St. Paul school board will hear from applicants January 12


A total of 41 people (listed in sidebar) applied for the one-year opening on the St. Paul Board of Education, an opening created when Vallay Varro resigned from the school board in December. The Board will hold a public meeting to hear from all the candidates on January 12, beginning at 4 p.m. at St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) headquarters at 360 Colborne Avenue.

Former school board member and long-time community activist Gilbert de la O said in an email interview that the new board member “must have some knowledge and hands on experiences with SPPS and  Board governance responsibilities,” as well as a belief that “our students deserve a ‘solid world class education.'”

Grant Abbott, co-convenor of the Committee on the Achievement Gap and director of the St. Paul Area Council of Churches agreed. “This is not the time for someone who needs to be brought up to speed,” according to Abbott. “He or she also needs to have credibility in the community, especially the communities of color and New American communities.”

Jo Ann Clark, whose involvement with SPPS as a parent and volunteer spans more than two decades, said that her first priority would be someone who has worked or volunteered in a school. “You get people on the board who have expertise in business,” Clark said in a phone interview, “but the requirement should be that they volunteer in the schools so they can really see what’s going on in the schools. Then they can blend their expertise together.”


 Applicants for one-year position on Board of Education:
 Ms. Jeanice  Braun
Ms. Taylor Burr
Mr. David  Coffey
Ms. Amanda Danielson
Mr. Ted Davis
Mr. Jeremiah Ellis
Ms. Amy Walker Filice
Mr. William Finney
Mr. Brent Harder
Ms. Mary Hilfiker
Mr. Rekoe Howard
Mr. Kevin  Huepenbecker
Ms. Tina Jackson
Ms.  Debbie Johannessen
Dr. Kimberly Johnson
Ms. Anne Kelly
Dr. Carol  Knicker
Mr. John Krenik
Neng Lee
Mr. Tim Lee
Mr. Bill Lerman
Ms. Joan Arbisi Little
Mr. Robert  Lusteck
Mr. Thom Lyons Jr.
Mr. David Martinez
Mr. Steven Matysik
Ms. Cindy Moeller
Mr. Andrew Noble
Mr. Al Oertwig
Ms. Barbara  O’Neill
Mr. Luis Ortega
Mr. James Peterson
Mr. Dave Pinto
Ms. Helen Proechel
Ms. Colleen Quesnell RN, BSN, PHN, LSN
Mr.  Jeff Risberg
Ms. Maya Sheikh-Salah
Mr. David Unowsky
Mr. Avinash  Viswanathan
Mr. Bee Xiong
Mr. Michael Yang

“All of my kids are African Americans who did well in St. Paul schools,” said Clark, “but they did well because they had mom and dad on them all the time, and we had a relationship with the schools.” She said that relationship is key and wants the new board member to be someone who can relate to students and parents, and who will spend time in the schools talking to students and teachers.

Clark, Abbott and de la O identified the budget and the achievement gap as top priorities for the board in the year ahead. According to Abbott:

The most significant issue for the Saint Paul Public Schools and all Minnesota schools is overcoming the achievement gap. If we don’t turn around this disgraceful failure, Minnesota will not be able to compete in the new global economy. We have to have a world class work force to succeed and prosper as a state. As poor students of color and New American students are becoming an increasing share (and they are majorities now in Saint Paul and Minneapolis), we cannot leave these students behind. Their failure brings down the success of all our students in public schools. This problem, however, is not just a school issue; it is also a wider community issue: poverty, homelessness, health care, childcare, transportation, and the social capital of impoverished neighborhoods.

De la O also noted the importance of regaining public trust that SPPS is working.
According to the Board of Education press release:

The [January 12] interviews will be streamed live over the Internet and available on the District’s Web site, They also will be broadcast live on Saint Paul Cable channel 16 and rebroadcast on Saturday Jan. 15, 2011 at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Applicants will be expected to give a presentation of no more than five minutes which answers two questions:

  • Why do you want to serve on the Board?
  • What relevant and significant community connections would you bring to the Board?

Click on PDF below for list of specific times for each candidate, and go to Board of Education web site for complete information.

A second round of interviews is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 at 5:00 p.m., after which the Board will make its determination of an appointee.

The call for applicants specified that the new member would agree to serve for only one year and not to run for the full term in the November 2011 election.