The recent piece in Community Voices – “Putting the ‘public’ back into ‘public charter schools’ ” by David Greenwood-Sanchez — and the ongoing debate about plans by the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) to renovate its campus by replacing a former church that doesn’t meet its needs skipped over a few key points.
Since its inception in 2005-2006, TCGIS has become not only one of the best public charter schools in our state but also — with 580 students — the largest German-speaking school in North America. It’s a real asset in the overall public education system by meeting the demand for German language instruction. Perhaps of equal importance is the contribution made by the school to the international reputation for global-mindedness of Minnesota.
TCGIS succeeds daily in its efforts to hear others, see others, think and act in a “world open” manner. With roughly 30 student teachers from Europe, a whole grade level of German ninth-graders and numerous teachers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, TCGIS brings important parts of the world to the neighborhood and to all of us. My organization, Global Minnesota, has collaborated with the school for years, bringing graduate students and other expert instructors from all over the world to share perspectives and stories with TCGIS students. Like immersion students everywhere, these students know the world is full of many different perspectives and life experiences.
TCGIS also sends passionate, energetic Minnesotans out into the world. For all of the above-mentioned visitors, over the years TCGIS has sent nearly every graduating eighth- grader to Germany as part of its “Capstone” class exchange. The school’s commitment to inclusion means no one missed out because of financial considerations. Every year TCGIS adds significantly to the number of people around the planet who have come to know Minnesota up close and personal. At a time of so much negative media, these direct connections are even more important.
Global Minnesota is only one of many partners that benefit from working with the school. TCGIS’ partnership with the St. Paul Public Schools, for example, is a very successful collaboration with the establishment of a high-level German program at the local SPPS high school. Graduates of TCGIS can enroll at St. Paul Central, gaining access to the broad offerings of a larger, comprehensive high school without giving up their German. St. Paul Public Schools benefits from more great kids and the funding they bring with them. Such synergy and collaboration is exactly the kind of innovative, forward-looking work our state is famous for – where everyone wins.
It’s not surprising then that TCGIS has had visits from German diplomats from the German Consulate in Chicago and the Embassy in Washington, D.C. For hundreds of educators from the German speaking countries, this school is putting St. Paul, the Twin Cities and Minnesota on the map! As someone who works each and every day to connect Minnesotans to the world and the world to Minnesota, I believe TCGIS plays a crucial role in our success. It is part of our rich tradition of honoring our past while preparing our students to create a more prosperous future for all. Such a school deserves our full support.
Mark Ritchie is the former Minnesota secretary of state and serves as president of Global Minnesota, a 67-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance international understanding and engagement.
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