Community engagement seems to be all the rage these days as a buzzword at 1250 Broadway, headquarters of Minneapolis Public Schools.
It's walking the talk that seems to be the problem.
Take the Community Engagement task force that's listed as a school board committee.
Its mission statement is full of buzzwords: "to meaningfully engage the community in decision making processes that are intentional and systematic, and strengthen collaboration with school district stakeholders." Stripped of rhetoric, that means to let the public in on the discussion to help frame the options long before a decision is about to be made.
Of course, like most board committees, this one meets during the day. It has posted minutes for only one of its last seven meetings. And it has sent no output to the board in a year of meetings.
Then there's the sort of community engagement envisioned by rookie board member Tracine Asberry. She loosed it on the board last week. Thirteen representatives of a variety of interest groups told the board what their group needs. Some, like activist Al Flowers or teacher union President Lynn Nordgren, are frequent fliers in the board's agenda spot for community input. Board members responded that they like community engagement. But a real dialog between board and community was absent.
Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson had already heard from a number of those who spoke. "In many ways, it still felt like a listening session -- so what's the next step?" she asked in an interview a few days later.
Asberry said the next step is for the board to discuss how to govern through policies to achieve outcomes that the community articulated.