The Deed is Done

We have received word that both Crosswinds and Harambee have officially been transferred to their new homes! Sue Mackert, Director of the Perpich Center for Arts Education, reports that Perpich has received the deed to Crosswinds and Shari Thompson, now of the Roseville Area Schools, reports that ISD 623 now hold the deed to Harambee.

Please make sure to let your friends and neighbors know that Crosswinds and Harambee are open for business, still year round, still welcoming students from across the east metro, still focussed on integration, arts, and science. Help us get the word out!

EMID Board to Celebrate Conveyance of Schools, 5/21

Jean Lubke, Executive Director of EMID, wants to let everyone know that the EMID board will mark the conveyance of the schools at their meeting tomorrow. Please join the board if you can! The meeting is at Crosswinds and starts at 5:30 on Wednesday.

The EMID Board will have a small celebration with the leaders of Perpich, Roseville, Crosswinds, Harambee, and our legislative advocates at the beginning of the Board meeting on Wednesday (5/21) at 5:30. You are most warmly welcome.

Please extend this invitation to the EMID Families and anyone else who has helped with this change.

Harambee Looking Good for Fall

The EMID Board met yesterday and approved a plan by Roseville to operate the Harambee school next year. Because of the legislature’s failure to act earlier this year, the EMID board decided to delay its closure of the school until 2014, keep the school open, but hand all operational responsibility over to Roseville. The net effect for families should be that Harambee will pretty much feel as it always has. For the most part the staff won’t change (though they will become employees of Roseville), transportation will continue to be provided, and the year-round schedule will continue. Kathy Griebel plans to continue as principal. See 0:34:55 in the video of the meeting below for the Harambee discussion with Roseville Superintendent John Thein.

The situation for Crosswinds will be addressed at a special board meeting next month (7/10, 5:30pm at Crosswinds). While some board members asked that the meeting include options for both Perpich and South Washington County to take over Crosswinds, one board member reminded them that they had received a copy of an email from 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus stating that South Washington County had no interest in running an integration program at Crosswinds next year. Since an integration program is the only option allowed to Crosswinds without legislation, EMID Superintendent Janet Mohr confirmed that only Perpich was preparing a plan to run the school in the Fall. That plan will be presented and discussed in July. See 1:55:30 in the video of the meeting below for the questions the board raised when considering calling the special meeting.

Video of the entire meeting is available on YouTube and includes many items not discussed in these notes.

Legislators push for Crosswinds at unprecedented board meeting

Last night’s EMID board meeting at Harambee was an amazing experience for those who were there to see it. In addition to an hour of family testimony, five legislators spent well over an hour sharing their perspective on the legislative session and the options for next steps with the EMID board.

Many family members testified about the lessons they learned during the session. These included the fact that we learned the buildings were bonded to host integration magnet schools, that the legislature must approve conveyance to any other party by a 60% vote, that Minnesota supports integration in the form of a renewed integration plan, that hidden processes impede democracy, that we can talk to our elected officials, and that families will not give up their efforts to save our schools. The final testimony was the reading of a letter from Dan Shulman, lead attorney in the lawsuits that led to the creation of integration districts in the 1990’s, stressing that Minnesota law still demanded integrated education and the actions of the EMID board might put everyone back in court once again.

Superintendent Thein of Roseville assured the EMID board that with their support Roseville would make sure Harambee opened in September to welcome students back. The EMID board voted to support the efforts of Roseville and there was a lot of confidence that, one way or another, Harambee would remain open.

