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Minnesota man behind influential education group steps down after heart attack

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One of the most prominent voices in Minnesota education is stepping away after a heart attack.

Joe Nathan founded the Center for School Change in 1990, according to Ballotpedia, a nonprofit that was hailed by former University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute Dean Brian Atwood as having "a record of sustained achievement in advancing K-12 education."

The center's website says its goals include increasing student achievement, raising graduation rates, improving student attitudes toward learning, and strengthening communities – which it hopes to achieve by working with "educators, parents, business people, students, policy-makers and other concerned people."

That includes, according to the site:

  • Helping write the nation's first charter law.
  • Working with 11 Minneapolis district and charter schools to make “above average” gains in reading, math and family involvement
  • Directing a project with Cincinnati Public Schools that increased overall high school graduation rates by more than 25 points, and eliminated the graduation gap between white and African American students.

But Nathan, who serves as director and has been a key leader with the nonprofit since its inception, is now stepping away.

In a blog post, Nathan goes over everything that happened – the sudden pressure in his chest, the sweating, the light-headedness. He called a nurse line, who told him to call 911. He did, and within the hour was at the hospital and had a stent put in to open up an artery that had been 99 percent blocked.

One of Nathan's former students Beth Hawkins writes on MinnPost about his career work and personal efforts. One small quote:

"And he is a prolific writer, doggedly reporting education columns for a network of some 15 suburban and Greater Minnesota newspapers, as well as research and policy papers. It’s not unusual to get emails from him that bear wee-hours time stamps."

He's previously worked as a teacher, administrator and public school aide, and has been invited to testify on educational issues by more than 20 state legislatures and several Congressional committees, his bio says.

He's one of two people on the center's staff page.

You can view the job posting here.

The Center for School Change is located at Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul and became an affiliate of the Henderson, Minnesota-based nonprofit EdVisions Schools in 2012.

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