Recent Posts

schools

Scene – after hours at some school somewhere in Minnesota:

Principal: Thanks for staying late on such short notice for this meeting, but this issue that arose today is very important. As most of you know, someone didn’t use the staff restrooms, but used the student facilities. Someone then forgot his or her Glock 9mm in said student bathroom.

We’ll be able to replace the toilets that were shot up, they were old and two of the three didn’t work all that well anyway.

Teachers: [rumble mumble]

Principal: But that’s not the point. The point is that you all had your one hour gun safety classes. Do I have to spend the training budget for more gun safety classes? Hmmm?

Teachers: [grmbl]

Think that sounds too fantastic? Too far-fetched?

Rep. Tony Cornish’s (R-Good Thunder) said he plans to introduce bill to arm teachers. Personally, I think this idea is thunderously stupid.

Not everybody are geniuses like Tony Cornish.

Well consider this:

Just days after calling its newly hired armed security guard “a tremendous asset to the safety of our students,” a Michigan school released a statement saying the retired firearms instructor had caused a “breach in security protocol” by leaving his handgun unattended in the school’s bathroom.

Clark Arnold, formerly of the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office, was hired as a security officer by the Chatfield School in Lapeer following a review of security procedures in the wake of last month’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“It’s probably slim to next to none that someone’s going to be needed in the school, but it’s that slim you have to worry about,” Arnold told TV5 earlier this week.

What I want to know is WHO FOUND THE GUN?

{ 2 comments }

Our Schools Matter campaign

by The Big E on June 8, 2012 · 0 comments

For the last decade Republicans at the State Capitol have been slashing Minnesota’s education budget. Class sizes have increased dramatically. Teacher lay-offs are commonplace. Instead of bond levies for new facilities and such, school districts push levies for operating costs.

After shutting down our state government in 2011, Republican “solved” the crisis they created by borrowing money they’d already promised to give our schools. They called it a “shift.” I called it theft.

The Republicans that control the legislature still have no plans to pay back their theft from our schools.

“The extreme Republican-controlled legislature has left our schools bleeding in debt – forcing them to borrow millions of dollars. Students have fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms, fewer after school and extracurricular activities and even four-day weeks,” Carrie Lucking, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota said. “Our children deserve better than a Republican legislature that’d rather borrow billions from their future than close corporate tax loopholes.”

Alliance for a Better Minnesota is kicking off an Our Schools Matter campaign as part of its A Better Legislature campaign.

Here’s a snapshot of an interactive map that illustrates which school districts are at risk. (Just click on the link or the map itself to go to the site and play around with it.)


{ 0 comments }

Minnesota Republicans covered massive budget shortfalls last spring by an accounting trick. They decided not to give schools the money they promised them. Of course, after all our schools had budgeted based upon the amounts they’d been promised. Republicans call this bit of Enron accounting a “shift.”

The brilliant minds amongst the Republican legislative leadership have come up with a solution to the crisis they’ve caused our education system: pay back schools out of the state’s reserve fund.

Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing to tap two thirds of the state’s budget reserve to pay back a portion of a K12 school shift they used to balance the budget in 2011.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says the measure is part of a K12 bill that will be heard in committee tomorrow. He said paying back schools with $430 million from the state’s budget reserve is a better use of the money.

“If you look at accounting principles, it’s better to reduce your debt and reduce your liabilities than to have that cash sitting around,” Garofalo said.

What’s that you ask? Isn’t the reserve meant for rainy day or don’t we have to repay the the reserve fund or when are we going to repay the entire IOU?

Quit being so negative. Never you mind. Nothing to see here.

Republicans never fix problems they cause … they just kick the can down the road. Aren’t y’all used to it, yet? Don’t you all remember Gov. Tim Pawlenty papering over his massive holes in his budgets with accounting tricks and various gimmicks?

What bad things happened other than a bridge fell down and Minnesota now has a structural deficit that will only cause our deficits to expand indefinitely?

{ 0 comments }

A Somali-American on Eden Prairie Schools

by JeffStrate on December 30, 2011 · 0 comments

Ahmed Jama is a Somali-American advocate for educational equity and an activist in closing the educational achievement gap between the haves and have nots.  In 2011, the Eden Prairie School District implemented plans to accommodate the high profile suburb’s large population of Somali immigrants; close the learning gap; deal with budget challenges and prevent increasing levels of segregation in one of its elementary schools.  But the changes were strongly opposed by a highly politicized group of parents sporting various handles including “Yes for Neighborhood Schools” and “Eden Prairie School Board Accountability.”  They protested that they didn’t want their kids bussed to schools outside their neighborhoods and effectively pressured school superintendent Dr. Melissa Krull to leave and elected four candidates to Eden Prairie’s School Board.  The word on the facebook accounts mostly associated with EP’s McMansion land is that the new board will dismantle some or all of the decisions that Mr. Jama and many other Eden Prairians supported and national education groups have applauded.   This video is a segment with Mr. Jama on the current edition of Democratic Visions, a public and political issues program that I produce through DFL Senate District 42.  Link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

