On Tuesday night, February 22, 2011, at Sabathani Community Center, State Representatives Hayden and Champion sponsored a reception and town hall meeting for the new Minnesota education commissioner, Dr. Brenda Cassellius. Attended by over 70 Minnesota citizens, it included at least eight state legislators, three from out-state Minnesota.
It is quite clear that Governor Mark Dayton, in selecting Dr. Brenda Cassellius for Minnesota education commissioner, has selected a person whose philosophy aligns with his, making it clear there will finally be educational change we can believe in, change that will put children’s results and graduation first.
Far too often in public education, the commitment is about paid administrators/experts and their benefits with little caring about the children’s learning or about the parents and the communities in which they reside.
The Governor Dayton/Dr. Cassellius partnership is a welcome change to the broken approaches of the past eight years. The governor comes from wealth. Dr. Cassellius was born and raised in public housing in southeast Minneapolis. Her young mother had a passionate commitment to the education of her children. Yet, as Dr. Cassellius made clear to those of us in attendance last Tuesday, she and Governor Dayton have a passion, sensitivity, and commitment to educate, to get results, to graduate students. They both recognize that students must excel and graduate if our state is to survive in the very competitive world marketplace.
Dr. Cassellius’ presentation, her response to questions from the audience, and her reflection on the vision show the commitment she and the governor have for the educational success of Minnesota’s 835,000 students.
For this columnist, educated in the Minnesota Public Schools, it was refreshing to listen to and to evaluate a commissioner who truly cares about the children, an educator who started out as a teacher’s aide, became a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and then an associate superintendent in the Minneapolis Public Schools.
Dr. Cassellius next enjoyed the experience of being mentored by former Minneapolis Superintendent of Public Schools, the legendary Carol Johnson, who the commissioner worked with for three years in Memphis, TN.
Dr. Cassellius’ two children attend school in their neighborhood in South Minneapolis. She and the governor are committed to strengthening the foundation of public education in Minnesota. This won’t be easy. Too many draw their compensation, salaries, benefits and other relief from the public education budget who are not committed to graduation results for our students. The degree of commitment to public education is one of the controversial discussions going on within the Minneapolis public school administration. See my chapter on education, partly titled “Stop Clubbing the Cubs” posted on my website, www.theminneapolisstory.com/solutionpapers/40Chap7.htm.
It is quite clear that Dr. Cassellius understands the governor’s vision for the retooling of education in the state of Minnesota, as she presented her points of commitment and success they are committed to. The governor recently committed to something rare among state chief executives in America today: He put money into increasing educational opportunity as opposed to cutting it as part of his budgetary commitment.
Everyone understands that, sadly, there will be resistance and obstacles to this vision. There are powerful forces at work in America, in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, California, and others, that now maintain that educational opportunity cannot be afforded to all of America’s students, starting with the youngest of pre-K through grade-12 students.
Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius reaffirmed that the commitment and vision mean that dollars and the “priority” that the results of “children come first” are the educational goals to graduate all students. Dr. Cassellius showed her compassion, sensitivity and caring for the educational opportunities and advancement of educational success for all Minnesota students.
A lot of people talk about but don’t deal with the achievement gaps that exist. It is welcome news that this commissioner, based on her own upbringing, educational attainment, and experience, is fully committed to the success of all students.
Most welcome also is that, as a person of color, she is not bashful in talking about commitments to the children of the sons and daughters of the African. This column applauds a young, dynamic commissioner of education who, by the way, did not apply for the position. In conversations with a longtime advisor to Governor Mark Dayton himself, the determination was made that Dr. Brenda Cassellius was the person to be entrusted to moving Minnesota to the forefront of a new design and a new commitment to American and Minnesota educational results.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisS tory.com.