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Advocating for Educators

For more than four decades, alumnus Charlie Kyte has been a strong voice for school administrators

In October, Charlie Kyte will retire as executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA), a position he’s held since July 2000. If he were a different man, the occasion might mark the transition from 43 years spent working in education to a quieter time in which relaxation trumped late-night meetings and trips to the legislature. Kyte, however, has other plans.

“I thoroughly enjoy working in public education, and I’ll do some consulting, maybe even a little teaching at the university level; we’ll see what the future brings,” he says.

Kyte, who earned his Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Minnesota in 1987, was superintendent of Northfield Schools when a colleague called to urge him to apply for the MASA job. “They said they wanted a strong advocate for public education and that I should apply. So I did, and I’ve never looked back,” he recalls. After decades spent teaching, coaching, and working as a principal and superintendent, Kyte felt well prepared to lead the organization.

Over the years, he has earned a reputation for being an informed and well-respected voice for public education in Minnesota and nationally. At the legislature, he communicates the views of superintendents statewide. In addition to being quoted often in the media, Kyte provides background for stories and editorials on education-related topics. He also co-founded Minnesota’s Promise: World Class Schools, World Class State, which he describes as an ongoing effort to transform public education in Minnesota to achieve a truly world-class system. “We have to change our delivery model, and we have to do it in a coherent way so it isn’t happening in only one school district,” he says.

One example of change, Kyte says, is making education more accessible through online learning. Minnesota’s Promise partners are currently looking at ways to customize and offer technology-based education. “And we’re trying to get people to have the collective courage to change so no one is standing by themselves,” Kyte explains, adding that nudging people forward is a big part of his job. “I’m always trying to push people a little bit beyond their comfort zone when it comes to redesigning education.”

But making changes has become more difficult as the atmosphere surrounding education has grown increasingly emotionally and politically charged in recent years. On top of that, decisions that were once made behind closed doors are now made publicly. “Board meetings are televised and bomb scares are tweeted and texted before a superintendent has time to make a decision on what to do,” he says. “All this openness has made our schools better in many ways, but also more difficult to manage.”

Story by Meleah Maynard | May 2011

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