Representatives Peter Fischer (Roseville), JoAnn Ward (Woodbury), Jason Isaacson (Vadnais Heights), Carlos Mariani (Saint Paul), and Senator John Marty (Roseville) shared their view of the session with the board. Rep. Isaacson said, “taking care of Crosswinds School died in the Senate… just so we are clear about this it was attempted in several times in several ways and it didn’t go through… I’m going to tell you what’s not going to happen: South Washington will not receive that school, period… we have the backing of the Speaker on that.” Rep. Mariani connected the situation at EMID with the wider support of integration exemplified by the new integration legislation. Sen. Marty asked for all the parties to work together to find a solution for Crosswinds. Rep. Fischer described the lengths the House had gone to in negotiating with the Senate, sharing the accountability language and a whole set of questions he’d like to see answered. Rep. Ward spoke from her work in education about the importance of a variety of schools for diverse students and families. All of the legislators very firmly asked the board to find a way to keep Crosswinds open for the 13-14 school year.

The clear, consistent message from these five legislators was that the board should do for Crosswinds/Perpich what they were clearly so willing to do for Harambee/Roseville.

Rep. Mariani also told the board he planned to hold a hearing of his House Education Policy Committee at Crosswinds in July (probably on 7/9). In many ways, this meeting felt like a preview of that hearing, though with the roles of board and legislators reversed.

The board did finally make a “consensus” decision to allow Superintendent Mohr to investigate with Perpich and MDE the feasibility of running the Crosswinds program next year. If this looks possible, the board will hold a work session on 6/12 to learn the details of the proposal.

Some (poor quality) audio recordings of the meeting are available. Part One includes the families testimony and the description of Roseville’s efforts on behalf of Harmabee. Part Two includes the exchange of the legislators with the board.

A video of the discussion between legislators and the board is also now available.

EMID Board meeting Wednesday, 5/29

The end of the legislative session left both Harambee and Crosswinds stranded without permanent arrangements for their futures. While it is quite likely that EMID, Roseville, and the Minnesota Department of Education will come to some kind of arrangement for Harambee to stay open next year, the situation for Crosswinds is much less hopeful. The EMID Board meeting this week will be your chance to voice concerns and hear what the board is planning. The meeting will begin at 5:30pm on Wednesday (5/29) at the Harambee School.

The board packet is available and includes a “legislative update” for which “a legislator or lobbyist will be at the board meeting to update the board on the 2013 legislative session…” No board action is anticipated in the board packet, but we have heard of considerable activity by the board and administration to make arrangements for Harambee. We have also heard from multiple legislators who plan to attend the meeting, so this update could be quite illuminating.

EMID Families will meet in Harambee’s Community Cultures room at 5pm, ahead of the board meeting, to answer questions to the best of our knowledge and help families who would like to testify to the board plan their testimony. If you have questions, feel free to stop by before the board meeting starts.

Harambee NOT OK after all

Seven hours ago we expected Harambee to get language in the waning hours of the legislative session. The Governor had met with all parties and hammered out an agreement. The Senate had agreed to insert the language for Harambee and the House agreed not to insist on corresponding language for Crosswinds. However, this did not happen.

When the final bill of the session came to the House floor from the Senate, it did not include language for Harambee.

As a result, Roseville does not have the ability to run the Harambee program as it had proposed.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY FOR HARAMBEE!

It is now up to the EMID board, but Roseville and the board will have to explore alternative ways of facilitating a turnover of governance. There are ideas about this, but they are in the earliest stages of being worked out.

Of course, this makes it clear that especially Harambee parents will want to come to the board meeting on Wednesday 5/29 at Harambee.

Sincere apologies for the earlier post stating that Harambee would be OK. Given the agreement the Governor had worked out, we just could not imagine the result we saw tonight.

Harambee OK, Crosswinds not so much

After an extraordinary afternoon of negotiations between House and Senate facilitated by the Governor himself, we learned that special legislation will be offered this evening to allow the transfer of Harambee to Roseville. Although there will be no legislation to allow Perpich to take over Crosswinds this year, neither will any other entity (such as South Washington County Schools) be allowed to take the building. Sue Mackert of Perpich said the Governor’s Office and others will work on a path for Crosswinds after the session ends tonight. Perpich wants to try again next year.

