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Star Tribune writers tracking education issues

St. Paul board member opts out of re-election bid

The St. Paul school board has taken some important votes in the past year, but few rival the suspense accompanying a decision last summer on whether to close Galtier Community School.

Members announced their votes one by one, and when it came time for Chue Vue to declare where he stood, the tally was 3-to-3.

Vue voted "no" to the closure proposal, and Galtier supporters, having realized a longshot bid to save their school, cheered.

Nearly a year later, Vue and colleague John Brodrick, who also was on the winning side of the Galtier vote, are up for re-election. While Brodrick announced last weekend that he will seek a fifth term, Vue said Friday night that he is not running again -- at least not in 2017.

He said that after much thought he's decided to wait for another time when he feels he might have greater impact as a board member.

On the same night as the Galtier rescue, the board voted, 5-to-2, to oust former Superintendent Valeria Silva, with Vue and former Chairwoman Jean O'Connell in opposition.

O'Connell, citing what she deemed to be the "disrespectful, destructive and cynical" nature of the board, announced then that she was quitting. Vue thanked her publicly for having helped him personally when he first took office in 2014 and said that he was sorry to see her go.

On Friday, Vue said that the board has come a long way since that night in building "some positive vibes here" and he is optimistic about people rallying around incoming Superintendent Joe Gothard.

As for the election, board candidates are courting DFL activists for support this weekend at caucuses and ward conventions in a run-up to the city convention in June.

Three seats are up for election; they now are held by Brodrick, Vue and Jeanelle Foster.

Foster won election last year to fill the remainder of O'Connell's term, and is running again. Also vying for DFL endorsement are Brodrick, Eduardo Barrera and Marny Xiong.

Vue said that he would like to see more diversity on the board, but is not ready to back anyone publicly.

His decision not to run came in the same week that Clayton Howatt, PTO president at Galtier Community School, appeared before the board to pitch a vision for the school calling in part for greater investment on the district's part.

Said Vue, "I think there's a lot of potential in that community ... I'm crossing my fingers that it's going to work out in the long run."

On Saturday, Howatt took to social media to praise Brodrick as one of Galtier's earliest and strongest supporters, adding: "If anyone is going to your ward caucus this weekend, please lend him your support, and tell him Galtier sent you."

Minneapolis schools communications chief has resigned

The Minneapolis schools communications chief has resigned after starting her district role in January.

Tonya Tennessen, formerly head spokeswoman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, stepped down from her job manning Minneapolis Public Schools communications, effective last Friday. She didn't give a reason for her resignation.

"I have tremendous respect for the superintendent and his commitment to equity, to kids and to getting the district into a more stable financial position," she said.

In an e-mailed statement Monday, Superintendent Ed Graff said he respected "the work of Ms. Tennessen on numerous District priorities including support of our legislative agenda, town hall meetings with immigrant families, and a host of other topics."

Tennessen is a Minneapolis schools alumnae, and a parent and former district teacher.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Suzanne Kelly will lead the communication and family and community engagement departments, Graff said in an e-mail to the school board Monday.

A March e-mail obtained by the Star Tribune shows that the district's communications and community and family engagement departments are blending, meaning that some of these positions won't continue after July 1 and fresh ones will be announced. Tennessen had been leading this organization shift.

Graff's Monday e-mail to the board said that this restructuring will move forward.

"The new structure has been developed to deliver stronger communication and engagement for the district and communities within our current budget constraints," he said in the e-mail to the school board.