Election 2020: Minneapolis School Board Primary, District 4

There are three people on the ballot; two will advance to the general election.

On the ballot:

Christa Mims (DFL-endorsed)
Adriana Cerillo
Ken Shain

Christa Mims

Christa Mims is endorsed by the DFL and also by Scott Dibble. She works for Hennepin County as a social worker in the child protection system. You can watch the video she made for the virtual DFL convention here.

I was not super impressed by the fact that she “declined to comment” on the specifics of the CDD. (Link leads to an article in the Southwest Journal that’s got the best coverage of this race that I found) but she seems thoughtful and reasonably well-informed about the issues facing the district.

Adriana Cerillo

Adriana Cerillo’s website is very focused on the school funding formula, which seemed odd to me because a lot of how we fund schools is determined by the state. But she says that high-poverty schools within Minneapolis frequently get less money per student and linked to this chart from the district. I am honestly unsure how to read this, but I’m going to transcribe some of the numbers and see if I can make any sense of them:

Nellie Stone Johnson is the highest-poverty elementary school she lists. The numbers given in the chart that look like per-pupil money of some variety:

Enrollment: 334
Class size referendum: $746,994  (=2,236/kid)
General fund class size: $1,013,047 (=3,033/kid)
Basic per student: $146,561 (=439/kid)

Burroughs is the lowest-poverty school. Here are its numbers:

Enrollment: 734
Class size referendum: $1,647,481 (=2,244/kid)
General fund class size: $1,852,137 (=2,523/kid)
Basic per student: $322,084 (=439/kid)

Burroughs also gets $50,666 for “targeted programming.” ($69/kid)

I have no idea if I broke these numbers down in a way that makes sense or was intended by the chart but if I did, it comes to $5,708/kid at Nellie Stone Johnson, $5,275/kid at Burroughs. That’s still kind of shocking because the needs at Johnson are so much higher; Burroughs also has a PTA that raises a whole lot of money, while a few years ago Nellie Stone Johnson didn’t have a PTA at all. But using these two as my examples I’m not seeing the specific disparities that Adriana is calling out? Maybe because they’re the two most obvious? I will seriously die if I try to do all of these but let me just punch in the numbers for a couple of other schools.

Bancroft (75% poverty, 516 students): 5,238/kid.
Northrup (18% poverty, 466 students): 5,240/kid.

So — that’s a $2/child disparity between the two schools but a $37 disparity between Bancroft and Burroughs. Over 500 kids, that adds up to $18,500.

I would love an explanation of how this funding formula is done, if anyone knows how this works. Because I’m not sure how it makes more sense for Burroughs to get $37 more per student than Bancroft does (or $35 more than Northrup, for that matter). I’m not sure if that’s the disparity she’s calling out or if there are more-dramatic disparities in other parts of the chart. (I’m also still not entirely sure I’m correctly reading the chart.)

Adriana also made a video for the DFL convention.  In the Southwest Journal article she talks about wanting therapists and health professionals in every school. This article also mentions that between 2018 and 2020, she helped “over 100 families — mostly families of color — navigate the local education system as a family advocate with the nonprofit Minnesota Comeback, now called Great Minnesota Schools.” I looked up Great Minnesota Schools; you can find their website here. It’s a nonprofit that partners with schools to help them improve teaching and outcomes. That link goes to their partner schools; they are all charters. They have a website to help you find high-performing schools (or schools that look like they’re about to make a comeback) that displays a mix of district schools, charter schools, and private schools.

So — I actually think having someone on the board who’s acutely aware of all the reasons families, particularly families of color, are choosing not to send their kids to the Minneapolis Public Schools, sounds pretty great? This actually makes me more inclined to support her. (You can see the list of people running Great Minnesota Schools in their annual report, on page 28. It includes Alberto Monserrate, Iris Altamirano, Bernadeia Johnson, and Rashad Turner, none of whom are people I think of as being in Betsy DeVos’s pocket. I do not think this organization is partnering only with charters because they don’t care about MPS; my guess is that MPS has not been interested in their help.) (I’ll also note that her own kids, and her nephew of whom she has custody, attend a Minneapolis Public School — they’re all at Emerson.)

Ken Shain

Ken didn’t get into the race in time to try for DFL endorsement, apparently because he likes Bob Walser just fine and didn’t know Bob was not running again. He is endorsed by Our Revolution Twin Cities and I have no idea why.