Dozens of EMID families heard the call to come to the Capitol this afternoon. Unfortunately, this mostly amounted to waiting for a press conference that has not taken place even now. But some of us did get to see Representatives JoAnn Ward, Peter Fischer, and Jason Issacson head into a meeting with Governor Dayton to request his help. Dayton called Senator Sieben, who later joined the group for negotiations. Harambee, which was left without legislation when misinformation at the Friday night education conference committee made it seem none was needed, quickly found a path to success in these negotiations. Crosswinds, which has generated severe opposition among many Washington County legislators, was more difficult to resolve.

While families were distressed to learn Crosswinds will close after all, some were heartened by the news that no other school system could take of the building this year. Certainly rebuilding Crosswinds a year from now will be much more difficult than simply continuing the program would have been, but it does offer hope to some families who may return once the school is open under new management, and it offers the state an opportunity to recover some of what made the school so special for Minnesota.

Still, it was devastating to learn we are losing the school. We will have to make this last quarter something very special!

Much of this will be the topic of discussion and decision making for the EMID board next week. If you want to learn more about next steps for Crosswinds and Harambee, join the board on Wednesday 5/29 at Harambee.

Crosswinds and Harambee pass first test in the Minnesota House

Both HF833 (the Harambee bill) and HF592 (the Perpich-Crosswinds bill) were heard in the House Education Finance Committee this morning. After being introduced by Rep. Fischer, testimony for Harambee included Superintendent John Thein, and parents Will Bryan and Mike Boguszewski. The Harambee bill, which primarily seeks support for the transportation needs Roseville inherits with the school, saw only minimal questioning and was passed unanimously on to the House Capital Investment Committee.

The Perpich-Crosswinds bill encountered significantly choppier water, but emerged successful as well. Rep. Ryan Winkler introduced the bill and a couple of amendments. Sue Mackert presented Perpich’s case for the school, Mary Cecconi filled in some history and institutional memory from her time on the Stillwater school board, Bryan Bass described the school’s academics and achievements. The committee questioned these speakers, primarily Sue Mackert, for an extended period. Much of the concern was about the finances of the bill. Some of the questioning was also aimed at understanding what Perpich gains and possibly loses in taking on Crosswinds. A number of committee members seemed to be trying to understand exactly why this issue was before the legislature, what had gone wrong at EMID to land this on their plate? Rep. Mariani reminded members that the legislature’s own actions sun-setting integration aid laid some of the responsibility at their own feet.

After questioning, a number of EMID Families representatives testified for Crosswinds: parents Eric Celeste, Tami Bayne-Kuczmarski, and Dan Larson all testified briefly, and Sam Larson and Nate Celeste represented Crosswinds students. I say briefly because we were each given no more than two minutes! The family testimony helped convey the emotional impact of this decision to legislators. A few tears were shed.

One Woodbury Elementary parent, Joe Ryan, also testified briefly in favor of Perpich.

Then the opponents to Perpich took the mic. Superintendent Keith Jacobus of South Washington County (ISD833) spoke against the bill saying that it would hurt his district financially to continue to send students to Crosswinds. Most disappointing, though, was the final testimony of the morning: EMID and White Bear Lake board member Lori Swanson testified against Perpich. That the only representative of the EMID board who addressed the legislature was opposing the very action the board took in January was yet another demonstration of the dysfunction of the EMID board.

Nevertheless, Crosswinds and Perpich prevailed. On a voice vote with only a single “nay,” the committee passed the Perpich-Crosswinds bill along to the Government Operations Committee. We expect that the Government Operations Committee could hold a hearing on HF592 as soon as this week. We will keep you informed.

In addition to the spoken testimony offered at the hearing, which as I said was extremely limited, the members of the committee all received packets of written testimony. A thin packet of seven letters in opposition all came from Woodbury. On the other hand, the committee received 33 letters of substance and support from across our districts, from parents and teachers and community members. Some of this testimony can be found on our website. Even just in weight, the overwhelming support was clear. Anyone who took the time to even glance at the substance of the letters would be even more impressed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to the committee.

