What started as a collegial friendship between superintendents has grown into a partnership that has spanned years and cut costs for the Hopkins and Edina school districts.
Rather than pit the two districts against each other in competition, Superintendents John Schultz of Hopkins and Ric Dressen of Edina have formed an alliance. The two districts freely exchange ideas and participate in coaching and training sessions together. The partnership dubbed “HopDina” even has a hashtag.
Despite their districts’ obvious differences in demographics, the two choose to look at their similarities and how to work from there.
“We are validating that this work is important,” Dressen said. “There does not need to be boundaries.”
Their relationship is as simple as a phone call to get together. In early January, Dressen called Schultz and invited him and Hopkins administrators over for a training on leadership resiliency. Schultz brought over about 25 people for the joint training session.
“We don’t need a level of governance to make this work,” Dressen said. “We can make it informal and practical, timely and responsive. If an idea comes up, we can move on it.”
The Edina school board did put pen to paper in 2013 and signed off on an Educational Partnership Agreement to share intellectual property and resources with Hopkins. As part of their partnership, Edina agreed to meet with Hopkins to address goals for the year.
The two districts share staff as well. Hopkins and Edina share a coach for culturally and linguistically responsive teaching, Gina Spoo. Spoo, who is based in Hopkins, held a training at Creek Valley Elementary School in Edina Monday, where teachers shared ideas of how to engage and motivate students from different backgrounds. Superintendents Schultz and Dressen tagged along.
Hopkins’ enrollment includes 42.9 percent students of color, compared with 23 percent in Edina. Spoo said that as a result, Hopkins is further along in its journey with cultural training.
The districts contain costs by working with Spoo rather than each having separate trainings with their own coaches.
“This is a very mutual partnership and it’s authentic,” Schultz said.
While the districts don’t have a set budget for the partnership, administrators on both sides agree that it helps them make better use of money spent on training and staff time.
With Dressen set to retire in June, Schultz plans to continue growing the partnership with Edina’s next superintendent. He said the future of the partnership relies on the support from staff in both districts not just the superintendents. “It can’t be based on two superintendents who work well together,” he said. “It’s based on a system of people coming together to talk, plan and create.”
In 2014, Edina and Hopkins launched a cross district technology collaboration. Teachers from both districts learn how to integrate technology into their classrooms through four courses worth 15 graduate credits at Hamline University. The two districts plan on expanding that partnership to provide additional licensure to teachers in the future, said Ivar Nelson, director of technology, media and information systems for the Hopkins district.
“We are working together, learning from each other and sharing what we learn in other areas as well,” he said. Nelson also relies on Edina when things go awry, and vice versa. When Edina made the switch to Infinite Campus, an online student information system, Hopkins offered to help with training.
“If we have an issue that is a challenge to us, if we are able to call our friends at Edina and they can help us with that, that saves us the cost of a consultant,” Nelson said.