Citing cost, the Osseo Area school board is poised to end a five-year-old consulting contract with a group that advises the district on how to lessen racial disparities and narrow an achievement gap.

The board has said it intends to conduct in-house the kind of work that Pacific Educational Group (PEG) has helped with since 2012.

School board members have said that the district, where students of color make up more than half the enrollment, can no longer support a 2016-17 cost of $152,000 for PEG's services. At its Tuesday night meeting, the board appeared likely to cease contracting with PEG after the 2017-18 school year.

"Our school board, as recently as the March 7 work session, have all expressed support for our work," said Superintendent Kate Maguire. "The one place where they are less certain is the work specifically with Pacific Educational Group, which is just one component of some foundational training."

Achievement gap

In the five years since the district formed its partnership with PEG, school board members say, the group has not helped to close the district's achievement gap and has been involved in controversies along the way.

Terms of the contract have changed based on what the district's needs are, said Luis Versalles, director of pre-K-12 district partnerships for the firm.

"Osseo should be proud of the capacity they have developed and are developing" by working with PEG on training, Versalles said.

Part of budget plan

The school board is reviewing its Achievement and Integration plan and budget before submitting it to the Minnesota Department of Education. While drafting the plan, the board is deciding on the fate of a PEG partnership that it already has been phasing out over several years.

District officials say the move is part of Osseo's plan to bring all equity work in-house. District leaders, including superintendents and principals, have received professional development from the group.

Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of African Immigrant Services, attended the March 7 meeting. One reason the district is terminating its contract, he said, is due to the discomfort that the firm's conversations create around such topics as white privilege.

'Don't undo all the good work'

"If you are uncomfortable, imagine how these students from different cultures have been feeling for tens of years," Kiatamba said about the school board. "You have one moment of discomfort and you are ready to break down the system."

African Immigrant Services lent its support to the district when it approved its first equity plan in November.

"Don't undo all the good work all of us have done," Kiatamba said.

PEG garnered national media attention in 2015 when a teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools spoke about how the group was not holding black students to the same level of accountability as other students.

"My question is, why can't we select a different vendor, one that is maybe less questionable?" said school board Chairman Robert Gerhart during the March 5 meeting.