Letters that came in too late

I was fortunate to have so many wonderful letters of support in the Sun Sailor.

There were a few that didn’t make the cut for one reason or the other (you’ll need to check in with the Sun about the reasons why.)

But I thought it would be great for you to see these other letters of support, too.

To the editor: 

I first met “Shep’s dad” during Kids Place pick-ups and drop-offs at Aquila Elementary. Through PTO meetings, Aquila Theater Arts, and other extra curricular activities, I quickly learned that Colin Cox is a connector: connecting people to information, to ideas, and to each other. 

During the school start times study, Colin not only examined the research, but he also sought out the opinions and experiences of our Aquila families. He even waded into the on-line conversations on Nextdoor to share what he knew about the process and listen to the concerns of others. He is able to balance both the theoretical and practical aspects of decision making, considering the views of families from across the Park. 

I am confident that Colin Cox’s collaborative and curious approach will be an asset to the St. Louis Park school board. 

Please join me in voting for Colin Cox on November 5. 

Amanda Munoz

To the editor

Colin Cox will be one of my choices when I vote for St. Louis Park School Board next week, and I’m hoping he will be one of yours, too. I’ve known Colin since I moved here six years ago, and now that my two children are students at Peter Hobart Elementary, I’d feel good about having someone with his dedication to the district on the school board.

Colin has already worked on difficult issues like the new school start and end times and the 2017 bond referendum. He also recently took time to talk through with me some more general thoughts I have as a Peter Hobart parent and I came away impressed by the breadth of his knowledge of everything our schools are facing and also his commitment to the values that I think ought to be reflected in our schools. 

He seems to really grasp the importance of things like policies of inclusiveness and expanded mental health services that help teachers reach all kids. When we all care so deeply about our own children, it’s easy to overlook the hundreds of other children who may have different experiences or struggles. Colin sees our schools as resources for everyone, not just families with time and energy to spare. 

As a busy parent, I also think Colin’s communicative style will serve us all well, because it can be difficult to keep up with all the important work being done in our schools. Include Colin on your ballot, and we’ll have one more first-rate public servant on the school board. 

Patrick Baldwin

Shep and his dad (mentioned above)

Touring, talking, listening and learning

This past week has been another blur. But if one could qualify blurs, I’d say it was a good blur of a week.

It involved some door knocking and hearing from residents — about facilities, taxes, classroom activities, classroom sizes and start and end times.

It also involved meeting up with some notables in the community — current and former electeds. Really interesting to hear about what our community has done (and how easy or difficult it was to change things) and hear about how we might be able to change things so we can meet our needs in the future.

And, one night this week, I and two of my fellow candidates for school board sat in on a joint school board-city council meeting. The topics ranged from facilities updates to community education to vaping to housing. It was motivating to see all these people gathered together and thinking about these issues that don’t just affect one or the other.

The Tour of Schools event on Saturday was great. I think the great weather kept a few people away as they worked on raking leaves, cleaning up yards and just enjoying it while we can. But, for those of us who made it, it was well worth it.

Beyond seeing what the facilities looked like with upgrades, it was a great opportunity to talk about the schools — with staff and students.

Students were eager to show off the technology and great new furniture.

Staff looked comfortable in their new spaces and still seemed impressed with all the spaces offered. One of the teachers at Aquila showed off the microphone technology that allows a teacher to wear a simple microphone around their neck that would then amplify sound around the room.

I spoke with a couple of long-time teachers at Park Spanish Immersion. One teacher had been with the district for 21 years. She was still buoyant and high spirited about working for St. Louis Park Schools and teaching our children.

And, some of the staff did take the opportunity to show what wasn’t working just right and what could be better as we continue to make improvements — which I love. We’re not always going to get it exactly right — just like we don’t expect our kids to get it exactly right. And, if we don’t call it out, we can’t address it.

I knew we had done a lot at Aquila and PSI, but I was less familiar with what improvements had been made at the high school.

I was really impressed with how they reimagined some existing space and made it work for today’s needs. It was light and bright and offered places for a variety of needs — like small meetings with parents and staff, meeting with external support staff (think mental health providers), for students to just “chill” when things get to be too much and more.

It was interesting in that I never felt like things were too fancy. Sure, it’s new and modern, but that’s different.

But what I really enjoyed at the high school was talking to the staff who were there. They seem smart, knowledgeable, engaged, positive and just right for what you want at a high school.

