Crosswinds Bill Passes Senate E12 Division, 3/18

This morning SF530, the bill conveying Crosswinds to Perpich, was the first item on the agenda of the E12 Division of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill was presented by its author, Sen. Dahle, and amended to take care of some finance and transportation issues. Great news: the bill made it over this very important hurdle!

Tom Melcher, of the Minnesota Department of Education, explained that one of the amendments just ensured that districts whose students attend Crosswinds did not get to charge the state for their “declining enrollment” in these cases. This effectively makes the future under Perpich similar to the past under EMID, when districts could also not make such charges to the state. With regard to transportation, the new language clarifies that Perpich will be able to seek integration funding for transportation as long as it files integration plans with MDE, again similar to the transportation situation under EMID. Though the final “fiscal note” was not yet complete, Melcher anticipated that it would show SF530 provides a net benefit to the state, rather than a net cost.

Testimony proceeded from Dr. Jean Lubke (Executive Director of EMID), Kitty Gogins (Chair of the EMID Board), Sue Mackert (Executive Director of Perpich), Dr. Carla Hines (Principal at Crosswinds), Kai’li Taylor (Crosswinds 9th grader), Eric Celeste (former Crosswinds parent), and Mike Boguszewski (former Crosswinds parent). Many other parents and students surrounded the final three testifiers to show the committee the strength of our support, and written testimony was also provided from many of you.

With very little discussion, the E12 Division voted to “lay over” the bill with Chair Wiger for inclusion in the Senate Finance omnibus. This is very good news. Sen. Wiger gave a supportive little talk after the vote. This leaves the future of SF530 very much in his hands and the hands of the Senate Finance Chair, Sen. Dick Cohen. Of course, this is the legislature, so other complications may arise.

Thank you to all of you who have helped us get so far on this road. Today was a big step, only possible due to your actions over the past few years. At this point we need to thank our supporters, please help us by sending kind notes to:

And you may also want to send a note asking for support for SF530 from Sen. Dick Cohen as Chair of the Senate Finance committee.

Parents United for Public Schools recognizes EMID Families

Parents United for Public Schools is an organization that helps Minnesota families become effective advocates for their schools. In this week’s legislative update they wrote about “the power of parent advocacy”:

Necessary legislation was not completed, leaving the two schools in the position of being shuttered in the coming year.

However, the story is not over by a long shot AND if you want proof that parent advocacy works, look no further. …

House Education Policy Chair Mariani, Rep. Isaccson, Rep. Ward, Rep. Fischer and Sen. Marty came to the board meeting to discuss the current situation. The legislators were there because of these families. Not because the families had threatened or pouted but because they had consistently led the charge for the rightness of continuing the state’s vision.

Parents United also include testimony before the board from our own Dan Larson:

While we are very proud of our efforts, we were saddened that on the final days of session, the Senate could not avoid the consequences of the behind-the-scene tactics of a few senators. Since the end of the session, parents and students came together to debrief the session and talk about what we learned.

If you want to know more about how to stand up for your public schools, consider becoming a member of Parents United.

Hearing for Crosswinds on Friday at 12:30pm

Yesterday the Perpich-Crosswinds bill in the House (HF592) was passed out of the House Education Finance Committee and referred on to Government Operations. The hearing at the House Government Operations Committee will be at 12:30pm on Friday (3/15) in the Basement Hearing Room of the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, MN.

While spoken testimony will be limited to the presenters of the bill, written testimony is welcome from all. We will compile a packet of written testimony for the committee (and future committees). Please send your written testimony to testimony@emidfamilies.org by Noon Thursday (3/14, tomorrow!).

If you prefer to send emails to committee members, there addresses can be found on the Government Operations Committee page.

Also remember that we are still awaiting our first hearing in the Senate. We still need letters and calls to go to Sen. Torres Ray (651-296-4274) who is refusing to hear SF530 in her Senate Education Committee. Please ask for a prompt hearing in the Senate, time is running short!

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

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.

