Last week, Minneapolis school board members heard from a large crowd of protesters angry about the layoffs of a number of educators of color.
On Wednesday night, the board faced nearly 100 principals and assistant principals who filled the room for a special board meeting. The school administrators opposed the board’s reinstatement of those laid off. Some said they were hurt and frustrated by the board action, which they said was taken without consultation with those who had to make tough, budget-based decisions about staff cuts.
The principals crowded a special board meeting to call for a plan to reunite the community and pledge support for those in charge of individual schools. They sought assurance that the board will follow protocol in the future.
“If you think about possibly giving staff of color tenured rights in their probationary years, you will in essence deter an organization from hiring staff of color because you are sending a message that there is less accountability,” said Mauri Melander, principal at Lucy Laney School.
At last Tuesday’s board meeting, protesters asserted that educators of color were “pushed out for advocating for students,” and pleaded with members to remedy that.
After deliberation, members of the school board passed a resolution from protesters that asked them to rehire those laid off or give formal recommendations for their rehiring.
The principals disagreed with the resolution. At Wednesday’s meeting, they talked about the support they have in place for teachers and their decision-making process when they know a staff member is struggling.
“When I do have to make a final decision that this just isn’t working, those are the nights I lose sleep,” said VaNita Miller, principal at Field Community School.
Board members reflected on last week’s meeting, and several of them apologized to the principals. Member Don Samuels said he went home after the meeting and told his wife that he would quit the school board. He had passed on voting on the Tuesday resolution.
He added that he was surprised the board let itself be convinced and acted in a manner that he said “violates our rules.”
Meanwhile, Board Member KerryJo Felder, who made the motion at Tuesday’s meeting, said that pushing the conversation was worth the effort. Board Chair Rebecca Gagnon said that the topic of layoffs of educators of color has sparked fruitful discussion on the subject.
Minneapolis schools are wrestling with a $28 million budget gap for the coming school year, which Superintendent Ed Graff proposed to cut 10 percent in its central offices and 2.5 percent to school allocations.
Principals have said they’ve laid off personnel this spring.
The meeting triggered the emotional side in Graff, a leader who is usually calm, and he cried while giving closing remarks. He talked about the importance of coming together for kids.
“We’re going to commit to it every single day, just like that student who wakes up every single day despite what they’re dealing with at home and they go into that classroom — that’s what we need to commit to,” Graff said.