Share written testimony with the House Education Finance Committee

There has been a slight room change for those planning to attend the Perpich-Crosswinds HF592 hearing next Tuesday, see below. But whether you can be present to support Crosswinds or not, you may want to submit written testimony to the committee about your experience of Crosswinds and your reasons for believing that Perpich governing Crosswinds is a good idea for Minnesota. Feel free to reference our talking points, if you need some ideas.

If you would like to share written testimony, it needs to be sent to the committee administrator, Shannon Patrick. Please get your written testimony to her by Monday, 3/11, at Noon so she can put it together into a packet for committee members.

Please include “Testimony for HF592” in your subject heading and send your testimony to shannon.patrick@house.mn.

Feel free to send a copy to info@emidfamilies.org and we will include it as a comment on the website so it can inspire others.

For those of you planning to attend the hearing, please note the slight room change. The Perpich-Crosswinds bill, HF592, will have its first hearing in the House Education Finance Committee on Tuesday (3/12) at 8:15am. This hearing will be in the Basement Hearing Room of the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, MN.

13 thoughts on “Share written testimony with the House Education Finance Committee

  1. Written Testimony, House Education Finance Committee, Submitted by: Susan Larson

    I am writing to express my support for HF592, an act to allow Perpich Center for Arts Education to assume governance of Crosswinds Arts and Science School. My two sons attended Crosswinds Arts and Science School for grades 6-10 and I am grateful for the education they received. HF592 will preserve the important programs at Crosswinds while nurturing it as a lab school with professional development that will benefit districts statewide.

    Crosswinds brings together a racially diverse student body from urban and suburban communities. The student body includes 50% students of color, 50% free and reduced lunch and nearly 30% students with special needs. The staff at Crosswinds has been successful in closing the achievement gap for these students. But the magic of Crosswinds is that it is not just diverse, it is truly integrated. If you visit the lunchroom, you see students of all ethnicities sitting together.

    My 12th grader struggled to fit into his elementary school in Stillwater. Teachers called him socially awkward, odd, and different. He was teased by kids who called him “Ninja boy” because he is of Asian descent. A wise principal said Crosswinds might be better for him. At Crosswinds my son was accepted. The curriculum was innovative and rich with arts and rigor. For the first time in his life, he excelled academically and socially. He is now set to graduate from Perpich Arts High School and looking forward to starting college in the fall.

    As our State is grappling with the best means to educate our students and prepare them for the future in the midst of an increasingly diverse and more global world, we could learn much from Crosswinds. The school was established 15 years ago with state funding and support from multiple school districts. It has developed into a truly model program of inclusion, academic challenge and arts education. At the foundation of the curriculum is an arts and science magnet program which fosters development of creativity, exploration, and critical thinking. Crosswinds has an integrated curriculum that allows students to make connections between disciplines, and this in turn allows them to develop skills that go beyond rote learning.

    My 10th grader recently competed in the World Savvy Challenge for the 2nd year. World Savvy has challenged him to think about solving global sustainability problems practically. Through this program he had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh where he studied climate change. He and his classmates are applying their World Savvy learnings and building a vertical garden within the school.

    While my children are at the end of their career at Crosswinds, I am sad to think other students may not have the opportunity to be a part of this school. If the legislature doesn’t pass the Perpich/EMID bill by April 1 the $26 million state-funded building will be turned over the South Washington County school district. Sadly, South Washington County would close the Crosswinds program; lying off staff, forcing students to find a new school, and ending this excellent learning environment. That would be unfair to Minnesota taxpayers, who built Crosswinds to be a model for true integration.

    This is the opportunity for Minnesota to embrace innovation and excellence in education. It is an opportunity for Minnesota to grab a leadership role in this changing world. I hope you will allow Perpich Center for the Arts to assume governance of Crosswinds. It is a logical, progressive match that would work beautifully for students and staff, and which would benefit all Minnesotans.

