November 16, 2021
When teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin School district went on strike in 1982, an untenured, 23-year-old Anne DeVout Solie knew her job was in jeopardy. Her mom told the worried young teacher about a new school that was opening in St. Paul, and suggested she apply. But she hesitated: the school required three years of experience, and Anne DeVout Solie (now Anne DeVout Atchison) only had two.
“Well, why don’t you give them a call and just find out about them?” the elder DeVout advised.
Atchison called. More than 40 years later Atchison, now an MPA Middle School English teacher, is grateful for her mother’s wisdom and nudge.
In reflecting on that initial job inquiry, Atchison said, “I’m 23, and I’m talking to the woman who picked up the phone. I assume it’s the secretary, and we’re hitting it off. I’m asking her questions; she’s asking me questions. At the end, I ask about the salary, and the woman says, ‘I will tell you that, if you tell me your name.’ I do, and in return ask hers.”
It was Lois Kreischer, the wife of Mounds Park Academy co-founder and visionary Bob Kreischer, who also served as the director of admissions, business manager, and co-founder.
Lois Kreischer (now Sandy Kreischer Smith) encouraged the young teacher to apply, though added, “Just so you know we’re looking for more experienced teachers.” Fate intervened when the stated goal on Atchison’s resume matched the one expressed in MPA’s first brochure, which was being printed at the time: “to create the conditions, within the school environment, for each individual to develop to the best of his or her ability.” She secured the interview and then the job.
Started “On A Dream And A Shoestring”
Bob Kreischer was a well-respected and beloved teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and principal in California before the death of his father-in-law compelled the family to move to Minnesota. The couple’s niece and nephew were students at Breck, so they knew the west metro college preparatory school was hiring. Kreischer applied to and was offered a teaching position. As the new teacher, Kreischer taught “all the classes nobody else wanted” and took “a huge pay cut,” Smith once said. After only a year, Kreischer became Breck’s Middle School director.
Kreischer left Breck shortly after his promotion—with no job prospect—dreaming of a school where everyone had a voice. At the time, Smith was a professional potter with her own shop in Afton. While her hands were busy making pots, her mind was exploring ways her husband could create the school he envisioned. She had notebooks full of ideas, budgets, and impressions of schools she visited that were for sale. Smith said she often took their daughter Kristi on trips to see schools, swearing her to secrecy not to tell her daddy.
One day, her friend Joan Munzner visited Smith’s shop. The potter asked the future MPA French and German founding teacher to come to her house so she could share Bob’s idea of starting his own school. Over coffee at the kitchen table, encouraged by Munzner’s enthusiasm for the idea, Kreischer gained a new perspective on his dream: together they could make it a reality.
They enlisted the support of community leaders, prospective parents, future teachers, and required board members and launched what would become MPA. As the initial values statement declared, “Our school was founded on a dream and a shoestring.”
An Early Commitment To The Whole Child And Social Justice
For Atchison, the early conversations about the vision for MPA—and whether they could really pull it off—remain deep in her soul. The fledgling team wondered if the buses would show up that first day on September 7, 1982. They did, and MPA became a real school, exceeding the expectations of all involved. Read More