Kim D. Ellison won appointment to the Minneapolis school board last month, beating out four other finalists to replace Lydia Lee, who resigned.

Ellison will be sworn in a week from today during the school board's Jan. 10 meeting to serve out the remainder of Lee's term, which expires at year's end. Ellison also plans to vie for a full-term during the November election.

A former alternative school teacher, Ellison has coached the swim teams at North and Henry high schools, and serves as the Minneapolis NAACP education committee chairwoman and as a representative on the North High School Advisory Committee.

With Ellison's appointment, there will be a North Side resident on the school board again. After incumbent Theartrice 'T' Williams and challenger Chanda Smith-Baker, both North Siders lost in the 2010 elections, that portion of the city was without a board member for the first time in decades.

Here's a look at Ellison's response to several questions, including her praise for the work of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson:

Q. Why did you apply for the vacancy?
A.  I applied for the vacancy because I want to serve the children of Minneapolis. As a former teacher, parent, coach, and board member for youth-serving organizations, I have served children one-on-one for my entire adult life.  Based on my diverse body of experience, I believe I have valuable contributions to make towards improving policies and systems that serve our kids. Specifically, I am interested in improving systems to aid students who have or are considering dropping-out, perform poorly on standard tests, and are struggling with serious life issues while trying to complete their educations.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish as a school board member? What are the district’s most pressing issues?
A.  I am a former alternative high school teacher {see her professional experience below], and I want the District to achieve greater success among students who are really struggling. I am primarily focused on achieving success in the areas of drop-outs, achievement gap, and life skills instruction for kids who have these issues. I am referring to kids who may be teen parents, court-involved, or whatever. Our community cannot afford to ignore groups of students.

[Note: Minneapolis' has had trouble managing its alternative schools in the past year, with the credit fiasco at Broadway High School for pregnant and parenting teenagers, as we reported, and the closure of The City Inc. school, as we reported. Ellison worked as a math teacher at The City Inc. in the mid- to late 1990s.]

Q. What are the district’s strengths and weaknesses?
A.  Of course the District has many strengths and areas where improvement is needed.  A strength is the emerging consensus around addressing the achievement gap.  In fact, it is the first step toward getting everyone on the same page and working toward a similar goal.  A weakness is the District's chronic budgetary challenges.  We must find a way to do more with less, and it means prioritization and focusing on the District's core mission, which is to educate all students.  The District is succeeding in many ways, but it may need to be more effective at engaging the entire community around how to address these chronic budgetary challenges.
 
Q. The Minneapolis school board just released details on Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s first evaluation. How would you rate her performance?
A.  The District is lucky to have a public servant like Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.  I think her first year has been a success.  Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson brings a combination of compassion and efficiency to her position which serves the district well.

Here's a copy of Ellison's resume:

Kim Ellison