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 Response Page - Kyte  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Charles Kyte Interview of

The Questions:

On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate how you rate the following options:

1.      (7.1 average response)  Successful change in K-12 education is most likely when initiated at the level of the individual school building.

2.      (6.1 average response)  Successful change in K-12 education is most likely when initiated at the level of the district school board and administration.

3.      (5.6 average response)  Successful change in K-12 education is most likely when initiated at the level of the Governor, Legislature, and state administration.

4.      (3.8 average response)  Successful change in K-12 education is most likely when initiated at the level of the President, Congress, and national administration.

5.      (7.8 average response)  Schools should be allowed to open before Labor Day, despite opposition from summer vacation attractions.

6.      (8.3 average response)  The Legislature should avoid using the state's pension funds to help balance the budget for the next biennium.

Dennis Johnson   (1)  (1)  (2)  (0)  (5)  (0)

Nothing will work until the stranglehold of the teachers' unions is broken. Public employees should never have been permitted to form unions. The only other alternative is to abandon the system in favor of private schools with competitive wage teachers and working conditions.

Ann Berget  (  )  (  )  (  )  (  )  (  )  (  )

I get so discouraged when I see veteran Charlie Kyte (who I have known for a long time) being interviewed as potential change agents and hearing the same old "system" complaints. It's interesting that when teachers underperform, the system wants to work on teachers. When students underperform, the system wants to work on...teachers. It is unrealistic to expect outstanding results from children living the lives that so many do and it is clear that the endless focus on teachers has not improved learning for these children.  I wish you would interview Will Dikel, a child psychologist from the U, who has a lot to say about the roles of mental illness, contemporary culture, and the sacred cows of State of MN.

Peter Heegaard  (10)  (5)  (5)  (5)  (10)  (10) 

John Detert   (2)  (3)  (8)  (6)  (10)  (10)

Chuck Lutz   (5)  (9)  (6)  (6)  (9)  (9)

Jan Hively  (6)  (8)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (10)

Trying to change schools is like putting your hand in a bowl full of Jello.  Once you take it out, it tends to flow right back into the old mold.

1.  This is the kind of change that is most common.... initiated by an effective principal... but it may last only as long as the principal stays.   A good example was Pat Harvey's West Chicago K-8 school when she was principal there.  Alumni, parents, foundations all supported her extraordinary work... but after she left to go to central administration (and, from there, to St. Paul as Superintendent), her unique school had a new principal and the reforms faded.

2.  In Minneapolis, under Superintendant Richard Green (1982) the district closed schools, approved a strict discipline policy, moved teachers and principals, set up a system of magnets with a range of choices for parents/students, desegregated the district, required passing benchmark tests prior to promotion at 1st grade, 3rd grade, and middle school, etc.  Enrollment expanded while children attending private and parochial schools declined.  But five years later, Green left and was replaced by a weak superintendent.  The good things about the district were gradually diminished.  If the district wanted to sacrifice federal funds, it could reorganize public education.... but it can't afford to.

3.  In the mid-1990s, the MN Dept. of Children, Families and Learning led the effort to develop and promote the highly effective, and individualized Profile of Learning,  a curriculum that integrated hands on and academic learning and encouraged students to take responsibility for their learning, and for the goal setting and record keeping associated it.  Flak from parents of students who were doing very well in the traditional system, expressed through legislators and reinforced by a change in the governor's office, resulted in the innovative system being dumped.

4.  As Charlie Kyte said, schools already short on funds have been forced to go lockstep with No Child Left Behind.  Arne Duncan has a lot of good ideas and was an effective administrator and communicator in Chicago.  Let's hope that we'll see movement under his direction.

 5.  Schools and communities should provide year-round programming so that students won't lose pace during the summer break that now requires much of the fall to be remediative.  I strongly favor community learning centers ---- involving all of the public, private and non-profit vendors in a geographic area to coordinate before and after school learning activities during the school year and day-long activities during the summer that will include tutoring/academic coaching ---- 12 hours a day, 12 months a year.

