Humbled, reflective, energized, overwhelmed, honored – all words that describe the experience of being named Minnesota Superintendent of the Year. After the initial rush of emotion, and a balance of excitement and apprehension, I found myself wanting to give thanks to the countless people that have supported me through my educational journey, and to give back to the educational community that continues to support me.
The role of public education is not to put students on the path we think leads to success, it’s to encourage students to dream and then help them on that path. I’ve spent my time in the Anoka-Hennepin School District working to embed this belief in our daily work. I truly believe that my recognition is a reflection of the committed educators doing this. During the application process, I shared the amazing work of my leadership team, my supportive school board, our building leaders, and employees. I know that the story of their efforts is what was recognized.
From October until April, it has been an unprecedented year in Minnesota public education. There was a time that I thought participating in the Reimagine Minnesota work and eventually the Cruz-Guzman mediation process would be a high watermark for my career, and it truly has been amazing to sit with educators from across the metro and state to suggest and evaluate ideas that will lead to better opportunity and results for all students. That work continues and hopefully will lead to impactful, lasting change.
Surprisingly, there is another force seeking change with regards to equity in the public education landscape, the Federal Reserve and a proposed constitutional amendment. As president of MASA and a member of AMSD, I’ve had several opportunities to participate in listening sessions regarding this change. I find myself torn between an incredible desire to support a bold initiative intended to address an unacceptable set of outcomes, and major concerns about current legislation like IDEA that focus on the individual and are creating an ever-increasing financial burden on our education system. Creating pathways for litigation at the local level to address a statewide problem also seems to be a concern for many across the state. This may have quieted down for other reasons this spring, but it is not gone.
The idea that something could come up that makes every other issue seem secondary was unimaginable at the start of the year, yet this will forever be remembered as the year that schools closed. As I’ve shared, I’m incredibly proud of the work educators across the state and nation have done to be the cornerstone of stability during a time of crisis. Success comes from getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, and we are modeling this daily.
My year as Minnesota Superintendent of the Year wasn’t about me, it was about the opportunity to serve as an educational leader – building relationships, creating opportunities, and focusing on equity. This year provided many opportunities to give back, and I have worked hard to do just that.