April 11, 2013
They packed ’em in at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Monday night, a crowd of hundreds braving a spring snowstorm to hear a speaker who could melt any snowbank.
Dr. Steve Perry is founder and principal of one of the nation’s top-performing schools, Capital Preparatory Magnet in Hartford, Conn. Capital Prep, a public school, sends 100 percent of its students (primarily low-income students of color) to college. And Perry has no patience with any school that does less.
Minnesota’s self-image is that of an education state, Perry said — then noted Minnesota’s immense racial achievement gap. “So don’t pull a muscle from patting yourself on the back,” he added to gasps and applause from the well-dressed, racially mixed crowd.
But Perry saved his sharpest barbs for teachers’ unions, urging the crowd to rethink longtime political affiliations with the unions.
“I say specifically to the unions: I hope you’re here tonight,” he said in a rising voice. “Because every time you fight to keep a failed teacher, in reality, you’re killing kids.”
The event was the first in the “Minnesota Meeting” series, sponsored by the Minneapolis Foundation and its RESET education program. Sandra Vargas, president and CEO of the foundation, introduced Perry with an exhortation to do more than talk about education reform.
“This is not just a discussion,” she said. “This is about taking action.”
Education reform is fast moving to the front burner in Minnesota; RESET is one of several groups pushing for change, including MinnCAN, which does amazing research and advocacy work on education topics. Fast Horse recently recently began working with MinnCAN. Keep your eyes and ears open for a lot more on the subject.
Photo of Dr. Steve Perry courtesy of Capital Preparatory.