We've fallen a little behind on keeping up with blogging while on Road to Success. (In short, Minnesotans have kept us busy!) A few thoughts before we rest up for a busy day tomorrow in Bemidji…
The feedback we've received from teachers to parents and school leaders to community leaders has been content-rich, specific and substantative. We'll need some time to really digest what we're hearing, and also to organize both creative, new ways of thinking and prevailing themes.
We spent yesterday criss-crossing Brainerd and Verndale. Our stop included spending a good chunk of the day at the Native American Education Summit (in the accompanying picture, I'm speaking with representatives from the Minnesota Historical Society at the summit), and taking time to also connect with:
- Tom Riitters, the principal at Verndale school (about 30 minutes outside of Brainerd and a Top 10 School) to learn about how a rural school is preparing kids for college and careers, and fostering professional learning communities for teachers. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Verndale has also made preschool access a top priority even before Race to the Top and MinneMinds.
- Jennifer Smith, who leads the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties, to learn about the services and programs the community offers to supplement and support area schools. For example, the area United Way receives funds from Dolly Parton's foundation to supply any willing low-income family with young children one book every month that is not only mailed to their house, but is age appropriate. As a result, 1,700 local kids access new books each month, and early ed through first-grade teachers have a good handle on what kids are reading at home.
- Other local community leaders. The Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce was gracious enough to convene about 10 community leaders to meet with us and discuss steps Brainerd has taken in recent years to substantially align and coordinate school-community-business efforts to advance student achievement. Attendees ranged from the superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools to the vice-chair of Gov. Dayton's Workforce Development Council.
We'll share more when time permits, but wanted to send along some notes before we shift gears for our next stop.