Tag Archives: Minnesota

Small Town Kindness

I’m sitting in my breakfast-nook-turned-office of our new home in our new town.  I decided I should take a break from the tasks of my new jobs (yes, jobs – plural) and share with the blog reading world about a little surprise moment that occurred earlier this week.

One of my new jobs is as the dean of students for Crosslake Community High School, a new online high school in Minnesota. The school hired me to problem solve, work with their students to ensure attendance and work completion, and to handle items such as admissions, graduation plans, and guidance counseling. I love the school board’s approach to this new venture as they are very cautious about how to proceed.  With no advertising at all, the program is full.  A learning lab is open five days a week with a licensed teacher supervising and assisting students with their planning and course completion. I am working from my sweet office in my house.

On Tuesday, I decided a quick trip to meet with staff and visit my students would make my life happy. Thankfully, the Minnesota Twins played a winning game that evening as I drove across North Dakota and Minnesota.  On Wednesday, I enjoyed my first “in person” full school day with the staff and students.  Crosslake Community Charter School has a seat-based kindergarten through eighth grade program from which the need for a high school option came.  Little people mix with my high school students in a way that reminded me of PACT Charter School.  The staff and students were so warm and welcoming to me…and they are hardly know me!

I have had some amazing experiences in K-12 education in Minnesota.

After a great day with the staff and students at CCCS, I headed out.  Because of our move, I needed to make a stop at the DMV in Pine River. It’s a long story as to why I was there, but I needed to take care of something…and doing it in person in Minnesota would speed up the process.

I had a hard time finding the right building. The DMV is housed in a building that seems to have multi-purposes. I think they sell watches, antiques, and jewelry there as well. Once I located the right building, I thought the transaction would be quick.  Nope. First there was a problem with the person in front of me…and then there was a problem with me.  The DMV person tried several times to make my credit card work, but it just wouldn’t go through.

Do you have cash or a check?”

No. I never have cash.  Well, not real cash. I often have change that totals a dollar or slightly more or slightly less.  But I rarely have real cash.  And I have a check even less often.  I was about to give up and just drive home without accomplishing my task knowing that I could take care of it through the mail.  But I really wanted to get it done! I was there…and I have a way to pay – just not in a way that was working.  Grr…

What I haven’t told is that there was an older couple in line behind.  They had patiently waited along with me through the issue of the customer in front of me, and they continued to patiently wait through my issue.  We had made small talk, and it turned out they lived near my school.

Could we help you out? I have a check…”

The retired woman got up from the waiting chair and took out her checkbook.  The DMV person shared the amount with her.  And before I could blink, the transaction was over, we had exchanged information, and I had promised to mail a check to pay them back.

As I drove away, I thought back to my hours of similar waiting experiences at the DMVs around the Twin Cities. They have systems that protect your privacy so that no one knows when you are frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset.  Had a similar situation occurred in the Twin Cities, there would have been no opportunity for a kind person to know that I had an issue.  It isn’t that people are nicer in small towns (though, that argument may be made by some).  It is rather, due to the numbers of people, that systems have been made in larger cities to separate us from each other.

In order to return “small town kindness” in larger settings, we have to open our eyes and ears so that we can lend our hand to another. Some may call that nosy – that is not what I am advocating.  Rather, I am urging us to look up from our feet (or our phones) and into the eyes of others around us to see the needs, some small…some great, and to offer our assistance when we can.

It is Friday.

Many of us have some time off in the next couple of days.

In the midst of what we have planned, do we have some margin available to give time to others?  I would love for readers to come back and share ways that they have helped or have been helped over the weekend.

ps: I really love my students – and I think some of them like me!

Some students attended the learning lab on Wednesday. We ate lunch together and had an "end of day" photo together.  It was great!

Some students attended the learning lab on Wednesday when I was at Crosslake Community High School. We ate lunch together and had an “end of day” photo together. It was great!




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Filed under Education, Relationships, Thoughts, Travel

Music Monday: You Were Born by Cloud Cult

One of the things that I love about blogging is connecting with people from all over and hearing what other people are into, what they like, and what is touching them or has become dear to their heart.