David Gay   (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (0)

5. Opening school.  Let each district decide for its own community.


Daniel Kane   (2.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Individual school.  While individual schools have the motivation, they often lack the funds and influence to affect standardized change across all K-12 education.

2. District level.  The best way to initiate change is through a partnership between the state and school districts.  Districts must be able to appropriate speak for the needs of students and educators, while the state can carry the influence necessary to follow through on change efforts.

3. State level.  The importance here is on initiation.  If there is not sufficient support (through state-led expectations and funding), schools cannot follow through on even the best of good intentions.

4. National level.  I believe the federal level has an important role in setting the environment for school change; but I am concerned that they are too far away from what happens "on the ground" to set specifics in policy and standards.

 David Alley   (10)  (5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (0)

Anonymous   (2.5)  (2.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Individual school.  It seems that the school buildings and districts are being limited by the state testing as well as no child left behind.  The schools are becoming obsolete; they are not preparing kids for life after high school.  Smart kids are being limited by NCLB, and forced to sit and wait for all others to catch up, and not challenged or pushed to excel.  Sad day for our country.

3. State level.  The state is reducing funding, withholding funds, and crippling schools.  By not fully funding special education, they are bleeding the schools dry, the state seems to be abandoning our kids.  Where will our state and country get our leaders if we don't give them the education necessary to build leaders?  Our schools will fail, our state will fail and our country will fail.

4. National level.  NCLB is crippling our kids and our schools.  Kids are being prepared for tests, and teachers are so busy preparing kids for those tests, that kids are not allowed to learn the important stuff that makes them think, reason, question, the things that will make them successful adults, community members, citizens, voters, leaders, and economic builders for our country.  Our country is in trouble, schools are obsolete and no one wants to fund them, especially the necessary money to run the special education programs that are bleeding the schools and keeping the smarter/accelerated students from high academic achievement.

Dave Broden   (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (2.5)  (10)  (10)

1. Individual school.  There is no doubt that community links are key to education; however, that link must be with some strong well-structured guidance for across the areas, state, and perhaps some national focus but not driven from outside the district.  Finding the proper balance is perhaps the challenge that is on going in terms of content, approach, and certainly funding vs. what is to be done. If localized, however, local biases and parochialism cannot become a factor and must be overridden in some reasonable way.

2. District level.  Education definition driven by potential biases and parochialisms of the district boards must not be the driving factors and will be hard to avoid if direction is given in total to the district board. Again, as above, the guidelines must be used and oversight must prevent narrow or bias focus of school/class content.

3. State level.  State standards and guidelines that the local boards, administration, and individual schools can/must operate in is the best balance of authority and flexibility and offers reasonable level of tailoring of scope to individual requirements of a school or district.

4. National level.  This level of control becomes far too removed from the real world and becomes complex. National objectives and complementary standards etc. can be beneficial etc.

5. Opening school.  Education must be the priority but in a state with traditions, if before Labor Day, then a few days off for the holiday gets around this issue.

6. Pension funds.  This idea is simply another game and solves nothing.

Bob White   (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Bob Brown   (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (7.5)

1.  Individual school.  Change has to start at the local level. Then the challenge is to see if that change can be scaled up to a higher level.

2.  District level.  Depends on the size of the district. A reasonable sized district with a strong leader as superintendent can do well in implementing change.

3.  State level.  Not with the situation we have now where the legislature thinks it is a school board. When we had a state board of education, a commissioner selected by the board based on educational leadership experience,  and a state department that had some staff other than regulators and bean counters we had a chance to have nonpartisan educational leadership at the state level. Now it is a joke with the action-reaction battles that go on between the politicians.

4.  National level.  Too big a gap between the policymakers and the practitioners plus the fact that the states are in different places in terms of the quality and effectiveness of their educational systems.

