As one of nine Board members at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), this blog is a platform for my perspectives on community as a mother, teacher and policymaker. I do not speak for the Board; that is the role of the School Board Chair. Rather, this is an opportunity to find a space beyond the restrictions of a majority vote regarding governance topics. With this goal in mind, I present Why We Can’t Wait blog #2.
I believe that when we, at MPS, really get down to the business of 21st Century public education and focus on Board priorities, there must be a commitment to use the tools, resources, and partnerships that produce “relevant, scholarly, and innovative” processes (Dr. Josie R. Johnson, January 2013). Said another way, there would be a clear process or application (app) for that which we value and prioritize. Think about it, there are apps for trivial interests such as games, television networks, and music videos. Why not an app for what MPS values?
Imagine an app that provides an easy breezy process to 1) guide families as they advocate for their children, schools, and district, 2) equip principals with high support as they provide comprehensive school leadership, 3) communicate and problem-solve with teachers and staff as partners (in real time) as they work directly with students to implement district strategies, 4) gain feedback from students on the impact of Shift to reshape their educational experience, and 5) provide evidence to our legislatures and community partners to support the MPS agenda.
At the present time, MPS processes can be described by the idiom ebb and flow. The reason is unclear. In some situations, a process is clearly laid out for all stakeholders to enter, participate, and understand the process timeline (i.e. Student Placement and New Family Center). In other cases, the process is a case-by-case response to stakeholder inquires (i.e. Office of Student, Family & Community Engagement, Board Meeting Public Comments, and Site Council Leadership). Then there are still situations when only partial process information is shared after extensive communication (i.e. principal selection process– public hyperlink and process timeline for 2014 – 2015 school year still needed).
An app (as the ultimate process tool) could be the best way to move beyond MPS conversations and presentations (that often admire the problem) to
implement, evaluate and demonstrate district leadership accountability. You see, this is not about dispensing information to MPS stakeholders. Rather an app focused on process allows our stakeholders to engage with us, share expertise, understand perspective roles, and truly demonstrate that We are MPS.
Imagine an approach similar to the MinnPost You Fix Minnesota Deficit (February 2011) at MPS designed to collectively align the academic vision and budget decisions, evaluate personal asks based on district priorities, and confirm the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Education, Superintendent, District Leadership, and State and Federal elected officials. We can work collectively to champion Minneapolis public education and be held accountable to the outcomes produced.
Please understand that an app (or any technology for that matter) does not take the place of relationships and interpersonal communication; my preference is coffee and conversation over email and text communication. What this option offers is another way for MPS to stay relevant and innovative, stakeholders to engage and partner in problem-solving, and adapt to invite students to participate and invest in their education.
With this idea in mind, I invite you to visit a website, celebrate our Beloved CommUNITY, read viewpoints, and watch videos by MPS stakeholders just like you. They are committed to Beloved CommUNITY with special attention paid to critical thinking (see sections 1 – 7 below). Without question, you’ll discover that conversations and presentations are needed, but when we truly mean what we say, there’s an app for that.
Tracine Asberry, Ed.D.
Section 1: Tracine Asberry, Perspectives on commUNITY from a mother, teacher, and policymaker – Critical Thinking and the MPS Budget, Writing
Section 2: Kathleen DeVore, Mother of two MPS high school students, 24 year Minneapolis resident and Minneapolis Teacher – CommUNITY- a Bridge Built on Healthy Soil, Writing
Section 3: Denny Bennett, Minneapolis Swims, Board of Directors, MPS Parent – Give MPRB the Courage to Vote “Yes” to our kids on June 18th! Writing
Section 4: Eshay Brantley, MPS Student, Washburn High School Class of 2015 – School Board, Spoken Word
Section 5: Lucien Parker, Washburn High School Class of 2015 – Spoken Word
Section 6: Ricardo Levins Morales, artist/activist…or is it activist/artist? – Website and Free monthly calendar
Section 7: Celebrate our Beloved Community – Saturday, August 23rd
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 4055 Nicollet Ave. Mpls 55409
Critical Thinking and the MPS Budget
By Tracine Asberry
Minneapolis Public Schools Budget Conversation, Special Regular Meeting, Tuesday, May 27, 2014
My comments, from the Special Regular Meeting on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, have been edited down significantly for this blog. However, the focus and meaning of the original questions and comments have been maintained. Following my comments, links to the full meeting video/audio as well as subsequent Board meeting documents are listed for reference and review. You are also able to hear responses, to my subsequent questions, from district leadership. Further, the Fiscal Year (FY) 15 Budget will be discussed and voted on by the MPS School Board this Tuesday, June 10th.
