Last night wasn’t just a book discussion. It was an emotional coming-home party with my long-time fellow members and supporters from the Crystal, New Hope, East Plymouth League of Women Voters, organized by Gini Hickman, Lois Wendt, and New Hope Mayor Kathi Hemken. The League chose my book, Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story, for a group discussion–did that ever make my heart sing! They chose the book because they knew me so well during that journey, and because another League member, Sandra Peterson, was a key player and opponent in the story as well. Sandy was the President of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT) at the time the charter school bill passed. She later became a state representative from New Hope.
In a very special discussion, Sandy and I shared our personal experiences and tensions of twenty plus years ago, and how our views on chartering have evolved. I learned in writing the book that while the MFT opposed chartering, Sandy was a true reformer. She still is! Currently she and Louise Sundin, a Minneapolis teacher union leader, serve on the board of the firstunion-initiated charter school authorizer in the country: the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools. Today we are all focusing on ways we can provide teachers the autonomy they deserve to lead and do what they do best: help children learn.
It was painful back in 1991 to part ways from my union friends over charter schools. But that disagreement never prevented a continuing friendship and bond that was renewed last night. I’m grateful to Sandy and Louise for that. It is possible to disagree on an issue and yet focus on the common goal. Don’t we need more of that in politics today?