As mayor, I will take a strong leadership role in addressing the most crucial issues in the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), especially closing the achievement gap, so that every kid has a chance to grow and thrive. It is important to acknowledge that although the mayor of Minneapolis has limited influence over the actions of the School Board, the mayor does have the ability to help lead the public school system in the right direction.
As a Minneapolis Park Commissioner, I’ve already demonstrated how I can work successfully together with the School Board. I will promote this type of collaborative leadership with those who want to improve our schools, and will work to develop partnerships with other governmental agencies and private interests to bring in much needed resources, just as I’ve done with the parks.
Our goal is to improve education for all of our children and to get all children, regardless of race or economic status, to graduate. To reach that goal, we need the very best teachers in our public schools. If Teach for America (TFA) can produce the very best teachers, I could support TFA. However, if TFA teachers lack the proper training and support, then employing these teachers is not the right direction for MPS. Teachers with degrees in education deserve to be fairly compensated for their work and kids deserve teachers who have appropriate training and experience.
I do not believe that the appointment by the mayor of School Board members is the answer to improve our schools. The residents of Minneapolis have the power to elect representatives who they think will do the best jobs supporting and advocating for excellent administration, teachers, and their students. We should encourage the active participation of our citizens in choosing the best members.
As mayor, I will share my ideas with the School Board and will push the Board and the superintendent to make the following changes:
– Ensure that principals are held accountable for the successes of their schools: It is critical that each school have a top-notch principal and administration so that they may lead individual schools towards success. MPS hires teachers who are talented and committed to working hard and they must be adequately supported by their administrations.
– Fairly evaluate teachers and principals: I will support policies that put an emphasis on allowing all teachers to put their innovation, creativity, talents and passions into their work rather than those that overwhelm them with more guidelines to follow. I also want more support for new teachers, who need to be given more of a chance to succeed before being tossed aside by ‘last in, first out’ types of policies.
– Train teachers and administration in cultural competency, focus on recruiting teachers of color and provide more support for students who need it most: With such a devastating gap between the graduation rates of white students and students of color, I will work with the School Board to find resources to create specific programs that give more support to students who are in danger of dropping out of school. These students also need more chances to be involved in their communities through jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. I’d encourage collaboration between the private sector and nonprofit job training programs, such as Step-Up, to provide more opportunities to youth. Having served as a member of the Youth Coordinating Board and as a Civil Rights Commissioner, I know the importance of providing the right kinds of support to kids of all backgrounds.
– Continue the partnership between the School Board and the Park and Recreation Board to share resources and to enable all kids to have access to recreation and to play team sports: I managed to get unanimous approval from both Park and School Boards on this initiative.
– Enhance the environment of our public school classrooms: I will advocate for prioritizing smaller class-size and providing programs that effectively engage the variety of students who rely on public schools for enriching and stimulating environments.
I have always been an advocate for kids, having had the privilege of coaching hundreds of young athletes over nearly four decades. I was also very active in the schools as a parent, having been appointed by a school principal to initiate a parent governing council. I have a personal interest as well because my grandson just started kindergarten in the district this fall, making him the fifth generation of my family to attend Minneapolis Public Schools. Again, I want to stress that despite the fact that the mayor has limited power over the School Board, the mayor must speak out and act as a leader and advocate on behalf of the kids in MPS who deserve great educations.