    Thank you for your consideration

  2. Submitted by: Robert V Drehmel MD

    I am writing in support of the Perpich-Crosswinds Proposal HF 592. I am a family physician in Woodbury practicing in this community for the last 29 years. My dedication has been to enhancing the health and wellness of families in this community. Crosswinds has had a similar dedication in promoting education to a diverse group of eager students looking for a chance to succeed in a very unique setting. I hope we can continue to offer our children an option in learning environments. Crosswinds has proven success in promoting excellence. As a doctor, I am held to a community standard of excellence utilizing evidence-based medicine. In other words, prove to me, through data, that quality medicine is being practiced. Crosswinds has such data. They have proven that they succeed and need to be allowed to continue in their journey. I am asking our legislators in both the House and Senate to step up and pass this proposal.

  3. I am writing to support HF592 / SF530 to allow the Perpich Center for Arts Education to take over the Crosswinds Arts and Science School. I urge you to make sure the bill gets prompt hearings in the House and Senate so that it can be passed before April 1, otherwise the East Metro Integration District board will disband the Crosswinds program and give the $26 million building to one school district, instead of having it serve all Minnesota.

    I have worked at Crosswinds for eight years. Over those years I have seen many students of different culture; economic and social backgrounds come together and become friends while working together in their daily classes and activities. I also see the students sitting at the lunch tables together, not by race or color but as friends, it is a delight to see these people looking past outward appearances and enjoying each other’s personalities.

    With a year round school schedule the students have been able to build a kitchen garden. They start seedlings during the winter and in the spring plant them outside. Because of the year round schedule, students have a chance to tend the produce from seeds to mature fruits and harvest them for the cafeteria where they are prepared and severed on the line as part of the menu. This brings students back to the foundation of what the State of Minnesota was founded on, Agriculture. It also gets the students excited about eating fruits and vegetables because they grew them. Finally they learned about the different types of gardening in different countries/cultures and new techniques that are being developed right her at our own University of Minnesota.

    Carol E.Rydeen

  4. Dear House Education Finance Committee,

    I am writing to you with a strong recommendation that you support HF592, which will be heard in committee on Tuesday, March 12th. This bill enables the Perpich Center for Arts Education to take over governance of Crosswinds School.

    This action is necessary because the East Metro Integration District, a district formed and funded by state action, has asked the PCAE to take over governance because EMID is no longer able to manage this school. I write to you with the strong recommendation that you support their request – this school is a jewel in the state, and it would be tragic to lose it simply because the legislature does not take this action. The bill requires so additional funding, merely reallocating existing funding, and both EMID and PCAE are in agreement on the governance transfer.

    Now, let me offer several personal and scholarly reasons why you should support the continuation of this school.

    I live in St. Paul, and although my eldest son began in a St. Paul public school when we first came to town in 2000, we moved him as quickly as we could into an East Metro Integration District school. He graduated from Crosswinds in 2007, and is now a junior at St. John’s University in Collegeville. Our youngest son has gone all the way through EMID Schools: first Harambee, from kindergarten on, and now he is in the 10th grade at Crosswinds.

    At a time in which multiple criteria suggest that Minnesota is becoming more diverse, and we are facing more difficult challenges than ever as we seek to integrate many different children and families from multiple settings and contexts into shared schools, two of the brightest spots on the scene of attempts to engage that diversity in positive and effective ways have been the EMID schools Harambee and Crosswinds. The EMID Board has voted to cease governing both of these schools, but the Roseville School District is taking on Harambee, and the PCAE is seeking to take on Crosswinds.

    Scholars note (and I’ll include the citations below) that educating children for success in a country as diverse and globally connected as ours is, demands equipping them with skills and practice in collaborating across multiple cultural contexts. Integration of schools – integration of our society – requires many skills that are not easily tested on multiple choice tests. I have heard certain members of the EMID board state that these schools are failing, because they have not more quickly and decisively closed the “achievement gap.” I put that phrase in quotation marks, because I believe that they are defining that gap in very narrow terms, and assessing it only using the marker of certain narrow, content-based multiple choice tests.

    There is clear scholarly evidence that such assessment misses the mark almost entirely. One reason why my husband and I put our children on long bus rides to these two schools, when there are public schools all around us in our neighborhood, is because we know that our children need to grow up a school environment that cherishes diversity and supports deep cultural engagement, while at the same time holding high academic standards.

