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Bulletin letters to the editor: Charter school option, political mudslinging

My kid's school is awesome

Yesterday, my 7-year-old son came home with a painted rock, some completed worksheets, dirty clothes and a big smile. In fact, most days are like that.

Living in Newport, we could have chosen to send our son to Newport Elementary or a couple other South Washington County Schools close to day care facilities. However, we learned about the Natural Science Academy (NSA) at the Cottage Grove Public Works day. The kids and teachers seemed very engaged in their learning and projects, and I was intrigued by their emphasis on science and the natural world. Looking into it more, I learned that NSA is a public charter school, which means that it's free and enjoys free busing within School District 833. Class sizes are small and my son gets wonderful personalized attention.

In short, charter schools such as NSA are public schools. Kids learn reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art, music and physical education just like any other school.

Don't be fooled by the moniker, "Natural Science Academy." The NSA is not run by tree-huggers or science eggheads who eschew teaching other important subjects. The only difference is that teachers deliver core subjects (reading, math, etc.) using the local, natural environment as a context. Therefore, going outside for class (not just recess) is a regular part of the routine. Consequently, these kids learn not only from books and teachers, but also from real experience and time studying the natural and human communities in which they live. NSA uses all these resources and more to help for the basis for hands-on, interdisciplinary, student-centered learning. As teachers guide students through in-depth studies of real world topics, kids become more highly motivated, feel actively involved in their own learning and produce high quality work.

I encourage other families in District 833 to consider sending their children to our school. The district contains some great schools and we'd just like to make sure you know about all of them.

The Natural Science Academy is located in the St. Thomas Aquinas parish school building on 920 Holley Ave., St. Paul Park.

Laura Duffey


Debate ideas, don't sling mud

The Dec. 5 Bulletin contained yet another submission from Will Labovitch. By my count, this was his fourth letter since June in which he used spurious claims to personally attack Derrick Lehrke's character.

I was the chair of Lehrke's campaign committee for state representative. I challenge Labovitch to show me evidence that Lehrke used unscrupulous methods or otherwise engaged in any smear campaign tactics against his opponent Dan Schoen. We are proud of the campaign that we ran. We worked hard to meet voters and ask them what they wanted from their representation in St. Paul. Lehrke offered a different vision of state governance than Schoen. They had differences of opinion on issues like tax reform and government spending. Unfortunately, this election, the citizens happened to prefer Schoen's vision.

I supported Lehrke's campaign because I agreed more with his vision than Schoen's, not because there was something suspect about Schoen's character. I've met Schoen many times; he is a very nice guy, with whom I happen to disagree on some important political issues. I know that Schoen, just like Lehrke, is sincere in his beliefs and wants to do what he feels is best for our district and state. It's just not that hard to be civil and respectful of political opponents, Mr. Labovitch.

If the candidates were able to stay away from mud-slinging at each other, I find it inexcusable that Labovitch can't seem to help himself, especially after the election. The Opinion page should be a place for citizens to respectfully exchange opinions and ideas about how to make our community a better place, not for factually dubious smears of another citizen's character.

The clear intent and bias of Labovitch is likely obvious to all. It's truly amazing to read someone write of "what is right and wrong" and complain of smear campaigns, while in the very same writing, engage in personal attacks on the character of a defeated political opponent.

In words retiring state Rep. John Kriesel often uses: Stay classy.

Michael Edman

Cottage Grove