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Verndale one of first school districts to become 'High Reliability' certified

NJPA Education Solutions Manager Kassidy Rice addresses Verndale staff in December about becoming High Reliability certified. Submitted photo

National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA) hosted assemblies at Verndale and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley schools last week to celebrate the start of their High Reliability Schools certification process.

They will be the first Minnesota schools to become High Reliability certified and will serve as demonstration sites for other schools in the region and state.

Verndale and WHA were chosen from a pool of strong applicants from Region 5 because of their exceptional demonstration of commitment to growth and continuous improvement. NJPA will fund the program for the next three years, and in conjunction with Marzano Research, provide professional development, coaching and support throughout the process.

The HRS framework is based on 40 years of educational research by Dr. Robert J. Marzano and his team and consists of five progressive levels of performance: Safe and Collaborative Culture, Effective Teaching in Every Classroom, Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum, Standards-Referenced Reporting and Competency-Based Education.

NJPA Senior Education Consultant Rynell Schock was instrumental in bringing this opportunity to Region 5. She says the program was chosen based on its breadth of years of research, its clarity, and applicability to school districts.

"For each level, NJPA consultants will use Marzano's surveys to assess the perceptions of all involved — students, staff, administration, and parents," Schock explained. "Then, we'll take the information to Marzano Research and they will help the school develop a plan for improvement."

Professional development and coaching will be provided at each level based on the needs of each school as demonstrated by its surveys. A school achieves level certification and can move on in the process once its goals are met.

Schock says the most important thing for WHA and Verndale community members to know is their school staff are committing to a long-term program that will provide better education for students and will give other schools a model.

"There is a relentless dedication of time and effort that's being put forth," Schock said. "And they're willing to have other schools in our region and beyond come into their setting, to learn from them and see their demonstration of highly reliable."

All school districts in Region 5 (Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties) are invited to participate in the HRS trainings and work toward certification. Pequot Lakes and Upsala school districts have already expressed interest.

For more information on HRS training and professional development opportunities, visit or contact Lori Duhn at (218) 894-4586.