    Integration is far more than de-segregation. Integration demands and requires learning how to communicate with cultural competence, it demands and requires awareness of structural and systemic inequalities and clear efforts to erase such inequalities. Integration is very hard work in the world we live in, and I have found no other schools in the East metro public system that are doing this work as well.

    A recent article in a leading education journal (Teachers College Record, out of Columbia University) identifies four key factors for meeting the needs of ALL children in schools: evidence-based instruction, long-term collaboration and engagement with teachers, community engagement, and response to the non-academic needs of students.

    Crosswinds has been working hard on all four of these areas. Long before other area schools were pursuing evidence-based instruction, Crosswinds had trained and was supporting its teachers in implementing such work via the Profile of Learning process. That work continued even once the Profile of Learning had been abolished and new standards were being imposed. Further, Crosswinds certification as an IB program goes far beyond the basic standards that the state has identified towards commitment to an internationally recognized body of standards.

    On the second criteria, the turnover rate of teachers at Crosswinds is substantially lower than that of most other public schools in the east metro area. That fact alone demonstrates “long term collaboration and engagement with teachers,” but there is other evidence as well, such as the large number of teachers at Crosswinds who regularly take on additional informal tasks during inter-sessions and other periods in the school year. Indeed, the highly unusual year-round calendar of Crosswinds is yet another marker of innovation – and it is a pattern that districts around the country are beginning to find compelling, but struggling to implement. Crosswinds has already done so.

    The third factor identified – that of community engagement – is in some ways harder to document, but nonetheless is very present at this school. All of us parents have made the decision to send our children to schools that for many of us are a long drive away from home. Even given that distance challenge, a greater obstacle to parent involvement than most schools carry, Crosswinds has consistently had very high levels of parent participation in parent-teacher meetings, in support for schools events, and in fundraising efforts.

    The fourth factor – support for non-academic needs – is perhaps the most vibrant and compelling piece of the Crosswinds success story. Many elements of Crosswinds that outsiders might not first identify as crucial to integration – the year round calendar, the commitment to music and the arts, the IB certification – are all elements integral to creating and supporting a school culture that takes seriously all of the personal and social elements of learning. These are key pieces to why integration is working at Crosswinds. Yet even so, these are only academic markers of an underlying commitment to drawing ALL students into learning that works for them, and supporting them amidst a culture of care that has very high expectations for all students.
    Crosswinds has very low “pull-out” rates, compared to other schools in the district. This means that rather than providing services to children whose needs are not being met in the classroom, and who therefore have to be “pulled out” for special education or for behavioral issues, Crosswinds classrooms are working so well that there is much less need for such intervention. This is a direct consequence of the climate of this school. being focused on real integration and support for students’ non-academic needs.

    Systemic racism is a problem throughout Minnesota, indeed throughout our country. It has an impact on every element of a student’s learning experience. At Crosswinds, however, that destructive element of our shared context is directly engaged, and students, teachers and parents are invited to collaborate together in ways that are slowly beginning to ease the worst of racism’s effects. We cannot possibly expect one small school to overturn a century of oppression, but it is reasonable to expect open discussion, clear collaboration, and shared effort to engage racism directly – and these things are part of the very fabric of Crosswinds.

    Every high school in our country has to deal on some level with student identity groups, a natural part of student developmental growth, but Crosswinds students, teachers and parents consistently testify to the softer edges of the cliques present there. Kids regularly mix across lines of identification. Kids who are “geeks” hang out with “theater nerds.” Kids who are moving from shelter to shelter hang out with kids whose parents have six figure incomes. Kids who are multi-racial and kids who are monocultural share and learn together. The kids themselves point with pride to their shared school identity being “weird” compared to the other, much more obviously identity-divided high schools they encounter on field trips. There is a community and level of inclusion present in Crosswinds that I have never experienced in other schools.

    Speaking very personally for a moment, as the parent of a child who lives with cerebral palsy and an autism spectrum challenge, I can tell you that I have not found any better place for my child to learn and grow – and believe me, I have looked very hard. Indeed, one reason that the academic achievement statistics at Crosswinds are not higher is precisely because of the high number of children with special needs who attend the school. Yet these kids are doing much better in Crosswinds than in the districts they came from. I could give you story after story of specific student growth. My son is now a junior at St. John’s University in Collegeville. He is succeeding there in large part due to the fine preparation and education he received at Crosswinds.

