DaVinci Connection – September 29, 2023

AmazeWorks Resources

photo of Holly FischerDear DaVinci Parents,

As we continue to inform parents about our character education program at DaVinci, through our teachers’ Bloomz posts, flyers in everyone’s back-to-school folder, and Board meeting presentations, we are hearing from families that they would like more transparency about what the AmazeWorks program is, and how we use it.

These books were originally purchased during the 20-21 school year because the teachers expressed a need for a resource they could use to help foster community across differences. Coming back from the pandemic, we saw more and more instances of unkindness between groups and felt that we needed a way to address these bullying and discrimination situations more intentionally. During the 21-22 school year, DaVinci Academy participated in an Equity Environmental Scan. Through that process we identified a need for more culturally responsive practices and the School Board added equity as an area of focus in their Strategic Plan. The AmazeWorks books cover race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion/faith, ability, country of origin, and gender identity. They also focus on a wide range of other identities or lived experiences, including divorce, military deployment, immigration, incarceration of a family member, adoption, homelessness, disability, death, and more. The curriculum, created by St. Paul-based AmazeWorks, is for elementary-aged classrooms and is designed to be an additional resource for teachers—it does not replace our existing character education curriculum, Character Strong. The AmazeWorks resources include books for each grade level and prompts for classroom discussion.  

AmazeWorks Book List

One of our teachers recounted a time when some students had questions about why people wear hijabs. Instead of putting a student in the awkward position of being the representative for a group, they were able to use the book The Proudest Blue to clear up misconceptions and inform his class. “We did it because we value everybody in the room and we wanted to make sure we all respected each other, regardless of religion.”

A second-grade teacher has used the AmazeWorks books, specifically The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh and Mariama, Different But Just the Same, this year to help the class have empathy and understanding for a classmate who is not as proficient in English as others due to it being their second language. “Thanks to these books, we can better understand and support the needs of one of our treasured classmates and he feels more comfortable and supported as well. The student specifically commented that last year, they felt like they wanted to be invisible like Harpreet but this year they don’t.”  

One of our fourth-grade teachers has used Antonio’s Card to discuss what different families look like. This book talks about a student who has two moms and the student is being treated badly because of it. It fostered conversations about how different families look. “My students shared about how others have been unkind to them or rude because their parents are divorced, or they live with their grandma. We then were able to discuss respecting other people’s families even if they look different than ours and that we should not make assumptions about other people.”

What is compelling about this program is that it specifically encourages disagreement rather than forcing all students to think the same. The goal is to find common ground in the discussions after reading. It doesn’t ask anyone to change their beliefs but asks you to think about how your behavior can be inclusive or marginalizing of others. “The world is full of so many different types of people,” said West St. Paul resident Julie Schanke Lyford, author of Katy Has Two Grampas. “It is so important for children to know that they are not alone, that all families have their own stories and it’s wonderful for families to see stories that represent their types of family units.” 

For your reference, there are many Minnesota schools/districts currently using the AmazeWorks resources and these districts and schools feel confident that it helps to provide a learning environment where differences are affirmed and not stigmatized.  

Armatage Elementary DaVinci Academy of Arts + Science
Field Community School Heartwood Montessori School
Jenny Lind Elementary Minneapolis Public Schools
Nokomis Montessori North Sojourner Truth Academy
St. Cloud State University St. Croix Montessori
Tatanka Elementary STEM School Twin Cities German Immersion School
West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools (ISD 197) EXPO for Excellence Elementary School
ISD 196 New Millennium Academy
Spero Academy Wabasha-Kellogg Public Schools

Under Minnesota Statute Minn. Stat. § 120B.20, parents have the right to opt their child out of any curriculum with which they disagree. We have updated our Student Handbook which states the procedure for opting-out as emailing optout@davincicharterschool.org. We ask that you provide information about the specific books that you are requesting an exemption from so that we can be clear with our teachers who need to plan for differentiated instruction.

As we consider all of the many beautiful ways that our DaVinci community is diverse, these books are a step in the right direction to ensure that ALL students feel welcome and empowered to succeed at school. 


Please reach out to any members of the leadership team with questions about these resources.


BoosterThon - Dynamite Fun Run

We are excited to be partnering with Booster again for our fall fundraiser. Our goal is to raise $45,000, which will be used to benefit DaVinci students. Fundraising events like this help DaVinci bridge the charter school funding gap, and through the years have helped improve and enrich our school with items such as our playground, swing set, outdoor pavilion/classroom, building security enhancements, audio equipment upgrades for the Performing Arts Center, student computers, and more!

