WAPS student services study group will consider cultural liaison position

School Board Meeting Recap Oct 2

A group tasked with studying student support services at Winona Area Public Schools will include consideration of a cultural liaison position. 

The Student Support Services Study Group, announced by Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit at a school board meeting in September, will analyze all facets of students support services and provide recommendations for action to the board. 

At its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 2, the board asked the group to specifically include the idea of adding a cultural liaison — a staff position that supports students from underrepresented communities —  in its process.

“It’s a message to the public that we take this seriously,” board member Jim Schul said. “We’re going to be intentional with looking at that concept and make it into a plan. It’s a statement to the public. We’re taking this very seriously. We’re going to put a focus on making sure that our community members that are in a non-majority status are being represented.”

The board decided against hiring a cultural liaison before the study group had a chance to see how it could work with other student support services. The study group will consist of current WAPS student support staff — including counselors, social workers and Miller Mentoring staff — along with teachers, community members and current students. 

“There’s a lot of things you want to consider in the position,” said board chair Nancy Denzer, a former school principal in Rochester who has had a cultural liaison-type position on her staff. “I really do like a comprehensive look at how we can move forward.”

One of the key questions the group will seek to answer is whether or not the district equitably supports student needs. And if it doesn’t, what pragmatic actions can be taken in light of the district’s financial restraints?

The group will also seek to answer questions about the social-emotional needs of all students in the district and how the current support services available will meet those needs. 

An introductory meeting was recently held with WAPS counselors, social workers and Miller Mentoring staff, and Freiheit is in the process of adding others to the study group, particularly students and families of color.

The study group is one of two started by Freiheit this fall. The other study group will take a look at the music program in terms of who it serves in the WAPS student population, how the program compares to others in the nation, students’ attitudes and perceptions of the program and the actions that WAPS can take to enhance and improve the program in light of the district’s financial restraints. 

The school board will meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Although board meetings are usually on Thursdays, this meeting was moved because of the non-school days on Thursday, Oct. 15 and Friday Oct. 16 for the MEA conference.