For nearly a decade, our test scores and graduation rates have revealed staggering gaps based on race, and our dialogue on education has done little to help us break free from that tragic, dangerous reality.

Minneapolis is a city that prides itself on making progress. Our informed and engaged citizens have made the city a national leader on LGBTQ rights, environmental sustainability, and inclusiveness for immigrants and refugees. But when it comes to education, let’s face it: we’re stuck.

Unbound will build a new conversation around education from the ground up. We’ll bring people together through frank conversation, personal stories, in-depth policy research and events where we can talk face-to-face about the most pressing issues facing our schools.

We believe that the more you know, the more you can help shift the dialogue, and shift the results for our kids. It’s time to challenge yourself: How much do you really know about education in our city? How can you get engaged to make a difference?

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't by Dr. Brittany Lewis Navigating Choice by Erin Clotfelter School Boards Need Less Drama by Bernadeia Johnson The Importance of School Board Elections by Mohamud Noor Stay Informed, Get Involved by Pam Costain The Heavy Weight of an ELL Label by Blessing Kasongoma We Need Dedicated Teachers by Myesha Powell Instability Does Not Make Us Incapable by Daija Triplett How Should A School Feel? by Mauri Friestleben Outcomes Matter, and So Does Culture By Caleea Kidder Helping Our Most Vulnerable Children By Hoang Murphy Students Need A Place to Call Home by Margo Hurrle Let's Support Alternative Schools By Kristy Snyder For Every Claudia By Norma Garcés Who Goes Where, and Why By Mike Spangenberg Catalyzing Student Excellence By Kristell Caballero Saucedo Job Well Done By Michael J. Thomas With Students, Not For Students By Tina Maynor Budget Cuts Create Imperfect Decisions By Christopher Mah Great Principals Make a Difference By Shannon Gibney Yes, We Need Integration By Emily Lilja Palmer
Get Involved
Get Involved

Quick, printable primers on the issues facing students, families, educators and administrators in our public schools.

We owe it to our children to honor their limitless potential by thinking beyond the usual boundaries and battle lines. We owe it to our children to break free from an unproductive conversation that keeps adults locked in ideological camps. We owe it to our children to start a new dialogue—one that centers around them and their future success.

Graves Foundation
We provide financial, networking and operational resources to our partners, so children in Hennepin County have access to the resources they need to thrive as students and sustain through adulthood.

Through an inventive, fluid and collaborative approach, Graves Foundation partners with emerging leaders in education and foster care to transform the lives of children in our community. Our goal is an equitable and sustainable future for all, created through a web of connected, passionate individuals who uplift our youth, their families, and the communities we serve as a whole.
Pollen Midwest
Pollen Midwest invests in human connection to fuel momentum for social change by mapping critical narratives, hosting events where essential conversations happen, and linking people to new professional and personal opportunities. Unbound produced by Pollen Studio, Pollen's creative agency. On this project: Manager: Mónica Nadal; Creative Director and Artist: Meghan Murphy; Editorial Director: Jerome Rankine; Client Relations: Jamie Millard.

Pam Costain
Pam Costain is a community organizer and lifelong social justice activist. For the past 12 years she has been dedicated to strengthening public education, first as an elected member of the Minneapolis School Board, then as CEO of AchieveMpls, the nonprofit partner of the Minneapolis schools, and currently with Unbound. She believes passionately in the right of all children in Minneapolis to a quality public education and that our failure to realize this is a tragedy that must be addressed.
Meg Murphy
Meg created all of the custom art for Unbound and does all of the layout design. She is obsessed with art and she is obsessed with story. You will find her wherever the two disciplines braid together. Meghan's nights are spent at her drawing desk. Her days are divided between working at Pollen and volunteering as editor-in-chief of Paper Darts.
Norma Garcés
Norma Garcés is the Executive Director of El Colegio High School and Youth Development Program
Shannon Gibney
Shannon Gibney lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis. Her son, Boisey, attends Bancroft Elementary School, where she is on the site council. Check out her work—including info on her upcoming novel Dream Country—at
Margo Hurrle
For the last 28 years, Margo Hurrle has been working for Minneapolis schools with families and children experiencing homelessness. She works with 17 area homeless shelters assisting in removing barriers to students success. Margo attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned her BA in Sociology, and has an RN degree from St. Kate's. Margo lives in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Chris Mah
Christopher Mah teaches high school Language Arts in the Minneapolis Public Schools. He is a writing contributor to EdPost and MinnPost and an active member of Educators for Excellence.
Tina Maynor
Tina Maynor is currently a French Teacher and Instructional Specialist at Edison High School. She has been a teacher and teacher leader in Minneapolis Public Schools for 18 years at Patrick Henry, South, and Edison High Schools, and served as the founding Teacher-Leader at Pierre Bottineau French Immersion School.