    My other son, our youngest, is at the opposite end of the education spectrum, easily qualifying to enter the lottery for Capitol Hill in St. Paul, for instance. He is eligible for talented and gifted support, but we have deliberately and intentionally kept him at Crosswinds because we recognize that he is learning far more of the cultural competence and other skills he’ll need to thrive in adulthood, than he would in other schools.

    Crosswinds is a vital resource as a lab/demonstration school for the rest of the state. The mission of the Perpich Center for Arts Education is extraordinarily well aligned with the arts/science emphasis of Crosswinds, and the PCAE has committed to keeping the program of Crosswinds intact. The state invested a large chunk of funding in building the facility that now houses Crosswinds – do you really want to see that investment turned over to the South Washington County school board, who simply want the building but none of the innovative programming which resides in it?

    I urge you in the strongest possible terms I know to support the PCAE in their efforts to take on governance of the Crosswinds School.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Mary E. Hess

    Citations:

    Ernest Morell and Pedro Noguera, “A framework for change: A broader and bolder approach to school
    reform,” Teachers College Record, August 4, 2011 (http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16503, Date Accessed: 3/10/2013 9:02:48 PM).

    Lorri J. Santamaria , “Culturally Responsive Differentiated Instruction: Narrowing Gaps Between Best
    Pedagogical Practices Benefiting All Learners,” Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 1,
    2009, p. 214-247 (http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15210, Date Accessed: 3/10/2013 9:03:56
    PM)

    Jerusha Osberg Conner, “From International Schools to Inner-City Schools: The First Principles of the
    International Baccalaureate Diploma Program,” Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 2,
    2008, p. 322-351.(http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14538, Date Accessed: 3/10/2013 9:04:36
    PM)

    Tyrone C. Howard, Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms, Teachers College Press, New York, 2009.

  5. Written Testimony FOR HF592 to Minnesota House Education Finance Committee
    Submitted by Eric Celeste

    What you are considering with HF592 is nothing less than whether to continue Minnesota’s commitment to integration in the east metro. I ask you to support the Perpich proposal to take over governance of the Crosswinds School as a clear declaration that Minnesota still believes in integration and the value of the arts in education.

    Perpich and Crosswinds are a wonderful match for each other, but you will hear that from many sources. I want to focus on the context of this decision, where the Minnesota Legislature fits in the nearly three year struggle to keep integration alive in the East Metro Integration District (EMID). The core issue at hand is governance: as a manager, EMID has failed Crosswinds and Perpich could reinvigorate a multi-million dollar state investment there.

    EMID is a collaborative of Saint Paul and nine suburban districts. Each member district school board appoints one of its own to the EMID board. When times are good, this model almost works, though even then no member of the EMID board really has EMID’s interests first and foremost. In recent years, as times became dangerously lean for all our public schools, EMID became the watering hole at which wary districts eyed one another as the funding stream dried up. Our own board began to openly describe our students as dollars “leaving” their home districts and in 2011 they began a serious push to close our schools so they could keep more of this money at home.

    EMID families worked hard to fend off this effort in 2011, and succeeded in keeping the schools open and convincing the board of the value of the programs that had been built over the preceding decade. But the EMID board continued its quest to redirect funds from EMID back to member districts, removing virtually all integration funding from the schools and refusing repeated calls by families to build a sustainable funding model. The board’s lack of focus on Crosswinds led to a decline in enrollment that further challenged the school in a vicious financial cycle. Member districts have been so afraid of the attractive choice Crosswinds provided for their community that only one district even mentioned Crosswinds as an option on their website!

    By the time the EMID board again raised the notion of closing our schools in 2012, EMID families had come to the conclusion that EMID governance itself was the biggest challenge to the health of our schools, and agreed that EMID needed to relinquish that governance. But the EMID board and families found common ground in their appreciation of the programs developed at EMID schools.

    Today students in grades 6-10 attend the Crosswinds year-round program and learn from an accredited International Baccalaureate curriculum. Half the students are minorities, half qualify for free and reduced lunch, and more than a quarter require special education services. By every measure Crosswinds is a remarkably diverse community, defying the trend toward segregation among schools of choice in Minnesota.