Transcript of Crosswinds Hearing

A number of you have been awaiting the transcript of the public hearing last week at Crosswinds and Harambee. EMID just put the Crosswinds transcript on their website (PDF).

Hearing Re The Proposed Closing of Crosswinds Arts & Science School, Public

Contents:

  • George Hoeppner Opens the meeting / 5
  • Shari Thompson presentation / 6
  • Jan Mohr presentation / 17
  • Dan Larson, parent / 21
  • Fred LeBlanc, parent / 23
  • Abby LeBlanc, student / 25
  • Kim Zaiman, parent / 26
  • Kathy Romero, teacher / 28
  • Jonah and Dalton Thomas, former students / 31
  • Leslye Taylor, parent / 34
  • Laurel LeBlanc, parent / 35
  • Ihsan Ingersoll, student / 37
  • Holly Ingersoll, parent / 38
  • Dave Bishop, parent / 41
  • Jeff Parker, teacher / 43
  • Bev Sellie, parent / 45
  • Kayleigh Schlenker, student / 47
  • Tim Stepan, teacher, union president / 49
  • Dan Stein, student / 52
  • Josh Kenow, student / 53
  • Casey Markovich, student / 54
  • Jill Markovich, parent / 54
  • Zander Danielson Sellie, former student / 56
  • Cornelius Rish, teacher / 59
  • Savannah Taylor, student / 61
  • Kelly DeBrine, parent / 63
  • Eric Celeste, parent / 64
  • Mike Boguszewski, parent / 68
  • Leah Bourg, teacher / 71
  • Amanda Hoffman and Madison Linke, students / 73
  • Susan Larson, parent / 76
  • Denise Dzik, teacher / 77
  • Rose Vang, student / 80
  • Anna Barker, teacher / 81
  • Shannon Hannigan, parent / 83
  • Tami Bayne-Kuczmarski, parent / 85
  • Yolanda Rivera, parent / 87
  • Jan Mohr, proposed findings / 88

Testimony at Harambee

Harambee’s meeting last night was a much more intimate affair than the Crosswinds meeting. Though many teachers were in the audience, none testified. The only testimony was from three parents: Mike Boguszewski, Eric Celeste, and Carrie Dickson. Both the Roseville Superintendent and the new chair of the Roseville school board attended to listen. There were also fewer EMID board members present, including the chair, who had another school-related obligation.

Testimony of Eric Celeste

The board’s justification for closing Harambee boils down to “we have to close Harambee because we refuse to fund Harambee.” This board made the choice to remove both levy funding and the integration funding that replaced it from the school budget. This board failed to develop a sustainable model for financing the school as an alternative to those funds. It is not a funding crisis that is closing this school, and the best evidence of that is the proposal Roseville has put on the table to keep the school open. There is nothing that Roseville will do to fund this school that EMID could not do will a little political fortitude. I am very disappointed in this course of action.

As you know from last night, I nevertheless support EMID withdrawing governance from Harambee and Crosswinds at the end of this school year. I especially appreciate the proposal Roseville has made to take over governance of this wonderful school with its program and teaching staff intact. My 10th grader started here in kindergarten, I love this school and the work its staff do every day for our kids. I am very happy that Roseville saw the jewel in its backyard and will carry on this legacy.

But tonight I did want to say a word about integration. EMID is about integration after all, and our diversity is, as it says on the mission banner hanging in the hallway outside, valued and celebrated.

I fear that with this decision to withdraw governance from this school, integration will become a bit less central to its mission. This will be a loss, and it is a loss both here and at Crosswinds. These schools understand that integration is about more than academics, it is about the respect and friendship that our students form with each other, the understanding of various cultures they gain, and the incredible culture of this school that they build together.

My hope is that Roseville take this aspect of Harambee’s legacy seriously and carry it into the future as well. I see Superintendent Tine and Board Chair Langston here tonight, I am encourage by the attention they have paid to this process, and I hope they will find ways to take advantage of the remarkable diversity of Roseville to keep Harambee as diverse as possible.

