Let me start by thanking everyone who came to the Foundation's 15th anniversary celebration at the Urban Growler last Friday night. The size of the crowd - several hundred is my best guess - caused some access issues, and the need to move the music inside due to the weather made for some muddled sound, but the overall goal of bringing the community together in celebration for 15 years of supporting our non-profit organizations and initiatives seemed to be very well-served. 

As someone who was around for the initial endowment fund kick-off, it was also tremendously fulfilling to see us cruise past our $1M pledge goal. When it was first suggested, there were those - even on our board - who felt it overly ambitious. I will admit that during some of the toughest economic years, I myself wondered how long it would take to reach that goal. Thanks to this community's belief in our mission, we were able to do it. I want to give special thanks to our board alums, led by Charlie Nauen,who came through in the 11th hour to help us reach the $1M with an additional $10,000 pledge.

During the program we thanked the original campaign co-chairs, Andy Boss, Steve Wellington and Ann Wynia for their leadership. In addition, we thanked Hugh & Mary Schilling and Sunrise Banks for their matching gifts that helped bring in additional support. We also announced the renaming of our Forever Endowment Fund to the Andy Boss Fund in honor of his role in founding the organization and getting the campaign off to a good start. Donations from his memorial service were used to symbolically put us past the $1M goal and I know he would have been very pleased with that accomplishment. Even during our last visits, he would always ask how close we were and suggest ideas for helping to close the gap. This will help to ensure that his clear understanding of community building will not be forgotten.

It's also important to point out that we have three endowed funds that provide around $40,000 each year to support our community: The Boss Fund, The Gerald R. McKay Family Music Fund (Jerry was another founder) and the Environmental Education Fund. As these funds all continue to grow, they will keep supporting the kinds of organizations, programs, initiatives and events that make this such a great community.

I want to thank Jill Pavlak, Deb Loch and all the folks at the Urban Growler for their hospitality. They have a great venue, delicious food & beer, and they were super at handling the overflow crowd. Appreciation also to Sweet Rhubarb and Field Trip for their lovely music and to our techie, Ross Johnson, who worked tirelessly trying to deliver the best sound under difficult acoustical conditions. And as always, thanks to the merchants who supplied us with gift cards for the winners in our trivia contest: Speedy Market, Muffuletta, the Finnish Bistro, the little wine shoppe, Bliss Gourmet Foods, the Urban Growler and Bang Brewery. On to the next 15 years!

One of the dignitaries who attended the event was our new principal at Como High School, Teresa Neal. Yesterday, she invited me along with a couple retired business leaders (3M & Travelers) to the school to show us around and have a conversation about what we thought Como could do to improve. We visited their in-school credit union branch office, staffed by students from their Academy of Finance, a small learning community which offers courses in accounting, technology, international trade, internships and St. Paul College credits.

It was a good chance to get updated on the school and the district-wide approach to learning. I personally am happy that the goal for all students is college and career readiness. While college should be an option for all students, the desired outcome in my mind is to make every single one of our kids contributing members of their communities with living wage jobs, whether they seek advanced degrees or not. I look forward to working with Ms. Neal and the Como High community to help in anyway we can.

My sense from talking with her and district administrators is that there is deep awareness that the past couple years have been alienating for many members of the school communities and there is a concerted effort to bring everyone back together to give our children the education they deserve. The great letter to the editor in the Bugle from Murray teacher, Tim Chase, speaks to the different atmosphere that is emerging. While families may have options outside the district when it comes to educating their children, St. Paul cannot thrive without a successful public school system. It's time to heal and get to work - together. 

In related CHS news, a former Como/Murray/StAP Elementary student was mentioned in a Strib article about the success of a co-teaching model at Columbia Heights Valley View Elementary. Emily Letourneau is a 5th grade teacher at the school which has consistently high MCA scores even though they have high levels of poverty among their students. Here's the link to find out more.

And...it's Homecoming week at Como, so that means there is a homecoming parade this Saturday, Sept. 27 at 11 am. The parade will wind its way from the high school to Wheelock Pkwy to Lake Como and back where a picnic lunch will follow on the school grounds. The football game at 2pm is at the Central High field (Lex & 94). Should be a lovely day - go Cougars!

I had coffee with neighbor, Tom Lohse, who lost his daughter Shana in that terrible light rail accident. He shared on listserv that they've set up a fund for Shana's son, Nico's education. Tom is turning his grief into advocating for better safety along light rail. He has set up meetings with a number of local public officials to share ideas to address what he feels is the unnecessary risk that exists. I've had the chance to buttonhole some of the same office holders at recent public events and they have been uniformly open to meeting and looking into possible solutions. As a parent, I can't imagine anything worse than losing a child and I admire Tom's efforts to try to ensure other families do not have to deal with this.

Kyle Mianulli has a nice article in the TC Planet about local landscape architect, Steve Mastey, and his efforts organizing volunteers to plant 16 rain gardens along Raymond Ave between Hampden & Ellis. The gardens are filled with 1600 pollinator-friendly plants and replace what would have been 1 acre of impervious ground cover. Thanks to Steve and his crew, the city was willing to allow them to redesign for a more scenic and environmentally-friendly outcome. Great work by Steve and everyone involved.

Also great work by the city planting three new basswood trees around the Spider Tree outdoor classroom at the StAP elementary school last week. The old Spider tree was a basswood (also known as Linden) and the city crew allowed the school to participate in the planting after celebrating the new space. Students from several classes read poems, odes and a book dedicated to this meaningful transformation. Parks & Rec deserves kudos for supporting this educational experience and making the most of a teachable moment. Thanks to the community as well - the Foundation will donate the money for the trees. Principal Ann Johnson is a really exceptional leader of that school and her staff & faculty are top notch. Our kids are in good hands.

SAPAS volunteer coordinator Katharine Tondra is looking for folks willing to drive seniors to their weekly exercise class. Contact Katharine for more info.

Neighbors are seeing men in vehicles perusing their homes and properties. Apparently the county is doing some regular reassessing but it doesn't seem to account for all of the sightings. It never hurts to ask what people are up to. If it's legal, they are happy to allay your fears, if you still have concerns, you should report it to the police.

Next Tuesday, Sept. 30, the community is invited to join Avalon students to enjoy 10,000 Things Theater Company's production of Romeo & Juliet at the school from 1-3:30pm. Contact Kevin to reserve your free tickets.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.