The five budget topics I addressed at the May 27th Board Meeting are as follows:
1. Budget Transparency:
When I ask about transparency, I am asking about schools, and I am asking for students. This includes our high schools, our middle schools, and our elementary schools. We are a school district and to make the budget real, we have to talk about our students. It does not make sense when we talk about the budget without talking about our schools and our students.
2. Community Engagement:
We’ve had many many conversations. I’m looking for the impact of those conversations on the budget. When people have requests, what are we saying no to based on district priorities? What are we changing based on that feedback? Community Engagement is not just conversation for conversation sake. Nobody wants that, right? But how does that public in public education impact budget decisions?
3. Be Upfront:
In talking with folks Being Upfront with our community is one of the things that they want to hear. Sometimes we say that we’ll get back to people. But out of respect, if the request is not a priority, we may need to say, “This is not a priority. Our priority is this and that’s why we are making this decision.”
4. Every Student Means Every Student
As we know the vision of Minneapolis Public Schools is College, Career, and Life Ready. But we also know that some of our students are in 9th, 10th, 11th grade already College and Career ready. The challenge is that we have
huge academic differences at our schools. What is different in this budget now than last year and the years before that will address the academic needs of all our students?
5. Ask a Math Teacher:
Why wouldn’t we use median instead of average or actual when we’re looking at teacher salary? We have amazing math teachers in our district to really make this budget community-friendly so that the public can really wrap their brains around it. The information is complex but it doesn’t need to be hard. What a great opportunity to get a teacher to rock this budget so that people leave knowing exactly what MPS is doing for their students. People can say, “I know exactly where the money is flowing. I am MPS. I get it.”
MPS Budget and Board Meeting Resources:
Minneapolis Public Schools Budget Conversation, Special Regular Meeting, Tuesday, May 27, 2014 – Reports, Presentations and Recommendations from the Superintendent of Schools
Referendum Oversight Committee Presentation
Budget / Academic Presentation
Director Asberry’s comments in full – Video Time 02:27:48/03:31:29
CommUNITY- a Bridge Built on Healthy Soil
By Kathleen DeVore
Just finished my 28th year teaching this spring – 20 of those in Minneapolis. And I’ve been reflecting on my early teaching more than usual this year, as I’m coming up on a milestone birthday and that seems to require reflection. At 22 I ran my first autonomous classroom – 5 classes of 60 students each – I was the Science department at a rural school in Lesotho, southern Africa. Lesotho is a land-locked country entirely surrounded by South Africa, the country with the greatest economic and military might in the region and so it controlled all goods mostly coming in and workers mostly coming out of its tiny neighbor. I lived there in the late eighties – the final years of Apartheid.
When our school, Siloe Secondary School, needed supplies my headmaster, Ntate Mabusa, would travel through the South African border posts and occasionally he’d take me with him. On my first trip, as we approached the isolated and small guardhouse and customs building, Ntate Mabusa directed me towards the “Whites only” entrance. With shock, rage and shame flooding my stomach, I began to follow him instead to the “Coloureds only” gate sputtering through that pure 22 year-old rage, something about refusing to accept their racist system. His vice grip on my elbow and sharp stare stopped me cold as he whispered, “Do you know what they’ll do to me if you do this?” His 40 years of lived experience in this highly racialized society had taught him how to survive, and my shock, rage, shame were my problems, mine to deal with, certainly not something he needed to manage consumed with survival as he was.
After 3 years I returned to Boston, to a job in “Southie”, and as if for the first time, saw the highly racialized society I had been raised in, but as a white girl in 1970s Boston, while racist families spoke freely their racist ideology, non-racist white families never spoke of race. I was raised mostly NOT talking about the divisions, inequities, the redlining that lead to neighborhood and school segregation: American whiteness demanded silence on our own systemic racial exclusions. The “Whites only” signs had been taken down in the 1950s, but the segregated realities remained, and white community demanded silence on that reality. A year in Southie later lead to over 20 in south Minneapolis (there was this guy, but that’s another story), where that same silence on race was expected of white community here. In fact East Coast “abrasiveness” (what we call directness, forthrightness) did enable some confronting the issue, while “MN Nice” seems to demand a deeper silence from the white community here on persistent racial exclusions.