Tina has earned her National Board Certification and is licensed in 7-12 French. She graduated from Minneapolis South High, and went on to earn a BA in French Language & Literature at Beloit College. She earned her MAEd at Hamline University.

Tina lives in Folwell neighborhood in North Minneapolis with her husband and children.
Hoang Murphy
Hoang Murphy is the Founder/Executive Director of Foster Advocates, a social venture that aims to improve the child welfare system in Minnesota by providing advocacy, policy, and organizing with former foster care recipients and impacted communities. Hoang served as the 2016-2017 Public Policy Fellow with the United States Department of Education in the last year of the Obama Administration. Hoang is a native of Greater Minnesota and is a proud first-generation college graduate with a B.A. in Policy Studies from Syracuse University and a M.S., Ed. from the Johns Hopkins University. In his spare time, he likes to brag about the Eastside of St. Paul, cook, and lament about the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Emily Lilja Palmer
Dr. Emily Lilja Palmer is a Minneapolis native and a product of the Minneapolis Public Schools K-12. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration, M.Ed in Secondary Education, and B.A. in English. She holds a teaching license in English 7-12, an administrative license K-12, and National Board certification.

Emily taught 14 years in Minneapolis at Anthony Middle School and Patrick Henry High School. She served 6 years as assistant principal at Richfield Middle School. She is currently in her 5th year serving as principal of Sanford Middle School in Minneapolis.

Emily is married with two daughters, and resides in the Cleveland neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Kristell Caballero Saucedo
Kristell Caballero Saucedo is the Senior Program Associate for the Racial Equity Initiatives at Borealis Philanthropy. As a low-income, first-generation immigrant woman, her work is committed to social justice that puts race and kyriarchy [a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression and submission] at its nexus. Most recently, Kristell was a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow at the Bush Foundation where she was responsible for managing grants for the Community Innovation Program. Kristell holds a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from St. Olaf College. Kristell is a salsa dancing enthusiast and Crossfit addict.
Mike Spangenberg
Mike Spangenberg has been working in education for 15 years, beginning as a 9th grade English teacher in Philadelphia. He worked in both traditional school districts and charter schools as a classroom teacher, building administrator, school leader, and district administrator before heading up the teacher training and development team at Teach for America - Twin Cities. Last school year, he served as Interim Head of School at Bright Water Montessori, an intentionally diverse charter school serving children ages 16 months through 6th grade in North Minneapolis. He and his wife LesLee have two children, one of whom attends elementary school in Minneapolis Public Schools and one of whom attends preschool at Bright Water.
Michael Thomas
Michael J. Thomas has over twenty years of experience in the fields of education and social work. Currently, Michael is a doctoral student and a full Presidential Scholar in the School of Education’s Educational Leadership program at the University of St. Thomas, where he also completed his PK-12 Principal and Superintendent licensure. Mr. Thomas spent seven years as a leader with Minneapolis Public Schools—as Associate Superintendent, Chief of Schools, and most recently as Chief of Academics Leadership & Learning. He enjoys spending quality time with his wife and two high school age daughters, fishing, cooking, and writing poetry.
Dr. Brittany Lewis
Dr. Brittany Lewis is a Research Associate at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, a Research Fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and an adjunct faculty member at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Dr. Lewis' specializations are U.S. Black empowerment politics and policymaking in urban housing history. Dr. Lewis has taught and published widely as an interdisciplinary scholar of Black urban studies. Dr. Lewis employs a critical race and gender studies lens to examine the political economy of race, gender, and place. Dr. Lewis' main focus is Black resistance to urban housing policies and practices, and community-centered public policy solution making.
Erin Clotfelter
Erin is a public education and disability rights advocate based in Northeast Minneapolis. After her twins were diagnosed with autism at age 2, she quickly realized her voice as their parent was one of the most important in the room when making decisions and pursuing services. An active volunteer in her school district, and at the capitol, she fills time between committee meetings playing Minecraft with her four young sons, cuddling cats, and avoiding the pile of laundry that needs to be folded.