No matter what the result, Minneapolis’ Public Schools Board of Education will look quite different after next month’s election than it does now.
That’s partly because three incumbent school board members — Tom Madden and Chris Stewart, plus appointee Peggy Flanagan, who is finishing the term of Pam Costain — are not seeking re-election.
Because of the results of a voter referendum in 2008, the school board is gradually expanding from seven members to nine by 2012.
And to change the longstanding belief that some Minneapolis neighborhoods are getting the short end of the stick, the new school board will have six geographically-based seats, based initially on the city’s park and recreation districts.
This year, three geographically based school board seats are open and up for grabs. Seeking them are five candidates — Jenny Arneson and Mike Endrizzi for District 1; Hussein Samatar for District 3; and Alberto Monserrate and John Saulsberry for District 5.
That’s in addition to a four-way school board race for two at-large seats featuring incumbent T Williams and challengers Rebecca Gagnon, Richard Mammen and Chanda Smith Baker, previously profiled in the Daily Planet.
Arneson vs. Endrizzi
The race to represent Minneapolis’ northeast side comes down to a choice between a parent with 12 years of volunteering and school activism and a contract teacher with six years’ experience who was recently laid off from the district.
Arneson bills herself as a “fourth-generation northeaster” who has served as president of the Waite Park Community School PTA and did community organization work in favor of the 2008 school referendum.
She has the endorsements of the Minneapolis DFL Party, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, SEIU Local 25, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation AFL-CIO, Women Winning and Stonewall DFL.
She advocates increasing programming options at local schools while fostering cooperation between them, maintaining or strengthening extracurricular activities at all high schools, and establishing consistent pathways from elementary to high school.
In her response to a DFL Education Foundation questionnaire, she called for more comprehensive principal training, investing resources in volunteer coordination and education assistants in the classroom.
A Rochester native who moved to Minneapolis in 2002, Endrizzi is a former media producer for the DFL Party and lists former DFL Party Chairman Mike Erlandson as an endorsement in the race.
Endrizzi says his classroom experience has taught him the necessity of ensuring a safe learning environment and increased support for dealing with troubled social behaviors in school. He also emphasizes making schools more environmentally sustainable and implementing technology more efficiently and effectively into daily learning.
In his DFL Education Foundation questionnaire responses, Endrizzi said he favors increasing student time on task, but that more of it could be done online instead of in the classroom. He said he favors allowing home-schooling charters entry into the school district and teacher-led schools, so long as they are accountable to the school board.
Monserrate vs. Saulsberry
A well-known businessman and prominent DFLer faces a virtual unknown who has not campaigned in a race to represent neighborhoods including Lake Hiawatha, Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Park on the city’s southeast side.
Monserrate is the co-founder and CEO of the Latino Communications Network, which includes the Spanish-language newspaper La Prensa de Minnesota, an alternative Spanish language weekly and two AM radio stations.
Saulsberry did not respond to requests for information for this story, does not have a campaign Web site and has not campaigned publicly for the board seat.
Monserrate has received endorsements from the Minneapoliis DFL Party, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation AFL-CIO, SEIU Local 26 and Stonewall DFL.
He served as board chair of the Hiawatha Leadership Academy, a south Minneapolis public school whose student population is 70 percent Hispanic and 21 percent African-American.
He also served on the DFL Party’s state executive committee and as state chairman of the Minnesota Young DFL organization.
Monserrate called for a “zero-tolerance policy” on disruptive behavior from students in his response to a DFL Education Foundation questionnaire on the school district’s achievement gap, and suggested some schools may have to move to a school uniform policy.
He also advocated for maximizing teacher control of classrooms and relieving them of some mandates.
The founder and executive director of the African Development Center, an entrepreneurial nonprofit, Hussein Samatar is running unopposed for the school board seat that will represent the Powderhorn, Phillips and Longfellow neighborhoods.
If elected, he would become the first Somalia-born Minneapolis resident to serve on the school board.
Samatar arrived in Minneapolis as a refugee 17 years ago, earned an MBA from St. Thomas University and began a business career in banking before starting his own nonprofit.
He is endorsed by the Minneapolis DFL, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation AFL-CIO, SEIU Local 26 and the Stonewall DFL.
Samatar lists following and building upon the recent Changing Schools Options plan, improving English Language Learning programs, developing stronger data reporting, building relationships and improving learning for students of color among his priorities.