There has been a concerning increase in debate in our nation regarding Critical Race Theory.

I have been saddened to see a group of individuals hijacking recent Rock Ridge School Board meetings and making unsupported claims about Critical Race Theory.

Allow me, a recent Assistant Principal in Rock Ridge, to share an insider’s view of what is really happening.

First of all, you need to know that I’m a proud, third generation Iron Ranger. My grandfather, Ben P. Constantine, was an Eveleth School Board member, probate judge, and mayor of Eveleth. My grandmother was an Eveleth teacher, as was my aunt. My dad attended Eveleth schools and my mom enjoyed over 25 years of employment in Virginia Schools.

I am a Virginia graduate who attended both Virginia and Eveleth High Schools my senior year, as we had the unique opportunity to take classes on both campuses. After graduation, life happened and I ended up as a teacher/instructional leader in two, sizable west-metro school districts.

In 2020 I watched the merger of Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert Schools with great interest and astonishment. At the time, I immediately wanted to return home and be a part of a movement we Rangers had incorrectly assumed could “never be done” — the consolidation of rivals Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert into the “Fiercely United” Rock Ridge Public Schools. As a bonus, this incredible collaboration included the construction of 21st century school buildings. And so I went home to Rock Ridge.

My tenure as Assistant Principal in the Rock Ridge District was the most academically engaging time of my 30 years in education. I was surrounded by an incredible leadership team under the expertise of Dr. Noel Schmidt and I worked alongside some of the most dedicated and talented educators in the state of Minnesota — metro or Range.

As assistant principal I had the opportunity to be an observer in every classroom in Virginia High School, and not once was Critical Race Theory being taught (CRT is not included in K-12 Minnesota curriculum), nor was the topic ever discussed.

What I did see were scores of accomplished and uncomplaining teachers who were putting their students first. I have never before observed this committed level of collaboration between teachers, their students and families, and the entire community at large, before coming to Rock Ridge Public Schools.

The Rock Ridge Public School District is currently the best kept secret in the state of Minnesota, but it won’t be for long. Because of the unique partnership occurring in Rock Ridge, people from all over the state are watching us, learning from us. They will tune in to our School Board meetings and tour our campuses with great interest. Let’s show the state and our viewers who we as Iron Rangers are: immensely proud of our schools and community, and despite our differences, Fiercely United.

Tonya Constantine

Minnetonka, Minnesota

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