In response to last week’s Music Monday post about the potentially autobiographical elements of the song Carry On by Fun., my aunt sent me a Facebook message asking if I had heard the song You were Born by Cloud Cult.

I had not.

And I am disappointed that I had not up to that point.  Apparently it was featured on last week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother – another “I have not heard of it” moment. Like I would do with a truancy problem, I did some sleuthing and found that the sitcom has a very cool premise even though it is known for it’s “typical TV sexual references.”

Cooler than the sitcom, though, is the fact that Cloud Cult has its roots in Minnesota, and I currently live in Minnesota – so…very cool.

There are cooler things about this group.

After the death of his son in 2002, the lead song writer (Craig Minowa) wrote over 100 songs to deal with the loss.  They have since tackled many of life’s big questions.

Some of their performances include live “paint jobs.”  Check out the website!

I love uniqueness in the music industry.  With technology as it is, just about anyone could sound good on a recording these days.  However, groups like The Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, and now Cloud Cult have added elements (or taken them away) to make music in purer forms. When this happens, we are all drawn in and experience music along with the artists.

Check out You Were Born by Cloud Cult below.

Video found on YouTube. I hold no rights to this.


What I love most about this song is that it is essentially an oath…to love the baby forever and to be thankful no matter what comes “in this strange world.” 

And we have to believe that our children are born “to change this life.”

As we head into Monday, let’s remember what it means to bring children into the world.  And let’s do our best to protect them from harm wherever we are.  They are precious.

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Filed under Music

Life in “Standby” Mode?

It is the second half of the school year, and I am traveling quite a bit around the state of Minnesota.  As the dean of students for an online school, my primary role is to deal with attendance issues.  Yes – we take attendance in the online setting; it just looks a bit different than in a seat-based school.  If you ever want to attend a training on it, let me know – I have connections (or I will just run a webinar for you and you alone).

This role takes me to far-off place like International Falls where I can see Canada just across the river from a gas station on my way to court.  I drive almost everywhere, and my trusty Honda Civic’s stereo is my best friend as it pumps out the tunes or a book on CD.

On a recent trip, I realized that I was in complete silence as I drove. I could not remember when or why I had I had chosen silence over noise, but I had.


I played with the volume knob a bit before I glanced over to the stereo and saw that it was indeed in “standby” mode.


As I drove through the frozen tundra of Northern Minnesota, I realized that I was missing all of the beauty that was there for me to see.  I drove, day-dreamed, and “spaced out” – completely lost in thoughts that no longer have much bearing.  I doubt that the thinking was productive.  I doubt that the day-dreaming truly involved dreaming – by that I mean that I was not making future plans for great things in my family’s life.

I just stood by.

Well, in this case, I was sitting…and driving.

Regardless of what the position is – standing by, sitting by, laying by – life is going past us as we stand by.  Sometimes we have to wait. We wait on the Lord. We wait on other people to make decision. We wait.  But most of the time, at least in my life, I am not waiting on anyone else…I am just not being an active participant in life. 

I am letting it pass by me, allowing it to go on without much thought, and lacking much interest in how it impacts me until I am so unhappy about something that I stomp my feet and say, “Stop! This isn’t how I wanted it to be.”

But I had not taken any time to consider how I did want it to be.  I had not actively done anything to make it go differently.  So when I get to point B without realizing I had left point A, I want to blame everyone else rather than looking in the mirror.

When I live in standby mode, I am to blame for life going in certain directions.

I give life implicit permission when I do not explicitly take a daily inventory of how I want it to be.  And – if I do not take time to consult God about how He might want my life to go, I certainly cannot blame Him when it just goes poorly.

Is this happening to anyone else?  Are there some times that we let this happen more than others? Or perhaps in certain areas of our lives more than others?

I would love to hear your thoughts today in the comment section!

PS: I have a renewed sense of wanting to write in this blog; however, I think that a daily submission might be overly ambitious at the present way that life is.  I am hoping to have  a Monday-Wednesday-Friday submission routine down.  It’s March 1, and some things need to change and be re-prioritized.  I hope that this sense of ambition remains!

