2013 St. Paul voter guide: School board


Tuesday, Nov. 5, is Election Day. Voters in Falcon Heights and Lauderdale will cast their ballots on a levy referendum for Roseville Area Schools and will choose between four candidates to fill three seats on the Roseville School Board. Falcon Heights voters will also be asked to choose between three candidates vying for two at-large seats on the Falcon Heights City Council. St. Paul voters have four candidates to choose from for the mayor’s seat and five candidates running to fill three seats on the St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education. Meet the candidates here.

St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education

The St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education has three seats open in the 2013 election and five candidates are running. Meet the candidates below.

John Brodrick

John Brodrick says he’s a product of St. Paul Public Schools along with his two daughters, who graduated from Como Park Senior High School, where Brodrick worked as a teacher and coach before retiring. He worked in St. Paul schools for 34 years and has served on the district’s school board for three terms.

This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Park Bugle. Check out the links below for other recent Park Bugle stories:

What is the biggest challenge in the St. Paul schools and what would you do as a board member to help the district overcome that challenge?

“The biggest problem facing the St. Paul Public Schools is the achievement gap in its many iterations. To close these gaps, I am working to ensure that every school is a welcoming place, where students feel safe and can learn, teachers can teach and parents feel comfortable. As a board member I have consistently supported these principles and will continue to do so. The details may shift from school to school, but these guiding premises are a consistent pathway to success.”

Terrance Bushard

Terrance Bushard has lived his whole life, 64 years, in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul. He graduated from Cretin High School in 1967, and the University of Minnesota with a degree in business in 1979. He worked in the printing business.

What is the biggest challenge in the St. Paul schools and what would you do as a board member to help the district overcome that challenge?

“I filed for school board to advocate for changes in the curriculum being taught to high school seniors. The main change I would make is in the area of instruction about the political process.

“Here is what our seniors need to know about the political process: that politics is, among other things, an ongoing process through which financial advantages and disadvantages are distributed throughout society. They need to know that politicians have distributed some serious financial disadvantages to them in the form of their share of the national debt, currently at $53,478 per student, and in the form of the ‘unfunded federal entitlement liabilities.’

“They need to know that these financial disadvantages are real and they are going to have a depressing influence on their financial futures. And they need to know that the only reason politicians don’t have to explain to them why they should be happy to accept these financial disadvantages is because they are not organized for the purpose of insisting they do so.

“If elected to the school board, I will develop, at little or no cost, a 10-hour course for seniors which I am currently calling, ‘The Importance of Financially Accountable Politics,’ and I can have the course ready for this year’s senior class.

“I believe that if seniors are taught why they might want to organize for the purpose of directly questioning elected officials, especially U.S. senators and representatives, about the financial disadvantages they are distributing to our youth, they just might do it. At least they’ll know they have a choice.

“A course like this could easily be incorporated into a current events or civics course.”

Greg Copeland

Greg Copeland has lived in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood since 1992. A widower since 2008, Copeland was his wife’s caregiver for 16 years after she became disabled due to a 1992 auto accident. He worked as city manager for the City of Maplewood and as a public administration consultant. Copeland has a cable TV show on SPNN, “The Greg Copeland Show.”

What is the biggest challenge in the St. Paul schools and what would you do as a board member to help the district overcome that challenge?

“Boost the high school graduation rate. In 2011, only 64 percent of our St. Paul Public School [seniors] obtained a high school diploma. A failure rate of 36 percent is unacceptable.

“Our community can no longer afford to continue with a status quo public school system, which has for well over 20 years discussed and studied the achievement gap. Two decades of school boards have spent untold millions on consultants, air and hotel travel to send its administrators to costly seminars and conferences, recruited new superintendents to convince voters to raise their property taxes in several referendums, and now our St. Paul achievement gap is a national embarrassment.

“In 2013, 44 percent of St. Paul students taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Achievement test were proficient in math, a 3 percent gain from 2010. In science, proficiency was 27 percent in 2013, a 1 percent decline since 2010. In St. Paul, reading proficiency was at only 37 percent for our students on the new 2013 MCA reading test, which is 20 points below the 58 percent of students reading proficiently in Minnesota across all districts.