What does this tale of exclusion and division – in South Africa, Boston, Minnesota – have to do with building community, and with approaching the work not blithely or blindly but with awareness sharpened through critical thinking? This is my attempt to illustrate the need to see community not only as bridge building, a common metaphor, but to focus on the ground beneath the footings, the history it holds and the toxins that ground can house and hide. A bridge on faulty foundations is a bridge washed out in the rising waters of the first storm. And we will have, do have, many storms. Community must be built on the solid, fortified, and clearly discerned banks that have been carved out by the currents that have shaped and often divided us: currents not of our making, but water in which we swim regardless. Maybe I have a runaway metaphor here, but what I’m trying to say is that we need to know our histories – both of marginalized populations and of the dominant, and know the present experience of folks in non-dominant communities not only the experiences of those in dominant ones. When my headmaster stopped my uninformed and isolated protest of one with his question, “Do you know what they’ll do to me?” he forced me to see my own complicity with a raced social system and the impact of that system not on myself, on what I felt, but on the physical, embodied impacts on him. When I returned to the US and saw the same divisions of wealth, jobs, housing, healthcare, education, justice, opportunity- divisions I had been raised not to see, not to question, well despite the removal of the signs, I was forced to see the very same complicity.
When white people say, “I don’t see color, I see people; why play the race card, we all have the same opportunity? Making everything about race silences white people, what about class, sexuality, age, ability exclusions?” what we miss is that we have been raised to be silent about and uncomfortable with race, and are therefore almost useless in ending the divisions maintaining our racialized society. We focus on our own discomfort, our shame in white communities without thinking “Do you know what this will do to” our neighbors, coworkers, friends, family members of color. And of course there are exclusions around differences of class, sexuality, gender, ability, age – but none of them, none, have been systemic, historical, foundational, persistent exclusions in the way racial exclusions have been in our nations’ formation. How do we know this? Look at the movement in our society around these other historic exclusions, then look at how intractable and in fact worsening are the racial exclusions in America.
For true community we cannot rest on the fact that in our hearts we want equity, health, opportunity, safety, abundance for all, we must engage more visible, external organs, and not only our mouths, though open mouths are preferable to silence. Mostly we must engage our hands and our feet – how we use our resources and where we position our bodies – to build bridges that last when the waters rise, and the waters rise daily. Using our hands to move transportation dollars, education dollars, heath care dollars, to build housing attending to for whom and how it is built, to how our cities are developed and for whom – these are all rising waters. They rise around us day after day and our hearts want a healthy community, but our hands and feet – our resources and our bodies tell a different story. When we do not consider what our choices will do to non-dominant communities, we are complicit with a continuing racialized social system. And most of us in white communities maintain the silence we were raised in because to speak of our place in this system raises such heavy shame. First it looks like anger: “I didn’t own slaves! My grandparents were poor immigrants! Hey, everybody suffers…” but dig a bit deeper and beneath the anger is shame. And the waters rise. And our bridge, our shaky connections built on unhealthy soil, falter and wash out.
To build a solid, lasting bridge of community, we must heal the poisoned soil, we must address the persisting white privilege with which we, all of us from white communities, are complicit. For until we end that ritualized silence and speak with our hearts, mouths and use of resources, naming and arresting our persistent privilege, seeing “what it will do” to folks marginalized outside dominant communities before thinking about how it will make us feel, until that time our foundations will not hold, our bridges will not last, and we – ALL of us – will be lost in the rising waters.
By Kathleen DeVore
Mother of two MPS high school students
24 year Minneapolis resident and Minneapolis teacher
Give MPRB the Courage to Vote “Yes” to our kids on June 18th!
by Denny Bennett
This isn’t a controversial issue, or at least, it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be a tough strategic decision for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) to vote unanimously in FAVOR of the $1.5 million dollars in capital that Minneapolis Swims, a non-profit dedicated to bringing the first PUBLIC indoor swimming facility to the City of Lakes, but we know that it will be tough. We may not even have enough votes to get the funding.
Fact: In our great city, without a membership, there is not an indoor pool you can take your children to and teach them to swim. St Paul has them, the suburbs have them, but we do not.