How are you all?


Filed under faith, health, Thoughts, Travel

Fair Weather Fan

Tonight the Minnesota Vikings square off against the Green Bay Packers in what should be an interesting game regardless of the outcome.  Most of the people in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin will have their eyes on this game either by choice or by force.  And the rest of the nation will at least give it some attention as the outcome determines which team plays next week in the division games against teams with better records than either the Vikings or the Packers.  As I clearly have little working knowledge about how the next few weeks in football work, I refer readers to nfl.com for more information about the importance of this game.

Readers of this blog may find it curious that I am writing about this, but I am emotionally invested in this game and feel like I have to write about it before I burst.

I will admit that I am not typically a football fan.

I like baseball and love the Minnesota Twins.  I have been known to put off social plans when the Twin make the play-offs so that I can sit at home and watch the games. This often involves paying for cable television again for a time which is different than our typical way of working as a family.  If you think I’m a fan, though, you should meet my Grandma Lois.  She took it personally when Torii Hunter was traded, and she has been known to watch re-runs of games just because she enjoys them regardless of the outcome (it is possible that she doesn’t know that they are re-runs, but that is not as good of a story).

The sport that really gets me going is hockey, and I am very specifically a UND (team formerly known as the) Fighting Sioux fan.  I come by this pretty naturally as most Grand Forks natives are fans.  I even had a pillow in 7th grade that had buttons of #14 and #15 from the 1986-1987 team. When I found out that Jim Archibald (#15 – who also holds the record for time spent in the penalty box) coaches high school hockey in Brainerd, I was tempted to go watch a game there.  I know the rules in hockey, and they make sense.

Football doesn’t make sense to me.

It is strange then that I am invested in tonight’s game.  I realize that this is the case, but – as often is the case in all things in life – this happened by a slow brainstorming of sorts as the season occurred this year.

Step One – the Photo

523139_4070158226943_1258369474_nOn August 13, 2012, the huz changed his Facebook profile picture to the one at the left.  After a few people liked the photo, he added the following statement, “[The photo] will stay up as long as the Vikings are at .500 or better.”  It was as if he was daring the Vikings to have a mildly successful season.  Last year’s season ended with a record of 3-13-0, so a season of .500 or better seemed like a lofty goal to me.  But the photo has stayed all season. *jaw-drop*

Step Two – the College Kids

When I resigned from being the church nursery “Sunday School teacher,” I took on the privilege of driving a van to Northwestern College to pick up students for the service.  I often drove the return trip as well, and I quickly learned which station played the Vikings game each week. Trust me when I say that we have some pretty die-hard fans in this group.  One Sunday, on a ride home alone after a few weeks of doing this, I found myself listening to the game without needing to do so.  I started caring if Blair Walsh kept up his awesome field goal record.  I started caring about Adrian Peterson’s “run” toward the record.  I was sucked in.

The Last Straw – The Packers

I love a good sports rivalry.  As a (team formerly known as the) Sioux fan, my blood burns against the gophers and the badgers.  I wouldn’t cheer for their hockey teams in any situation.  I am for the Sioux and for anyone playing against the gophers and the badgers (good Sioux fans – even English teachers who know to capitalize the names of teams – do not capitalize these names).  The only time I have any trouble choosing whom to cheer for is when they play against each other.  In that case, I default to how the game will influence the Sioux’s chances of advancing in the play-offs.

Therefore, it simply follows that last week’s game – undoubtedly the most important game so far in the Vikings’ season (beyond the fact that their season would have ended if they had lost) – became one of distinct interest to me.  A good rivalry is something I can get my mind around even if I don’t understand what is happening (let’s face it, if you can see the ball go in the end zone, you know it is a touchdown.  Any other rule isn’t all that important, is it?).  So we invited a bunch of friends over, made good food, and cheered on my team.  Some of my family members (even the pastor!) wore purple to church last week.

