Our View: Homeless liaisons leave no children behind

"I’m not doing it for the money. I’m having fun," says Donna Johnson, who has worked at the Mabel Public Library since 1994. Donna celebrated her 90th birthday Sunday.

We wish we could give a fist bump to the National Weather Service today, but we really can’t.

Instead, how about Jason Senne? He’s the principal at Ellis Middle School in Austin and also the district’s homeless liaison, who works with students who may need assistance and connects them with local resources, such as Mower County social services, who can help.

You didn’t know that school districts have homeless liaisons? We didn’t, either. Senne’s role as liaison is federally funded as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act and the 2002 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, named in memory of longtime St. Paul Congressman Bruce Vento.

Austin doesn’t have a homeless shelter or longer-term transitional housing for those who are chronically homeless, so Senne’s role is that much more important. It’s a job that requires "a lot of sensitivity and trust," he told Post Bulletin reporter Hannah Yanglast week. "I have the privilege of working with families to ensure that their child receives equal opportunities to an education."

Sennes has been the homeless liaison in the Austin district since 2008, and this school year he’s been able to identify and work with 59 students who were considered homeless.


Anyone who works so effectively to help young people in need deserves a hearty fist bump.

Then there’s Donna Johnson, who turned 90 Sunday and is still on the job at the Mabel Public Library. She’s the oldest library director in Minnesota. OK, Mabel doesn’t have the largest collection or the most cavernous facility in the state, but Donna probably knows her library better than her peers — and at age 90, "I’m not doing it for the money," she told PB reporter Matt Stolle. "I’m having fun."

That says it all. Yesterday, there was an open house at the library to celebrate Donna, and hopefully we’re not overdue in extending our best wishes to her, and to the Mabel community for keeping the library a vital place. Though the world is awash in information, it’s even more awash in misinformation. We need libraries now more than ever.

While we’re fist-bumping libraries, this is a good moment to congratulate the Rochester Public Library for again being named a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Science. It’s a big deal in the library world, and regardless of whether Director Audrey Betcherand her team win a medal, Rochester can take pride in the institution we’ve supported, in one form or another, since 1865.

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