5.  Opening school.  When Perpich came back into office as a payoff to the resort industry he tried to mandate that the school year would not state before Labor Day and that it had to end before Memorial Day - he got half of what he wanted and it has been a problem since. I suggested at the time that we should have promoted year round school and kept the resorters happy by using state economic development money [to] assist the resorts into winterizing their facilities, becoming year round businesses instead of 10 week businesses. Then use state marketing funds to publicize other recreational activities such as hunting in the fall, fishing in the spring, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, etc in the winter. At the same time then school could experiment with different schedules to meet the differing needs of their customers.

6.  Pension funds.  If you could be assured that the money would be paid back in a timely manner so it wouldn't affect the retirees it might be ok, but I don't trust that to happen.

Joe Sertich   (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Ray Ayotte   (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)

W. D. (Bill) Hamm   (10)  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)

1.  Individual school.  Strong local schools working under local administrative control and in competition with other district and neighboring district schools will return us to educational excellence.

2.  District level.  Only by returning to strong local control and competition between School Districts can we again achieve the educational excellence we once enjoyed.

3.  State level.  Getting politicians out of the process is key to fixing our education system by reducing the power held by teachers unions.

4.  National level.  Socialized education isn't about education at all; it is about control and manipulation not about children.

5.  Opening school.  This does nothing to fix the basic problem of returning education to local control.

6.  Pension funds.  I'm not a state employee; this issue has little to do with fixing education.

Peter Hennessey   (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (10)

1.  Individual school.  I fail to see what "change" we are looking for. But I'd like to propose a couple:  a.) How about going back to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic; that is, the fundamentals for everything else. And let the classroom teacher choose the books and methods best suited to reach her particular students.  b.) The other change should be to find some way to get parents involved in their kids' education, maybe by grading parents and putting the grade on their kids' report cards? Just an idea.

2.  District level.  I think the local community should decide what they want their kids to do in school. I don't think it is much of a stretch to admit that a university town such as Palo Alto, CA, would decide on a curriculum different from a cattle and mining town such as Elko, NV. One might prefer more theoretical, the other more hands-on practical.     By the way, where is any mention of bringing back wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, bookkeeping, home economics, and all the other practical courses that we used to have in school a generation or two ago? Or are we so wrapped up in the racist left-wing ideology of education that we leave those job skills to illegal immigrants from colored countries, while the only choice for white students is college prep? I live in NV now and let me tell you, there are no jobs that Americans are not willing to do; that line of argument to justify doing nothing about illegal immigration is a racist lie, pure and simple.

3.  State level.  Nobody at the State level should be involved in any aspect of education. Not standards, not credentials, not financing. The State is simply too far removed from the community to lay the law down on anything. They may sponsor research into and publication of recommended standards of achievement, for example, but leave it to the local community to decide if and how that might choose to meet or customize the standards to their needs.

4.  National level.  And the feds are even more remote than the States.  All this nonsense is driven by the fear that some districts may do a better job than others.   Using this logic, by all means let's erase all differences between Princeton and Podunk State. Good luck with that one. The best we can do is [to] instill a love for learning that continues beyond school. What is the alternative? Holding daily classes to read, watch or listen to the news; make sure you read the instructions before you turn on your microwave; read the voter guide before you step into the booth? Where does the spoon-feeding end?

5.  Opening school.  What the heck is the virtue in stuffing kids into hot and humid classrooms at the height of Summer? You can't learn when you are drenched, gasping for air... Last time I looked, schools were not air-conditioned; heck, even my college classrooms were not air conditioned. I still have my calculus textbook with its pages wrinkled from my sweat.

6.  Pension funds.  “Avoid”? How about “don’t touch on pain of jail time”?  On the other hand, a.) Let's make sure these pensions are reasonable (i.e., comparable to private industry).  b.) Let's limit them to the actual contributions made during the time of employment by and on behalf of individual teachers. After all, are we talking about pensions or welfare?