    Most impressive is our success at truly integrating students of every stripe into a close-knit community of respect for one another, self expression, and joy in learning. Crosswinds is a community where the kids sit together at lunch tables rather than eyeing each other suspiciously from various cliques. Crosswinds is a community where every student feels welcome to join the orchestra, band, or theater program. Crosswinds is a community that attracts students who struggle in their home districts, but find the support they need here to catch up and close the achievement gap.

    One of my own children required an individualized education plan and a variety of accommodations at Crosswinds. Yet he always was included in every activity by his teachers and was rewarded with friendship and respect from his peers. Special needs did not isolate him, and Crosswinds launched him on a path that now has him succeeding in his third year of college. My other child picked up the cello for the first time in 7th grade and has now had the experience of playing with an award-winning orchestra for the past four years.

    The EMID board saw all this and more though the testimony of dozens of families, teachers, and other experts at many board meetings. Not a single community member at any of these meetings ever questioned the value and contribution of Crosswinds. Yet when the EMID board asked for proposals for taking over Crosswinds, only one entity offered to keep the school intact: the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

    Seeing this, the EMID board voted to ask Perpich Center for the Arts to seek the authority it required from the Legislature to take over the school. The Perpich Center recognized the excellence of the Crosswinds program and the wonderful match it represents for Perpich. Where Perpich Arts High School invites students who yearn to express themselves through the arts and builds an integrated community as a result of that expression, Crosswinds invites families seeking an integrated environment and builds self and peer respect through the expression of the arts. Where Crosswinds wants to share the lessons of its integration model with other districts around the state, Perpich has long had an outstanding professional development operation that reaches out to teachers statewide.

    Most critically, Perpich has a board appointed by the Governor whose job it is to attend to the mission and success of the Perpich Center and its school. They were quick to act when EMID invited Perpich to create a proposal, authorizing their director to take action. Their focus and agility stand in stark contrast to the divided attention the schools have received from the EMID board. Perpich promises the kind of governance that can make Crosswinds prosper and become a model for the whole state.

    Of course, in another demonstration of poor stewardship and understanding of state processes, the EMID board has given Perpich only until April 1 to get the legislative authority it requires to do take over Crosswinds. I’ve heard some suggest that what we need is more time, and I agree that the EMID board should have given Perpich the whole legislative session to seek the authority it requires. But I want to be very clear about this: more time under EMID governance is no longer a viable option. Families have been exhausted by the years-long battle to keep the schools open, they have lost faith in the leadership of the EMID board, and they will flee Crosswinds in even more dramatic numbers than we’ve seen these past few years if the school is not granted competent governance for the 2013-2014 school year. There will be no program left to build on if Perpich is not given authority this year to run Crosswinds in the fall.

    The Crosswinds Arts & Science School sits in the northeast corner of the South Washington County School District. It is a $26M facility built by the state of Minnesota to house this unique year-round, integration, arts and science program. The building has won international awards not just for its design, but also for the process used to create that design, which included staff of Crosswinds and close attention to the program they were creating. Today, the South Washington County School District wants the legislature to turn down Perpich’s bid to govern Crosswinds and hand the taxpayers of Washington County a levy-free school building.

    This is the choice you face and must decide promptly. If you do not give Perpich authority to carry forward a successful integration program in the next few weeks, you will instead be handing over a facility designed to do that job to a local district as a free gift. Please do not jettison the east metro’s most important integration program.

    I ask you to vote to preserve the 15 year investment the state has made in Crosswinds, a program that can teach districts around the state how to make the most of the growing diversity that is Minnesota’s future. Please save Crosswinds for future students and teachers, give it the governance it needs and deserves from the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

    Sincerely,

    Eric Celeste

  6. Testimony for HF592

    As a parent of a Harambee first grader, and a resident of the Maplewood-Oakdale-North St. Paul school district (ISD 622), I am writing in support of the bill to give Perpich the authority to continue the program at Crosswinds Arts and Science School. I support it because this school was built with state money for the intention of creating an integration program that serves kids from many districts with an arts and science focus.

