Date: July 28, 2004
Subject: Relationships

Yesterday I took some time off from work to attend a going-away reception for Wayzata Schools Superintendent Paul Beilfuss, who has accepted a superintendent position in his native Illinois. I served on the Wayzata Legislative Action Committee (LAC) along with Dr. Beilfuss, school board members, teachers union reps, and parents. It was a nice opportunity to thank Dr. Beilfuss for his leadership of the LAC and the district, and for sharing his insights and knowledge about running a school district and working with the legislature.

This event reminded me during these lazy hazy days of summer that for parents and education activists, it's not enough to be an informed observer and vote on local excess levy referenda, although these are good first steps. If your involvement with your child's curriculum is limited to the annual curriculum nights or parent-teacher conferences, that's a good start, but it's still not enough. To make a real difference for your child's or children's education, you have to join the team, volunteer on district-level committees, and, yes, show up to the meetings. It's not just about voicing your opinion, it's about relationships.

I got involved in education reform issues when my oldest child entered kindergarten. Now I can attend an event like yesterday's, and be greeted by name by the superintendent of the school district, school district staff, current and former  school board members, the principal at my kids' school, two Minnesota state Representatives, and a Member of Congress. My point: I am nobody special, just a parent who decided that when the school district goes to the voters with an excess levy referendum, or when curriculum decisions are made, when new academic standards are written, when the Legislature debates K-12 funding, when a candidate I believe in is running for office, or when the Commissioner of Education faces an endorsement fight, as Tom Joad said, "I'll be there".

If you really want to make a difference, you need some face time with those who cast the votes and make the decisions, over a period of years. E-mail alone is too easy; just being a face in the crowd is not enough.

A chicken and a pig were walking down the road when they reached the local diner and saw the sign in the window: "Bacon and Egg Breakfast, 99 cents." The chicken said, "I'm hungry, let's go have breakfast!" The pig replied, "That's easy for you to say. For you it's a contribution. For me it's a commitment."

Are you making a commitment?