As for the EMID member districts, I just want to remind you that a significant portion of the integration dollars you will still receive for being part of this collaborative are designated for expenditure directly on students. Ever since you removed integration dollars from our schools a year ago, this direct student spending does not happen here.

These expenditures are vital to real integration in our schools, and I and others will work hard to hold you accountable for these funds. Please, use your integration funds well, make sure they are spent on students.

Thank you.

Testimony of Carrie Dickson

Shalom. Aloha. Salaam. Annyonghi-kaseyo.

I am the mother of 3 young boys who are 6, 4, and 2. My oldest is in 1st grade. Finding Harambee school, around this time 2 years ago, was a godsend born from a lot of difficult detective work. One of the many reasons we were interested in the school was integration, and the way integration works at Harambee. Students aren’t just close to each other. They are woven together as a community. Because of this, and many other reasons, I was fighting for this school before my son ever stepped foot in his Kindergarten class.

While I stand here today understanding that the relationship between Harambee and EMID must come to an end, I still don’t understand why we came to this point. I don’t understand why this board chose to fund this school differently then the rest of your schools, therefore causing it to be financially unsustainable. I don’t understand why only 1 of the 10 districts represented here lists Harambee and Crosswinds as schools that are options for their families. Why wouldn’t you tell people we were here? I can only shake my head in bewilderment.

I am grateful to Roseville who has seen the value of Harambee programming and intends to make it one of their own. I stand here before you and say, with much trepidation, that I support the transfer of governance to Roseville School District. My anxiety, sadly, comes from a significant lack of trust that comes from fighting for your son’s school since before he ever started there.

I also realize that we are now in a transition. As both a midwife and a teacher I know that transitions are difficult; I’ve spent my entire professional life helping people through them. And from both of those roles I know that one of the most important steps in any transition is a letting go. Only by letting go of our previous role will we be able to see the beauty and possibilities of our new one. So I look towards the future for Harambee with hope.

For the remaining 9 districts, you all face a transition as well. You now face the prospect of maintaining an integration district without integration schools. Integration, as you know, is still the law of the land. Whatever the state legislature decides about funding does not change that. I encourage you to look back at your own district schools. Do you have racially identifiable schools? I bet you do. Do we still have a long ways to go with integration? Oh yes we do. In the important fight for achievement and equity, please do not lose sight of integration. You cannot properly have equity without integration. I encourage you to reflect on the successes of Harambee and Crosswinds, and find ways to bring that kind of intentional integration to your school districts.

I’m going to digress for a moment and say something specific to Crosswinds that was not said last night. While it may seem that the support for the Perpich option is born out of a desperate desire to keep their beloved school as is, what I’m not sure you know is that parents, myself included, have been talking with Perpich Center since these schools faced closure last year… atleast 16 months now. We have come, through these conversations and investigation, to know that Perpich is the perfect option for Crosswinds. Its not just desperation. Its right. We have also come to believe two very important things: that Perpich can pull this off, and that they will do right by the students and teachers at Crosswinds.

Please know that teachers have not been a part of these conversations. They have not had the benefits of time and reflection that we have. Understandably, they need more information and time to come to believe what we do about the Perpich Center. I know that they will have that opportunity.

As we part ways, Harambee & Crosswinds from EMID, I will end with the four words I began with. These words, in Hebrew, Hawaiian, Arabic and Korean mean goodbye. But they also, perhaps more importantly, mean peace. May you continue the ever important work of supporting education for the future of the East Metro. May you continue with a vision of integration for all of our children. Shalom. Aloha. Salaam. Annyonghi-kaseyo.

