MDE Weekly Superintendent Mail

May 1, 2014

USDA Summer Food Service Program

Superintendents and principals,

The end of the school year also means an end to nutritious school breakfasts and lunches that many of our children count on. That is why I am sharing with you an important message about USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. Read a letter from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

I urge you all to promote participating sites to families in your area so that eligible children can take advantage of this program. If you are participating in the Summer Food Service Program, please make every effort to share the information broadly within your community. Additionally, MDE will post a list of open sites on our website at the end of May.

Here are some additional resources I would encourage you to share with families:

· To find out the closest Summer Food Service Program site near you, just dial 2-1-1. It's free, confidential and available 24/7. Cell phone users can call 651-291-0211. Toll free: 1-800-543-7709.
· The Minnesota Food HelpLine makes it very simple. In one call, they will assess your situation and provide solutions to your family’s food needs. For more information, visit the Hunger Solutions Minnesota website.
· Other resources include Second Harvest Heartland, reachable via text at 612-516-FOOD (3663), or the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-HAMBRE. It’s a free call, available in both English and Spanish, and is available from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern Time.

Important Change in Definition of Elevated Blood Lead Level

This past week I received a letter from Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota’s commissioner of the Department of Health, notifying me of an important change in the definition of an elevated blood lead level. The effects of exposure to lead, including IQ deficits and attention-related behaviors, continue to affect the educational achievement of Minnesota children. Given these impacts on learning, schools can contribute to primary prevention and early intervention efforts to eliminate the occurrence of lead poisoning and address its effects on student learning. Read Dr. Ehlinger’s letter and the Finding by the Commissioner of Health.

Schools and the community can work together to:

· Prevent lead exposure in children through elimination of lead paint in old homes, improvement of dilapidated housing, enhancing the nutrition status of at-risk children and parent education (primary prevention).
· Intervene rapidly when exposure has occurred to counteract potential toxic effects on neurocognitive development, learning and behavior (early intervention).

While much work to prevent and to intervene early with lead poisoning in children has already been achieved through public health, housing and medical officials, the role of schools in identifying and providing appropriate educational services to children who may have been exposed to lead has been less clear.

There are important steps that school districts can take to contribute to both primary prevention and early intervention efforts on behalf of students in their communities. Those steps are listed below.

1. Develop school district policy and procedures regarding students who may be affected by lead.
2. Educate school personnel.
3. Collaborate with parents and community partners to educate families and students.
4. Refer any student known to have exposure to lead immediately to their medical provider and if appropriate, referral for housing assistance. Students with symptoms consistent with lead toxicity should be referred for urgent medical evaluation.
5. Locate, identify and refer as early as possible students with disabilities and their families who are in need of Birth-to-Three (Part C) or Preschool Special Education (Part B) services of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA).
6. Monitor students who are at high risk for lead poisoning but do not have evidence of a BLL equal to or greater than 5 mcg/dL.
7. Obtain a lead history for all students identified as having a BLL equal to or greater than 5 mcg/dL.
8. Develop a monitoring plan addressing the needs of all students, as appropriate, with a history of BLLs equal to or greater than 5 mcg/dL.
9. Refer preschoolers and young school-age children with a history of BLLs equal to or greater than 5 mcg/dL for enrichment opportunities as indicated.
10. Refer students, when indicated, to a Section 504 team or PPT for determination of a disability and eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or the IDEA.

Thanks for your attention to this important and very serious health matter. For more information about lead poisoning prevention in schools, visit the Minnesota Department of Education website, or visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.


State Fiscal Year 2015 – Division of Special Education – Federal – Statewide Low Incidence Project

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) invites Minnesota Educational Cooperative Service Units with documented experience in statewide professional development to apply for federal funding awarded to MDE from CFDA 84.027A, Special Education – Grants to States. The funding estimated to be available for the initial year of the project is $647,700. The initial grant period is anticipated to be October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015. Continuation grant awards are anticipated for an additional four years although the funding for continuation years may not equal the initial year award.

This funding is to provide technical assistance and statewide professional development opportunities to professionals who provide education to students with low incidence disabilities. The project will include for skill building in cross categorical services and collaboration with institutions of higher education focusing on development of a competent work force.

The grant opportunity documents will be available on the grant opportunity site after May 5, 2014. Visit the grant opportunity Web page. (

Questions must be submitted to the program contact through email by May 15, 2014, 3:30 p.m., Central Time.

Applications must be received by (not postmarked by) June 12, 2014, 3:30 p.m., Central Time. Applications should be mailed or delivered — not submitted in the SERVS system.

For additional information, please contact Joan Breslin-Larson (, 651-582-1599.


College Knowledge Month – Explore. Plan. Apply!

October is College Knowledge Month in Minnesota. Participation in this initiative is one strategy schools can implement to help meet legislation requirements according to Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.125 (Planning for Students’ Successful Transition to Postsecondary Education and Employment). Register your school by the preferred deadline of June 15. Access online registration.

Sponsored by a network of K12, higher education and nonprofit partners, the goal of College Knowledge Month is to provide every graduating high school senior with the preparation, opportunity, and support needed to apply for college. A month-long effort allows students to do more than just submit an application. Applying is only one step of the college application process — the result of thoughtful exploration and planning.

The College Knowledge Month steering committee will provide resources, materials, support and training for registered sites to assist with their programming. Training dates have been announced and include options for new and returning site coordinators in May and September. Access training dates on the Office of Higher Education website.

View further information on the College Knowledge Month Web page.

Questions about College Knowledge Month? Contact Beth Barsness (651-582-8336).

2014 Minnesota eLearning Summit – July 30-31

Register by May 15 and take advantage of early registration discounts, providing the best rates for individuals and groups. The Summit program team announces 96 Breakout Sessions and Poster Sessions! Session presenters will address a wide variety of topics in sessions of interest to K-12 and post-secondary educators.

Summit session presenters, K-12 educators, and students (bachelors, masters, doctoral) are eligible for significant discounts and scholarships. Because your institution will benefit most from Summit information when a team of colleagues attends the Summit together, group discounts are available (teams of 5 or more). Please plan now to register as an institution team for Summit 2014.

Registration includes access to all Summit events, materials, meals, and parking. Inexpensive on-campus lodging is also available on the host-university campus for those outside of the metro area. Access further information, including list of breakout sessions and poster sessions, and online registration.

ED Review – A U.S. Department of Education Newsletter

ED Review provides a biweekly update on U.S. Department of Education initiatives and activities. See the latest ED Review posting on the U.S. Department of Education website.