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2023 Charter School Leadership Award | Elissa Raffa

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2023 Charter School Leadership Award | Elissa Raffa Image


A classroom teacher herself, when Elissa and colleagues founded MNOHS in 2005, she strived to make the school a “model online community school and the best possible learning environment for faculty, staff, students, families, and Minnesota.” With a leadership style that is “100% student-centered and equity-focused,” Elissa has established a school-wide standard of high expectations, understanding that an integral part of academic success is “the support and connection students receive from peers and adults.”

According to the staff at MN Online High School, “every day, Elissa demonstrates her ability to create a growth-mindset climate by sharing how she, herself, is learning, by listening to staff, and by finding resources to implement their best ideas.” She is always willing to support teachers and staff in piloting innovative ideas, providing thoughtful consideration and support to determine which innovations should be introduced schoolwide and how they should be implemented.

Elissa’s work with her board includes creating and maintaining transparent reporting, championing a commitment to equitable outcomes for students, and enshrining in policy some of the incrementally developed, successful practices that makes MNOHS a great place for students and staff. She champions equity advancement at MNOHS, starting with a focus on ensuring students’ access to high-quality academic online learning experiences and an emphasis on ensuring that every student and family is treated with respect. Additionally, Elissa established racial equity training for all MNOHS staff and their school board, which has reverberated throughout the school’s culture, leading to lasting positive changes in governance and day-to-day practices.

Her active involvement in educator communities and committees includes the MNLC Coordinating Committee, MNOLA, a group of PUC-authorized high schools currently piloting a new equity framework accountability plan, and the MACS Government Affairs Committee. She maintains strong working relationships with other charter school directors and “has contributed her considerable experience, skills, and insight to PUC’s new Equity Framework and MACS’ charter school leader community.

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