Bonnie Jorgenson started her career at Duluth Edison Charter Schools in 1997 as a community resource director. At the end of the summer, Jorgenson will retire from the schools where she spent more than two decades.

“I had no intention of staying in the charter school world for the rest of my career, but I found it to be a wonderful, innovative, rewarding and creative place to work,” Jorgenson said.

Jorgenson said over her career, there was not only a growth in schools but a growth in accountability for charter schools.

Bonnie Jorgenson, the Head of Schools for Duluth Edison Charter Schools, outside of the Business Office Monday afternoon May 10, 2021. Jorgenson, who has been at Edison since 1997, will be retiring at the end of the summer.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Bonnie Jorgenson, the Head of Schools for Duluth Edison Charter Schools, outside of the Business Office Monday afternoon May 10, 2021. Jorgenson, who has been at Edison since 1997, will be retiring at the end of the summer. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

She has been a part of the Minnesota Charter School Association for many years and she’s most proud of the work they did in regard to accountability.

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“We really worked on the charter school law to make sure that there was clear accountability to ensure that charter schools were doing a good job, honoring the taxpayers' money and serving the students that we work with,” Jorgenson said. “I feel we’ve made tremendous progress in that area.”

Eugene Piccolo, executive director at Minnesota Charter School Association, said Jorgenson has been a “tremendous board member.”

“She’s been a real leader in the association as well as in the charter school movement, especially with outreach to schools in the northern part of the state over the years,” Piccolo said.

Jorgenson has been head of school for Duluth Edison since 2000 when the school had 818 students enrolled. Today, Edison has nearly 1,300 students between two campuses.

Though Jorgenson has faced many challenges, a pandemic was not something she expected to deal with. Jorgenson said one of the biggest things she’s learned over the past year is how resilient and amazing their students and families are.

“The cooperation we’ve had from them and working with us — as we’ve done a combination of distance learning, hybrid learning and in-person learning and then sometimes jumping back and forth — and just the support and ways we’ve found to work together through technology and partnerships with each other has been amazing,” she said. “I think our parent involvement has been stronger than ever, and that’s great for learning.”

One of the things Jorgenson is going to miss the most is the students.

“The best part of working at any school, charter or traditional, is the opportunity to get to know and be with students,” she said. “It’s just so energizing to be around students as they’re learning, creating and developing into the young adults and amazing people that they’re going to be in the future.”

North Star Academy is one of two schools operated by Duluth Edison Charter Schools. (2019 File / News Tribune)
North Star Academy is one of two schools operated by Duluth Edison Charter Schools. (2019 File / News Tribune)

Duluth Edison, which started in 1997, has now been around long enough for former students to send their children to the schools.

“It’s very rewarding that we had that kind of impact on them as children so that they’re bringing their children to us now for their education as well,” Jorgenson said.

So what’s next for Jorgenson? Spending more time with her family.

“I'm truly at a point in my life where one of my priorities is to be able to spend some more time with my family,” Jorgenson said. “We've had our first grandchild now and one of my children lives in New York City and I want to be able to spend some more time with her,” adding her mother’s health is failing and needs a little more help.

Jorgenson said she also wants to spend time pursuing her hobbies a little bit more.

“I think we’re at a great time for our schools where new leadership will be a great thing,” Jorgenson said. “There’s a lot of wonderful opportunities for Edison Charter Schools in the future and I think someone with some new and fresh energy will be a great asset.”