Monthly Archives: June 2016

On Willful Defiance, Power Plays and Valeria Silva’s Buy-Out

The Nearly-Million-Dollar Question the Superintendent’s Departure Begs: Who Owns St. Paul Public Schools?


Last fall I got a phone call from Nick Faber, who is the vice president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. He wanted to talk about the union’s home-visiting initiative, in which pairs of teachers who have received special training visit their students’ homes.

The power struggle that ended last week with the school board’s decision to buy out Superintendent Valeria Silva’s contract was in full swing at the time. The federation was campaigning hard, under the guise of pursuing equity in the schools, for the pro-union board majority that just fired Silva. The home visiting project was Exhibit A.

Faber and I had a nice talk—he’s a swell, passionate guy–but I confess to being shocked. I don’t think he realized, but the story he wanted to tell me neatly illustrates the scope of the issues Silva was trying to address, as well as the adult resistance to change. Continue reading

A Place of Solidarity and Empowerment

An hour ago the president of the United States for the 18th time addressed the nation in the wake of a mass shooting—this time the massacre of 50 people celebrating Pride at an Orlando gay bar. In his remarks, Barack Obama underscored the importance of the gay bar to the LGBT community.

“The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub,” the president said. “It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”

I’ve been physically sick since I heard the news. It could have been me mowed down. I was last in a gay bar two weeks ago. A friend of mine was at Pulse, the Florida club in question, not long before that.

And I am terrified for the young people in the process of feeling their way through their sexual orientation or gender identity who woke up to this news and are wondering whether it’s safer to wall off that part of themselves. Because it’s not. It’s the psychic equivalent of giving yourself cancer. Continue reading