also be thankful for the work that scholars are doing to build our own Laura Jeffrey community. At our assembly this morning, we introduced our LJA principle of Practicing Individual Accountability and Mutual Responsibility (ask your scholars about the LJA Staff skit, and the “Helium Hula-Hoop” activity). One of the ways we work to demonstrate this principle is through the use of Restorative Practices. Through restorative practices, we approach each “behavior incident” in ways that we believe help us maintain and build community in the most authentic way. Working to repair harm, build relationships, and learn empathy can be a difficult process. It takes practice to be accountable to yourself and responsibly and respectfully hold your peers responsible. There may be bumps along the way, but we are really beginning to see our school turn into more of a community as we are learning and growing together throughout the Restorative process. Thank you scholars!


The Leadership Team


September 7, 2018

Happy Friday!

Quarter 1 is well underway! In addition to all the great learning happening in classes, from basic music theory in Music to government and our rights in LASS, this week scholars started their midday clubs. Clubs meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and offer engaging, hands-on learning experiences. Be sure to ask your student about their club and how it went this week.

Starting next week, we will begin highlighting one of our seven LJA principles each month. (Check out our principles at http://www.laurajeffreyacademy.org/our-promise/ ) This month we will be focusing on the principle of Practicing Mutual Responsibility and Individual Accountability. This principle instills the belief that we should work together to solve problems and are accountable for our own choices and our impact on the community and the environment as a whole. Throughout the month, scholars will engage in activities focusing on the principle during advisory and we will be keeping an eye out for scholars who are embodying the principle. We will be having a fun, whole school assembly next week to introduce the principle as our principle of the month.

Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming New Family Picnic! This is an annual event we host in order to give families who are new to LJA a chance to meet each other and ask the questions that have come up in the first few weeks of school. This year we will also be inviting any returning LJA families who are interested to join us in welcoming and supporting our new families. And we will have a prize drawing for any LJA family who brings along a non-LJA student of middle school age! This year's picnic will take place on the evening of Monday, September 24th at Newell Park.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. Your voice is always important to us.

Have a relaxing, rejuvenating and fun weekend,

The Leadership Team


8/31/18

Our focus this past week has been around growth mindsets and how these apply to our math abilities. Scholars started attending their math midday classes (math process, math skills, and math projects) and have been studying fixed vs. growth mindsets. Growth mindset, coined by Carol Dweck, describes the underlying beliefs we have about learning and intelligence. Teaching growth mindset fosters a belief that you can get smarter, and that effort makes you stronger. Therefore, as you put in extra time and effort, it will lead to higher achievement. If you have further questions about your scholars math midday class please connect with Jacob Bonde at jacobb@laurajeffreyacademy.org.

Something we do to meet the needs of our scholars’ desires to learn about new topics and gain new skills is our midday clubs, which were introduced and will start next week. Clubs are held during the midday on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please ask your scholar which was their club of interest: Knitting, Debate, Book Buddies, Drama, Spoken Word, or LJA Reports. If you notice or hear that your scholar is struggling please support them in their perseverance and sticking with the new activity for the entirety of 1st quarter, after which they can then choose to stay or try something new.

We have worked to set a solid foundation of community building during our daily morning meetings and extended midday meetings of advisory. As we are slowing adding layers of academia into our midday, we will continue our intentional morning advisory time to continually build community through a sense of belonging and ownership. If you would like to see a full list of your scholar’s schedule , including midday math and clubs, feel free to email Ms. G at gayef@laurajeffreyacademy.org.

Do not hesitate to connect with classroom teachers around your scholar’s academics, advisory teachers around your scholar’s social/emotional growth, and/or leadership as we can advise on who the best person is to connect with.

Hope you enjoy a restful weekend and are able to celebrate a few moments of the beauty in which MN has to offer during this time of year.

LJA’s Leadership Team



August 24, 2018

Happy Friday!

It has been an exciting second week at Laura Jeffrey Academy. Scholars have filled the hallways and classrooms with their energy, and enthusiasm for learning. Classrooms have started engaging in content, routines, and learning expectations. Our promise to the LJA community is to create an environment where students are free -- to explore their potential, to discover their brilliance and develop their intellect. This promise is evident as scholars travel from class to class. Ask your scholar their favorite part of the learning, which class they are most excited about, how they see themselves in the curriculum, you will be amazed to hear what they have to say.


Authentic community building is also at the forefront of our work. Advisories are continuing the work of creating a culture where our scholars are learning the balance of independence and responsibility, at the same time support and guidance. Specifically, advisories have been addressing adolescent needs: fun, autonomy, relationships, competence, and survival. Advisory teachers are working to support scholars in identifying their needs and how to get them met to ensure they are their best selves for learning.


FastBridge testing is complete and scholars have been placed into midday math classes. Your scholar will be bringing home a sheet which identifies the midday math class they have been placed in. If you have questions or concerns please contact Jacob Bonde jacobb@laurajeffreyacademy.org or 651-414-6000, to help you address your wonderings.


As always, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to support your scholars academic and social/emotional growth. We are honored to be a part of their journey in learning.


The Leadership Team


August 17, 2018

We"re back! And we're excited to begin a brand new year with your scholar. It is really fun to see how returning students have grown and changed since we last saw them, and we are thrilled to introduce all of our new scholars to the empowering culture and learning opportunities at Laura Jeffrey Academy.

This is going to be a great year at LJA as we continue to build upon the efforts we made last year in improving our academic programs and supporting the individual needs of all scholars. We are particularly happy about the new staff who will be joining us for 2018-19. They are:

    • Peggy Palumbo; Health and Wellness teacher
    • Eileen Lindstrom; 6-8 math co-teacher
    • Jean Fawver; Art teacher and Special Education Coordinator

All three have crossed over from the Minneapolis School District because of their attraction to the mission and vision of LJA. Each comes with a wonderful set of skills and experiences that have already had an impact on our school community. This will be a pivotal year for Laura Jeffrey as we continue to implement our innovative model of teacher led planning and decision-making. It is a model that demands commitment from staff to be part of problem solving teams that work openly and honestly to constantly improve teaching and learning, school culture, and relationships with caregivers. We feel that Peggy, Jean, and Eileen add tremendously to the capacity of LJA to be successful in these efforts.

We are making communicating with caregivers a priority again this year and that is why we are using a blog format to ensure the LJA community can easily access an ongoing thread of thoughts from the leadership team. This will be a weekly post from various members of the team and it will be used as general update of what is going on at school. We will also use the blog as a forum to address wider community concerns if they arise.

Welcome back, have a terrific weekend and thank you for all that you do for your scholar and LJA.

The Leadership Team