MARSHALL - For the past 25 years, the Minnesota Council for Quality has been recognizing organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement and sustained superior results. This year, Marshall Public Schools is one of six organizations slated to receive the 2011 Performance Excellence Award at the Minnesota Council for Quality's Annual Best Practice Conference today in St. Paul.
"Marshall School district has been involved in a continuous improvement process for a number of years," said MPS Superintendent Klint Willert, who will accept the award on behalf of the district. "In my eyes, this is a celebration for our community and our students. We couldn't do it without the community and the hard work of our students and our staff."
Minnesota took its cue 25 years ago from the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award system. This year, approximately 400 attendees are expected at the Minnesota Council for Quality celebration at The Great Hall.
"At the national level, it was actually put in place by a guy in Ronald Reagan's cabinet," Willert said. "He was known to promote quality. At both levels, they recognize organizations that have made a commitment to and have demonstrated effort towards performance excellence."
To even be considered for the honor, representatives from the MPS district were required to complete an extensive formal application.
A team of trained evaluators across the state of Minnesota not only reviewed the application, they also visited the school system in person in April.
"About eight people came to Marshall for two-and-a-half days and did a complete review of our school system," Willert said. "They visited our schools, interviewed staff members and even talked to a few people on the street. It's an extremely rigorous process."
The recognition, Willert said, is district-wide and takes a variety of factors into account, including relationships with vendors, financial performance, student achievement, performance in meeting the satisfaction of its community and leadership.
While the entire district is being honored for the 2011-12 school year, it actually goes beyond that.
"It actually reflects back on how you're improving over time," Willert said. "They want you to continue growing and doing better. It's a way that acknowledges what you're doing over time, as well as what you're doing right now. It requires a lot of hard work and depth of commitment."
During breakout sessions at the full-day conference today, 20 organizations will share insight on how to improve outcomes and processes. Willert said he'd be speaking on behalf of MPS.
"I have an opportunity to share a little bit about our school, to tell our story and how we're committed to excellence in our schools," he said. "I'll talk about how MPS works very closely with the community to align with our schools and our strategic plan. Together, we work on school improvement and ultimately, recognizing and rewarding excellence."
Willert pointed out that other facets, not just education systems, are recognized through the Minnesota Council of Quality, but so are businesses, non-profits and government.
While the award is a good indicator the district is doing well, Willert believes the best part about the recognition and the process is the direction that MPS will receive.
"It's an opportunity to learn as much as being recognized," he said. "We're really excited about getting the feedback on the performance of the school district. I see that as the real value. The recognition is just the whip cream and cherry on top of the sundae."
Willert said he expects representatives of the Minnesota Council evaluation team to deliver the feedback report to MPS in August. He and other district personnel who are planning to attend the conference also have the opportunity to gather quality information from keynote speakers, such as Ken Dean of Nestle Purina, a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon.
"The national award is the highest honor bestowed on any organization in the country for quality," Willert said. "It's delivered by the President (of the U.S.)."
Despite the fact that only six education systems have been recognized nationally since schools became eligible in 1999, Willert said the district's goal is still to reach national recognition for quality.
"Ultimately, the vision we have as a district is that some day we might have that opportunity," Willert said. "It's a pretty lofty and prestigious goal, but we're committed, as a school board and with the support of our community. It's about getting up and doing just a little bit better every day."