Rebecca for Minneapolis Public Schools, District 6 School Board Candidate

Leading with Community

Leading with community. As an outspoken progressive and tested public-servant, I believe in engaging all voices of our community. Staying accessible and transparent as a policy-maker is crucial if we want to effectively fight for access, inclusion and justice in all of our public schools. As your At-Large School Board Member 2011-2018, my experience taught me that the right conversations lead to the right actions. We have worked together on the appalling education disparities in our communities throughout Minneapolis. By talking about the right issues, the hard ones, we are addressing the underlying factors that impact academic outcomes together, in a collective effort that empowers families and communities to affect change. In our current divisive climate, when District leadership is pitting school communities against each other, now more than ever we must have the right conversations to move forward with a Comprehensive District Design. A future plan for MPS grounded in equity and improved academic outcomes, providing much needed fiscal stability, financial sustainability, and access to quality educational opportunities for ALL STUDENTS.

In 2010, I made a leap of faith that Minneapolis shared my vision for every child having access to a great public school in their neighborhood, regardless of zip code. Promising to work towards that vision with the community, I ran and won a citywide seat on the Minneapolis School Board. Re-elected in 2014, I worked with families, students, educators, staff and community members for eight years to increase equity across schools with the goal of improving our students’ educational experiences. I focused my efforts on fiscal stability, equitable access to educational opportunities, policy work that removes barriers to academic success and addresses institutional racism, and ensuring that an equity lens and accountability are foundational to all of the work.

A thriving and vibrant Minneapolis requires excellent and strong public schools that serve the unique needs of our diverse student body. I’ve focused my school board work on building a strong stable foundation. We achieved a structurally balanced budget FY14 and FY15, strategically spent reserves to address overcrowding by expanding schools, a balanced budget in FY19, reducing administration and redirecting money to schools, revamped our discipline practices, passed policy that applies an equity and diversity impact assessment to our decision-making, and increased quality authentic stakeholder engagement. Upon this foundation we were able to do long range enrollment planning, reducing administration and redirecting more resources to schools. We hired a Superintendent in 2016 that promised to educate the whole child, focusing on social emotional learning and a strong system of behavior and academic supports for students.

Leading Progress 2011-2018 ~

In my two terms on the Minneapolis School Board, I am proud of the work I’ve accomplished with fellow board members and community leaders, including:

  • Addressing overcrowding in classrooms by reopening and expanding schools throughout the city including Washburn, Southwest, Sanford, Seward, Follwell, Justice Page, Lake Harriet, Keewaydin, Hiawatha, Loring and Webster, Windom.
  • Addressing the need for access to equitable, quality educational programs throughout Minneapolis by keeping North High open, re-opening Franklin Middle School as a feeder pathway, and putting the IB (International Baccalaureate) program at Olson as a feeder to Henry High School, and providing a space at Longfellow for our TAPP program serving our students who are balancing motherhood on their academic path to graduation.
  • Improving and upgrading school facilities including all of our high school weight rooms, Henry High School, Edison as the only “green” school in Minnesota.
  • Expanding access to recreational services for our students of color by championing the Phillips Pool, Olson Pool and Franklin Pool renovations.
  • Protecting the quality of classrooms by re-focusing our priorities to literacy, stewardship, equity, emotional learning, and academics through our Multi-tiered System of Supports.
  • Investing in restorative practices, 30 minutes of recess for all elementary students, clinics in all high schools and some of our K-5s and K-8s, and removing toxic tire mulch from our playgrounds.
  • Increasing investments for our successful High 5 Early Childhood Program, our English Learner Program, and our Social Emotional Learning services.
  • Supporting and working with our families at the local and state level around issues like DACA, Homes for All, and Safe and Supportive Schools.
  • Finding the right Superintendent who is committed to increasing stability and alignment in our school district.
  • Fully implementing our Farm to School meal program so food is always fresh and sourced locally.
  • Working directly with students on issues like gun control, police in schools, cell phone policies, and equitable K-12 arts programming and pathways across our schools.