{ 0 comments }

They Live Among Us – scary video

by JeffStrate on November 5, 2011 · 0 comments

NOTE:  We’ve removed “They Live Among Us” from the internet in anticipation of a director’s cut version that will include scenes deleted by the the State Video Board for Minnesota Nice.  Jeff Strate

About six weeks ago I discovered sewers of caustic gossip, conjecture, stereotyping, scapegoating and mud slinging targeting the elementary school boundary changes in Eden Prairie.  The stuff flowed though the mostly unmanaged Star Tribune, on-line reader comment trenches and two citizen groups: one calling itself “Yes for Neighborhood Schools” (website) and the other calling itself “Eden Prairie School Board Accountability” (facebook).

There are numbers of good, respectful and reasoned parents in these groups, but their collectives have provided a safe harbor and stage for bullies who lob insults, misinformation and rumor at school officials, consultants and parents who support school boundary changes and our Spanish emersion school.   They’re like adolescents who pout and scream when they don’t get their way.  They want to flip the school board during Tuesday’s vote and then bully the new board to roll back the clock to the days when Eden Prairie didn’t have so many immigrants.  

The scary thing is, these folks live down the block, shop at the same grocery stores and cheer for the Vikes and Twins just like I do.  They walk among us — which is the title of my latest Timid Video satire.  Enjoy Enjoy, but ask yourself this question:  Is Strate pricking an expanding bubble of Eden Prairie bigotry or is he dissing a progressive’s horror fantasies?

You be the judge.  

Here’s the YouTube direct link.

{ 0 comments }

New Report: Eden Prairie School Changes Good

by JeffStrate on November 4, 2011 · 0 comments

I received via email last night a new statement on the Eden Prairie School District boundary changes issued by the National Coalition on School Diversity  (NCSD).  The report has immediate relevance to residents of Eden Prairie who will vote in the Tuesday school board election — likely to be the most contentious one in Minnesota.

Contrary to some subscribers to the “Eden Prairie School Board Accountability”  Facebook venue and a group calling itself Yes for Neighborhood Schools, the NCSD analysis of Eden Prairie’s recent experience in re-aligning the boundaries of its schools, concludes that the changes have merit and were well thought out and open to the public.  

Link here for their Press Release; also, a .pdf copy of the report is available for downloading from my website at  JeffStrate.com.

The following is taken directly from the report’s Thursday November 4, 2011 cover letter.

National Civil Rights Groups Express Support for Eden Prairie School Diversity Efforts & Urge Local, State and National Leaders to Develop Plans for Promoting Racial and Economic Diversity and Avoiding Segregation in U.S. Suburbs.
The attached statement from the Nation Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) expresses support for educators in Eden Prairie, MN, who this year implemented a plan to reduce and prevent the concentration of poverty as one means toward providing high-quality schooling in economically, racially and culturally diverse environments. The controversy that changes to school boundaries triggered is, of course, local in nature. We have strong concern about Eden Prairie because recent events here bring to light the enormous challenges educators face in the nation’s growing number of suburban communities undergoing racial, cultural, linguistic and economic changes. In this attached statement, we urge equity-minded elected leaders, local residents, and state officials across the United States to draw lessons from Eden Prairie and act now to make stable, integrated, high quality public schools accessible to more children of all racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds

.

“The National Coalition on School Diversity is a network of national civil rights organizations, university-based research institutes, local educational advocacy groups, and academic researchers seeking a greater commitment to racial and economic diversity in K-12 education policy and funding. We seek to procure a more significant political and financial commitment to racial and economic integration. We also support the work of people and organizations in states and local communities who are trying to create, sustain and improve racially and economically diverse schools.”

For more information, visit: www.prrac.org

   contact info below the fold
 
MEDIA CONTACTS NCSD

Dr. Susan Eaton, Ed.D, Research Director, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School seaton@law.harvard.edu
617-216-6388

John Powell, J.D., Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and the Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University
powel008@yahoo.com
614-282-2785

LOCAL EDEN PRAIRIE CONTACTS

FORMER SUPERINTENDENT DR. MELISSA KRULL
Melissa Krull:  mkrull_mn1@comcast.net

SOMALI COMMUNITY LEADER, AHMED JAMA
Ahmed Jama  adamjama612@yahoo.com

KIM ROSS, Incumbent candidate EP School Board
kross@edenpr.org, (952) 975-9473

{ 0 comments }

Video: Dr. Melissa Krull Tribute

by JeffStrate on October 20, 2011 · 0 comments

Recently retired Eden Prairie Schools Superintendent Melissa Krull was honored by scores of parents and professional colleagues on Saturday October 15th for her support of educational equity and integration.