And now we are back again today: the same teams, a different field, and a lot at stake.  The winner goes on to play another game. The loser goes home in shame.  We have invited the same group of people over, we will make some good food, and we will all cheer for my team. 

Some may call me a fair-weather fan.

And I will not argue that with them.  But consider this: when the weather is fair, why would I not be a fan?

Go, Vikings!!!


Filed under Thoughts

Divorce, Custody, and the Government–Oh MY!

IMG-20120520-00484Sunday was my 17th wedding anniversary.  With every year that passes, I am more and more grateful for the man who said “I do” even though “for worse” at times describes our lives more than “for better” does.  We have learned, grown, and gone through trials. As we come out still married at the end of each bump in the road, we realize that we are part of a rare crew – those who stay married.  We do not say this with pride because it has less to do with us than it does to do with God and His role in our lives and in our marriage.  Maybe a little bit of stubbornness plays a role in our sticking it out, but really – the glory goes to God.

Yesterday morning I woke up and, as often is the case, I read some news on my phone. I typically scroll through the headlines and read those that catch my eye.  I care less about how many fish the Minnesota governor caught during the fishing opener than I do the laws that await his signing.  Today, the headline about a statute that hits home in my own life caught my eye.

Click on the title to read it: Proposed Custody Changes Await Governor’s Signature

I posted info about this on Facebook and asked my plethora of friends to respond.  I heard from many whom I anticipated would respond, and I also heard from some voices that are not normally in my “commenting” crowd.  All had strong opinions and good questions.  Many spoke from personal experience as a child of divorce or parents who had been through a divorce.

Thank you to all who responded as you have assisted me in clarifying my own thoughts!

Thought #1

As much as possible, I firmly believe that those who bring children into the world should stay together.  I doubt that those who legalized divorce in (insert statistics here) ever anticipated that in 2011 more children would live without both biological parents than those who do. In my faith life, I would definitely say that no one should seek to tear apart what God has joined together. My preference would be that our country be filled with marriages and families with a firm foundation of faith; however, the divorce rate is as high (if not higher) in the Christian church in the US than in the general population.

In my opinion, we have become victims to a lie that we deserve better than what we have chosen, that we should not have to work so hard at our marriages, and that infractions or betrayals are “good enough” reasons to abandon the marriage ship.  However, if forgiveness reigns in our hearts, lives, relationships, and marriages, staying together can be an option. (Note: I do not support anyone staying in dangerous relationship, so please, please do not hear that!!!)

When my husband and I do the premarriage counseling session on communication and forgiveness, he always states that we do not forgive our spouse or expect forgiveness from our spouse because we deserve it.  We do so because God forgives us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross – an act of forgiveness that we did not deserve.  Those who look in on our marriage might wonder, “What struggles have they had that they would even know what I have endured?”  Although I am very candid in my blog, I have not “bared all”…and there are things that we have struggled through that have been very difficult – in the same way that most couples would be able to say this.  There are times that we have both wondered, “What did I get into?”

And we have chosen to forgive –  not because the other deserved it but because we chose to follow God’s example in this area.  Staying together is not easy, but separating does not seem all that easy either.

Thought #2

Divorce happens.

Because we are human, we make choices, others make choices, and sometimes all of that ends in divorce.  I would not stand on this side of the blog and say that I judge another because they have gone through divorce because that is not my place. It is my place to encourage and support marriages to stay together; in fact, regardless of our faith convictions, we probably can all agree that –in the majority of cases – staying married is the best choice.

Although we can believe this, know this, and live this, we have to recognize that divorce happens. I can believe what I stated in Thought #1, still be a realist, and accept that divorce happens.

Thought #3

Divorce hurts everyone involved, but it causes a great deal of issues for children. No one whom I respect argues with this.  I know this personally as my own parents were divorced when I was very young. Although I believe that everyone involved did the best that they were able, I still had a very rough time navigating what it meant for my parents not to be together.

