We recommend Mammen, Williams, Arneson, Monserrate.
Prior to the August primary election, this editorial board endorsed four citywide Minneapolis school board candidates. We believed they were the best-suited for board service among a field of nine candidates.
Voters agreed and selected the same four to advance. In the Nov. 2 general election, only two will be elected. In addition, voters in three newly created districts will elect three new members to the board.
In District 3, in east-central Minneapolis, businessman and community activist Hussein Samatar is running unopposed. To fill the four contested board seats, we recommend Jenny Arneson, Richard Mammen, Alberto Monserrate and Theartrice (T) Williams.
They have the best combination of skills to manage Minneapolis schools through difficult financial and academic times and to help build more faith in the schools. They'll need to help improve academic achievement, settle the overdue teachers contract, streamline operations, oversee the budget and balance the needs of all students and families. The new board must implement the promising strategic plan and must be prepared to make difficult, sometimes unpopular calls to benefit all students.
Winners will work together on a reconfigured board in transition, because a 2009 voter referendum changed the existing at-large, seven-member body to a nine-person board. The transformation will be completed in 2012, when a third at-large member and three more district members will be elected.
For nearly 40 years, Richard Mammen has worked at improving the lives of kids. During those years, he has acquired a lot of knowledge about effective strategies with children. He also has an impressive résumé, with expertise in management, budgeting, governing and forging partnerships. A former director for the Minneapolis Parks Department and former director of the city's Youth Coordinating Board, he has served on numerous nonprofit and corporate boards.
Campaigning on the themes of "empowerment, collaboration and accountability,'' Mammen has contacts all over the city and has demonstrated that he can bring people and resources together on behalf of kids.
As the only incumbent in the field, T Williams is seeking his second term on the board. The 76-year-old retired consultant and professor has earned a reputation as a wise, fair mediator and as a team builder. With at least four new members come January, the board will need his knowledge of institutional history. Williams has been a strong proponent of school reforms and helped develop the district's strategic plan to address learning disparities. Looking to the future, Williams talks about taking a more regional approach to education, predicting that current districts will have to band together to make the most of limited public resources.
The other at-large candidates are Chanda Smith Baker, 38, chief learning officer for Pillsbury United Communities, an organization that sponsors charter schools, and 39-year-old Rebecca Gagnon, a former social worker and church family liaison. Both are knowledgeable about education issues and have good ideas about improving student achievement. We'd like to see them continue working for children -- and continue their interest in elective office.
A good fit for her northeastern district, former social worker Arneson has put community and parental involvement at the center of her campaign. Why? Because children do better in school with community and family support. A lifelong resident of Northeast, the 35-year-old has chaired her local PTA and has been an active member of Public Education Northeast -- a parent activist group.
She helped start a Spanish-speaking group to help non-English-speaking parents get involved at school. And she wants to improve program equity by fostering cooperation rather than competition between schools.
Running against her is Mike Endrizzi, a former classroom educator who taught in several other states and for six years in Minneapolis. Now a producer for a streaming-media company, he believes the keys to closing the achievement gap lie in safer schools and better use of technology. Though genuinely concerned about kids, he appears less prepared for board service than Arneson.
A thoughtful businessman, Monserrate would bring valuable skills and perspective to the school board. He is the CEO and cofounder of the Latino Communications Network, parent company for several publications and radio stations. The 44-year-old former financial adviser has been a board member for the Citizens League and for a successful charter school, and he has been appointed to serve on statewide education committees.
Raised in Puerto Rico by two teacher parents, Monserrate has helped hire educators and has been involved in education issues as a volunteer for 15 years. His professional background prepares him to provide communications, management, governance and education policy expertise to the board.
Monserrate's opponent to represent the southeastern part of the city, John H. Saulsberry, did not send a biography or respond to this editorial board's request for an interview.
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If elected, Monserrate and Samatar will be the first Latino and Somali immigrants, respectively, to serve on the Minneapolis school board.
Among the candidates, Arneson, Mammen, Monserrate and Samatar have DFL endorsement.