Q: What are your views on teacher tenure? Should seniority dictate hiring, retention and layoffs?

A: Gagnon: We’re in our third year of teacher evaluations. Although we need to improve the process, evals helps us understand what support and professional development educators need to provide quality differentiated instruction in every classroom, and educators improve with experience. Teachers who cannot or will not improve their practice are leaving MPS.

Altamirano: Tenure provides educators with the protection needed to take risks with new materials or learning methods, question administration’s decisions, or speak out without fear of reprisal. However, we must ensure that tenure does not conflict with every child’s right to have effective teachers in every classroom and strong leadership at every school.

Samuels: Experienced teachers tend to be more effective and so tenure should be a consideration in evaluations. But effectiveness and tenure are not synonymous. We must agree on the student outcomes that we want, then hire and retain the teachers that produce those outcomes consistently.

Jourdain: I fully support teacher tenure. Tenure gives teachers the ability to advocate not only for their own students, but also students in the school, fellow staff, etc. without fear of retribution from administration. It should not be tweaked in anyway as two of my other opponents have suggested in forums nor should ending (Last in First Out) be tweaked.  

Q: Is Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson serving the students of Minneapolis well? Why or why not? Will you support to keep her on as superintendent or does the district need new leadership? Explain your answer.

A: Gagnon: She oversees the work. The results reflect her leadership. However, I don’t go solely by MCA/MMR results to determine how our students are doing. I am hopeful about November Board Meeting’s academic report detailing how students grew academically according to districtwide benchmark assessments, as well as other progress measurements.

Altamirano: MPS currently has a solid leadership team capable of implementing new strategic plans. However, if we don’t see substantial results by the time the board negotiates the Superintendents next contract, it may be time to find new leadership. For now, the district needs stability to reach its ambitious goals.

Samuels: The shift and Acceleration initiatives are bold, aspirational moves by the superintendent. But she needs support from an independent and courageous board and cooperation from an inspired team. She has not had that. If we elect a board that puts children first, I believe she can be successful.

Jourdain: No. Too many poor decisions. Giving bonuses to district staff making six-figures with a 54% grad rate is one example of many. Thinking about an Office of Black Male Achievement for 5 years. before implementing it while losing black male students during that time is another example. Complacency without accountability has the worst ending.

Q: In your view, what is causing the district’s vast achievement gap? How do you plan to close the district’s achievement gap?

A: Gagnon: (Did not answer question regarding cause of gap) The updated Behavior Standards and new Equity and Diversity policies, including our Equity Impact Assessment work reviewing our policies, practices and systems to determine if a disparate impact by race, zip code, etc exists. Being proactive and intentional about addressing institutional racism to not perpetuate disparate outcomes. Serving the whole child

Altamirano: Institutionalized racism, poverty and mobility; poorly resourced schools; limited physical and mental health care; and lack of social capital all contribute.

I will organize against an environment where dedication and complacency about poverty and other external barriers to student success coexist.

Samuels: While demographics, neighborhoods and culture have changed, the district stays stuck in ineffectiveness. Make a pact with each parent. Replicate programs that work. Identify what is not working, and end it. Relentlessly monitor the progress. Report frequently to the community. Make real time adjustments accordingly. Act with a sense of urgency.

Jourdain: Racial/Socio/Economic Disparities outside of the classroom. Poor classroom support for teachers and school staff inside the classroom coming from the district/administrative level. Community engagement both inside and outside the classroom.

Q: Do you support the district's plan to allow schools more autonomy through it's Community Partnership initiative? If yes, how will you support the plan? If not, why?

A: Gagnon: MPS still has some foundational work required to implement our CPS successfully. We are working vigilantly to approve a robust Site Based Governance policy, we are reviewing and revising our placement policies/practices, and our budget processes are being transformed to become more transparent, predictable and stable.

Altamirano: I support greater autonomy in exchange for accountability and will advocate to prepare educational leaders to manage these new flexibilities with relevant, quality training and a professional and collaborative culture for faculty.
Autonomy gives schools control over decisions and allows for management of bureaucratic constraints, which may be limiting their impact to improve outcomes. 

Samuels: Yes, diversities in culture, learning styles, learning levels, class and backgrounds demand diversity in approaches. I will ensure that resources are justly allocated to support local initiatives. Then, I will hold leaders accountable to produce outcomes they commit to.

Jourdain: Not at this time. As a MPS parent I attended all 3 Area meetings. They were presentations on Accel2020 but were very vague on specifics especially when it comes to autonomy and how to define it, who oversees the implementation, etc. MPS needs to be way more transparent and forthcoming.