    I watched as the school was bled dry by the East Metro Integration District school board. 9 of the 10 EMID districts did not market this school to their students (St. Paul is the exception), and the board created so much turmoil and took away so much funding that they left it with no money and less than optimum enrollment. These are the same arguments, now, that you will hear from opponents of this bill. It is clear that Perpich can do a much better job of governance, because they have shown us they can with their arts high school. Most importantly, they have shown us they have the will to do it. This is something the EMID board lacked.

    I do not wish to see state taxpayer money squandered and given to a wealthy district because of a lack of foresight and serious conflicts of interest on the part of the EMID board. This building belongs to all of Minnesota, and it should remain open, with its current, successful programming, to all of us.

    When my kids are old enough to be looking towards middle school, I want us to have the option of choosing Crosswinds. Amazingly, even if we do not choose to send our kids to Crosswinds, they will have benefited from its mere existence, in outreach and professional development on effective integration.
    Please move this bill through quickly so that this Minnesota gem is saved.

    Carrie Dickson
    Maplewood, MN

  7. My 10th grade son has attended Crosswinds since 6th grade and has experienced incredible academic and artistic success during this time. It is my sincere hope that the Crosswinds program can continue under the Perpich Center so my younger kids (and all Minnesota kids) can have this amazing opportunity too. The teachers and staff of Crosswinds are of the highest caliber and take their jobs very seriously and teach with great passion. As a parent, I have watched my son blossom in his confidence, academic abilities and artistic talent during the past 4-1/2 years at Crosswinds. He is accepted for the unique and special person that he is, as are all the kids. The teachers truly take care to create an environment of inclusion and instill in the kids values of hard work, respect, responsibility, perseverance and care for the community. The program clearly works and must continue so other Minnesota kids can have this experience. All kids deserve to know that they are special and can succeed! I respectfully ask legislators to please support HF592 and SF530 so Perpich can continue to grow the Crosswinds program.

  8. Please pass HF592, the Crosswinds/Perpich bill.
    Crosswinds is one of the very few schools that have a year-round schedule and year-round schooling seems to be an advantage to the students, the community, and the nation.
    Perpich would continue this system upon taking over Crosswinds.
    Combining this system along with Arts and Science focus, diversity and integration, and status of a State school would be a winning program.

  9. I am writing in support of bill HF592 where Perpich Center for the Arts would take over the Crosswinds Arts & Science Magnet School Program.

    My name is Kristen Konop. I am a founding teacher of the Crosswinds program, as well as having had a 14 year long teaching career at Crosswinds School. I am currently teaching in a different district in the East Metro which has given me a new lens in which to view the work that is being done at Crosswinds.

    Since I have left Crosswinds there are a few things I have been reminded of:
    1. All districts are dedicated to their students.
    2. All districts want to see their students grow.
    3. All districts want to see their students succeed.
    4. Educators work hard everyday to benefit their students.
    5. Across the state, each district seems to be buying into a similar paradigm about student achievement.

    These observations lead me to two questions: 1. Where’s the innovation? 2. Why is Minnesota not taking the national lead on this?

    Minnesota’s Innovation is sitting at 600 Weir Dr in Woodbury, MN in a program called Crosswinds. This is a place where just like the rest of the state the staff wants to see their students grow & succeed. This is also a place ripe with innovation. This is the place the TERI Project (Teacher Education Redesign Initiative) grew out of. http://www.cehd.umn.edu/teri/ This is a place where lenses of Arts & Science are continually used to build connections between differences to create a community of acceptance. This is a place, in a time where bullying is reaching epidemic levels in schools, students find support and refuge to be themselves in a safe, supportive community. This is a place where you walk into the lunchroom you don’t see division among the students at the lunch tables.

    This program can be used as a different way, an innovative way, to lead and change education. Minnesota needs to grab hold of one of its most unique educational resources and start growing it and sharing it with the nation.

    Sincerely,

    Kristen Konop

  10. March 9, 2013

    I am writing to strongly recommend your support for HF592, which would allow The Perpich Center for Arts Education to take over governance of Crosswinds Arts & Science School. This is an incredible opportunity to bring the lessons learned in this state-established educational model to the students of the entire state of Minnesota. Amazing things happen every day in this learning community. All of it is done with great intention and a focus on preparing students to become global citizens. Isn’t it our duty to prepare our children to compete in and contribute to a global society?

