If the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) are to make the changes needed in the district, it is vital that voters elect Sharon El-Amin (Second District), Adriana Cerrillo (Fourth District) and Michael Dueñes (at-large seat) to the school board.
The impediments to imparting a knowledge-intensive, skill-replete education to MPS students are a knowledge-deficient curriculum, ill-trained teachers and principals, the absence of scholars among those making academic decisions at the Davis Center (MPS central offices), a central office bureaucracy incapable of addressing these dilemmas and a corrupting context created by the larger public education establishment that extends from college- and university-based teacher training programs through the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) — with many tentacles reaching into a community of enablers.
The Comprehensive District Design (CDD) that was passed amid much controversy in May of this year admirably induces attendance at community schools, rationally redesigns transportation routes and centrally locates reevaluated magnet programs. But the plan does nothing to address the academic issues that lie at the core of the mission of any locally centralized school district.
To address the vexing dilemmas that send forth graduates so unprepared that one-third must take remedial courses on college and university campuses (less than 70% of MPS students manage to graduate in four years), courageous new leaders willing to challenge the system must be elected to the board.
The current board contains nine members who are firmly connected to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT)/DFL Party cohort that always blocks needed change. The cohort is in turn deeply indebted to Education Minnesota, the pro-DFL lobbying entity of which the MFT is a local affiliate. Ousting current board members KerryJo Felder (Second District) and Kim Ellison (at-large) and bringing in leadership unconnected to the MFT/DFL cohort to the Fourth District seat is imperative for bringing knowledge-intensive, skill-replete curriculum to MPS students.
In its recommendations (“Schools on ballot in Mpls., St. Paul,” Oct. 24) the Editorial Board wisely endorsed El-Amin but unfortunately also lent its support to DFL establishment candidates Ellison and Christa Mims.
Readers should indeed vote for El-Amin, a community activist who has served as head of the North High School parents group. But they should also cast their ballots for Cerrillo and Dueñes over Mims and Ellison, respectively.
Cerrillo is an activist who has made many appearances at the State Capitol in St. Paul as an advocate for immigrants’ rights.
Dueñes is a former dean of liberal arts and global education at North Hennepin Community College.
The locally centralized MPS has been a chronically ineffective school district since the mid-1970s — over 40 years. Demographic changes in both north and south Minneapolis posed challenges to a district that at the time had no more than five African American teachers; the mostly white middle class MPS teaching and administrative staff was overwhelmed, possessing little understanding of the needs of young people from families facing grave challenges of finances and functionality.
To this day, decisionmakers at MPS have never implemented a program designed to meet the needs of these students. It’s long overdue.
Electing fresh leadership willing to challenge the system is an imperative.
Gary Marvin Davison is director of the New Salem Educational Initiative in north Minneapolis. He blogs at www.newsalemeducation.blogspot.com.