We kick off our campaign with the Booster Team next Monday (10/2). This is a theme-based campaign, titled “World Changer Workshop”, and students will learn about making a difference in the world daily! 

There will be daily incentive challenges throughout the program, which include both individual prizes and class prizes! Please note that these will differ between K-5 and 6-8.

There is also a school-wide incentive! If we reach our goal of $45,000, every student will be entered into a drawing for the chance to “SLIME” a member of our school leadership team (Ms. Zender, Mr. Lundahl, Mr. Shields, Mrs. Fischer, etc.)

On Wednesday, October 11 we will transform the soccer field into a high-energy racetrack for our students. They’ll run, dance, and skip for 30-40 laps to high-energy music while they’re being cheered on and having fun. Every student gets to participate in the Fun Run!

Fun Run Event Day Schedule (October 11, 2023)

  • Kindergarten – 1st Grade (8:50 – 9:40)
  • 2nd – 3rd Grade (1:00 – 2:00)
  • 4th – 5th Grade (11:20 – 12:20)
  • 6th – 8th Grade (10:10 – 11:00)

Check out the video at the top of this page to get an idea of what the event day will look like. https://www.choosebooster.com/events/funrun

VOLUNTEER! – Looking to be a part of the Fun Run? We have a few different volunteer opportunities available to help!  If you are looking to help with sorting and delivering prizes earned by students, use this signup link.  If you are looking to help on the day of the run, use one of these two sign-up links: 

  • Outdoor Run (weather permitting) signup.
  • Indoor Run (if weather prevents us from being outdoors) signup.  

We would love for you to come and join us!


Through your mybooster.com account, students can raise funds through family and friend pledges, either as a flat pledge amount, or a “per lap” pledge. These options are presented within your mybooster.com account. There are tools within the account to share your student’s pledge page with family and friends if you choose. In addition, you will see an opportunity to add your employer to take advantage of potential corporate matching funds.

Please contact Dan Rhinhart with any questions. (drhinhart@davincicharterschool.org, 763-754-6577)

Parent-Teacher Conferences, October 16-17, 2023

A friendly reminder that there is no school the week of October 16.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will take place on October 16 and 17 from 11:00 am-7:00 pm.

Please sign up here for conferences! You must sign up for each teacher that you would like to visit.

If you would like an interpreter or have any questions, please reach out to the Academic Director, Amy Erendu, at aerendu@davincicharterschool.org.

We look forward to seeing you at conferences!

Suicide Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month! Though we are at the end of the month, we can have awareness of this topic all year long. Davinci Academy’s Mental Health Team wants to help you understand and navigate conversations with your child(ren) around mental health and suicide.

Pain isn’t always obvious, but most people who think of dying by suicide show signs they are thinking about it. The signs may appear in conversations, actions, or social media posts. If you observe one or more of the following warning signs, especially if the behavior is new, increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, please step in and speak up. Talk with your child as well as a mental health professional, and your child’s school counselor or social worker. 

Warning Signs:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Reckless behavior
  • Changes in sleep
  • Feeling hopeless, desperate, or no sense of purpose
  • Withdrawal
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Talking about being a burden
  • Giving away prized possessions

Tips on how to talk with your child:

  • Be prepared with crisis resources (see list below).
  • If you feel uncomfortable, practice what you will say ahead of time.
  • Plan to talk when you’re not in a hurry and have plenty of time.
  • Don’t tiptoe around it; Ask directly if your child is thinking about suicide. 
  • Listen, express concern, and reassure. Validate your child’s feelings; do not make them feel bad for having these thoughts and feelings. 
  • Let them know you care, you take it seriously, and you’re concerned.
  • Listen to their reasons for both living and dying. Show them you understand they’re considering both options, and emphasize that living is an option for them.
  • Assure them that you are going to get them help, and reach out for help right away. 
  • If you feel your child is at risk, ask if they have a plan, and remove or restrict any means in the home (knives, medications, guns, etc.) from them. 

Suicide Prevention Resources: 

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call or Text 988

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish

  • Crisis Text Line:  Text MN to 741741
  • County Crisis Response Teams:
    • Anoka- 763-755-3801
    • Hennepin- 612-348-2233
    • Ramsey- 651-266-7878

Hours: Available 24/7

For more information, check out suicideispreventable.org

If you need further support, information, or would like to discuss questions or concerns, please contact us.



