Since the 2006 election produced four new directors, the Minneapolis school board has closed schools, shifted resources, changed teacher assignment rules, picked a new superintendent, redeployed resources and adopted a strategic plan for student achievement. Schools chief Bill Green has replaced nearly every top administrator and has formed a new leadership team.
District directors have rightly moved aggressively to rebuild public trust and improve student learning after a failed superintendency, massive budget cuts and several poorly handled decisions.
There are promising early signs that the changes are taking hold. Kindergarten registrations were up this year, and enrollment did not drop as dramatically as expected. At the same time, the district has not yet met several of its student achievement goals. And given the economic times, school leaders will continue to face budget problems.
To address those challenges, the district needs strong, creative, practical leaders who can build on changes currently underway. School board candidates Jill Davis, Carla Bates and Sharon Henry-Blythe best fit the bill.
Newcomers Davis and Bates have served on numerous neighborhood and parent-school leadership committees, including the district's citizen budget committee. In addition to strong backgrounds of community service, their professional skills and interests are well matched with the needs of an urban school district.
A University of Minnesota IT specialist with a Ph.D., Bates would bring technology and education policy expertise to the job. She founded the online Minneapolis Parents Forum and has three children in the district, including one with special needs. Bates supports the strategic plan and has good ideas about better use of technology and practical budgeting in tough financial times.
Davis is a psychologist who supervises early intervention programs for families in the Anoka area. She's worked with children and families for 20 years and knows what it takes to build community trust and connections. She has one student in the district and believes Minneapolis schools must be more accountable, invest in early childhood education and take more lessons from successful charter programs.
For the third spot, it's a tough choice between the two incumbents on the ballot. Sharon Henry-Blythe, a former board chair, is seeking a third term. Henry-Blythe has served on the board during some of its most trying times. However, she's grown over the past two years and earns our endorsement. A family policy research administrator, she has taken courageous, thoughtful stands on issues such as school closings and the North Side initiative. And as the longest-serving director, she brings institutional memory to a board where the majority of members are in their first term.
Current board chair Lydia Lee is a retired math teacher. We endorsed Lee four years ago, but she has not developed into an effective board member. Though smart and capable, she has not been a decisive leader. Bates, Davis and Lee have DFL endorsement. Henry-Blythe is a Democrat but did not seek endorsements.
The remaining candidates are Kari Reed and Doug Mann. Reed is a homemaker who home-schools her five children. Mann is a practical nurse who is running for the sixth time. Both have limited knowledge about the full scope of education issues and are not prepared to lead a large school district.
The candidate running against incumbent Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson in District 5 was incorrectly identified in Wednesday's editorial. He is David J. Nyberg.