We thought the photographer busily snapping away at the school board swearing-in ceremony for Kim Ellison looked vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until he turned around that we realized that it was indeed Congressman Keith Ellison moonlighting as a photographer.
Ellison's ascension to the board was a family affair. Son Jeremiah administered the oath.
Ellison joined the board on a day of change in which Alberto Monserrate, one of a crop of new board members just a year ago, succeeded Jill Davis as board chair. Davis said the tension between her job as a social work supervisor in the Anoka area plus family obligations made chairing the board difficult. But the change also represented an assertion by the four new board members elected in November, 2010.
For those who remember the days when Monserrate scribed some impassioned online comments about the failure of schools to educate students, especially those of color, we asked what he's learned since he gained a board seat a year ago.
"I have the same passion I've always had that all children can learn," Monserrate said. But he said the job has given him more perspective on how to effectively work for change. He made a point of saying in his brief remarks that he thinks the district is in better shape than a year ago. That's a significant acknowledgement from the 2010 electees who took office lacking confidence in Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson's leadership but feel better about her now.
Monserrate, 45, was elected from a Nokomis area district where he lives. He runs a Latino-oriented media business, and is a Puerto Rican native who has lived in Minnesota for 28 years. His two children attend public school in Columbia Heights, where they live.
Ellison, 47, was selected by the board to fill its vacancy in December. She replaces the resigning Lydia Lee, whose departure leaves an already inexperienced board without any veteran board members. Ellison was already thinking of running for the board seat that will represent the North Side, a position voters will fill next fall. She's the lone North Sider on the board and the first one since T. Williams was defeated for reelection in 2010.
She has specialized in teaching struggling inner-city students, first at The City Inc.alternative school and then at Guadalupe Alternative Programs on St. Paul's West Side. She's now an assistant at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. She also coached a North/Henry swim team.
Ellison proclaimed herself "overwhelmed but excited" about joining the board. She said helping struggling students help to close the achievement gap is an issue dear to her, but she also wants opportunities for gifted students..
Ellison and the congressman, who are legally separated, have four children, two of whom at enrolled at South High School.