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.