The boardroom inside Minneapolis Public Schools’ new headquarters building at 1250 W. Broadway Ave. is at least twice as large as the space where the School Board used to meet. They’ll need the room.
The November election completes a voter-approved expansion of the School Board that began in 2010. Long a seven-member body with all members serving at-large, the board will include six district representatives and three at-large candidates when the newest members take their seats in January.
There will be four School Board races on the Election Day ballot, but Tracine Asberry in Southwest’s District 6 and Kim Ellison in the North Side’s District 2 are running unopposed, so we’re focusing on the two races with multiple candidates.
Incumbent Carla Bates, the board’s longest-serving member, is in a three-way race for her at-large seat. Bates’ challengers are licensed professional nurse Doug Mann, making his seventh try at a board seat, and write-in candidate Eli Kaplan, a retiree whose children attended district schools and who has served on district committees.
In District 4 — which includes Southwest north of Lake Street, plus the ECCO neighborhood, parts of downtown and a sliver of the North Side — Bryn Mawr community organizer and district parent Patty Wycoff faces Josh Reimnitz, a young nonprofit leader who taught in Atlanta through Teach for America. The DFL did not endorse a District 4 candidate, but both Wycoff and Reimnitz have prominent backers listed on their campaign websites.
In September, we asked all candidates the same question: What personal or professional experiences will shape your priorities as a member of the Minneapolis School Board?
Below are their responses.
Carla often says that the public schools saved her life. Growing up in Pierre, S.D., as an only child of a single mother, Carla was supported by public school teachers and local librarians, which caused her to develop a passion for learning that went beyond the classroom.
Carla received her Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota in 1998. Carla was a tutor for many years with the Upward Bound program for urban youth, she taught writing at the University and she was a family advocate with Head Start in Hennepin County.
For the past 15 years, Carla has worked as an Information Technology Professional in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, where she manages IT resources and has been a leader in instructional technology. Carla and Susan Pollock, her partner of over 25 years, have three children who have attended Minneapolis Public Schools.
Carla is determined that our public schools will provide the support and opportunity all children need to be engaged, thoughtful adults. Recognizing the benefit of her education, Carla will work to ensure that every Minneapolis child has the same opportunity: great schools in every area of the city!
When I transferred from a suburban school district (South Washington County) to the St. Paul Public Schools as a 10th-grade student in the early 1970s, I had my first encounter with a school that had watered-down curriculum tracks. Instruction in advanced courses in the St. Paul high school was based on a curriculum equivalent to that of the courses for all students in South Washington County, with the exception of less than one percent of the students, who had severe learning disabilities.
These were all-white schools not so different in the mix of poor, not-so-poor and wealthy students. I figured that the achievement gap in the St. Paul school was mainly a product of the curriculum tracking system, not because of substantial differences in the cognitive abilities of students from lower and higher income households. In other words, the students who were not thriving academically were not stupid. The school system was designed to produce winners and losers.
In my opinion, the racial achievement gap in the Minneapolis Public Schools is a predictable result of student of color getting an inferior education due to factors like over-exposure to inexperienced teachers and watered-down curriculum.
1. Being hard of hearing, I learned sensitivity to problems of the handicapped and developed analytical skills to compensate.
2. As a biochemist, I learned to focus ideas, make a plan, research my ideas, analyze data and share my ideas.
3. As a self-starter, I built electronic things and later taught myself to use, build and troubleshoot computers.
4. As a volunteer in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I learned about the strength of parent/teacher/principal/superintendent collaboration and teamwork in formulating and maintaining programs such as the Audubon Continuous Progress, Lake Harriet Open and South Open programs; the complexity of fiscal planning during about 25 years on citizen budget advisory committees; and general knowledge about the schools and politics by attending area-wide and School Board meetings for nearly 20 years.
5. From my and my wife’s immigrant family and from my own children, I have learned that no matter how good the schools, the home must be a partner in good education.
6. From my wife, I have learned the value of persistence and dedication.
These experiences shaped my priorities, which are openness, transparency, fiscal responsibility, involvement of all (parents/teachers/community/principal/superintendent), communication and goal-setting.
Personally, I have experienced poor communication from MPS administrators, 30 students in a kindergarten class and a growing population of students entering kindergarten with too few skills necessary to succeed. I have volunteered more than 500 hours in MPS, both in the classroom and as an active member of PTA. I have created new fundraisers that involve the entire community.
Professionally, I have a degree in elementary education and taught in Minneapolis and Richfield. I am presently the neighborhood coordinator for the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association, but prior to this position I was a board member for six years.
I have built strong relationships with each business owner in my neighborhood. Ninety percent of these businesses now support the schools in my community in one way or another.
My priorities will include improving communication, reducing class sizes and expanding our early childhood programs. My commitment to my community and the schools has been proven. I want to expand my commitment and represent all students, families, teachers and communities in MPS as the 4th District School Board Member.
Teaching experience: I taught fourth grade in an urban school and was exposed to poverty and the achievement gap firsthand. In a dysfunctional school system, I worked with two different principals with widely varying school-leadership styles and had the chance to work with some amazing students and colleagues.
My teaching experience informs my perspective on how system policies affect each classroom and how we can better address the achievement gap.
Student Experience: I had a great public education with wonderful teachers, but didn’t find my high school experience as a whole to be completely relevant or challenging.
My student experience informs my goals to continue challenging our high-performing students and provide opportunities for them to advance more swiftly.
Executive director experience: While running a nonprofit organization that spans 13 states, I’ve learned to work with a board, manage and strategically utilize millions of dollars and provide a vision beyond the short term.
My executive director experience provides the background I need to serve in a governance position, ensure sound fiscal management for MPS and provide strategic direction for our district.