While on the School Board, I served various leadership positionsPolicy Chair for two years, Treasurer and Finance Chair for four years, and Chair of the Board in 2017. I also had the opportunity to represent the School Board in other capacities at the local and state level including the City Planning Commission, Achieve Minneapolis Board, MN Education Equity Partnership Board, Minneapolis Community & Technical College Concurrent Enrollment Committee, and the MN School Districts Liquid Asset Fund Board.

My experience also entails serving as the School Board representative for both the MN School Board Association (MSBA) and the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD), where I was Chair of AMSD in 2015-16. MSBA and AMSD function primarily to advocate for PreK-12 education at the State Capitol. A significant amount of my time was spent in legislative committee hearings and working with state legislators, not only in education but in numerous areas that impact our students and families ability to succeed in and outside of the classroom.

In 2012 and again in 2016, I was appointed by the United States Secretary of Educations to represent local school boards on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), an independent and nonpartisan board in charge of policy-making for The Nation’s Report Card. I currently serve as Chair of the Reporting and Dissemination Committee and on the NAGB Executive Committee. As a result of this policy work at the national level, I was able to bring a unique and informed perspective to multiple task forces for the MN Department of Education including the Educator Quality Task Force, the Test Reduction Task Force, and the Teacher Equity Advisory Committee.

This policy work has been crucial to the success of young Minnesotans in the classroom, but there remains plenty of work to do for our students and families. My ability to serve and achieve better outcomes for all students is hampered by inadequate state and federal resources. Our State Constitution ensures every child an adequate K-12 public education, however, our state legislature consistently fails to fund what they define as adequate education under the World’s Best Workforce legislation. Minneapolis Public Schools are in a constant state of massive budget cuts because (1) the state pupil allocation has not kept up with inflation; (2) the Special Education and English Learner services we provide are underfundedby $65 million in 2018 aloneand (3) additional unfunded state mandates hinder the district’s ability to properly care for every student. This nonsense must end.

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I am running for election in District 6 to the Minneapolis Board of Education because I believe schools must serve the whole child. I’ve seen firsthand how a multitude of issues affect public education. Issues such as affordable housing, health disparities, poverty and safety all play vital roles in young Minnesotans’ ability to succeed in the classroom. These are issues that the state has significant influence over and issues that I have been navigating with families and community members during my two terms as your At-Large School Board Member. My love and passion for this work drives me to stay informed and engaged so I can serve our communities more effectively. I know that great schools require strong community support and thriving communities DEPEND upon great schools. While I am passionate about education, I know a holistic approach is required to close our opportunity gaps in Minneapolis. 

I am running for election in District 6 because our progressive values centered around inclusion, stewardship and justice are being threatened at all levels of government. Here at the local level, it is clear now more than ever that the sustainability and health of our communities are threatened by privatization and gentrification. All of these issues are interconnected. Public schools, public housing, public safety and community corrections must all remain in public control. When we introduce privatization, we introduce profit; and inevitably profits, not people, become the primary focus. It’s time for policy-makers at every level of government to steer us off this path of privatization, thereby ensuring everyone receives access to these basic rights.

And finally, I am running for election in District 6 because I believe our community needs a tested, informed and outspoken progressive voice in public education. So many issues intersect with education and ultimately impact the vitality, stability, and prosperity of our neighborhoods. Our children deserve better, our schools deserve better, and our community deserves better. Translating values and conviction into policy is challenging, however, I’ve never been one to back down from a fight. Just ask the billionaires who unsuccessfully attempted to remove me from office because of my strong opinions against corporate influence in public education. I fought for our progressive values for eight years as your At-Large School Board Member. I will continue fighting as we work on a Districtwide Comprehensive Planning Process to ensure fiscal stability while providing a holistic and integrated global education for all students.