Thought #4
The government should not have to legislate common sense.  A couple of the commenters on the Facebook thread really took this to task.  Why are we legislating what should be common sense?  Research supports that children survive divorce better when both parents are involved.  If that is common sense, then why should we have a law on the books?
I have to say that I tend to agree.
However, common sense has not ruled since custody battles started.  A couple of dad commenters (so glad to hear from them!!!) supported the need for legislation to support their rights to co-parent.  In the past, there has been a stigma against dads; yet, I know many who have been raised entirely by their dads, and they have come out with no more issues than I who grew up with my mom having 100% custody (ok…no crack jokes about my subscription of issues!!).

In fact, IF we are going to legislate at all, why are we going only to 35% and not to 50%?  Why would we not start out with the understanding that children who have 50% of the DNA from each parent should have input from each parent 50% of the time?  Honestly, these are just questions….I don’t really have all the answers – even if I act like I do…

Thought #5

In Stacy’s world, this is how things would go:

  • Unless there is compelling evidence of abuse, all custody arrangements should start at 50-50.   As a nation, we need to recognize that both parents are necessary in a child’s life.  If there is evidence or concern of abuse or neglect, that should be brought up to the court and taken into consideration.  However, dads have been neglected for far too long, and – in some cases – they have been allowed to neglect for far too long.
  • Every child whose parents are getting divorced should be assigned a guardian ad litum (yes – parents would have to pay for this as part of the divorce).  Guardians are “pro-child” – they are not to have anyone’s interest in mind except the child’s interest.  They would recommend to the parents and the courts what would be best if the 50-50 was not the best choice.  There might be times when 50-50 living conditions are hard (example: when children attend school in a district that is far from one parent’s home).  This needs to be addressed.
  • Parents need to realize that their lives will be inconvenienced, and that is just how it should happen.  While the ones who could not “make it work” move on (often re-marry, etc.), children go on living in the state of divorced-ness for the rest of their lives.  The parents are the ones who need to bend over backwards to make sure that life is as health as possible for their children.
My Last Thought

What is best for most children is that they are raised by the two parents who contributed their creation.  However, as in the case also of foster care and adoption, this is not true of children with divorced parents.  Because of this, legislation should not be in place, but judges and other law-parts involved in custody cases should be educated that both parents (except in exceptions) should be allowed and expected to have involvement in their children’s lives.

In closing, ParentFurther.com has a FREE webinar (click here to sign up!) coming up about how moms can make room for fathers.  I know that I often get in the way of my husband’s fathering, so I plan to attend and see what they have to say.  You can too – they are always at noon, so take your lunch hour and learn some parenting stuff!


Filed under Education, faith, Parenting

Exploring Minnesota–Testing Style

It is testing season in the Minnesota education world. Children and teachers alike dread this time.  Kids do not like to take tests – especially ones that take a long time. Since all kids test at difference speeds, there is frustration that abounds.  There is so much to this, but that is not the point of this email.

As an online educator, testing season brings specific challenges. Although the curriculum my online school is entirely online, testing needs to be done in person in a specific location.  My school sends out testers to locations all around the state to test kids on site.  We try to make it so that no student has to drive more than two hours for a testing site on the first round – that was last week.  We are now on round two for those who missed last week; their drive might be a bit longer.

Minnesota is a huge state – about 360 miles from east to west and about 407 miles from north to south.  To put this into perspective for my Rhode Island relatives: 149 Rhode Islands would fit into Minnesota.

I have been on the road since 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday to support this state-wide testing effort. It just so happened that some truancy court cases coincided with some needs that we had.  I spent Tuesday dealing with International Falls. If I had taken my passport along, I could have visited Cananda!  On Wednesday, I headed to Grand Rapids. And today, I will am in Two Harbors.

I have had a great week!!!

I have seen wooded areas, wide open areas, lakes, lakes, and more lakes.  And I have crossed the Mississippi River more times than I can remember.  I even saw a little snow bank!  I have seen lighthouses, birds of prey that I cannot identify, and border patrol officers.  I have seen signs for wild rice, maple syrup, and organic veggies.

While watching (on TV) the Red Sox and Twins battle it out last night, I saw a GREAT tourism commercial for Minnesota.  Please check out the video by clicking here – it is so great!