DaVinci Academy Mental Health Team

Phoenix Hathaway, K-4 School Counselor, phathaway@davincicharterschool.org 

Diana Muske, 5-8 School Counselor, dmuske@davincichrterschool.org 

Dom Jefferson, K-8 School Social Worker, djefferson@davincicharterschool.org 

Focus on Character - Citizenship

focus on character poster

The DaVinci Character Trait for October is Citizenship.

Citizenship is recognizing one’s place in the greater communities (family, school, local, and country) through active service and respectful devotion to the community’s members, values, and standards. 

Here are some ways to be a good citizen:

  • Get involved in the community
  • Protect the environment
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Respect authority
  • Obey rules and laws

Students have an opportunity to receive a character trait award and recognition for displaying this trait at school during the month of October!

PTO News

Group photo of DaVinci Academy's PTO committee.A “BIG” thank you for making DaVinci’s first “Dinner Night” at Acapulco a success. We earned almost $340! These donations help the PTO to support our teachers and fund future events.

Mark your calendars, October’s Dinner Night out will be at Pizza Hut in Blaine (1351 113th Ave NE) on October 25th from 10:30am -11:00pm. Carry out or delivery only. 20% of the proceeds will go back to DaVinci! See flier HERE!

First-semester conferences are quickly approaching. The PTO is making sure teachers feel appreciated during these long hours by sponsoring two dinners, one from Mansetti’s and the other from Aladdin Grill. We will also be hosting a uniform table during conferences. This is an opportunity for families to give gently used, stain-free, and freshly laundered uniform items and/or take what they may need.

We are excited to share that the PTO was recently able to fulfill a teacher fund request from Ms. Palzer to purchase a GPS unit to geocache. This will be a fun and exciting opportunity for all students to utilize DaVinci’s outdoor space around the paths and pond.

We are still looking for a CPA to file taxes for the PTO organization.  As a non-profit organization, we are required to have an independent 3rd party file our tax statements.  If you are interested in helping out, or have questions, please contact us at: davincimnpto@gmail.com

Please join us at the next public meeting on October 23 at 4:30 p.m. in room 304 and help us build a strong DaVinci Community. All teachers, staff, and parents are welcome!

Volunteer Corner

We have A LOT of volunteer opportunities currently available!  

Here are some of our FUN opportunities to help:

  • Boosterthon Helpers! (prize sorting and delivery, or tally marking on the day of the event)
  • First Grade math & literacy helpers
  • Lunchroom supervision (10:15-1:15 daily)
  • Breakfast supervision (7:30-8 am daily)
  • 2nd Grade Reader’s Theatre volunteers (now through Oct.10)

Please click HERE for more details and to sign up to volunteer!

Reach out to Lindsey Gable (lgable@davincicharterschool.org) with further questions. 

Food Service Account Balances

school mealsDid you know schools cannot pay off meal debts using federal child nutrition funds – they must be written off as an operating loss! When schools have to write off meal debts as an operating loss, it affects the general fund balance which helps keep the school running. We will be making a huge effort to collect any unpaid debts for our meal service program in the upcoming months. Please reach out to Nikki Kosgei to make payment arrangements, or log into your Infinite Campus account and pay off any remaining balance. This will greatly help our school! 


Thanks for your support,


763-754-6577, ext. 1143


Student Growth and Achievement Scores

Every spring DaVinci students in grades 3-8 take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) in reading and math, and students in grades 5 and 8 also take the MCA in science. Because the MCA is just a snapshot in time, curriculum assessments are more frequently used for instructional planning purposes. However, we are particularly proud of the growth our students have shown, as well as our proficiency levels in various subgroups. The Spring 2023 MCA data is below. For more information, visit the School Report Card on the Minnesota Department of Education website. Contact the Academic Director, Amy Erendu, at aerendu@davincicharterschool.org with questions.

