Born in Minnesota, charter schools today play a significant role in serving students across the state, although most are in the Twin Cities area.

From the beginning, the Minnesota Department of Education has provided help and counsel, and Assistant Commissioner Kevin McHenry says “our goal as a department is to provide the best assistance and support for all schools.”

He explains that much of the department’s work is with the authorizers of charter schools, nonprofit organizations or institutions that supervise charter schools. “The authorizers are trying to make sure that that their schools are meeting the needs of the students they serve,” he said. Pillsbury United is the authorizer for MTCS.

The department works with the administrators of charter schools in a variety of ways, such as providing technical assistance on assessments and school safety. “We’re always looking for different ways in which we can provide the support and leadership needed for all schools,” he said. “When there are challenges that we carry forward, we take a close look and try as an agency to be as supportive as possible.”

As an example, McHenry said that recently they have had to deal with the issue of school safety, obviously they’ve had some bullying, in particular. “We’ve really focused work in the department on how can we be supportive to our charter schools and to our traditional schools around providing support so that all students can come to school in a safe and supportive environment.”

There is a specific division which works across the state to provide some technical assistance and support, and to help to answer questions from schools.

“We want students coming into school feeling safe and ready to learn,” he said. “When questions come in from charters on issues, we’re going out to those schools to actually sit down and problem solve, and provide whatever assistance we can.”

Assistant Commissioner McHenry is responsible for the Department of Education’s Charter Center, State Library Services, School Safety and Technical Assistance Center, and Statewide Testing and Assessment.