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Mammen wins contested school board chair post

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government Updated: January 14, 2014 - 8:04 PM

Richard Mammen will be the face you see most often on cablecasts of the Minneapolis school board this year after he won the post of board chair Tuesday night in a contested election.

He defeated Tracine Asberry by a 7-2 vote of their board peers.  Carla Bates joined Asberry as the only board members supporting her.  In the other disputed post, Rebecca Gagnon defeated Carla Bates for board treasurer for the second straight year.

Mammen is starting the final year of his first term on the board, while Asberry is entering the second year of her term. He succeeds Alberto Monserrate, who was chair for two years.

For Mammen, the post punctuates a public school journey he began at Burroughs elementary, before attending Ramsey Junior High and graduating from Washburn High School in 1968. He’s among the city’s best-connected public figures, a lifelong city resident who has help a number of key youth-oriented jobs.

The choice came partly down to a matter of style.  Mammen is an affable older figure with strong ties to many of the city’s DFL powers.  Asberry, a onetime teacher in a high-poverty district school, has been more impatient over the pace of the district’s efforts to narrow its achievement gap, willing to challenge her peers.

Mammen began work as a YMCA street outreach worker for youth, ultimately becoming the first executive director of the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board.  He’s currently co-founder and president of Change Inc., a nonprofit community development organization that does consulting on human development and community issues.

“The next few months will tell a lot about the direction the schools are going and whether we’re making progress,” Mammen said in a recent interview. “We’ve got a long way to go in terms of our strategic direction and our enrollment, and setting goals for what size district we want to be.”

He’s still has not said definitively that he’s running for another term, saying only that he’s intending to run city-wide. Nor has Monserrate announced his plans.  DFL precinct caucuses will be held on Feb. 4.

Mammen is the first ponytailed board chair since David Tilsen, who chaired the board in 1992.

(Photo above: Outgoing chair Alberto Monserrate turns his gavel over to Richard Mammen, with board member Carla Bates in background.)

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