I love Minnesota. I love its variety of landscape, its wonderful people, and its excellent roads – even if I wish the speed limits on the non-interstate roads were faster. I love this state.  And I love my job which has allowed me to Explore Minnesota a lot in three days!

Happy Thursday!

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Filed under Education, Travel

A Day in Small Town Minnesota

Another day of travel for truancy meetings and court today led me to some truly awesome finds.  The girl joined me today because she is on spring break, and we had a great day! This was not how I thought the girl would want to spend one entire day of her break, but having a driver-secretary-companion along for an eleven hour day was something that I will miss next Tuesday when I head to Duluth and Hibbing without her.

The girl had a great time shopping at the Albertville outlet mall while I had my first meeting in Wright County.  We then headed south toward Watonwan County.  About an hour and a half into the drive in that direction, we thought that lunch needed to be found.

And find we did!


Cindy’s Kitchen on the west side of Hwy 169 in Belle Plaine, Minnesota, sits across the highway from Emma Krumbee’s – far more famous but far less yummy.  The girl and I had vegetable beef soup that had a tomato juice base (I asked Cindy herself!), and it was very good.  The girl also ordered fries. They were the thick ones that the girl likes but are not my favorite.  Great food.  Great value.  Excellent service.  Will I go back?  Yes, indeed!

From there, we headed south to St. James where I had court hearings for a couple of students.  The girl had researched ahead of time and had found that a coffee shop – The Stray Cat – is located near the courthouse on the main street of town.


This seems to be a great place to hang out – in fact, when I returned to collect the girl, a group of women sat in the corner pictured below as they planned some big event.


If you head to this coffee shop, be sure to bring cash because they do not accept credit.  They do, however, trust you.  The nice man behind the counter was willing to bill me and let me send him a check.  Fortunately, the girl and I scraped together the $5.15 that we owed the shop.


I have to admit that there is something very appealing about living in a town like this.  Even though the nearest Culvers and Target are hours away, I might be able to learn to love the pace of life and the “know your neighbor” way of life in this small town.


Especially because they have a movie theater.  Guess what is playing?

That’s right – The Hunger Games.


Filed under Travel

Charter Schools: Serving Those Left Behind

A few weeks ago, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty released a report about the state of charter schools in Minnesota.  One of the biggest issues was, as usual, student performance.  The other issue was news to me that this was even an issue worth talking about – segregation.  Before I tackle these accusations with my thoughts, I would like to step back and speak a bit about my experience with charter schools.

In the past nine years, I have had the joy of working in three different charter schools. Each was different in its focus, but each one succeeded in reaching students who may not have otherwise been reached.  PACT Charter School’s focus is to create a partnership among parents, students, and teachers in order to build the best school experience possible for all.  With a special education population of 20-25%, this school’s focus attracts families who have felt left behind in the IEP process.  Wolf Creek Online High School’s focus was to reach students through its online curriculum.  Each student has a teacher-advisor who has a caseload of only 25 students. This allows for a personalized education plan that allows student to choose the level of rigor that they desire.  My current employer, Minnesota Transitions Charter Schools, has a school for everyone. Students who want to learn online have two options; students who want to pursue health or digital media careers will find a place for them as well.  When the need for a Somali focused school in the metro area surfaced, MTS answered the call.

In addition to working in charter schools, my own children attended a charter school. We were happy with our children attending the local district school until the teachers there thought that they would be better served in a more challenging environment.  Although investing in our community school was important, our children’s education was also a priority.  We would not have considered a charter school until this suggestion by the district teachers themselves who saw our children needing more challenge that the hours and hours of reading and math instruction.

Each of these schools had its birth in one common foundation – student need.  If there had not been a need for the type of school that a charter school is, the school would not succeed.  Each of the three schools in which I have worked has succeeded – they are financially sound, their enrollment continues to grow steadily, and some even have waiting lists. They are able to find and retain committed teachers without the chains of union bureaucracy. I can be assured that I will have a job next year as long as I continue to do my job.  I do not have to worry about losing my position to the person above me with more seniority who decides she wants my job.  I also can negotiate my pay (and will only be granted a raise if I perform) rather than seeing what I should expect based on steps and lanes.  This keeps me in charter schools and probably will for the rest of my education career.

