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Star Tribune writers tracking education issues

West Metro Education Program hosts superintendent think tank

The West Metro Education Program held its first-ever superintendent think tank event on Wednesday.  Superintendents, education leaders and students from across the metro area attended the event on Minnesota’s education disparities.

The event started off with a presentation by Chris Weber, a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership and Education. Weber’s presentation ranged from college and career readiness to teacher efficacy.

Weber was then followed by Tamika Fuller from Education Reform Enterprises. Fuller’s interactive presentation gave an overview of data including discipline data by race, which revealed that black students, are disproportionally disciplined, compared to their white peers. Attendees wrote out questions they had about the data. 

The West Metro Education Program also held a morning panel on statewide systems dilemmas. Panelists addressed the data presented by Fuller. Donald Eubanks from Metropolitan State University and Jennifer Godinez from the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership were two of the seven education leaders on the panel.

Susan Enfield, superintendent of highline public schools in Washington, cited the disciplinary data saying how she worked with district principals to cut suspensions almost by half.

Students from schools including Eden Prairie High School shared their thoughts on how racial biases affect them at their schools and how they see it affect their peers.

One student, Kamal Suleiman, said his peers have asked him why he is the only black student in his Woodbury High School Advanced Placement classes.

Later in the afternoon, the West Metro Education Program planned strategic work sessions for the attendees.  

African Immigrant Services supports Osseo racial equity policy

A group of parents represented by African Immigrant Services applauded the Osseo school board for approving the district's first racial equity policy.

The school board voted to approve the plan at its Nov. 22 board meeting. In a news release, the African Immigrant Services called the policy an unprecedented step representing the district’s commitment to closing the achievement gap.

“AIS will continue its collaboration with the district to accelerate the implementation of this policy, even while recognizing some of the challenges and legitimate community concerns that emerged in the final hours of the adoption process,” Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of African Immigrant Services, said in a statement.

The district hopes that the policy will make a dent in closing the achievement gap. The policy includes district responsibilities such as hiring employees with diverse backgrounds and providing culturally responsive training for staff.

The group collaborated with the district on the policy. African Immigrant Services brought in more than 200 parents of color, district and community leaders to weigh in on the district’s equity needs, according to the news release.

Parents with the group packed into the Nov. 22 meeting to await the district’s vote on the policy.

 “The passage of this policy marks a major victory for AIS, the district leadership, and the community of parents and stakeholders”, Fata Acquoi, AIS education organizer, said in a statement. “We must continue to work with our community to deepen and sustain the impact of this amazing work.”

While the group supports the district’s decision, leaders of the African Immigrant Services' group say more needs to be done.

Following the election, graffiti with racial slurs appeared on a Maple Grove Senior High School bathroom.