Sam Larson and Nate Celeste testifying to the House Education Finance Committee, 2013-03-12

EMID school closure hearings Wednesday and Thursday

The EMID Board hearing on closing Crosswinds will be this Wednesday at 6:30pm at Crosswinds. The hearing on closing Harambee will be this Thursday at 6:30pm at Harambee. The public is welcome to testify at either or both hearings. Some folks who wish to share the themes of their testimony and get feedback ahead of the hearings will be gathering at 5:30pm at each location, so feel free to show up early if you wish.

You may also wish to write down and share your testimony with the board (their addresses are available on the EMID Families website) or other families (just send a copy to info@emidfamilies.org).

According to board chair George Hoeppner, both hearings will follow a similar format. Superintendent Janet Mohr and Finance Officer Shari Thompson will present information related to the reason we are at the current point. After their initial comments,
there will be opportunity for public testimony.

Public testimony will follow the structure of the open forum at a board meetings. There will be a five minute limit for each speaker.

Mohr and Thompson will then speak a second time.

The board will not have discussion either of these evenings.

If board members can find an evening to meet before their January 23 board meeting, they will try to refine the criteria for selection and discuss options. That date will be made public if it can be found.

Decisions will be made at the EMID Board meeting on January 23, 5:30pm, at Harambee.

EMID school closure hearings next week

As we learned in a letter from Superintendent Janet Mohr just before the holidays, EMID will hold public hearings on the closure of Harambee and Crosswinds next week.

  • the Crosswinds hearing will be on Wednesday, January 9 at 6:30pm at Crosswinds
  • the Harambee hearing will be on Thursday January 10 at 6:30pm at Harambee

These hearings are being called “closure” hearings because for statutory reasons EMID has to “close” the schools in order to hand them off to new management. In fact, we all hope that the schools do stay open under new management, but that is not a certainty.

For Harambee the path forward looks fairly clear. Roseville (ISD 623) has presented a compelling proposal to the EMID board that would keep the school more or less intact, with much of the same staff and program, allowing current students to continue to attend. So for Harambee, “closure” will probably mean “opening next year as a Roseville public school.”

For Crosswinds the path forward is much more complicated. South Washington County (ISD 833) and Northeast Metro (ISD 916) have both made proposals that would essentially close the school as we know it. They would reuse the building for new programs with new staff and new students. However, there is a third proposal from the Perpich Center for Arts Education that would carry Crosswinds as we know it forward with much of the program we know and love and an opportunity for staff who want to stay to keep building a unique and attractive community in the school.

The complexity arises because Perpich is not a traditional public school, it is a stand-alone state agency. As such, it needs to seek legislative authority and funding to take on the management of Crosswinds. This means we cannot know whether Perpich will even be able to take on Crosswinds till the current legislative session is nearly over, in May or June.

The bottom line is that these hearings are very important to the future of our schools. We will walk a fine line of advocating for “closure” (in other words, advocating that EMID withdraw from governing our schools), while also advocating for the continued nourishment and growth of the programs developed at Harambee and Crosswinds by Roseville and Perpich.

If you appreciate the learning environment your families have experienced at Crosswinds and Harambee, it is very important that you share that appreciation with the board at these public hearings. It is very important that the board hear both our support for their decision to withdraw from governance of the schools, but also our expectation that they will work in every way possible to keep our schools open under new management.

In either case, the “closure” will give our teachers an opportunity to apply for jobs in EMID member districts. This means that even if the schools are open under new management next year, there will be significant changes ahead. EMID Families have been through so much over the past few years, it is a lot to ask of you to continue to speak out for these schools. Just know, every voice matters. Thanks for paying attention and sharing your views with the board. If you cannot get to the hearings, please consider writing to the board, their addresses are on our web site.