Over the next three weeks we will be interviewing candidates to some of the most important political races in Minneapolis. Is that the election for President? For Congress? No. ,If you care about the future of Minneapolis and the future of our kids, the most important election could be the election for Minneapolis School Board. On this edition of La Prensa de Minnesota, and over the next two weeks, we will be interviewing candidates for school board that are running at large and also for districts on the western side of the city. We will ask questions that address the needs of Latino kids, immigrant kids, and kids that don’t speak English at home.
We will start this week by interviewing Josh Reimnitz who is running in district 4 in the central western part of the city.
Please explain what makes you qualified to be a good decision maker about education policies for students and their parents, educators and administrators in MPS?
My answer is multi fold:
First, I was a former teacher in a classroom full of children with low income backgrounds. I have lead a nonprofit organization and understand the complexities of decision making, I understand reporting to a board and what it means to be held accountable.
As an incumbent seeking re-election, I have 4 years of relevant experience in understanding how to support our superintendent, as well as understand huge budgets.
I am the most qualified about policies and governance. I have focused on our current Policy Manual, based on a manual that Minneapolis Public Schools bought in the 1960s; it is redundant, and virtually impossible to monitor.
Lastly, I am a strong blend of being youthful, energetic, and optimistic. I have a balanced approach to pragmatic implementation of solution and strongly believe that hope is very important, especially for students of color.
How should MPS attract and retain the highest quality, most diverse teaching workforce?
This answer is also multifold, we have internal programs like Grow Your Own, which attracts educators of color to get licensed not only need more Investment, but also need to be scaled.
Another program, Breakthrough Twin Cities, (similar to Learning Works) which focuses on 6th graders and intense summer training and tutoring with students through high school). The intensity in the summer is actual classroom teaching.
We also must focus on external-partnerships, especially with institutions of higher education and recruit early for high quality teaching programs.
MPS is a huge employer so leveraging partnerships and setting up pipelines for a strong reflective workforce is very important.
What is your best advice for parents of color who deeply care ensuring educational success for their child/ren?
- Get involved in the political process from the very beginning that is in February during caucus and party endorsement time.
- From a school standpoint one must be able to unify, there are power in numbers, and having a couple of goals at a time and focus are the most critical.
- Find your allies, decision makers, and let them know. Some of us want to help tell your stories.
- One must also be able to differentiate people who look to take action and not just say words.
Keep advocating, we need to hear your voices. There a many pieces to big bureaucratic systems and so change is very slow, but with focus and persistence you can create the change you seek.
What would you do to ensure that every MPS student graduates academically multilingual?
A couple of things that I have already done are push for a Bilingual Seal on graduation diplomas and call for adequate funding in not only ELL support but for additional services. I also think that we can be more proactive in filling the needs of our ELL population.
We can begin by seeing language as the asset it is and not as a barrier to learning other subjects.
We should also bring in professionals who can speak multiple languages regularly.
Do you support community partnership schools, and if you do, what would you do to increase the number of these schools and make sure they’re successful?
It is absolutely a philosophy that I support, but I do differ from the other candidate in that I want the schools to be sustainable.
The closest we come to a community school in Minneapolis is Green Central. The reason we have this local model is because of an external grant. To be clear, desire and interest is present, but I am not sure how we would sustain a full service model with our current tax base and budget.
What can we do to help ELL families feel more welcome in MPS schools?
Accessibility to information is very important. Materials in at least 4 home languages is doable and must be done in an ongoing nature. The four languages are English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. Added support from the district standpoint is to focus on hiring bilingual/multilingual people, so that there is a place for families to go beyond the school.
I would add that having a lens that multilingual families are an asset.
What do you know about individualized learning and what can be done to better individualize student learning?
It is a type of learning that is student centered and differentiated. We need the ensure that our educators have the tools and resources they need to make 25 different lesson plans for 25 different students, as well as coaching and development that is supportive and not punitive.
What should be done to dramatically increase graduation rates?
I am happy to report that the District has had the biggest growth amongst Latinxs. However we know, right now, with pretty good certainty that we are going to miss our 85% graduation rate goal by 20% if we do not change anything we are currently doing. That is to say that at best we will graduate 60-65% by 2020.
We must make credit recovery available right away to keep students on track academically.
Going back farther, assuming they are coming in K, we must and ensure children are grade 3 proficient.
As a board member, what role will you play in working with newly hired Superintendent Ed Graff?
I plan to play a key role; Superintendent Graff is new and didn’t bring a team with him. He must quickly understand the context and the political nature and conditions in which decisions are made in Minneapolis.
We have an obligation to not only hold him accountable but also support him.
This is not a new commitment, I have been committed to rally around him.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Open invitation to communicate with me, Hope you feel comfortable in English or Spanish. I want to understand the issues that Latino parents face and want to help.