“The current school board has embarked on a new answer to this achievement gap: Race Equity training for employees of the school district. The board has already spent $1.2 million on this program run by a California-based consultant.

“The No. 1 priority of our schools should be to spend our money on direct student instruction. I am committed to making institutional change. I will listen to those who are not represented on the board, especially people in the two East Side wards, 6 and 7, and the West Side. There is not one resident from these areas, which make up a third of the city, on the school board.

“In St. Paul, where over 22 percent of our citizens are low-income, the issues of poverty must be addressed in the education system if we are to be a sustainable city.”

Jean O’Connell

Jean O’Connell grew up in St. Paul, attended St. Mark and St. Luke grade schools, Our Lady of Peace High School, and graduated from Central High School. She started her career with 3M as an engineer. After years working in manufacturing and quality management, she joined the 3M Foundation and worked with the St. Paul Public Schools, where she volunteered as a tutor, science “visiting wizard,” quality coach to a number of principals and teachers, and as a Girl Scout leader. She has two grown daughters and two grandchildren. She and her husband, John, live in the Como Park neighborhood. She is seeking a second term on the school board.

What is the biggest challenge in the St. Paul schools and what would you do as a board member to help the district overcome that challenge?

“The persistent and predictable gap in achievement between white students and students of color. While many students are achieving a high level of academic success, we must ensure that all students have that same opportunity.

“St. Paul Public Schools is addressing the achievement gap in many ways to meet the differing needs of our students, families and communities. We are providing support and learning opportunities for parents, including Parent Academy, a seven-week program offered free to parents and guardians of our students. Partnering with our community to provide social services in our school buildings is another critical effort. Providing consistent, quality curriculum and instruction and the resources to deliver learning in every school in every neighborhood is key.

“We are providing Racial Equity training to all staff, including all school board members, and are working with each employee to help us identify the underlying causes of racial inequity. Together we can work to change our systems so that all children have an opportunity for greater success. This is not about taking things away from one group of students and giving it to another; it is about rapidly leveling the playing field for all. To be successful in removing racial disparities from St. Paul, we will need help from our entire community.

“School board members must support this important work. The Strong Schools, Strong Communities strategic plan provides a roadmap to significant improvement. We need the entire community—parents, teachers, community and business leaders, city and county officials—to work together to address issues around the racial disparities in St. Paul. I have consistently shown that I can bring people together from our city’s diverse communities to address problems together.”

Chue Vue

Chue Vue lives in St. Paul’s eastside, is married and has five children, three of whom attend St. Paul public schools. Vue is an attorney who has worked in the Frogtown neighborhood for the last six years. Prior to that, he was a research chemist for the U.S. government for 11 years. Vue has volunteered for organizations such as Upward Bound, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Hmong American Bar Association, Lao-Hmong American Veterans Coalition and Hmong American Partnership, among others. He came to the United States at the age of 10, after his family was forced to flee their home in Laos.

What is the biggest challenge in the St. Paul schools and what would you do as a board member to help the district overcome that challenge?

“The biggest challenge we face is closing the achievement gap in our district. Certain groups in our community are falling behind academically generation after generation. These are typically the poor, single-parent and minority students. Minnesota has consistently ranked nationally near the top academically but has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation. This is inexcusable and we need to work to narrow or eliminate this gap. We know what works, such as early childhood education, high expectations for all students, or extended hours for those who need the extra help.

“I plan to be a voice for the parents, communities of color and recent immigrants by listening to their concerns and needs. Everyone needs to be involved for us to be successful in our quest—parents, teachers, administrators, the school board, and city, county, state and federal officials. I plan to work hard with all players and stakeholders to find solutions and implement action plans.

“My involvement with different community groups has taught me that we all win if we stop pointing fingers and start working together. St. Paul schools have made great strides, but sometimes there is the perception that the district is not responsive to the community. I can help change that.”