A small band of vocal parents — The Braxton Bullies — have opposed the EP School district’s re-alignment of grade school districts and other reforms.  Some of them express their untoward, pinched and sometimes mean opinion through anonymous postings in the online versions of the Star Tribune and local weeklies; a Facebook venue called “Eden Prairie School Board Accountability” and a blog named “The Activist Next Door.”

But Dr. Krull remains highly admired by a majority of residents inclding Eden Prairie’s large Somali Community.

Here’s the link to a video essay I produced about their tribute to Dr. Krull:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

{ 0 comments }

     Anoka-Hennepin School District and Saint Paul Public Schools are the two largest school districts in the state. Being of similar size, you would think the incidence of suicide would also be similar. Why is Anoka-Hennepin seeing epidemic child suicide levels while Saint Paul sees none?

   We’ve heard all too much about the horrors in Anoka-Hennepin. Their policy of just “ignoring it and it will cure itself” is about as dysfunctional as you can get. It’s not enough to empty the space of hatred, but we have to fill the void with care.

   When we confront Anoka-Hennepin, we need to give them positive alternatives. There is a perfect model literally next door. Saint Paul Public Schools has an official support office called Out For Equity.

   Saint Paul’s program supports the success of all children. Straight Saint Paul students have not been indoctrinated. They have not all turned gay just because Saint Paul supports LGBT students. Most importantly, Saint Paul children are not killing themselves.

   Saint Paul Public Schools Non-Discrimination policy (102.00) states:

No person shall, on the grounds of race, creed, sex, marital status, national origin, age, color, religion, ancestry, status with regard to public assistance, sexual or affectional orientation, familial status or disability be subjected to discrimination in any program operated by the school district or in recruitment, consideration, selection, employment or rates of compensation by the school district.

  The Saint Paul policy does not seem that outlandish. It has been in operation for years in St. Paul. It has not brought on the apocalypse. Read on for some more ideas that work. Ideas you can share with Anoka-Hennepin. Ideas I’m sure St. Paul Schools would love to share.  
       In Saint Paul, the training requires staff immediately deal with harassing behavior based on discrimination. The victims are supported in developing a stronger sense of self. The teachers actually use incidence as teachable moments of why discriminating against entire groups of people is wrong. It is wrong for race, religion, and creed, and it is wrong for orientation.

      Saint Paul’s Out For Equity does things like offer a safe place for LGBT and their friends to gather on Friday nights in a safe environment. They organize the gay straight alliances at all the High Schools. They also have in school support groups for LGBT students. One of their missions is also to reduce risky behavior by LGBT teens. When knowledge is swept under the carpet, teens and risky behavior go hand in hand. They are protecting our kids.

      Not all districts are Anoka-Hennepin. Some districts support all their students in all the ways they can. Don’t tell Anoka-Hennepin to just stop. Tell them to stop, and adopt proven positive programs. Heck, they only have to travel a few miles down 694 to learn how to save their own kids. In all these years, there has been no gay-pocalypse in Saint Paul.  

{ 0 comments }

WikiLeaks, EP Sun Current & Two Putt

by JeffStrate on August 19, 2010 · 0 comments

I catch up with stuff on weekends when I un-plug a clunky Saturday Night Live or after C-SPAN’s Sunday repeats of the consistently entertaining “Questions for the Prime Minister” from London.  

Two weekends back, I discovered some very good reporting in the Eden Prairie Sun Current, the New Yorker Magazine and a hint of things to come on MPP.  
If you are slow in the over-urgent blog world that swirls about, consider Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker piece about Wikileaks and its founder Jullian Assange: http://www.newyorker.com/repor… and departed Eden Prairie Sun Currentcommunity editor Chris Olwell’s piece and side bar on the difficulty citizens and journalists have had retrieving public information and data from the Eden Prairie School District.   ( http://www.mnsun.com/articles/… )

For me, the inside look at WikiLeaks was eye-opening.  WikiLeaks, rather than the thousands of gotchya, tracker and stalker videos on YouTube,  is the future of effective, keep ‘em honest and muckracking  journalism.  This is how the most savvy and bold of us are going to keep Big Brother from lulling and bullying the world into a few fascist spheres.  WikiLeaks, (sounds like a bladder control device) knows how to acquire and expose very important stuff that regular folks need to know about.  