Ken is a former entrepreneur who went into teaching in 2014. I was curious what he did as an entrepreneur so I checked out his LinkedIn.  From 2006 to the present he “mentored doctor and developer of revolutionary new form of orthodontic braces” (called OrthoCure, I couldn’t find much about them online despite them being “nothing less than a new paradigm in orthodontic care.”) From 2011-2014 he was President and CEO of a company making smart traffic lights: “Completed first full year of commercial business with a profit, backlog of orders, broad brand name recognition, increased shareholder value, strong debt to equity ratio, industry good will and positioned for growth prior to the IP holder’s move out of state and ultimate sub-licensing of its work to a third-party firm.”

In the Southwest Journal article, he says that the district needs to do more to keep racist teachers out of the classroom, adding, “Every teacher in the district should be able to look their students in the eye and see a little brother or sister.” That’s a really odd way to talk about racial equity in the classroom, it’s particularly odd from a white guy, and it’s not even 1/10ths as odd as some of the other stuff on his site. From his Values page:

Fighting racism is not enough, we have to end the race system for the fake science that is. And we must not dilute it with false equivalencies or diminish its remedies to a mere civil right.  My hope was that someone would run to represent the primacy of the fight against racism in all we do. Hence, at the cajoling of fellow teachers, administrators and neighbors, I decided to toss my hat in the ring to give voice to these issues.

The other two candidates are women of color, but we needed a white guy running to represent the primacy of the fight against racism?

From his Issues page:

This is about reuniting the whole of humanity. We have a historical role to play as teachers, to reassert the role real science plays in learning and prove the fallacy of race, the first lie that most of us are taught.  The truth is, race was made up by conquistadors seeking exemption for the biblical sin of killing for committing large scale genocide on indigenous people, with the blessings of the pope. It was later adopted into the constitution as the 3/5 rule acknowledging the accounting value of African slaves on the plantation ledger books as property. There is only one race, the human race, and to insist otherwise, otherizes our children. The best way to “de-otherize” them is to call-out and end the race system once and for all. We can celebrate our colors, languages, cultures and ethnicities without using the fake oppressor’s classification of race!

Look, I am not an expert on this. When the topic of racism comes up, mostly my goal is to listen and learn. But I am aware that “I don’t even see color” is a good thing to say only if you’re explaining why your shirt and your tie don’t match. I don’t think he thinks that’s what he’s saying, but “there is only one race, the human race, and to insist otherwise, otherizes our children” is maybe 10 degrees off from it? (OK, digging a bit more into what he wrote, he specifically wants people to talk about “color” and “culture” and discard the word “race.”)

He has academic papers about this. Multiple academic papers. He runs trainings in the Minneapolis Public Schools on “defusing the race bomb.” (Dear everyone who might be looking for a training for teachers on racial justice issues: why would you hire a white person to do this? Ever?)

So, OK. In addition to all that, he displays some really questionable boundaries while campaigning:

It looks like Jim Davnie and Kim Ellison just ignored this completely, but neither appears to have endorsed him, and the initial post was an inappropriate way to solicit endorsements from people you haven’t spoken about it with privately. Ken’s response to Josh’s endorsement of Christa is to double down:

He also put “Open Schools Safely!” on his front page and on his postcard but gives absolutely zero information anywhere on his site on what he thinks it would mean to open schools safely right now.


This is the primary. You vote for one, and two of three candidates will advance. I would expect that Christa Mims will advance because she’s got the DFL endorsement, so I would strongly encourage everyone who hasn’t already turned in their ballot who’s voting in this race to vote for Adriana to knock Ken off the final ballot.

(I also might pick Adriana in the general election as well — I’m undecided. But what I would really want to do in the primary is vote against Ken.)


1 thought on “Election 2020: Minneapolis School Board Primary, District 4

  1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful article. Perhaps Ms. Cerillo’s concern related primarily to county and state funding rather than the Minneapolis Public Schools distribution formula? I also do not know how to read these charts, but if you divide each schools “Total Allocation” by their “Projected Enrollment”, the per pupil allocation numbers are wildly different (Nellie Stone – $17,077, Bancroft – $12,121, Northrup – $7371, and Burroughs – $7048). I assume this is due in part to categories like Special Ed and Title 1. Perhaps this differential figures into the Minneapolis funding formula? I would love more information about what numbers on this chart should be “backed out” when analyzing per school funding because they create a skewed picture.

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