Why are you running for the Minneapolis Board of Education now?
I am running because MPS needs to take bold steps and have creative approaches to provide an equitable education for all students. I am the guardian of a nephew, a student at Emerson Spanish Dual Immersion School in District 4. My nephew is thriving at Emerson, but I had to fight for the well-rounded support he needed emotionally and academically. Our last principal retired early. This opened up the opportunity to start organizing with families to make Emerson what every school should be: a space where our children get the equitable education they deserve. But, this can not be achieved if the community spirit is not built together at our schools.
Parents and teachers organized a Dia de los Muertos Celebration that took place on 11/02/2019. I invited artist and muralist Gustavo Lira. We have been collaborating for the last 4 years working with youth led art and healing workshops, he led programming with the support of moms and teachers. The event was a success and led to further collaboration. He joined us at Emerson to create an 8 week after school program, “Desarrollo de Liderazgo through Art,” with the vision to create a mural that reflects the great contributions of leaders of color. We partnered with Community Ed to implement the project. This collaboration is an example of the kind of “cross-pollination” I will champion as a School Board member. We must work in collaboration to ensure policy and serving families is done holistically. I believe in the power of organizing our schools from the ground up starting in our classrooms by connecting with our teachers, school and district leadership. As a mother, immigrant, entrepreneur, bi-cultural, bilingual and community organizer, I will bring my expertise to advance equitable education.
If elected to the board, how would you be accessible to your community (e.g., having bimonthly or quarterly meetings with the community, visiting schools, responding to emails within 24 hours, etc.)?
I am self-employed and I can manage my own schedule. My number one priority will be serving my constituents, students and families in District 4. I am invested and dedicated in working with families at Emerson. I am a Site Council and PTA member and I have been instrumental to bring equitable representation to those entities at Emerson. I will love to replicate that work throughout District 4 schools. I plan to:
We must work in partnership with our community to bring solutions for our students.
Cross pollination amongst District 4 schools could very be beneficial.
The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color, and societal injustices are perhaps more visible than ever before. This includes widening educational inequities that range from academic outcomes and engaging in distance learning to responses to discipline and culture. Do you think the district’s current strategic approach adequately addresses the educational inequities—inequities that the pandemic is exacerbating?
I do not think the current strategic approach is adequate to address the educational inequities. However, I am an optimist and remain hopeful that our community will continue continue voicing concerns and expectations for the board. Last year, I was instrumental in demanding the School Board to provide interpreters for our immigrant families and to engage our families during the CDD conversations. I am in constant communication with District leadership to continue influencing recommendations because I am invested, dedicated and have a child in the district. The district has not addressed childcare in a way that supports low income families. Many low income families are forced to work to provide for their families, and many of these families are living on one wage. Families who do not speak English, are relying on their children for information, if the child is old enough to translate. Many families don’t feel they have the training needed in the technology to support their child. Many families are scared they cannot help with learning, because they don’t understand the technology. Some families feel left in the dark and are hoping for the best. The district has not truly listened to families. Families should not have to incur a cost access distance learning. Attendance policies do not reflect the barriers families will face. There are still families not equipped with internet devices, and do not have reliable internet access, as well as personal learning space.
In a recent national survey conducted by Learning Heroes, only 39% of teachers report their students come prepared for grade-level work at the beginning of the year. What’s more, most parents believe their children perform at or above grade-level, because they typically rely on only one measure of achievement—report card grades.
However, many large school districts and U.S. cities are using multi-measure school performance frameworks to define, measure, and manage school quality, communicate information on school quality to families, and guide decision-making. These frameworks provide information on school performance across a variety of academic and non-academic measures to support transparent, equitable decisions, and identification of school improvement strategies.
Do you think Minneapolis should adopt a multi-measure school performance framework that aggregates data into a single rating—including academic proficiency and growth data, but also broader measures of a school’s performance (e.g., student attendance and retention data, social-emotional data, discipline data, and information on teacher and school leader diversity and retention of those educators)? Why or why not?
Yes, I do believe Minneapolis Public Schools should adopt a multi-measured school performance framework that aggregates into a single rating—including academic proficiency and growth data, but also broader measures of a school’s performance (e.g., student attendance and retention data, social-emotional data, discipline data, and information on teacher and school leader diversity and retention of those educators.
As a family advocate working with Latine, Somali and African American families, I saw 1st hand parents request for more information about schools. We were lucky to have the Minneapolis School Finder, which provided families with some data about schools they could use to make an informed decision about which schools might best fit their family needs. I am a mother of 2 adult daughters that attended schools in Florida. The Florida Sunshine Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida. The law was first enacted in 1995. This law created a lot of controversy but at least parents knew if our schools were high, mid, low or failing schools. As a guardian, I feel parents deserve to know the truth about how schools are performing. It might not be the solution to our crisis and decades of systematic oppression, but the better we understand how our children are doing the easier it is to monitor for problems and begin to address them.
