MPS School Board candidates aim to achieve equality


Madeline Mahoney

Signs set up by Tracine Asberry while campaigning in Linden Hills Park.

Americans have been hearing a lot about the 2016 Presidential election, and many voters are not  pleased with their options. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only a third of registered voters in the United States are fairly or very satisfied with their choices for president. However, voters disillusioned with the presidential election shouldn’t use that as an excuse to stay away from the polls November 8th! There are several local elections taking place. These local elections may very well have as much of an impact on South students lives as the state or nationwide elections. This November, school board seats in districts 2, 4 and 6 are up for grabs as well as one of the school board at-large positions. South High is a part of zone 2c in district 2.

District 2 candidates: Kimberly Caprini and Kerry Jo Felder.

Kimberly Caprini is a North Minneapolis native with children who have attended public schools in North Minneapolis. Caprini has spent years advocating for the schools in her district. She cofounded the Northside School Collective and has been working to build relationships in the community. Caprini decided to run for school board after hearing the district tell schools “no” time and time again. For her, the final straw was seeing how many times the schools in North Minneapolis were not prioritized due to advocates in other areas speaking louder. Caprini believes that the most urgent issue facing the district is a lack of trust. Her goals as a board member include creating strong relationships between the schools and residents in the area: “Relationships with families and the community have been frayed for a host of reasons over the last decade and I do see the work to rebuild relationships and trust as we come to a close of 2016 but there is much work that still needs to happen,” Caprini said in an email interview.

Kerry Jo Felder is the DFL-endorsed candidate for the School Board seat in District 2. Felder is a graduate of North High School, with children who attend Minneapolis Public Schools. Felder wants to work on creating healthy communities and increasing diversity in our schools. At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum she spoke about bringing more human resources into schools to help address issues early on, as a method of preventing the school to prison pipeline. Felder is also a strong supporter of Full-Service Community Schools which according to the U.S. Department of Education “provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services for students, students’ family members, and community members that will result in improved educational outcomes for children.” Felder describes Full-Service Community Schools as the more organic version of Community Partnership Schools which include schools such as Southwest. Felder’s main focuses are community engagement and teacher diversity. As Felder said in our interview “I just know that people care about their community.”

District 4 candidates: Josh Reimnitz and Bob Walser

Josh Reimnitz is running for re-election this November. Reimnitz grew up in North Dakota and has been living in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood for the past several years. Reimnitz was a classroom teacher and has spent many years working to fight against the achievement gap. As Reimnitz told me in our interview, he is the best candidate because of his experience in the school setting, and as a board member he also understands school finances. While being a school board member, Reimnitz was the only one to vote against the school budget because it “did not clearly identify the way it would target resources to the students that need it the most,” as stated his website. Reimnitz feels that the biggest issue facing the Minneapolis Public School District is the inequity, he then said: “I’d like to go beyond that and talk about some of the factors that contribute to that piece… that’s based in opportunities, that’s based in mindsets and that’s based in adult behavior. I think all those factors are things that would need to be addressed until we’ll see significant differences in how our students of color are doing.” At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum, Reimnitz spoke about supporting culturally relevant curriculum and the subconscious bias that can affect students of color. Reimnitz also said that he was willing to risk re-election for doing what is right for students.

DFL endorsed candidate Bob Walser was born and raised in the Twin Cities. Walser has been bringing music and dance from many cultures to classrooms across the country for many decades. His wife teaches first grade at Kenwood Elementary School and Walser has two children, one attends Southwest High School and the other Perpich Center for Arts Education. In our interview Walser said he was the best candidate for district 4 because “I bring lots of experience and a broad range of perspectives.” As for the most important issue facing our School District Walser spoke about “equity, the difference in achievements and opportunities for students in different parts of our city and those who suffer from the challenges of systemic racism and economic injustice.” At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum Walser spoke about listening to teachers and using a bottom up approach in addressing racial inequities. He also spoke about his journey to understanding his own white privilege. Walser also mentioned that he stopped by South High School’s Racial Justice Day last year.

District 6 candidates: Tracine Asberry and Ira Jourdain

Tracine Asberry is running for re-election as the School Board member in District 6. Asberry was born and raised in Detroit but has been living in the Kingfield neighborhood for the past twenty years. Asberry says that her proven track record is what sets her apart from other candidates, she has already served on the board for four years, she has three children who have been and are currently in the Minneapolis Public School District. Asberry taught Middle School for ten years and has a Doctorate in education. Asberry’s lists many values on her website that include accountability for outstanding results, community engagement and racial equity. At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum Asberry mentioned that she attended the South High School Racial Justice Day last year.  As Tracine Asberry told me in our interview “We are inclusive of everyone… I’m working really hard for our schools to be the number one choice.”

Ira Jourdain is the DFL-endorsed candidate for the school board seat in district 6. Jourdain is a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and was born and raised in Minnesota. Jourdain believes in equitable funding and educating the whole child. He has a background in Human Services and adds that this would be valuable experience to add to the board, somebody who has actually worked with families. At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum Jourdain spoke about the importance of culturally relevant curriculum, he is proud of the progress we have made but believes cultural studies should be mandated not just electives. Jourdain would also work to move away from zero tolerance policies -policies that result in set punitive measures despite the differences in individual cases- which disproportionately affect students of color. “I don’t support zero tolerance and I can not believe that we as a district still have zero tolerance in some schools. I support restorative justice practices, I will fight for that for our students.”

 At-large position candidates: Kim Ellison and Doug Mann

Kim Ellison is the DFL endorsed candidate running for the School Board At Large seat after serving as the District 2 school board member. Ellison has spent twelve years teaching students at alternative high schools and she has children who have attended Minneapolis Public Schools as well. She supports the whole-child approach to education and views the achievement gap as the biggest issue facing the Minneapolis Public School District. At the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum Ellison spoke about wanting to change different cultural studies courses from an elective credit to a social studies credit. At the forum Ellison said she was the best candidate because “I have a vision to make sure that our students are well-educated, that they are included, and I have the experience from being on the school board for the last five years, as a former teacher, as the parent of Minneapolis Public School students, to ensure that that happens.”

Doug Mann is the Green Party endorsed candidate. Mann is the parent of a South High School graduate and he has run for School Board in every election cycle since 1999. Mann is a Licensed Practical Nurse. “Education is a right, not a privilege!” is the slogan featured on Mann’s website and campaign signs. Mann includes retaining teachers, mainstreaming special education students and eliminating “watered-down curriculum tracks” as values on his website. Mann also lists other issues such as raising the minimum wage, Medicare for all and decriminalizing drug use. Mann has worked for the Minneapolis NAACP Branch Education Advocacy Committee and he also worked as a trained volunteer, ESL Tutor and Classroom Assistant, in the Minneapolis Public Schools. As Mann said at the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum he is the best candidate because he “knows what it is like to be a parent who puts a child in the trust of the Minneapolis Public Schools to educate them and to have that trust betrayed.”

There you have it- the 2016 Minneapolis School Board candidates. Even if you are not impressed with our choices for the presidential election, hopefully you have found a local candidate you would like to support.

Please note that all candidates attended the Voices for Racial Justice Candidate Forum even if  statements they made there were not included. All candidates except Ira Jourdain were able to be reached for interviews.