Noble Academy Plans For An Unprecedented School Year

By May Moua






“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” This is the famous expression Mr. Neal Thao, Superintendent of Noble Academy – a Minnesota’s High-Quality charter school follows. Dr. Mai Yia Chang, Deputy Superintendent of the school district similarly lives by Wilson Kanadi’s philosophy, “To be the best you must be able to handle the worst.” It is during challenging times as the Covid-19 pandemic that senior school administrators’ response to the crisis demonstrates effective leadership and a true commitment to serving the community.

The senior administrative team at the district consists of Superintendent Neal Thao and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mai Yia Chang. Superintendent Thao oversees the district operations, and policies and procedures. He also works with the school board members to manage fiscal operations. Dr. Chang oversees staff accountability, and state and federal academic standard accountability. The district is made up of two schools – Nompeng Academy (K-2) in Brooklyn Center and Noble Academy (3-8) in Brooklyn Park.

Nearly two months of distance learning this past spring lead school districts to encounter numerous challenges from technological difficulties to dealing with distressed families and teachers. Parents experienced the struggles of facilitating learning in the home and some got a taste of what teachers go through. All while school leaders worked endlessly on the best course of action to ensure parents and staff were receiving the needed support and students continued to be provided with a deserving education.

To reduce learning loss, teachers at Noble provided learning packets to all students and the school continued providing meals to families throughout the summer. We understand families are anxious as schools prepare for the new school year, therefore we provide insights to how this successful charter school is taking actions to prepare for one of the most unprecedented school years.

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Planning is everything, the plan is nothing.” Noble Academy is all about planning to put the school district in position for success regardless of how pandemic events unfold. Planning involves all stakeholders and informed decisions are made with students in mind. Parents of students were individually called this summer for their preferences in learning model. Technology team, curriculum specialists, teachers and school leaders came together to determine best learning platforms for students. Senior administrators personally welcomed new families with one-on-one orientations to address all concerns.

The school district continued hiring throughout the summer in preparation for the Fall. A successful school system calls for placing the right people in the right positions. The district continuously restructures the organization for best performance results. Additionally, with employment at-will status, only those with a growth mindset and willing to take up challenges return year after year.

Professional development activities for teachers are strategically planned. With distance learning, schools lacked end-of-year assessments for students. Teachers are well-versed on RTI (Response to Intervention) strategies and will assess students to get an understanding of where they are in order to monitor progress, help students catch up, and drive their instruction. Teachers are taught to use data, differentiate lessons and strategies for teaching students of varying levels. In addition to ongoing job-embedded training throughout the course of the year, teachers also endure a robust two-week training program prior to start of each new school year. On top of all of this, teachers personally meet with each individual family for a virtual open house.

While all of this preparation is taking place, the transportation department works closely with bussing companies and plans for three different scenarios – in person learning, distance learning, and hybrid learning. With two different schools and students that come from many cities, this adds to the level of complexity in planning for the school year.

Another very critical step in getting ready for the school year is ensuring that the school is following requirements from the Minnesota Department of Health. Safety measures are put in place for all three learning models, policies and protocols are updated to reflect new guideline requirements as it relates to the pandemic. Impacted staff will be trained on specific areas such as monitoring for illness, handling suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, and supporting mental health and wellbeing. In consultation with local public health officials, MDH, and MDE, the school makes decisions to select or transition to another learning model based on the impact of COVID-19 in their community.

Providing a world-class education and becoming a high-quality school takes years of hard work and overcoming different challenges. Dealing with the pandemic requires the same resiliency. As with any other successful school system, effective leadership plays a key role. The actions mentioned here only show the essence of what the school district is doing in preparation for this school year. Ultimately the district has multiple plans and is proactively responding as new issues play out. Noble is committed to providing their students with the best learning experience possible based on current conditions. It is a hope that schools such as Noble and their response to the crisis has shown the community the real value of a public education.

Noble Academy/Nompeng Academy is currently enrolling grades K-8 for the 2020-2021 School Year. Please visit their website, or to learn more or call 763-592-7706 or 763-204-8406. Questions may also be sent to

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mai Yia Chang

Superintendent Neal Thao