Minneapolis City Council and Mayoral races are done with instant runoff voting, but school board is not. There’s a primary (you vote for one) and then a runoff between the two top candidates. Five candidates are running for one at-large seat.
Kim Ellison has been on the Minneapolis school board for eight years (I think) — four as the rep for District 2, four more at-large. (Here’s my post from 2016.) Her website is a Facebook page and is a mix of congratulatory posts to graduates, people getting awards of various kinds, etc., and stuff about how many students were fed free meals during the shutdown and summer.
How you feel about Kim Ellison probably depends heavily on how you feel about the Comprehensive District Design plan, given that she pushed for a vote on it despite the pandemic (and it then passed).
I did not dive into the details of the CDD while it was being debated, because I didn’t have time, but as of now, I have a lot of doubts. Right now, there are some schools that work very well and some schools that work very poorly and my fear is that the CDD will make it so that far more of the schools work very poorly, which in a sense is more equitable but not in a good way.
(I felt particularly facepalm-y over the elimination of K-8 schools in favor of K-5s and middle schools. I went to a K-8 and it is a model that absolutely has its issues. But when my kids were starting their educations, the K-8 was this exciting new thing that was being massively expanded because it “keeps kids kids longer” and provides continuity and more nurture and there were all these reasons why it was supposed to be GREAT, and here we are, less than 15 years later, getting rid of them. The thing is, there are advantages and disadvantages to both models. The disadvantages people are talking about now are exactly the stuff I experienced as a middle schooler at a K-8 school! They’re not new! Seriously, in another 10 years people are going to want to go back to K-8s because our ability to actually pick a thing and stick with it and make it work is nonexistent, apparently.)
The process of pushing it through in a pandemic, with a bunch of changes scheduled for a point when — best case scenario — we’ll still be recovering from the pandemic — also struck me as hugely questionable. The story about parents from Green Central who were shut out from speaking at one of the last in-person School Board meetings because a pro-CDD group had shown up early and signed up for all the slots is really distressing to read.
Along with the rest of the board, Kim Ellison voted to end the contract with the Minneapolis Police for school resource officers.
One final note: Kim Ellison is the ex-wife of Keith Ellison. Their divorce proceedings were unsealed by a judge during Keith’s race for Attorney General in 2018 and one of the bits of dirty laundry that got dragged out was that Kim was physically abusive to Keith. I mulled over whether to talk about this or not, but when this has come up in the past specifically for school board candidates, I’ve mentioned it.
If William Awe has any sort of campaign website at all, I wasn’t able to find it. His personal Facebook implies that he’s a parent of a Roosevelt student. According to his LinkedIn, he works for the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Especially in a race that’s not being done with IRV, I would absolutely not waste my vote on someone who has not set up a website.
Doug Mann is a crank who runs for school board every time. Sometimes he has the endorsement of the Green party; I’m not sure if he has it this time or not, because the Minnesota Greens website is still listing candidates from 2019. As evidence of my “crank” assessment, allow me to point you at Doug’s Twitter, which is currently wall-to-wall COVID denial, including a link to a Daily Mail editorial that refers to masks as muzzles. I would under no circumstances put a COVID denier on the school board.
Lynne Crockett is an elderly Northsider who is passionate about North High, where she went, her grandchildren went, and her great-granddaughter was valedictorian in 2018. Reading this interview (with a group of North High students) I think you can sense the affection she has for the students and that they have for her. She’s a longtime volunteer at the school and is frequently described as a “neighborhood activist” in news articles.
However — she’s been an activist in favor of keeping SROs (school resource officer, i.e., cops) and in fact decided to run for school board in part because of the push to get rid of them. (She considers getting rid of North High’s SRO to be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” and I’ll note that North High students spoke to the school board in favor of keeping their SRO, who is also their football coach, describing him as “like a father.” A proposal to let North High opt in to having an SRO if they wanted failed to pass.) And she is endorsed by Rebecca Gagnon, who I’m not a huge fan of.
Re the CDD: she’s clearly not a fan, but doesn’t get into the specifics of her objections.
So … yeah. Overall: I like her, and she’s a huge asset to her community. She is clearly deeply committed, someone whose friends have been wishing for years that she’d run for school board (which is, as I note every time, an incredibly thankless task.) I am also pretty sure she’d cast a lot of votes I would disagree with.
Michael Dueñes is a bona fide policy expert on, among other things, closing the achievement gap. His website, frustratingly, delivers his detailed critique of the CDD via a series of YouTube videos (link goes to the playlist). I do not do a great job absorbing information via YouTube video, which is why I have watched maybe three TED talks, ever. I made myself watch the videos (they’re broken up into multiple short videos, which is something of an improvement, and all together are less than 45 minutes long), and I can tell you that he’s smart, incisive, has some specific ideas that MPS could implement to close the achievement gap, and he one hundred percent does not trust the numbers the Board has shared in the past. (I don’t blame him.)
He’s a Seward Montessori parent who advocated really strongly against the CDD. He has a LinkedIn with more details on his professional experience, which includes (very recently) a study done on how we can reduce racial disparities in which students in Minnesota go on to higher education.
I would vote for Michael Dueñes. The fact that he’s worked professionally (and successfully) on closing the achievement gap makes me think he’s likely to be up on research on things that work. I like his orientation toward budgetary transparency because that’s really lacking right now (and has been basically forever).