The format of this forum was to have the school board candidates and the mayor rotate through 7 tables. At each table, people could ask questions. A facilitator at each table managed time and opportunity. So the experience of every table will vary greatly. I only represent the viewpoint of one person at one table.
Three school board seats are available. The choices are:
Jean O’Connell – keeping the promises made in the referendum on early childhood and full time kindergarten
Chue Vue – ensuring that we make schools better for everyone, including cultural and racial communities
David Martinez – working together to make connections and communicate available programs
Sarah Lechowich – communicating better with everyone will improve school performance
Luis Ortega – continuing work on diversity and racial inequities
John Brodrick – creating a safe and welcoming environment
My question to all candidates was “What three things would you hope to accomplish in this next term if elected? How would you get it done? How would you fund it?”.
Jean O’Connell – The first goal is to keep the promises made in the referendum on early childhood and full time kindergarten. Referendum funds and the last state budget provided the funding to make this happen. The second goal is to ensure that technology and teacher training for technology is equally available everywhere. The third goal is to have a happier more-connected group of employees in the St Paul District. This is being done by the board having award recognition and retirement recognition parties. Positive stories about school activities are being promoted to the press. Pending union approval, a number of other initiatives are happening.
Chue Vue – The first goal is ensuring that we make schools better for everyone including cultural and racial communities. The second goal is ensure that our dollars are well spent. Use experts to create programs. Then evaluate and test those programs. Keep the ones that work. The third goal is ensuring that parents and communities are invested in education. When we do a better job at engaging parents, the students will do better.
David Martinez –The first goal is connecting with parents on the great resources that we already have. The second goal is 100% graduation at grade level. The third goal is every child should have role models and meaningful relationships.
Sarah Lechowich – The first goal is removing institutional racism from our policies. A program called “Courageous Conversations” is working on that. The second goal is improving communication. Sara pledges her services in reviewing communications, in holding parent-community meetings and in facilitating contract meetings. She pledges that everyone will be heard. The third goal is coming up with the next step after the current “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” initiative that creates local community schools with local busing.
Luis Ortega – The first goal is to continue the parent academy to ensure that parents understand the choices that they have. The second goal is to find a replacement source for mental health services for students. The third goal is to continue work on diversity and racism, since the system works against those we are trying to help.
John Brodrick – The first goal is fixing the achievement gap. The second goal is fixing racial inequity. The third goal is ensuring more state funding.
Who Was Best At What
Jean O’Connell was the best at time management. She ensured that everyone had a chance to ask a question and get an answer.
Chue Vue was the best at communicating the numbers and impact of cultural and racial disparity.
David Martinez was the best at putting together a physical demonstration of all the programs that we have. He explained that the problem is that parents do not know about those programs.
Sarah Lechowich was the best at answering the whole question including process and funding, in thoughtful detail.
Luis Ortega was the best at explaining the problems of communicating with parents.
John Brodrick was the best at connecting with his audience.
Note: I am a convention delegate and an activist. I have endorsed Jean O’Connell and Chue Vue. We have three votes for the three open seats. I do not know where my third vote is going to land. I will probably decide after the convention speeches and question-answer period. They are all good candidates.
Mayor Chris Coleman
The mayor showed up later. So at our table, Matt Freeman and Emily Weber filled in for the Mayor Coleman’s turn. I definitely think that we should have Matt Freeman and Emily Weber running for office. Mayor Coleman gave a rousing speech about accomplishments, done in a tough economy. There was a long list but the two breweries on the list are the only items that I remember. Possibly because I really like more breweries, especially breweries that brew gluten-free beer (hint, hint). Matt Freeman’s answer to the “3 things for the Mayor to accomplish” question were 1) developing the Right Tracks Student program that helps students get internships and jobs 2) redeveloping sites like Macys and the Ford Plant 3) using the East Metro Transit Alliance to develop the transit on the east side of St Paul.
CORRECTION 6/1/2013: The two people in the final paragraph are Matt Freeman and Emily Weber.