In recent years, the Minneapolis district has made new investments to meet students’ social-emotional needs. What goals or measures do you think the board should use to ensure this work is producing positive outcomes for students? How would you hold the district accountable for meeting social-emotional goals?
I believe Social Emotional Learning is a distraction to deflect from the real issue which is the belief gap. This gap leads to poor academic outcomes for low income and students of color. How does one measure if a student is behaving correctly if SEL is happening at schools? Minneapolis Public Schools was investigated and found to be suspending Black children at an alarming rate for subjective behavior issues. Minneapolis has to make structural changes to root out White Supremacy and institutional racism before it could begin to discuss SEL of children of color.
Following the Minneapolis Board of Education’s approval of the Comprehensive District Design in May 2020, what results do you believe will be important to track to ensure the CDD implementation is grounded in equity?
Academic outcomes for ALL students. Teacher diversity, through the hiring and retainment process at MPS. Climate Framework and School Safety policies, implementation, and practices. Restorative Justice policy, implementation and practices.
Across our community, many schools of all types (geography, grades, programs, sectors) enroll especially large numbers of students from a low-income background. Across these schools we see dramatically different results (with similar student populations), including, for example, the number of students reading and doing math on grade level and, for high schools, graduation rates and college persistence. In large U.S. cities that are effectively closing opportunity gaps and have great, high-functioning schools, districts use a myriad of tools to address low-performing schools that aren’t working for kids and families.
What do you think are appropriate solutions for addressing chronically low-performing schools? From the solutions below, please identify three you would advocate for and see the Minneapolis Board of Education able to affect:
— Equitable allocation of resources—financial and/or access to highly effective teaching
— Significant school redesign, including new model and new staffing at all levels
— School leadership change
— Additional programming
— Enrollment flexibility for students zoned to that school
— School closure
— Other [insert solutions]:
Please explain your selections. What quantifiable outcomes do you believe the board should use to determine if disparities are shrinking?
I believe making sure the low performing schools have all the resources it needs to address disparities is crucial and critical to increasing academic outcomes for all students. I believe, when schools are doing good, look to the leaders, and when they are not, look to the leaders. I believe that additional culturally responsive programming is essential for increasing academic outcomes for all students, such as, before and after school academic support (tutoring), mentoring programs, arts and technology after school and/or weekend programs. I believe in Parent choice, and parents know what is best for their child. If a child’s school that they are zoned is not providing adequate educational support in the eyes of the parents, the parents should have the right to find the best high quality option.
The quantifiable outcomes I believe the board should use to determine if disparities are shrinking is data on; If academic outcomes for Black, Latine, and Indigenous children (growth), decline or increase? Had suspension rates for students who identify as BIPOC gone down or up? How many black students have been referred to Special Education (with a EBD diagnosis)? Has teacher diversity increased? Has MPS lost any teachers of color.
As the state of Minnesota permits open enrollment and the formation of charter schools—publicly funded schools that are governed by a nonprofit board of directors and a state-approved authorizer, but not by a local school board—large numbers of families of color in Minneapolis have enrolled their children in neighboring district schools and/or public charter schools.
What are your thoughts on the above dynamic? How do you think about the role that charter schools play in the K-12 ecosystem?
I support Open Enrollment, and I believe parents should have a right to have high quality school options for their child. I believe Charter Schools play many roles in the K-12 ecosystem; Offering Innovation.
Some Charter Schools offer a culturally affirming structure parents and students cannot yet find in traditional district schools. Charter schools do not accept children based on zip codes.
MPS has many challenges and I am ready to tackle those challenges. We know that a key component to providing an excellent education is full funding of our schools. We must create the schools all children deserve. However, our enemy here is White Supremacy and systematic racism. I have been a community organizer and I know how important it is to bring people together and to build relationships. I want to expand on the powerful work we have done at Emerson, bringing that template to District 4.
One of the four critical responsibilities of a school board is to hire and evaluate the superintendent. What 3-5 quantifiable outcomes do you think are the most important to include as part of the board’s evaluation of the superintendent’s performance?
What public or private organizations have endorsed you and/or contributed to your campaign?
Our campaign was endorsed by the Socialist Party and we are currently working on getting more endorsements. No private organizations have contributed.
We invite you to expand on answers to any of the questions in the survey:
Nothing to add.