I just can’t believe it has been 40 years since we graduated from St. Olaf College in 1974. What fun to see our classmates on campus for Reunion Weekend May 30-31! The theme of this reunion was clearly retirement–or for some, our next life phase. I like to call that phase “preferment,” meaning we do what we prefer. I was stunned at the number of our classmates already retired or close to it. As for me, I’m still reinventing!
It was especially nice to be hosted by our St. Olaf College President, David Anderson, who was our 1974 classmate. We all know his deep student secrets, and we weren’t afraid to share them. Great fun! We were reminded by our class MC that when we graduated in 1974, the 40–year reunion class that attended our graduation was the class of 1934. Now that was sobering. We are just ten years away from becoming 50-year reunion “Golden Oles.”
I was pleased to return to Alumni weekend as an “Ole author.” I joined my fellow alumni authors to sign books outside the St. Olaf bookstore. My classmate, Jerry Winegarden (right), stopped by to get a book. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where we both attended Duke for our education post-St. Olaf. I went to law school, and he went to graduate school, but he never left Durham. Instead, he became a computer specialist, and even supported some charter schools in Durham. Now there’s a forty-year cycle of coincidence!
I was honored to be chosen as an alumni speaker for our “Alumni College” during the weekend. After sharing the origins of public school choice and chartering in Minnesota and the nation, our alumni class joined me in a robust discussion of the impact of chartering on public education today. Our “students” were from across the country, and each had a different experience and understanding of chartering. It was fascinating. There was my classmate, Dave Hagman, who founded and led a charter school in northern Minnesota with his wife. There was the superintendent of the Rockford, MN School District which authorized one of the early charter schools called Skills for Tomorrow. Both shared their positive experiences with chartering. There was the man from Kentucky worried that chartering would come to his state (one of 8 states in the nation without chartering), and there was the educator from Arizona who said that charter schools were “out of control” in Arizona, and there wasn’t even an “opposing view” on charters in Arizona. In some ways, she was right; I agree that the charter school movement in Arizona grew too fast, and they are now taking steps to hold their charter schools more accountable, as intended under the law. Finally, there was the lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers who told me afterwards he “disagreed with about everything I said,” but as another 1974 classmate, he respectfully refrained from the post-discussion.
My alumni class on chartering was truly a cross-section of views across America. It is why I’m on a mission to continue to share the pioneering charter school story and dispel the myths of chartering!