    On my daughter’s first day of school at Harambee, I waited with other parents picking up their children. I saw her round the corner and come down the hallway. She had an enormous smile on her face and she was holding the hand of a girl wearing a hijab. She was thrilled to tell me about her new friend. At that moment, it was confirmed that our family’s selection of Harambee was the right one. My daughter has finished at Harambee and is now a 7th grader at Crosswinds East Metro Arts & Science School.

    In our post 9/11 world, there is so much fear and anxiety about people that are “different” from us. It has always been my belief that first-hand experience and knowledge are what lead to understanding and compassion for others. Here were these two young girls, Christian and Muslim, Native American and Somali. Simply grinning and giggling. None of that mattered to them. They were just two people who were new friends. It was beautiful.

    Amazing things happen every day in these learning communities. All of it is done with great intention and a focus on preparing students to be global citizens.

    Crosswinds’ Mission is to provide and promote integrated opportunities for students, families, and staff that expand cultural understanding and support academic achievement. Crosswinds’ vision is to create integrated communities in which all learners have knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for success in an increasing diverse and interdependent world.

    This is not just about my daughter and her classmates. It is about the on-going vision and mission of Crosswinds school through the support of Perpich and its long-established network which provides professional development state-wide. I feel that Crosswinds is of immeasurable value to the current and future community-at-large and that it is essential that the program at Crosswinds continue and be carried around the state.

    Please, let me be absolutely clear:
    NOW is the time to take supportive action on HF592. We have been given a deadline of April 1 and it is vital that you act without delay.

    I implore you to authorize governance of Crosswinds to the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Both of these entities have very clearly expressed their intent to continue the vision and mission with which this school was formed.

    Peace,
    Kim Zaiman
    Parent of Elizabeth, Harambee Alum and current Crosswinds 7th grader
    189 Sterling St N
    Maplewood MN 55119

  11. Excerpt of my contribution to testmiony:

    I am writing in regard to the hearing tomorrow HF592 – the Perpich/Crosswinds Bill. I have been quiet so far, sitting back trying to figure out what exactly is going on while reading letters, reading newspaper articles, attending school board meetings, meeting with my Senator (Sieben), listening to those in positions in government explain things to their constituents. This is the first time I’ve been involved in politics like this and so far it’s not painting a very good picture of the inside workings of our political system if this is how everything else is handled. To cut to the chase, I urge you to see past the political shenanigans, to see the value of Crosswinds, a truly one-of-a-kind cutting edge school, and how it fits the special needs of a lot of students who normally would fail in a standard public school system, and give Perpich the authority to govern Crosswinds and see it help other students into the future. District 833, even rather the entire Twin Cities, is large enough to have more than one kind of integrated school model. After all, this is about the kids, right?

    As I understand it, EMID started “dismantling” Crosswinds almost 2 years ago – the summer of 2011. At that time the EMID Board knew what road they were traveling down. The EMID Board could have asked Perpich then to look into whether or not they could help save the school (and its model). But they chose to wait, because I truly believe they never had any intentions of doing anything with the school model – I believe all along they wanted to give the building to South Washington County. What they didn’t count on was an impassioned group of parents who see Crosswinds for what it is, what’s it’s done to change the life of their children and how it can change the lives of other children who have the same needs/special circumstances/etc.

    I have heard so much double talk from people who KNOW the details and either reword things to give it a different feel/spin, to outright lies that they know they could be called on, to personal reasons to work it so 833 gets the building. In all of it, nowhere is anyone voicing the importance to the kids (as a whole). It makes me ashamed I live in the 833 School District where people in power lie knowing they can get away with it, keeping only their own interest at heart while ignoring the voices and concerns of their constituents/residents. If 833 does in fact prevail and get the building, it makes me ashamed that I even live in this State and that my family comes from here.

    I am giving some last hope in the political system, to do what’s right, to see past the veil of lies and mis-information, and to think about the kids, ALL the kids – not just the ones in one school district, but for the whole St. Paul and surrounding area from now until the foreseeable future, to see what a unique, one-of-a-kind school Crosswinds is and how it can benefit the St. Paul area with its cutting edge model for learning (and probably the rest of Minnesota in the long run as other school districts create their own Crosswinds style). Doesn’t Minnesota want to be on the forefront of fantastic education? Diversity is here and now – all ethniticities working and living together in the community, not just Hispanic or French immersion models. If the building is given to 833, then Crosswinds and everything it has accomplished will be gone forever, we will essentially be burying something incredibly important (and how will that look to the rest of the country).