Mike Weber   (10)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

David Dillon   (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (10)

DeWayne Townsend   (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)

2.  District level.  What is most successful is a partnership between the Individual School and the District level, but some state participation is also necessary to get lasting beneficial change.

Rick Krueger   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Robert Freeman   (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (10)

2.  District level.  Change revolves around finding and keeping the best possible teachers and letting go of the worst.  The school administration has to have the power to do that.

3.  State level.  Governor needs to lead this conversation and make sure funding is available for districts to implement changes necessary to attract the finest teachers.

4.  National level.  The feds have the money to make this happen but it needs to allow the states to make decisions on the ground instead from up on high.  NCLB was a good idea but the rules need to be more flexible and there need to be carrots as well as sticks.

Tom King   (7.5)  (0)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (5)

1.  Individual school.  Yes, or even better when initiated at the classroom level. Leadership is key. A strong principal can make it happen to a large extent school-wide, but never so well as can a gifted teacher. Teams of teachers are far more effective, as successful change takes many different skills and commitments.

2.  District level.  When the school leaders or board members who supported it leave the district, it's doomed to failure. Plus, it's nigh impossible to provide for consistent, district-wide training and a budget needed for change. And lastly, most educators and support staff don't want change and will work covertly to subvert it.

3.  State level.  Yes, if the old model of school board control were eliminated and replaced at each school by a Board of Directors. This would turn each public school into a charter school. Change would be much easier and changing the changes when needed far more responsive.

4.  National level.  This actually could help a great deal if the feds took over online, quality, 24-7 delivery on basic skills instruction (math, reading, language arts, etc) to be provided at schools, libraries, drop-in centers, homes...wherever the learner is. Plus, to help even further, provide tax credits to parents and mentors who work with their students to achieve their goals.

5.  Opening school.  Schools should be open 12 months a year. Buy window AC units. Do a 6-week summer term. Take a 2-week break from the last week of August through the first week of September. Voila! No controversy about Labor Day and no need for a month's schoolwork to cover what students forget each summer.

6.  Pension funds.  I have no idea what this means.  Pension funds are governed by law.  It may be possible to tinker with pension contributions of current teachers and their School Boards, but nigh impossible to change existing pensions other than cap Cost-of-Living each year.

Lisa Hedin   (2.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1.  Individual school.  Too much embedded practice without appropriate motivation

2.  District level.  Establishing performance expectations District-wide will more likely motivate individual buildings.  Likely need strong statement from voters before the school boards are willing to take on this type of issue.

3.  State level.  Starting to lose individual school district character.  State could consider linking some funding to performance and allow individual school districts to determine practices they are willing to take on.

4.  National level.  Same comment as above

5.  Opening school.  Don't think this is linked to testing results.  Should make it easier for each District to determine what fits for them, including year-round school model.

Joe Mansky   (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)  (10)

William Reichert   (10)  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)

Carol Becker   (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)

John  Sievert   (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (7.5)

1.  Individual school.  The #1 predictor of academic success is parental involvement.  There is almost no way to accomplish that at the state level, it's difficult at the district level and quite feasible at the building or classroom level.  That means we need to train teachers and administrators differently.

3.  State level.  To reiterate - The #1 predictor of academic success is parental involvement.  There is almost no way to accomplish that at the state level, it's difficult at the district level and quite feasible at the building or classroom level.  That means we need to train teachers and administrators differently.      That means that we need to address the way teachers and administrators are educated. Administrators today are, in large part as a group, completely tone deaf to working with communities.  They need to know how to market, how to sell and how to build community consensus.  In truth, that is their #1 job and they have no training whatsoever for that.  In point of fact, in the education ethic, they view that as substandard work, 'dirty', etc.  They view themselves as education technicians of a sort. The problem with this is if you want to do something (i.e. achieve academic results) you need to do something else first (get the community behind you, sell your organization's capabilities to the community).

Terry Sluss   (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (0)  (7.5)  (10)

Anonymous   (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (10)

Debby Frenzel   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Sharon Anderson   (5)  (5)  (10)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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