Written by, Doug Thomas, Past Executive Director, EdVisions Cooperative
EdVisions Cooperative was created in 1994 to support the Minnesota New Country School, an innovative chartered school located in Henderson, Minnesota. The original idea of organizing the teachers in a cooperative and contracting with the school for the “instructional program” was brought forth by Ted Kolderie of the Center For Policy Studies (now Education Evolving of St. Paul). Mr. Kolderie proposed the idea as an alternative to the traditional model of teachers always being employees and typically serving at the will of a top down management system. His question was, “What if you didn’t have employees? What if you owned the enterprise as a professional practice, much like a law firm or medical practice?”
After much consideration and further support and advice from Attorney Dan Mott, who specializes in cooperative law, the group decided to organize the venture and give it a try. The cooperative included all of the employees of the school (both certified and non-certified) and several “at large” members, mostly folks who had been part of the original school planning group who wanted to continue to be involved as the school started up and progressed. One notable member was the local district superintendent, Harold Larson. There were thirteen original members of EdVisions Cooperative.
The early years of the Cooperative were rather lean as there was only the one contract and little extra revenue for the stated primary purpose of the organization; to provide professional development opportunities. The Co-op had no grant funds and outside of making various presentations at regional or state conferences, had little opportunity to generate extra revenue. The non-New Country School members were called on often to help promote the school and contribute to presentations.
After four years three other schools approached the Cooperative and asked to join. The members saw no reason not to and so began the growth of EdVisions Cooperative. In 2001, EdVisions Co-op formed a non-profit in order to receive grants from charitable organizations. This “division” of the Cooperative grew rapidly due to a sizable replication grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Today the Cooperative has twelve school service contract sites and two non-profit contracts. All of the pay, benefits and human resource services are run out of the EdVisions Cooperative office in Henderson and capably handled by staff members Pat Grapentine and Mary Murphy. The Cooperative now manages approximately 225 payrolls. In addition, the Co-op has added several value-added services, including teacher re-licensure, NWEA-MAP testing, a web communications system, a project tracking system for its project-based schools, including the New Country School, and various professional development offerings throughout the year. It has grown to be a respected provider of startup and professional services, both regionally and nationally.
In addition, the non-profit side of the Cooperative, called EdVisions Schools and the professional development center, called EdVisions Leaders Center, has worked with over fifty replication school sites around the country. The popularity of the school model and related services has given the Cooperative much notoriety and popularity.
The Cooperative is governed by a Board of Directors made up of educators and school representatives (6) and non-service at-large members (3). The Cooperative is staffed by seven full or part time employees, some of whom work in the non-profit schools replication area. Of the original thirteen members, ten are still active members and/or stockholders.
For more information, please contact the EdVisions Co-op office by clicking here.