My Personal Journey
My journey began when I unexpectedly raised three children by myself starting when they were 4, 7 and 9. After my divorce I had to find a job outside of my home with a salary and benefits, which meant less time spent with my children. Time and resources were very scarce in our household; my children had only me and the school. I had no choice but to trust that the schools would provide them with the education they needed. I also knew that I needed to be involved in order to understand what was going on in the classrooms. I was fortunate enough to negotiate time away from work to volunteer in their school. Our social life became the exhibit openings that were part of the Museum Magnet elementary school at that time. These events gave me an opportunity to meet other families in a positive, fun setting.
The school was a critical support system for me and for my family. When my son was struggling, the teacher would call me each week to give me progress updates. Teachers knew our stress and understood that I wanted to support my children as best as I could in spite of our circumstances.
I raised my three children as a single parent, as many parents do today. But I definitely was not alone. I will always be grateful for what the Saint Paul Public Schools provided my family. My children all have graduated from college: two from Saint Olaf with double majors and one from Macalester with high honors. One has a PhD and has completed a post doc at Harvard. Another has a master’s degree and is a landscape architect. The youngest has been very successful in the finance industry and is launching her own business.
I firmly believe that their success is due to the educational foundation they received in the Saint Paul Public Schools. I want all children and parents to have the same great experience that my family did.
I believe that all parents are doing the best they can to provide for their children. Some parents need support from the community to raise their children in the way they have dreamed. The schools have to be leaders and partners with families if our larger community is to move forward. An educated citizenry is the bedrock of democracy. Without excellent public education our city and country’s future is at risk.
My Professional Journey
My interest and passion for education began at the University of Minnesota, where I graduated with a BS in Consumer and Family Sciences. I also took coursework in children’s mental health and neuroscience. I am fascinated by brain development in young children. My studies confirmed my belief that the most critical education happens at home in the parent/child relationship followed closely by the teacher/child relationship in schools.
My first career was as an entrepreneur. I started my own house cleaning business as a way to earn income and still spend time at home with my young children. Things changed after my divorce. I realized I needed a job with a salary and benefits. That’s when I began my early-childhood career in Head Start working with low-income families to improve access to early childhood education. From there I moved on to be Director of Childcare at Amherst H. Wilder foundation, where I managed 32 staff and a $3 million budget. My management philosophy was to give teachers as many resources as possible and my full, unwavering support to empower them to achieve their full potential as professionals and as people. This created a positive, professional environment that reduced staff turnover and increased enrollment. I will bring those same values to the Saint Paul School Board.
In 2005 I had the privilege of serving as the Minnesota Head Start State Collaboration Director for the Minnesota Department of Education. I was a member of the Governor’s Early Learning Council, which is responsible for making recommendations to the Governor and Legislature regarding a comprehensive system of care and education for the state. I participated in the redesign of the statewide professional development system for early childhood professionals. I developed and delivered training sessions about critical topics such as strategic development, leadership, and effects of homelessness on young children.
Most recently I have returned to the grass-roots work that I love by doing outreach on children’s oral health issues. This work gives me the flexibility to meet the demands of a school board member. It is also a daily reminder of who the school board serves: the children.
I decided to run for school board because my entire career has prepared me to serve the community in this role. I have the professional skills and experience necessary to shape and implement policy that respects the unique needs of students and teachers in diverse schools. I am a confident leader who will empower other board members to respectfully critique and vet all policies prior to implementation because we work for the children. Children can’t wait a single minute for adults to get organized.
My Service to the Community
Project Starfish, Co-Founder 1998-2009
This project raised an average of $20,000 per year to pay rent for families who were homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. I designed the project, led the fundraising, managed project communication and record keeping. Since 2009, I have scaled back to a smaller, more manageable version of this project to support the day shelter in Ramsey County.
Ramsey County Citizens Advisory Committee 2002-2008
Chair of Children’s Mental Health Sub-committee
- I facilitated monthly meetings, participated on larger CAC, presented to County Board of Commissioners, planned legislative events, and coordinated training for law enforcement.
- I led an effort in the county to establish a high-quality childcare center for children.
- I worked with Project Home and the Maplewood Family Service Center that included many stakeholders: County staff, public schools and private providers, and citizens.
Early Childhood Resource and Training Center 2008-2011
Board of Directors Member and Chair
MacPhail Center for Music 2006-Present
Early Childhood Advisory Board Member
Minnesota Children’s Museum 2009
Library Project Advisory Committee
Wilder Foundation Neighborhood Leadership Program 2007-2009
I coached one of the participants
Ramsey County Guardian ad Litem 1996-2001
I was the primary advocate for children in out of home placement, I monitored placement and I submitted my recommendation and other reports to the courts.
Peter Claver Church Project Home Volunteer/leader 2005-Present
I coordinate volunteers and create a welcoming environment in an overflow shelter for families experiencing homelessness in Ramsey County.