So – why the criticism of charter schools?

Student performance typically comes under the microscope whenever we talk about schools in general but especially when we talk about charter schools who apparently, though created in legislation, are not considered “real schools” unless they out-perform the traditional district schools. Consider for a moment that students in charter schools rarely start in the charter schools as most students start at the charter school where they test.  This is especially true at the high school level where students become more mobile.

Imagine if you were tested on your parenting skills with children that you received only weeks before the test? Is it fair to hold any school accountable for the reading abilities of 10th graders who likely had reading instruction at several different schools between kindergarten and 9th grade? Would it not be more important for us to focus on individual student improvement rather than the percentage of students who have achieved some determined number on a tests?

I recently had a conversation with a person who works at a charter school in the metro area. I will not name names or schools as I fear that it might cause negative retribution for this school and teacher.  The person mentioned the fact that a co-worker’s class was making leaps and bounds of improvement in both reading and math, but the students in this class would still not be considered at grade level by the end of the year. This means that the school will likely be on the “naughty” list that is published each summer after the MCA tests are scored.  Would it not be a good idea to mention, in some way, the improvements made by students?  I understand the need for standardized tests, but can we not also have some measure of improvement?  If a student is in 10th grade and started the year at a 6th grade reading level, would it not be impressive if that student made it to 8th grade reading level by the end of the year?  Yes – the student still misses the mark for the standard, but do we disregard the improvements made by only seeing the “failing” mark yet again?

I have digressed…

In the latest report on charter schools, they were “docked” because of their segregation.  With schools that focus on the Hmong, Somali, and Native American populations, I guess this is a fair criticism.  The question I have is, ‘”So what?”

Charter schools are a choice. There is not a single charter school in Minnesota that has district boundaries that require anyone to attend them.

There is something about these schools that attracts the students to them. Perhaps parents are more comfortable because someone at the school speaks their native language.  Perhaps the fact that most kids have ESL classes rather than feeling singled out is attractive to students who struggle with English.  Whatever the attraction, it is there, and we must remember that charter schools are choice.  If segregation happens, it is should not immediately be seen as a problem. Rather, we should question what it is that makes this segregation appealing.

If certain populations are feeling better served in a “segregated setting,” that should tell us all that something is missing in the traditional setting. Charter schools, with their local control, [often] smaller classes, and specific focus, seem to attract some populations.  Those families feel as though they are being served well in those settings.  If they were not, the school choice would allow them to change settings.  I am still not sure what the point of this criticism was.

Are there bad charter schools?  Of course!  Are there bad district schools? Of course!  The difference between bad charter schools and bad district schools, though, is that there is an accountability level for charter schools – both at the department of education level as well as at the sponsor level.  When was the last time that the department of education recommended that a district close one of its schools?

Charter schools have their place.  I am obviously a huge proponent of charter schools. I love the fact that teachers, community members, and parents make up the school boards of charter schools.  I love that, although many schools give stipends for board members’ attendance at meetings, no board member could make enough to consider it even their part-time job.  I love that charter school board members did not affiliate themselves with a political party when running for election.

If there had not been a need for charter schools, they would not exist.  Rather than constantly finding all of the reasons why they are bad (which, by the way, are typically the same reasons that traditional school districts are bad), we should focus on what they teach us about the schools that existed before they did.  What lessons should we learn from them, how can we make all schools “good” for all students, and how can we ensure that no student is left behind?

If you want more information about charter schools in Minnesota, check out their website: http://mncharterschools.org.

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Yep – it arrived.  Up until now, we have not had more than a few inches, but 4-5 inches fell on Monday.  May are thankful; others are cursing.

What am I doing?


Blogging, of course!

I did choose to stay home on Tuesday and create my own snow day.  Thankfully, I can work from home when my daily schedule permits.  The rest of the week is filled with court appearances, so I will not be home for long!

