Why are you running for the Minneapolis Board of Education now?
I am running, again, for the Minneapolis School Board District 2 position because I have made great change over the last four years I have been there and am in the middle of what I believe a turnaround for Northside schools. In the past four years we have made over $104 million dollars in capital funding changes. The North Field and Franklin Pool are the most visible. I came in with a vision from the community and want to see it carried all the way through. The plan changes a little, like adding the Gordon Center and roller rink for community control, but not much. Excellent programming with choice is always the endgame.
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 make myself very available to the community through meetings, Facebook and KMOJ. I have shared both my personal number and work number in these areas. Since I am in the neighborhood and attend various meetings (UHT, shop at CUB, go to corner stores), I am also talking to parents that may not be on social media. I visit schools and answer my phone – early mornings and late nights.
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?
The district’s strategic approach could be better. This is overturning 140 years of systemic racism and getting back to Superintendent Green’s views of listening to the black and brown communities. The district is governed by 9 people. 2 Northsiders, 1 Northeaster, and 7 Southsiders. Of these 9, there is one NE representative, 1 Northside, 4 Southside and 3 at-large. The decision weights are way off. Northside students have been used to keep district schools afloat in other parts of the city for years, while Northside has suffered. It has not changed. In my experience, it has been hard to help/make some see the injustices that happen along the way that will affect the Northside. For example, I believe, the boundaries that were passed with the CDD vote (6-3 Felder, Jourdain, Walser) will be redlining Northside’s growth. The CDD curriculum they are using was brought to the superintendent by 2 Northsiders for a separate program for North students with Henry, and then other schools filling in classes that did not fill up. Then it was brought forward to be built at only North High and ended up being split between the WHOLE district… However, it is important to point out that Covid-19 is pointing out ALL societal injustices that also affect education and we are seeing that. It is even more amplified as Minneapolis and St. Paul have the highest infection rates in the state. We have filled some inequities, but still have work to do.
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?
We already have adopted a multi-measure framework with the ESSA, Every Student Succeeds Act. The NCLB, No Child Left Behind Act, was a horizontal line where you could see where the school was and what was defined as “not succeeding”. The ESSA turned that line vertically and made room for not only a lower standard of “failure”, but also a wider standard of “succeeding.” Charter schools have been using multi-measures for years and still were also failing. I serve MPS and the kids need options to succeed. Great options, on the Northside, in every school. For example, dual immersion vs one-way language courses, freedom schools, trades programs, cooking, etc… Options are key.
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?
Social-emotional and multi-tiered systems of support are new buzzwords. It really boils down to wrap-around services for the whole child. It’s like wrap-around was split up and you have to do both simultaneously. It comes down to: (1) Educational options, to open up our students to what is interesting to them. (2) New curriculum, so they can see themselves truly depicted in a positive manner. (3) Mental supports, because our kids are going through a lot and more teachers of color, who can understand each of our children before they say, “Hello.” (4) Working with the city/businesses on internships, so they can experience and digest. (5) Having all sports available to each student. Bringing in the community voice, talking with other board members, being public when we are not reaching our goals and grading the superintendent accordingly is how I would achieve that.
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?
There is a lot. I voted against it at that time, because we were not at full equity yet. I will fight to make sure the boundary line are changed and the programming is equitably distributed. That our programming reflects the programming of the southside and that are parents feel welcomed. I have been fighting and will continue to make sure that the Teacher of Color Retention and Retainment Plan that I led to make is implemented. Also by making sure that the programming stemming from the CDD is top-notch. The boundary numbers are already beginning off and we should not have to close a Northside school while we still are feeding Northeast and Southside schools. I will also make sure that the programming is equitable and the marketing is done well. If not, the community will definitely hear about it. The community is the key and the strength.
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?
School closure is always scary for a Northsider to choose since they have always, historically, closed more schools on the Northside and some more than once because they made mistakes with how strong the numbers are on the Northside. Those numbers are still strong and our children are STILL being used to keep Northeast and Southside schools going still. The fact that Fair High School in downtown has repeatedly had less student that North and no one has heard that is maddening. Additional programming – for years the Northside has come forward for a trades program. This was a part of the CDD plan that supposed to be at North High. Graduation rates, program access and growth, and happy parents/caregivers. Watching out parents choose Northside schools is a quantifiable outcome. We could be an educational empire if all Northside parents chose Northside schools.
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 have been following this since 2010 and charter schools fail at the same rate MPS does. It is much harder to see that now that the ESSA is in effect. The last year we had the NCLB, there was only one charter school that made Average Yearly Progress. I believe, there is a harder line of accountability at MPS. I believe a parent has the choice to send their child where they want, but we would all be better off if they all chose MPS and held them accountable as a whole. Our kids would also be better as they would know one another and our community would be closer as a whole as well. There is such a large picture I see if we could unify under the the neighborhood schools. Like a banking account to purchase bulk instead of one at a time – more programming and sports for all. Also, stronger community control for the Northside specifically. What I can do is help (with my community) make the schools better and ask/hope my other parents come back to build.
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?
Retainment of teachers of color percentage, school level growth, district equitable programming, and school growth.
What public or private organizations have endorsed you and/or contributed to your campaign?
Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59, DFL, Stonewall DFL, Teamsters 120, Womenwinning, and the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.
We invite you to expand on answers to any of the questions in the survey:
In 2015, at the highest number, our kids went to 20 different schools within a 5-block radius. When I look not only at the number of children in schools, but also the neighborhood climate, I think it makes a big difference.