Schools Notebook: Samatar’s wife may seek School Board appointment

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September 11, 2013
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
Plus: Lake Harriet a "School of Excellence" and board supports Q Comp

It’s possible Hussein Samatar’s wife, Ubah Jama, could take his place on the School Board.

The School Board at its Sept. 10 regular meeting approved a process and timeline for filling Samatar’s empty board seat by December. Samatar, 45, died due to complications from leukemia on Aug. 25, still just partway through his first term as the District 3 representative on the board.

During the public comment period prior to the vote, Jama addressed the board, thanking them for a memorial service held one week earlier. She ended her comments by saying she “would love to be a part” of the School Board.

School Board Member Carla Bates attempted to make that wish a reality on the spot, later initiating a series of motions to appoint Jama to the seat. Bates noted Jama was a “respected leader” at Seward Montessori School, adding that the loss of Samatar was a “unique situation.”

When he prevailed in a 2010 city election, Samatar became the first person born in Somalia elected to office in Minnesota, and he represented a district with a large Somali-American community.

It quickly became clear, however, that Bates would not get the unanimous support required to overrule board procedure and appoint Jama immediately. Board Member Josh Reimnitz said she would make a good board member, but also said he preferred an “open process,” echoing comments by Board Member Rebecca Gagnon.

When they finally voted, board members approved a plan for filling the vacancy that resembles steps the board took in 2011 following the departure of longtime School Board Member Lydia Lee. Lee resigned from the board, citing “family commitments.”

According to the approved timeline, applications for the board position are due Sept. 27. Board members will then review and rate the applicants by Oct. 14 and on Oct. 16 the five highest-rated applicants will receive an invitation to a public interview with the board. Interviews will take place Oct. 22 during a special board meeting.

The board plans to vote on the appointment Nov. 12 during its regular monthly meeting. The new board member would then be sworn in at the meeting scheduled for Dec. 10.

District 3 covers the east-central portion of the city, including the Powderhorn, Phillips, Longfellow, Seward, Downtown East and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods. Applicants for the position must come from that district.

The appointee will serve out the remainder of Samatar’s term, which expires at the start of 2015.

Several days after his death, the district’s nonprofit partner, AchieveMpls, opened up a memorial fund to benefit Samatar’s family, which includes Jama and four children. Donation to the Hussein Samatar Memorial Fund may be made at any Bremer Bank branch.

Lake Harriet honored as “School of Excellence”

The Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association placed Lake Harriet Community School on its list of 2013–2014 Minnesota Schools of Excellence.

Lake Harriet was one of 12 elementary and middle school programs on this year’s list, the latest since the program was launched in 1986. All were evaluated on six criteria intended to recognize and reward strong school communities and a culture of continual improvement.

Four of the dual-campus school’s leaders will be recognized Feb. 6 at the association’s annual convention: upper campus Principal Walter Schleisman, lower campus Principal Jan Parrish, Assistant Principal Merry Tilleson and Mary Rynchek, the former upper campus principal who retired at the end of last school year.

Q-comp headed for union vote

Minneapolis Public Schools could enter the state’s performance-pay program for teachers, Q Comp, pending support from its teachers union.

The School Board unanimously approved a resolution supporting the district’s entry into the program, which would bring in more than $9 million in additional state aid this school year. That money would fund additional time for teachers to plan and collaborate, annual stipends for teachers in leadership roles, enhancements to the district’s teacher-evaluation system and additional professional development for teachers.

The district’s Q Comp plan has the support of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

Implementation would begin Oct. 1 if Q Comp wins support from district teachers. Approval requires a “yes” vote on at least 70 percent of all votes cast by Minneapolis Federation of Teachers members.