I honestly have no real concern that the snow is here, but I am not thrilled either.  It is time-consuming for those who have to shovel, and it requires a bit more thought when driving.

What about you, readers?  Happy that it is here or annoyed?


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Homeless for Christmas?

As I drove home from work the other day, I passed a few people standing on busy corners with signs saying “homeless” or “need food” or “out of work, please help.”  Because of the route I drive, this sight is not new to me.  In fact, it happens so often that I could not even tell you if the same people are on the same corners each day as I pass them.  I am often oblivious, caught up in my own thoughts and ready to transition from work to home. But I had a strange thought the other day as I drove home and passed the sign-holders.

We sing about being home for Christmas…what happens when there is no home to go to?  Would the song change?  I’ll be home[less] for Christmas…doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, and I doubt that Bing Crosby would have sounded so good to the ear.  The words would have to change significantly…I don’t think that homeless people would beg for snow, and they won’t have a tree to put presents under.  I’m not trying to be absurd; these are really the thinks I think!

I live in Hennepin County which likely has the largest homeless population in Minnesota. In 2010, the Wilder Foundation estimated that nearly 10,000 people were homeless in Minnesota.  Nearly half of that number are children or youth.  If they are fortunate on any given night, they call a shelter home.  If they are not, home is the street.  That is a lot of people!  I googled (don’t you love how that is an acceptable verb now?) the population of Jamestown, ND.  It is around 15,500 at best guess.  I went to college there, and that seems like a lot of people to be homeless.  It is.  That is what is so hard to fathom.  An entire ND town’s population is a close estimate to the number of homeless people in MN.  That’s crazy talk.  And this is the United States of America – the richest country in the world?

I often write of problems – my own and the problems of others.  At Christmas time and other holiday times, the problems that we think of have to do with the loss that we feel because of a loved one who is no longer with us or because things just haven’t gone well for us this year with our job, with other family members, or in our personal lives.  But when faced with the problem of not having a home, that really gets down to the bare bones of things.

I have issues.  Sometimes when I say that, my husband responds, “You have a whole subscription.”  And I get really focused on my issues.  I get bent out of shape.  I throw little 37 year old tantrums. Things are not the way I want them to be, the way I think they should be, or even the way I think I deserve them to be.  I want. I want. I want.  And I get so wrapped up in myself that I forget that the world does not revolve around me.  I forget that a world exists outside of my walls and my brain, and I get really wrapped up in that.

But I cannot look at my own life with any integrity and say that I have problems in the same way that I would if I did not have a home.  I cannot imagine what that would be like.  I am where I am because of a series of events, decisions, other people, and choices that those other people have made for me.  When we say things like that, we often follow that up with, “And I thank God for that.”  I thought about this as I drove home the other day.  Would a homeless person thank God for shelter tonight night?  I am guessing that they would.  Should I see myself as more blessed than they are?  No way.  The fact that I have when they have not places responsibility on me to look outside of myself and their needs.

Christmas has historically been a time when we give presents.  In today’s culture, for the most part, I think that we just give what we would give anyway – it doesn’t really take the holiday.  That game that we wanted would have been bought regardless of Christmas.  For some of us, we are just exchanging wealth.  We thoughtlessly throw our wealth at loved ones who rarely appreciate it because it is not much of a sacrifice anyway.  And in the meantime, those with actual needs go without for another night.

This past Sunday, my huz preached a sermon about how we can do miracles.  He did this really cool thing where he had the kids of congregation sit on the steps up to the stage while he preached.  And he preached to them almost the entire time.  It was interactive, he asked them questions, and he let them answer.  He talked about how God meant for us to be the miracles.  Feed the hungry.  Heal the sick.  Give shelter to the homeless.

In sending His son to the earth as a baby, God sacrificed part of Himself.  I doubt that the Trinity considered our reaction to this sacrifice before they did it.  The miracle of Christmas leads to the salvation provided through the cross of Easter.  Our response should be that of sacrifice as well.  Instead of exchanging wealth with those who have no needs, perhaps we should consider being the miracle that God intends us to be and provide for those with great needs.

Who can we bless this Christmas?

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