    For more of a history of how I came to Crosswinds, please see the verbage that follows. Thank you for your time.

  12. Dear Committee Members of Our House Education Finance Committee:

    I urge you to pass HF592!

    Over the past 15 years Crosswinds has become a community model for integration. It has been a living experience of integration for each one of us that has become part of this community because of our children. Our children drew us to together to realize how vital a living experience of integration is from their earliest age on earth. Whether we are those children, parents, teachers, administrators or community members, we have done a lot of living together in this CROSSWINDS lab.

    My family consists of white parents and a multi race daughter whom we affectionately call “Many Tribes” as she is of 4 Native American heritages and Hispanic descent – we adopted our daughter at birth. Now as a young teenager she is seeking to find out who she is, as all teens do, and she has a few other layers/directions in which to explore. We, as her parents have these areas to explore too as we aren’t just continuing to learn about her races, yet also her learning styles and we have found a community that is eager to learn this in a concerted effort with us. The teachers, staff have been responsive coupled with directive from their experience, which is being revealed in our daughter’s learning experience in every way imaginable.

    I was at an Occupational Therapy Symposium the other day and one of the workshop presenters made a profound comment that I cannot forget: “Our approach is not to teach our children what we know, yet to learn together what works for them”. Crosswinds allows us just that opportunity through integrated learning for our children. It has been a successful program where it counts. It’s been nurtured by the teachers, staff, community, parents and the state, an investment to not take lightly.

    Thank you do much for your thoughtful consideration of allowing Perpich to assume the governance of this fine program, Crosswinds Arts and Science Middle Years School.

  13. I am writing in support of HF592, allowing Perpich Center for Arts Education to assume governance of Crosswinds Arts and Science School and continue a program that should be a shining example of innovative education and integration success in Minnesota.

    This is a state issue, not a local one. Crosswinds was built by the state with a $26M investment to share innovations in education among students in 10 east metro districts. Perpich, as you are well aware, is an effective state agency able to share what this school has developed with regard to true integration (not just a diverse student body), supporting all kinds of learners, engaging and inspiring students with exposure to the arts, and demonstrating how science applies to everyday life with the entire state of Minnesota. If the program is abandoned and the building transferred to District 833 the building alone would benefit just one district. If 833 needs more building space for their students they are fully capable of requesting funding from their taxpayers just like Saint Paul, Duluth, or Rochester would have to do.

    Recent studies show that open enrollment has actually increased racially isolated schools in Minnesota. Crosswinds offsets that trend by being a fully integrated school of choice. It is 50% students of color, 50% free and reduced lunch, and nearly 30% special needs. Yet the school is exceeding state averages in achievement and students who stay all five years see the achievement gap disappear!

    One of my children is gifted academically and musically while the other has a neurologic disability. Both are succeeding to their highest potential and both are also accepted and valued under these programs. At Crosswinds there are students that would succeed anywhere and chose Crosswinds but, more importantly, there are students who have a chance to succeed because of Crosswinds, their needs not being met in another school environment. I want my youngest and other students like him to continue to have this chance.

    Plenty of students value communication skills, critical thinking skills, expressing their opinion, and becoming a responsible citizen. Respectfully working alongside different opinions, cultures, perspectives, and abilities should be modeled and taught in any school, especially as students learn to navigate an increasingly global economy and see the result of the political deadlock paralyzing our nation.

    Nowhere have I seen this done more successfully than at Crosswinds due to the consistent, intentional message that differences are good, that all students have gifts, and that working together for a common purpose using everyone’s gifts is vital to the success of a community.

    Please help keep the original mission of Crosswinds alive, honor the investment made by the state for integration, and ensure innovative programs are shared statewide by supporting its transfer to Perpich Center for Arts Education.

    Respectfully,
    Laurel LeBlanc,
    Crosswinds parent and supporter of continuing integration efforts in Minnesota

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