Why are you running for the Minneapolis Board of Education now?
Minneapolis Public School students face some of the nation’s largest racial disparities in academic outcomes and discipline practices. As a social worker, I see the impact of our current school system on our most vulnerable youth. Teachers, staff, youth, and families need strategic and sustained support to eliminate these disparities. I am confident I can translate the needs of our community into innovative practices and unite instead of divide those with differing perspectives. Currently, I center youth and family voices in decision-making at Hennepin County and will continue this work on the Board so every child feels valued and successful in MPS.
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.)?
Elected officials have a duty to be accessible to their constituents. I will ensure that I use both regularly scheduled community engagement opportunities as well as non-traditional means of getting input from the community. As safe and appropriate, I will visit schools and provide virtual meeting options when in-person visits are not possible. I will promptly respond to calls, texts, and emails from the community and seek feedback as to what options work best for our school communities.
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 saw first-hand how significantly some students in MPS were impacted by the pandemic during the 2019-2020 school year. The need for universal WiFi, one device per child, and creative programming for those with special needs and language barriers were frequent topics of debate and dialog. Admittedly there was an incredible burden on staff and families to develop rapid responses to the pandemic. While I am encouraged by the prioritization of basic needs (free food pick-up at sites across the district), I am concerned by the lack of a plan to adequately address learning loss that occurred in spring and the district’s ability to locate and engage students and families who are unreachable by traditional communication methods and are likely to have fewer resources. As a board member, I would be asking the tough questions to those responsible for developing and implementing solutions.
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?
I believe information is power. The publication of meaningful and accessible data on school performance induces informed decision-making by parents about the options available. Ratings are one option to increase transparency and insight into our strengths and opportunities. Fearing or dismissing scores and metrics inhibits our ability to improve and stay accountable to the youth and families we serve. Measures that are relevant to families will facilitate community engagement and empower our families who are not aware of the options, services, and opportunities available to 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?
It is not apparent enough what the current goals and measures are for this educational approach in Minneapolis Public Schools. Research addresses the benefits of social-emotional learning, but it must be clearer and more transparent what MPS is aiming to accomplish and how. Several measures of accountability that I find meaningful are a reduction in discipline disparities, increased academic outcomes across the board, and reports of feeling welcome, appreciated, and adequately supported by students, families, teachers, and staff.
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?
To ground the CDD implementation in equity, I believe it is important to understand who benefits and who is burdened by our decisions. During implementation of the CDD there will need to be pursuit of numerous avenues to encourage community voices to contribute to decision-making. I believe that the following measures along with those that are meaningful and important to our MPS community should be tracked and communicated regularly: academic outcomes year over year, especially for low-income students and groups currently facing achievement and opportunity gaps, racial disparities in discipline practices, annual enrollment, and school climate.
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?
Chronically low performing schools in MPS deserve equitable allocation of resources, including experienced teaching staff. Failing to adequately invest in these schools will further exacerbate the disparities. Quantifiable outcomes should include measures of academic progress, school climate, as well as student, family, and staff experience.
Bolstering curriculum transformation efforts with additional programming could support the development of culturally responsive classrooms. Additional programming could also provide meaningful professional development opportunities for educators to implement anti-racist teaching methodologies. A final programming investment outside of the classroom would be to boost mental health and support resources for students.
School redesign, exploration of new models, or staffing changes could also be a potential option for reducing racial disparities in our education system. These changes whenever possible should include evidence-based practices that have proven effective in areas with similar demographics to MPS schools. These changes should also include input from school community stakeholders.
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?
My job as a school board member is to ensure that MPS schools meet the educational, psychological, social, and physical needs of all families in the district. If this were currently true, opting out of the district or choosing private or charter schools would be rare. That more and more families are finding more suitable options outside of the district is troubling. I believe that every child deserves an excellent education and would never shame or blame a family for making the best decision for their child, but I am deeply concerned by the trend. Not all Minneapolis public schools are meeting expectations, but my goal is for every school in the district to be nurturing, rigorous, and fruitful.
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?
Minneapolis Building Trades Council, DFL, Run for Something
We invite you to expand on answers to any of the questions in the survey:
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