The ROCORI school calendar, since long before I arrived in the district, has been structured to have Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a professional development opportunity known as Academy Day.  Students are given the holiday as a vacation day, but staff members participate in training and development experiences through the course of the day.  With Academy Day happening within this week, I thought I would use this week’s column to share information about the experience.



As I noted, Academy Day has been a part of the ROCORI School District for a long time.  We have conducted it each of the 15 years that I have been in the district and it was a well-established structure when I arrived.

The purpose of the day is to provide professional development opportunities for our school staff.  The type and nature of the training and learning experience has been different each year, but all of it has been built around the training needs of the school staff.



Our Staff Development committee has been responsible for the organization of the day.  Although the Staff Development committee is mostly comprised of teachers, there are members from the different staff groups in effort to represent the thoughts and needs across the district.  In addition, the committee includes seats for community members.

Academy Day is one of the most significant events in which the Staff Development committee engages.  Many hours of discussion, planning and organization are invested in the development of Academy Day program. 

The committee works very hard to get feedback from across the staff about the needs and issues for professional development and areas of training that are desired.   They also look carefully at training experiences that are needed or required by the state of Minnesota and try to align experiences with those requirements.  The committee also works hard to find resources, presenters, and support for the training needs identified.



Academy Day is most often structured in shorter blocks of time to allow staff members to go through a training experience and then move into another setting for different training.  Essentially, the day is like a student day with multiple training sessions occurring at one time and options scheduled throughout the day.

Generally, the sessions are designed to be about an hour in length.  This allows staff members to have, depending on the final structure of the day each year, up to four or five different training sessions during the course of the day.  If the sessions are longer, an hour and a half for example, then, of course, there are fewer sessions during the day.

In different years, and dependent on the work of the Staff Development committee, there may also be a keynote speaker either at the beginning or end of the day.  If the speaker is part of the program, all staff members generally are brought together for the presentation so it ends up being a “whole group” session.



Usually, the Staff Development committee seeks to have the program built around some type of theme.  It may be a very broad-based theme that allows many different ideas, concepts and approaches, or it may be a more narrow theme to focus on a specific idea. 

Over the years, we have had themes such as Reading, Diversity, and Cultural Awareness.  Obviously, a Reading theme is more content focused and the professional development would be geared around Reading programs, strategies and structures.  Often, days focused on a particular content area would be driven by activities across the state, new requirements for teaching, or some identified need within the district.

A broader theme, like Diversity, would allow a number of issues to be included but the idea is to examine our thoughts, approaches, and patterns to understand how our school and community is (or has) become more diverse in demographics and makeup.  The same would be true of issues like Cultural Awareness, Wellness, or other similar topics.



The theme for Academy Day 2017 continues along the concept of Wellness—which was also central to the theme a year ago.  The structure to the day emphasizes employee wellness from a broad perspective.

The thought for the wellness theme initiated nearly two years ago with members of the school staff participating in a program which emphasized the importance of employee wellness in having a good workplace and supportive work environment.

The wellness theme, much like the session a year ago, suggested that physical, emotional, financial, and mental well-being are all important elements in creating and sustaining a strong work environment.  As such, our staff members will be able to engage in a wide variety of activities—for their training sessions—that covered all of these topics.



In addition, this year’s Academy Day program includes a keynote speaker.  We return to some training on Top 20 concepts.  We have been engaged in activities with Top 20 presentations for the past several years and the keynote address will offer great reminders of the Top 20 concepts. 

Top 20 thinking, in reality, is also a wellness approach.  Top 20 thinking helps to frame a more positive attitude and approach to situations.  It considers and expects the best from self and others.  It sets expectations for positive interactions, creative approaches to situations, and honoring others.  The positive mindset is a powerful means of improving perspective and conditions.



Our Staff Development team invested a great deal of time, effort, and energy to bring an excellent professional development program to the district on Academy Day!  The wellness theme was very much appreciated a year ago and is expected to continue to be meaningful in regard to meeting staff needs.

Academy Day is not “just a day off” for students.  While the students are given a holiday vacation, there is considerable work and training going on across the district as staff members engage in professional development through Academy Day.