It’s about a week to the actual election day. So, there’s still more places to see, people for me to talk with and things to do. And, it’s tiring, but it’s also incredibly inspiring to see what gets done when we work together, see people engaged about what is going on now and talk with others about what we can do about all that we face in the future.

Heading into the home stretch

Hard to believe it, but the election is now just about two weeks away. Things remain as busy as ever.

The past week included a conversation with the St. Louis Park schools teacher union, the Park Association of Teachers, for them to share with their members and other Education Minnesota members who live in St. Louis Park.

Also, the local organization SLP Seeds held a meal and candidate forum. There were candidates for city council, mayor and school board there. It was nice for so many candidates to be there, but I think we all walked away impressed with the work of the boys and girls who have been involved with the organization.

And, then there was the Aquila PTO meeting. I walked away from that meeting realizing that the SLP schools are taking mental health pretty seriously these days. I am encouraged by this. I think there’s plenty more work, but I am glad to see that no one is shying away from the issue.

Finally, there was the city council candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. It was a packed council chambers. So great to see so many people interested in our city council at-large and mayor races. And, encouraging to see so many people who are in the running.

More to come in the next few days. If you see me out and about make sure you say, “hi.” And let me know if there are any issues on your mind.

Staying busy

It’s been a while since I have posted much, and that trend may continue. Things are definitely picking up!

I continue to have great conversations with community members. One this week was with someone who has grown kids, but is deeply invested in our schools and the success of all.

One thing I try to do beyond listening is discuss with the person ideas of how could we address an issue, who else we can engage on an issue, where does he/she/they think the problem first arose and what was the response and the like.

It could be that we’re missing a pretty obvious solution. Or, as it is more likely, the answer is not easy and it will take work, time, energy, trying again….

One other highlight was getting to learn more about the resource TreeHouse. It’s not a resource that works for everyone because of its religious component, but at the very least its mission of ending hopelessness among teens is one that everyone should be able to respect.

We were able to get a bunch of lawn signs up last weekend, and keep getting requests for more. If you haven’t seen the one you requested go up yet, give us a little time. Or email us at colin@ccolincoxslp.org. If you want one and haven’t requested, visit our Get Involved page.

Join us this Thursday

I have had some great conversations with people over the past few weeks. I have heard people singing the praises of our schools, but also people who want to share their experiences with issues like improving our services in mental health and counseling, identifying issues with students earlier, understanding our schools as it relates to IB, and a lot more. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you are someone who wants to share your experiences or hear more form me, please come to a meet and greet this Thursday.

Meet and greet with C. Colin Cox

  • Thursday, October 3
  • 6:30 – 8 p.m.
  • 7701 Edgebrook Drive, St. Louis Park, 55426
  • Hosts include:
    • Nick Vournakis
    • Patrick Baldwin
    • Julie Yakes
    • Sarah Schwab
    • Amanda Munoz
    • Madeline Riggs

It’s low pressure. People can ask me questions, share their thoughts or just hang out for a bit to hear what I have to say. 

I will also have lawn signs available. And, there will be opportunities to sign up for volunteer activities (deliver lawn signs, help with mailings, make a few phone calls, etc.).

And, if you can’t make it, and want to show your support, visit https://ccolincoxslp.org/donate/ and https://ccolincoxslp.org/get-involved/

Seeing progress, sharing ideas and listening to things that need to be better.

This week has felt a bit like riding on a roller coaster.

I am really excited about how the campaign is doing. People are showing their support in name and donations. Lawn signs are on their way. And, everyone is staying positive.

It’s been great to see my fellow candidates for school board in action, like I did at the Susan Lindgren Elementary PTO meeting on Tuesday. The PTO invited all the candidates to come and speak. Not everyone could make it, as the others had conflicts (including their own home school PTO meetings to attend). I really appreciated hearing from the four other candidates in attendance.

And, I appreciated sitting in on the PTO meeting. When I go to PTO and site council meetings like this, it’s clear we have invested staff and interested parents across the district.

I also had conversations with three parents this week that are being failed by our schools. These are all parents who love SLP schools, but are having at least one pretty major issue that has made them rethink their relationship with the schools. It’s all pretty hard stuff to hear. I am taking in each and every one of these conversations and thinking about where the opportunities are for us to do better — regardless of whether I am elected to the school board.

One of the most uplifting moments was when I stopped by my son’s former school, Aquila, for their PTO open house. Principal Shelley Nielsen gave me a peek of the improvements around the school. I snapped some photos, but you really must see it — and even touch and try out the furniture — in person. I am extremely grateful for the people of St. Louis Park for overwhelmingly passing the referendum.