Fact: Minnesota has the highest drowning rate for African Americans in the country.
Fact: The last four drownings in Minneapolis have been African Americans.
Fact: Children who participate in preschool swimming activities have higher levels of academic achievement later on.
Fact: This pool is supported by a bi-partisan, multi-jurisdictional mix of public officials: Mayor Betsy Hodges, Senator David Senjem, MN Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger, MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, Senator Jeff Hayden, Hennepin County Commissioners Peter McLaughlin & Marion Greene, Rep. Karen Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, the MPS School Board and many members of the City Council and MPRB.
Fact: More than $2 million dollars has already been contributed to this project by the State and County.
Fact: Of the $5.1 million dollar budget for the improvement of the building owned by MPRB (donated by MPS), we are asking MPRB to contribute less than 1/3 of the total cost. The balance will be raised from private or outside entities.
Fact: The facility would be located in one of the most ethnically diverse, centrally located neighborhoods, at the corner of 12th Avenue S & 24th, at the Phillips Community Center.
We NEED CommUNITY support! Here’s how you can help!
Email everyone you know who lives in Minneapolis and ask them to PLEASE a) email their MPRB commissioner AND b) email the 3 at-large commissioners. In their own words, they should say why they would encourage them to vote “YES” to the $1.5 million dollar request for the swim center. Here is the link to get their email address http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=36
ON JUNE 18th, we need van loads of people with signs and children @ 4:00PM in front of the MPRB headquarters located at 2117 West River Road N, Minneapolis, MN 55411. We are hoping for good media coverage of the Board meeting which starts at 5:00 PM, and the more the merrier!
Let’s be strategic- let’s teach our children to swim!
Denny Bennett, Minneapolis Swims, Board of Directors, MPS Parent
The School Board by Eshay Brantley
MPS Washburn High School Class of 2015 – Spoken Word Artist
The Me Self-Assessment by Lucien Parker
MPS Washburn High School Class of 2015 – Spoken Word Artist
Ricardo Levins Morales (RLM)
“I am an artist/activist…or is it activist/artist? It’s impossible to put one before the other or separate them. The work on this website represents artwork which I have created, sometimes on my own and sometimes in relationship with organizations, communities and organizers. I believe that art can contribute to changing people’s perceptions, hearts and understandings of what has been, what is and what’s possible. I’m enough of an organizer to understand that art can’t do it alone; people getting together and acting together is the real source of social change. The dignity and possibility in all people is the underlying message of my work.” Continue Reading and visit the RLM website
Click Here to download the free monthly calendar
Celebrate our Beloved Community – Saturday, August 23rd
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 4055 Nicollet Ave.
Join your friends and neighbors at the 3rd annual park event to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s free celebration will include musical entertainment, kids activities, food vendors and the unveiling of the Beloved Community Project. Years in the making, the project includes a paved walkway, granite benches and landscaping around the Freedom Form II sculpture and a plaque marking its significance in the park. The Beloved Community Project was a collaborative effort between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park Legacy Council, the Kingfield Neighborhood Association and Chicago Fire Arts and partially funded by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.
Additional highlights include a display of the new playground expected in 2015, an obstacle course for kids sponsored by InnerCity Tennis and the opportunity to meet our new Park Director Peter Jaeger.
The festivities begin at the Sabathani Community Center where Minneapolis School Board Director Dr. Tracine Asberry will lead a MARCH to our Beloved CommUNITY.
10:30a GATHER – Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55409
11a RALLY and Speeches – Sabathani Community Center
12p MARCH – Sabathani Community Center to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park
1p – 4p CELEBRATE – Musical Entertainment, Food Vendors, and Kids Activities. Rev. Dr. King Park, 4055 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55409
“Beloved Community,” a phrase used by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe a place where the gifts and concerns of all people are woven together. We recognize all that has been torn apart, damaged, or unheard and we celebrate our capacity to engage and co-create through art, expression and love (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Council, May 2014).
For more information contact the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park Legacy Council at email@example.com
Celebrate our Beloved CommUNITY as Why We Can’t Wait, A Three Part Relevant, Real and Rare Community Engagement Series Coming to YOU in 2014 – Part 2 of 3: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Photo at top: Eshay Brantley and Lucien Parker
CORRECTION 6/9: In title, “presentation” changed to “presentations”