For Big Brother, taking out WikiLeaks seems like an un-winnable game of Wak-A-Mole; hammer one or two sites down and others have already popped up.  Now we just need to keep the net neutral.

I followed the New Yorker piece to one of the WikiLeaks postings of the unedited, highly classified gun mount video of a 2007 U.S. chopper assault on armed, Baghdad insurgents.    I re-learned (or inferred) from watching the unedited version of the video that such a war does not protect us, it does not build democracy, it undercuts the lives and integrity of our troops and their families and it bankrupts both the national ethos and treasury.

Back in Eden Prairie, America’s best small city to live in (according to CNNMoney.com – and I agree with the designation), departed EP Sun Current editor Chris Olwell wrote a great investigative story on the Eden Prairie School District’s paranoid management of public documents and the media and likely violations of Minnesota’s open meeting laws.   Olwell needed to inoke the Minnesota Data Practices Act to force District Communications Director Cami Melton Hanily to gather the public emails that he needed to research his story.  His lead:

“For a public institution, there are a lot off things about the Eden Prairie School District that seem distinctly private.

Superintendent Melissa Krull is something of a recluse. She rarely grants media interviews, and when she does she’s always flanked by her Communications Director Camie Melton Hanily. She never deviates from the script.

Reporters who want to interview any staff or faculty member must go through a single point of contact, again Melton Hanily. This is the Media Policy.

Members of the School Board, the governing body elected to represent the citizens of Eden Prairie, are reluctant to speak publicly. Instead, the board is represented by Chair Kim Ross, who alone has the authority to speak for the board.

Requests for public information are rarely fulfilled without a struggle.”

Mr.Olwell also referenced the frustrating misadventures of several parents who had sought public records from the School District.

Olwell’s previous important look at Eden Prairie Mayor Phil Young’s  troubles with travel and meeting re-imbursement requests also depended on public documents and the Minnesota Public Data Request Act.  Olwell was mining the same hidden ore that MPP’s Two Putt Tommy Johnson had already been mining, posting about and speaking on at Eden Prairie City Hall.  

(“The Old Two Putter,” investigates, writes of, broadcasts on and shows up in person at public hearings and forums to hold tilted elected officials honest.)

Olwell benefited from Johnson’s reportage in crafting his own fine story.   To note:  Mr. Young, who I personally like, has decided not file for re-election.  

Instead, the growly-voiced, sleepy, out-of-touch, Senate District 42 Republican endorsed Jon Duckstad is running for Mayor.  But so too is still popular, former mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens.  Tyra-Lukens, an independent, savvy and smart public servant, will garner support all over town, except perhaps from the rigid, doctrinaire party Republicans, the one’s who helped Duckstad get into office four years ago.

All by way of suggesting that, in their respective venues WikiLeaks, Olwell and Johnson are doing good work.  Now, on to the future.

{ 0 comments }

Yesterday, occasional Minnesota Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would have saved school districts nearly a billion dollars.  Pawlenty vetoed the health coverage pool bill.  The bill would allow school districts to pool all of their teachers together and negotiate for the best insurance coverage and prices.

Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) had this to say in an email press release:

“This afternoon [yesterday], Governor Pawlenty vetoed legislation that would have established a new statewide health coverage pool for school district employees.  In doing so, he ignored the work of his own finance department, which determined this bill would have saved Minnesota school districts nearly $1 billion over the next ten years.

I am extremely disappointed by the Governor’s decision.  School districts are now spending close to $1 billion a year just to provide health insurance to their employees.  This bill would have significantly reduced those costs, ensuring more of our education dollars go where they’re needed most: the classroom.

Dibble goes on to accuse Pawlenty of holding significant cost savings hostage to get his partisan pet projects passed:

I’m even more troubled by the reason the governor gave for vetoing the bill.  On two separate occasions, the governor hinted that the fate of this bill was tied to the fate of his other education reform proposals.  Essentially, the governor told us that if we passed his proposals on alternative teacher licensure and eliminating tenure for teachers, he might reconsider his opposition to our proposal.

Governor Pawlenty was willing to throw away tens of millions of dollars in health care cost savings just to strengthen his bargaining position.  He took our bill hostage, and demanded an enormous ransom in return.

Good public policy should not be used as a bargaining chip.  Establishing a statewide health coverage pool would have benefited teachers, would have saved school districts money, and would have put more money into the classroom.  Now, thanks to the Governor’s veto, everyone loses.”

I would like to add to Dibble’s analysis that we should also consider the presidential implications of this veto.  If Pawlenty ever voted for a bill like this, he might be accused of being a “socialist” by his 2012 primary opponents.

{ 3 comments }