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.

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 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.

EMID Families Press Conference at 2:30pm TODAY

Sorry about the short notice, but if you can get to Crosswinds at 2:30pm this afternoon (5/16), please do! After a press conference there, a number of families will also be heading to the capitol. The session ends Monday and the Crosswinds situation has not be resolved! We need to demand the legislature take action to allow Perpich to run Crosswinds. The Crosswinds program must be preserved!

We have learned that some Washington County area state senators are demanding the House strip its bonding bill of Crosswinds related language. They want EMID to run the school for another year if District 833 is not allowed to take the building for its own use. We know that can’t work and we need to let the press and our legislators know how important it is to support Perpich and Crosswinds NOW.

Please join us at Crosswinds. If you are available later in the afternoon, please come to the capitol as well.

16 May EMID Families Press Release (PDF)

EMID board gives up on April 1 deadline

At the board meeting last night the EMID board acknowledged that the April 1 deadline it had set for Perpich to get legislative authority to take over Crosswinds is no longer in effect. As a result, Perpich and South Washington County now have the remainder of the legislative session to seek authority to take over the Crosswinds building.

Last night the EMID board heard from their attorney that the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget (MMB) has changed its position on the requirements for handing off the Crosswinds and Harambee facilities. They are now requiring that the Minnesota Legislature approve any transfer of these buildings before MMB will approve these transfers. As a result, MMB is not authorizing EMID to transfer the buildings until the Legislature has acted.

While Roseville and Perpich each have legislation currently being considered that would provide the proper authority, the same is not true of South Washington County. It is expected that one of the Washington County senators (Kent or Sieben) will probably introduce such legislation soon. At that point there will be two competing proposals for Crosswinds in the legislature and the EMID board will have to wait for the dust to settle before making any further moves to transfer the building.

In other news from the board meeting, Shari Thompson reported that teachers now have until April 15 to pick from a list of over 900 jobs EMID has identified as available for them in member districts. Teachers will sign up for these positions in order of seniority.

Sue Mackert gave an update on the Perpich-Crosswinds bill noting its broad bipartisan support and saying that she feels very good about its chances of passage. The Perpich-Crosswinds bill has been assigned to the House Capital Investments committee and will likely be heard there the week of April 2, when the Legislature returns from their holiday break.

South Washington County board member Jim Gelbmann also felt compelled to launch a defense of himself from apparent charges of conflict-of-interest that were hounding him at the Legislature, where he is employed as a committee administrator. He provided documentation showing that he has no financial interest in the outcome of the Perpich-Crosswinds decision and said that he had approached his boss at the Legislature and declared his conflict-of-interest as soon as the Perpich-Crosswinds bill was introduced.

Three parents testified to the board. Leslye Taylor described family activities at the Legislature and asked the board to stand in support of its own action. Susan Larson shared a packet of media articles and letters to the editor, noting that the question of the transfer of Crosswinds was getting broad attention in the press. Eric Celeste pointed out the muddy waters stirred up by South Washington County’s actions at the Legislature and asked the EMID board to take no further action until after the Legislature completes its deliberations.

An audio recording of the testimony of EMID’s lawyer about the situation and Shari about teachers is available on our website.

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

Fact Check: South Washington County

EMID and South Washington County School Board member Jim Gelbmann misrepresented what has gone on at EMID board meetings to his South Washington County board colleagues at their February meeting. This clip compares statements Mr. Gelbmann made at the February 21 South Washington County board meeting with statements he and others made at the January 23 EMID board meeting one month earlier. The full SWC board video is available online at their website. Unfortunately EMID does not document their meetings as fully, the video used here was shot by a parent at that meeting.

EMID Families asks you to please support the EMID-Perpich legislation before the Minnesota House and Senate. Unfortunately, the EMID board did ultimately force Mr. Gelbmann’s April 1st deadline proposal on Perpich, so we have very little time to win support. See our pages about Crosswinds and Contacting Your Representative for more information.

Bulletin: Schools have long list of legislative concerns

Judy Spooner writes in the Woodbury Bulletin: Schools have long list of legislative concerns. The article describes the list of request school officials are making of their legislators in South Washington County.

In addition to the start date issue (833 wants a start before Labor Day), special ed, and kindergarten, the article discussed Crosswinds:

Jacobus also got legislators up to speed with information about the possibility of District 833 acquiring Crosswinds school in Woodbury.

The school is operated by the East Metro Area Integration District, which can no longer afford to operate it because 10 member school districts have withdrawn their funding in order to operate integration programs in their own districts.

On a year-round schedule with a focus on art and science with about 300 students, the school is half full of students from grades 6-10.

District 833 wants to take over the school but the Perpich Center for the Arts and Intermediate School District 916 are also interested.

Jacobus said 833 is the only metropolitan entity that can take over the school.

District 833 needs the school to address growth concerns but would not continue operating the existing program, he told lawmakers.

Press coverage of the transfer of governance

Tony Lonetree wrote for the Star Tribune: Woodbury school is saved, but work still needs to be done.

The board overseeing the integration school heeded parental wishes to save Crosswinds from closure by agreeing Wednesday night to turn the school over to the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

But the Perpich Center now must win legislative approval and funding by April 1 or see the building claimed, instead, by the South Washington County School District, under action taken by the East Metro Integration District (EMID) school board.

Christopher Magen wrote for the Pioneer Press: Harambee and Crosswinds: Transfer of the integration-focused magnet schools OK’d.

Crosswinds families will now turn their attention to the Capitol, where they have a short time to win over lawmakers in order to keep the school open.

“It means will still have a massive amount of work to do,” Zaiman said.

Judy Spooner wrote for the South Washington County Bulletin: South Washington County Schools in line for Crosswinds if Perpich can’t secure state money.

Deciding the future of Crosswinds, valued at $25 million including its property near Tamarack Road and Interstate 494, took a series of votes and amendments.

The final vote, to give the school to the Perpich center if it can secure funding from the Legislature, failed on a 5-5 tie.

After a short break, a second vote to amend the motion with a deadline of April 1, passed 6-4.

If District 833 acquires the school, it will be at no cost if the building is used for education. It was built with state funds.