Testimony at Crosswinds: Transition to Perpich, Meeting Monday 1/14

The testimony tonight at Crosswinds was extraordinary. 36 students, parents, and teachers testified to the EMID Board and every single one called on the EMID board to withdraw governance from the school. Nearly every testimony also indicated strong support for a transition of governance to the Perpich Center for Arts Education. The testimony was beautiful, powerful, and heartfelt; it was also being recorded and we will try to share it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, an important announcement was made at the hearing: representatives from the Perpich Center will be at Crosswinds next Monday evening, 1/14 at 6:30pm to talk with families and answer questions about their proposal. (They will be available to teachers that same morning.) Given how much support there was for a transition to Perpich governance of Crosswinds, this will be a great opportunity to both learn what Crosswinds under Perpich may be like and how we can help bring this future to reality.

A special meeting of the EMID Board to discuss the options before them will also take place on Wednesday evening, January 16, at Harambee. The decision-making meeting of the board remains on Wednesday January 23 at 5:30pm at Harambee.

So, upcoming meetings include:

  • the Harambee “closure” hearing tomorrow, Thursday January 10, 6:30pm at Harambee
  • the Perpich Q&A session for families Monday January 14, 6:30pm at Crosswinds
  • a special EMID Board meeting on Wednesday January 16, 6pm at Harambee
  • the next regular EMID Board meeting, at which they intend to vote on the fate of the schools, on Wednesday January 23, 5:30pm at Harambee

Insight into the synergy between Crosswinds and Perpich

At last night’s board meeting Dan Larson gave this very moving testimony about the links between Crosswinds and Perpich.

As a parent of both Crosswinds and Perpich students and a teacher in a former EMID district, I feel I have a unique perspective to share about the impending Perpich proposal and my enthusiasm for its possibilities.

As an educator, I recognize the academic success that Crosswinds has accomplished. In the two of the past four years, Crosswinds has surpassed the state average in graduation reading scores for the state. This is quite the accomplishment considering a free and reduced lunch rate hovering around 50 percent.

But the soul of Crosswinds is its culture of inclusion. It is a unique culture that I have not witnessed in any other environment in 20 years of teaching. Students do not segregate themselves by skin color, activities, or the clothes their wear. They are a blend of backgrounds that have been guided into one cohesive family by an outstanding staff and program.

I know this because before my son came to Crosswinds, he was described as socially awkward, odd, different, and all buzzwords you read or hear on the news describing young men doing unimaginable things. He was required to have a full time paraprofessional; we were informed that his teacher did not feel safe around him, and we were asked to supply our own mode of transportation to after school church activities because of parent concerns.

We came to Crosswinds as our last hope. At the end of his sixth grade year and first year at Crosswinds, it was time for his annual IEP meeting. The school made the recommendation that he be removed from his IEP because he did not exhibit the issues and behaviors that were documented in our home district. I believe that staff had worked a miracle.

At Crosswinds, he was accepted and was introduced to a curriculum that was innovative and rich with arts and rigor. After finishing at Crosswinds, he was accepted at the Arts High School at the Perpich Center for the Arts. There he has received an academic and art instruction that is unparalleled, and recently, he has been accepted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which is regarded as one of the top art schools in the country. These schools changed his life, and I will be eternally grateful.

With this in mind, I believe these schools are a perfect match for each other. Their arts focus gives students with the desire to create an avenue and expert instruction. There is not a football or hockey team to overshadow their accomplishments. They are valued and validated every day through curriculum and programing. By giving the building to another, it would be just another school with a focus that could change the next time a new superintendent is hired, or if he or she reads a book or attends a conference on the next initiative in education. The unique programming and the school’s soul would be lost.

I encourage the board to do what is best for our children that are creative and vote to continue the schools culture, mission–and yes, soul–by approving the transfer of governance to Perpich Center for Arts Education. Thank you.

Video of the October EMID Board Meeting

Thanks to the efforts of Laurie Stern and Dan Luke we have a video record of much of last night’s EMID Board meeting. Parent testimony, of which there was quite a bit, starts 26 minutes into the part one video. The board’s discussion of the schools can be found during the work session at the start of part one and continues in the part two video.

These videos are not perfect, chunks of the meeting are missing and the audio is pretty quiet at times, so headphones will be helpful. Even so, it is such a great benefit to us all to have a record.