School 2023-24

Yesterday, the day after Labor Day, was the first day of school here.  At my coffee place, the Blackboard had been cleaned and a question for the day appeared:

The previous day, I’d stopped by the Middle School where my daughter is Principal, and gave her my more or less annual calendar taken at the Education Minnesota (state teachers union) booth at the State Fair.  I had posed for the free photo a few days earlier (see below).  Tuesday, ours was a 30-second meeting – it was, after all, day one of the school year, and managing a 1000 student school is not easy.

Here’s the pdf version, easier to use: 2023 Calendar.

The place called school has always been complicated, never more so than today.  I have certain ‘street creds’ on the topic, being the oldest child of career public school teachers, and a lifelong connection to public schools in varying capacities.

My daughters school has about a thousand kids.  Begin with the reality that every student has two parents, from all of the variations of families.  The kids often have siblings, and friends and other associations.  More than most occupations, public education is intensely personal.

Public Schools has an essential but oft-overlooked function.  The school is an essential preparation for the child preparing for independence and  immersion in the larger world outside the home – a transition from which a child cannot be insulated.

Kids need to learn how to get along, often with others they might not normally associate with.  This includes not only other students, and teachers, but all range of other school employees, cooks, custodians, etc., etc., etc.  All are human beings, with all the complexity that comes with that.  We see this every day in our own environments.  Public ed mirrors our own selves.  Life is not always ideal; it is always real.

My youngest grandkid is about to finish high school, the last of nine.  I’ve watched them all from a Grandpa’s perspective.  Like society in general, they are not “identical twins”, none of them.

We adults know the drill from experience, how it is to grow up.  For the kids, its on the job training, as it was for us.  Adults who teach and have other roles in school are helpers in this transition, and we each have our own memories.


Years ago, before I retired, I was assigned to do a couple of workshops at the annual Summer Leadership Conference of my teachers union, then called MEA.  I don’t remember the specific topic of the workshop; I will never forget what happened.

I decided to start the workshop by asking participants, most of them teachers with lots of experience, to think back to their own years as a student, then to think of a school employee who really made a difference for them, then to pick a word or two to describe what it was about that school employee that made a difference in their lives.

Long story short: the entire workshop ended up devoted to the feedback from participants.  Only a single person, of perhaps 40 in all, could not come up with anyone who had made a positive difference in his life.

Later I recorded the words that had been used.  They are below.  Use them your self to identify someone (not necessarily only a school employee) who stood out in your own life.  You might find it of interest.  Here is a pdf of the illustration: Qualities of Educators.

(Of course, these are the best qualities of an exemplary educator defined by a veteran teacher who was once a student.  Every teacher would readily acknowledge that there are infinite variations from day to day in every interpersonal interaction in the school.  We all know about our own good days and bad days, and about the uncertainties of larger group and interpersonal dynamics.  But educators everywhere, every day, aspire to a better experience for all.)

I represented public school teachers for 27 years, and for nine years was one myself.  With an entire life in and with daily proximity to school employees I say with no hesitation: the public is very well served and public education is a great gift to children everywhere.

Have a great year.

POSTNOTE: I was sitting in the coffee shop when the first person wrote their comment.  She appeared to be middle school age, with perhaps an older sister and some of the sisters friends.

Her comment: “How to get out of the “prison”.  I also like my drink and the bagel.”

If/As I see other comments, I’ll add here.


There is hardly an institution in our country as “public” as the Public School.

In my own school district, South Washington County #833, in east suburban St. Paul, nearly 19,000 children, about 20% of the total population of about 100,000 in four distinct cities, depend on public participation and support.  This plays out again in a school referendum scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.

This years referendum is described here in a mailing to school district residents: Sowashco 833 Referendum 2023.  Here is more, from the District’s website as of Sep 9, 2023

This is a second run for this referendum – the first failed in August 2022, my opinion, lack of public participation.  About 20% of eligible voters voted against the referendum; only about 10% of the eligible voters voted for.  This meant about 70% of eligible voters didn’t show up, for all of the usual kinds of reasons.

So, the referendum failed, but the anti-referendum folks didn’t succeed, either.  The demonstrated needs remained, only now they are more expensive.  The blame game is not very persuasive.

Because school referendums are so locally centered, and because school board members are elected locally, and school staff are hired locally, there are all sorts of rules relating to school district lobbying for its own funding.  There are in fact rules.  Here are the rules from last year: Sowashco 833 Rules 2022.  If the school district officials do not seem to be vigorously supporting their own referendum, it is because they are not allowed to, by law and policy.

As was true last year, this year all indications are that the recommendations were made carefully, based on needs.  But beyond the recommendations, the campaigning has to be community based, and not from the institution itself.  There are two months, and early voting begins soon.  It will be seen how this all plays out in the next two months.  Public involvement is essential.

NOTE: I posted about the 2022 election on August 12, 2022.  If you are interested it is accessible here.

Directly relevant to the 2023 issue:

Sept 22 is the First Day Vote Early! or make a plan to vote by Nov 7, 2023.
On Sept 21, 6:30 pm – 7pm at Jerry’s Foods, Supt. Nielsen will discuss what’s on the Levy.  Because of space limitations, RSVP is requested: here


1) See what’s on your Ballot, here:
 (type in zip code, then house number & spin for the street)
A) Choose 3 of 11 candidates.
 (2 are incumbents – Simi Patnaik and Melinda Dols; Satonia Moore worked at Lake Middle School for 15 years.
Here’s Jamie Kokaisel blog – she ran as a bloc with Eric Tessmer (who got elected), to cut taxes, fund private schools, villify the ‘other’, ban books

B) Choose for the Levy here – question 1, 2, and /or 3 
if you click through, it has a 34 page Powerpoint
Slide 7 – shows a survey of what voters preferred to fund 75% for HS, 60% for Elem.
Slide 8 – student enrollment 18,520 grows to 19,199 in 5 years, based on Preschoolers – who live here, NOW
Slide 31 – shows $6/mo property tax for Q1 + shows $2/mo for Q2 = $8/mo for both passing
2) They DO NOT factor in the City of Woodbury’s “2040 Plan”  – to increase population 80,000 to 90,000 by 2030
by adding more houses, townhouses and apartments. (Would some have schoolchildren?)


3) Here’s the Sign-up for Th Sept 21, 6:30pm at Jerry’s Foods, upstairs.
SD47 hosts a program, with Supt Nielsen on the levy questions


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.