Finding a way to reduce anxiety

It’s been another busy week on the campaign trail. They call it a trail, but there’s not any singular path.

So, for me this week it was more coffee and conversations, some quick chats at the middle school open house and homecoming game. And, talking with some Park Spanish Immersion parents at a St. Louis Park Schools Foundation event (more on the foundation at a later date).

As I campaign for school board, a common, sometimes subtle, but always resonating theme is anxiety among students. And, this week there was a New York Times article about this very issue and one creative approach to let kids know that they are not alone in feeling this way.

I think that’s a great first step. But then we have to find ways to address it.

My guess is that it’s not as simple as just providing more counseling. I could see the solutions involving a mix of school resources plus support from Health Partners/Park Nicollet and local organizations like Hopkins-based myHealth and take place not only in our schools, but at places like The Nest or in our homes.

Do you have ideas about how to address this issue? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line at colin@ccolincoxslp.org or let’s chat when you see me out and about.

Getting an IB education

This week was another busy week and a particularly coffee-fueled one. I had coffee with a Park Spanish Immersion Elementary parent, a former school board member and the executive director of the Minnesota Association of International Baccalaureate Schools.

One might presume that as a parent of a kid going into 6th grade, I’d have a firm grip on what “IB” means. It turns out, I had only the basics. To use some IB terminology, I need to do more formative work.

Even after talking with executive director Jon Peterson, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in IB schools. But, I would consider myself newly enlightened.

If you would’ve asked me before about what it means to be an IB school, my answer would have been something along the lines of “we have a shared curriculum of sorts with schools across the word.”

What I came away with from our conversation was a much deeper appreciation for how the IB program teaches people to be learners — and I might even say explorers.

I understand just a bit better what the different levels of IB “programmes” are. I can see better how IB programs are designed to evaluate. I have an appreciation for the ways the IB can be rolled into immersion programs and used to address things like classroom anxiety and career preparation.

It’s clear there’s more formative work I have to do in this area. And, it’s not like I am going to do some late-night cramming for an exam to get there. That would be against the spirit of IB.

But, I know now more about where to go to learn more and can start thinking more about how we might even be able to do more at SLP schools with IB. And, I promise when I get the opportunity, I’ll bring you all along, too, so you can understand what we are doing, why we are doing and what the benefit will be.

Me meeting with Minnesota IB executive director Jon Peterson.

Building a new learning environment at every school

This was the week everyone headed back to school at St. Louis Park Public Schools.

For many, it has become a routine with which they have become quite familiar — we’re talking your third graders on up. They know the meet-the-teacher, learn-the-schedule, get-things-set up and start-working-hard routine.

But, there was a huge difference for just about everyone this year. Everyone saw changes in the physical structures that surround them.

At Aquila and Park Spanish Immersion elementary schools, it was brand new classrooms throughout. And, in the case of PSI, it was a whole new building.

At the middle and high schools, much more of it was about projects in progress. My son, brand new to the middle schools, was already lamenting the fact that the new second level hallway has not yet been completed.

Regardless of the status, what is great is that we’re already seeing improvements to our schools that the voters of St. Louis Park school district voted for just a couple of years ago.

I was proud to serve as a parent representative from Aquila on the Learning Design Team that helped generate the ideas for how we create learning environments that meet the needs of today’s students.

And, I was also proud to serve on the Vote Yes parent committee that made sure that people in St. Louis Park knew exactly why we needed the funding for these improvements and what it would mean for our kids.

So, while there will be some growing pains for our students, it is exciting to see that our we’re moving forward in building a new learning environment at every school.

I look forward to all the changes to come.

construction worker working on entrance at the high school
Signs of construction from late this summer

Registering the kid for middle school

While I am a candidate for St. Louis Park school board, I am also a parent. And last night was the first ever middle school registration night that I have attended.

As evidenced by my tie in the picture below, it was a whirlwind event.

My son, Shepard, with his mom and me.

It really was a great evening. You could feel the enthusiasm of everyone there — from students to staff to teachers to parents.

Beyond going to the various stations to drop forms and get photos, we got to take in the whole building.

We got to wander the halls, find classrooms and learn how to work those lockers (an eighth grader named Jake helped us with the trick of opening them).

We even got to meet one of Shepard’s teachers, Mr. Plantz, who was very welcoming.

And, I think we’re now ready for this.

I am so proud of all of our schools and especially excited to learn more about and experience St. Louis Park Middle School. And figure by the end of the school year, my tie may settle down some.