DaVinci Academy and Statewide Proficiency Rates – 2023 – Reading
Group DaVinci State
All Students 57.8% 49.5%
Special Education  30.4% 22.2%
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 52.0% 32.6%
Black or African-American  55.6% 29.9%
Asian  63.8% 44.4%
Hispanic or Latino  55.6% 29.1%
Two or More Races 64.0% 49.7%


DaVinci Academy and Statewide Growth – 2023 – Reading
Group DaVinci State
Percentage of Students who Maintained or Improved Achievement Levels 66.5% 60.0%


DaVinci Academy and Statewide Proficiency Rates – 2023 – Math
Group DaVinci State
All Students 53.4% 46.7%
Special Education  30.1% 24.4%
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 41.3% 26.8%
Black or African-American  53.4% 21.0%
Asian  64.2% 42.4%
Hispanic or Latino  55.6% 23.2%
Two or More Races 56.0% 43.0%


DaVinci Academy and Statewide Growth – 2023 – Math
Group DaVinci State
Percentage of Students who Maintained or Improved Achievement Levels 61.9% 56.4%


DaVinci Academy and Statewide Proficiency Rates – 2023 – Science
Group DaVinci State
All Students 51.5% 38.1%
Special Education  22.2% 18.7%
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 45.5% 22.1%
Black or African-American  38.9% 15.0%
Asian  50.0% 34.1%
Hispanic or Latino  *Not enough students in this group to report
Two or More Races *Not enough students in this group to report


*Growth percentages are not available for Science since students do not take the assessment each year.

Access to Past Report Cards

Families now have access to past (21-22 and 22-23) report cards in Infinite Campus, and can be found under the “Documents” section.

Parents' Right to Know

At DaVinci Academy, we are very proud of our teachers and feel they are prepared to give students a high-quality education. As a school receiving Title I funds, we must meet federal rules related to teacher qualifications as defined in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). These rules allow you to learn more about your student’s teachers’ training and credentials. We are happy to provide this information to you. At any time, you may ask:

  • Whether the teacher met state qualifications and certification requirements for the grade level and subject he/she is teaching.
  • Whether the teacher received an emergency or conditional certificate through which state qualifications were waived.
  • What undergraduate or graduate degrees the teacher holds, including graduate certificates and additional degrees, and major(s) or area(s) of concentration.

You may also ask whether your student receives help from a paraprofessional. If your student receives this assistance, we can provide you with information about the paraprofessional’s qualifications.

Our staff is committed to helping your student develop the academic knowledge and critical thinking he/she needs to succeed in school and beyond. That commitment includes making sure that all of our teachers and paraprofessionals are highly skilled.

Please reach out to the Academic Director, aerendu@davincicharterschool.org, with questions.

A Note from Nurse Cassie

portrait of Cassie JohnsonAs many of you are aware, we are entering the viral season, in which many students are falling ill with influenza-like illnesses (ILI). If your student does not appear well, or if they develop any of the symptoms below, we urge you to keep them home and consult your clinician regarding treatment:

  • Fever
    • Remember that your student must be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication to return to school
  • New or changing headaches
  • New or changing fatigue
  • New or changing cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea, but these are less common
    • Your student must be free of these for a full 24 hours before returning to school if applicable

If you or your student are diagnosed with COVID-19, we are continuing to follow the current recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health. They are as follows:

  • A positive test (with or without symptoms):
    • 5 full days of isolation from the onset of symptoms, or the positive test, whichever comes first followed by
    • 5 full days of masking while at school
      • Your student may return to school after 5 days, as long as they are feeling better and have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication
  • Close-contact exposure but negative test (with or without symptoms):
    • It is highly recommended that a mask be worn for 10 full days from exposure. 
    • If symptoms develop, testing is recommended. 
    • Testing is recommended on Day 6, regardless of symptoms, but this is not required. 

When you are calling your student in absent, please also let us know if they have any symptoms or what their diagnosis is for communicable disease tracking.

During this season, it takes all of us working together to stop the spread of germs and keep all of us healthy. Some reminders on how to best protect yourself and your student: 

  • Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, or wear a mask if you are comfortable doing so.
  • Keep your hands clean! Wash with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels, or other personal items.
  • Wipe down frequently used surfaces with disinfectant.
  • Get extra rest and drink extra fluids!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the Health Office. 


Thank you for your partnership to keep all of us healthy! 

Cassie Johnson, RN


Office: (763) 754-6577, Extension 1110

Recess Attire

Fall weather is upon us. Please remember to send a light sweater or fall jacket (labeled with your child’s name) with your child if cooler temperatures are forecasted. We do go outside daily and we want to ensure students are not chilly.  Check the forecast, and then dress appropriately.

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