St. Paul Teachers Turn Up Heat On School Board With “People’s Board”

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"People's Board" Meets In St. Paul

Bill Sorem

"People's Board" Meets In St. Paul

St. Paul’s school board has decided to no longer televise the portion of its meeting where the public offers comments. So on Tuesday, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers decided to give the public its own televised forum to comment while the school board was meeting.

The “People’s Board”, as the union called it, invited members of the public to make their comments at a town hall meeting that was livestreamed on The UpTake. “So unlike the other board meeting that’s going on across town right now, these public comments are being broadcast for all to hear,” said SPFT Vice President Nick Faber.

Present to listen to the comments and respond were four DFL endorsed candidates running for St. Paul school board. Nine people are running for the four positions on the board. Only one of the candidates is an incumbent.

Teachers and parents voiced concerns about standardized tests (they’re demoralizing), special education (it’s difficult), the school to prison pipeline (restorative justice can interrupt it) and many other topics.

Faber started the meeting reminding the crowd that they as voters were ultimately in charge of the school board “Whose schools?” he asked. “Our schools” replied the crowd after a little coaching.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

5 thoughts on “St. Paul Teachers Turn Up Heat On School Board With “People’s Board”

  1. So in other words, this is just another political issue being used by the Saint Paul Teacher’s Union to try to pick the Board of Education for the voters of Saint Paul. I think the electorate is too smart to fall for it. And I think we really need School Board members who are independent of major interest groups on the board unlike these four.

  2. I was unable to attend this people’s board, but no, parents are not puppets of the teacher’s union. The problems with St. Paul Public Schools began under Carstarphen, who began removing the power of site councils–groups of teachers, admin and parents, who had skin in the game and understood deeply the issues affecting each school. Under Valeria Silva, this trend turned into a tsunami. Silva is profoundly disrespectful of the needs of students, contemptuous of staff, refuses to collect appropriate and helpful data, and excuses it all by wrapping herself in the mantle of “racial equity,” although under her control, African-American students are doing far worse, Hmong and other Asian American students are fleeing the district, as are whites, pushing us ever closer to fully segregated schools. For five years, parents around the city looked for a place to express their concerns and a way to gather together to make them heard and create change. The 500 democratic delegates at our convention only represented a tiny fraction of the people deeply concerned about this issue–because they are in the trenches, seeing the kids whose needs are being ignored, not up in the sky, cherry picking data so as to seek a better paying job in a larger district.

  3. As a parent who moved to the Twin Cities for the school district, I would respectfully say that you are completely wrong, Mark. Five years ago, as we watched children’s needs being blatantly ignored and our kid’s beloved teachers being treated with crippling contempt, we watched caring parents of white, Hmong and African-American kids pull their children from the district. We, instead, took up the cause, finding across the city many other parents like us, but we were limited by working school by school, or individual by individual, and did not have the means to join together to make the necessary changes. We all are exceedingly grateful for the teacher’s union for providing us with that organization, and in truth, our vision often coincides with those of the teachers, special ed specialists, and volunteers who work with our children every day.
    This administration is unbelievably callous and contemptuous of parents, grandparents, volunteers, teachers, aides and children. The 500 people at the Democratic Convention represented only a fraction of those who have come to care passionately about replacing this school board and changing the course of this district. I would hope the electorate is smart enough to understand that this administration with its view of schools as factories, teachers as workers, and children as widgets, does not have a clue how to raise the next generation of Saint Paul’s adults. We will fight to change that. I know that when I speak to people across the city about how we have seen our child and other’s needs callously ignored–with long-term horrendous consequences–people understand that we’re speaking the truth. The School Board needs change and our candidates four candidates are the ones to create it.

  4. I should state very clearly that John Broderick is not a part of the Rubber Stamp board. Broderick has been a lonely wise voice in the district, with Louise Seeba doing her best beside him.

  5. Did you notice the way the Teacher’s Federation moderator introduced the priorities of “parents, students and teachers”? He called for “smaller class sizes, more staffing in their room and their schools, more time to teach and less time to run tests, and…Pre-K for all students”. (And one assumes the list also includes mom, and apple pie, and magically also no new taxes, despite their laundry list of requests.)

    It’s subtle, but it’s all stated from a teacher perspective. Because the Teacher’s Federation represents – wait for it – *teachers*! When push comes to shove comes to budget constraints, and in the real world it always does, whose priorities are teachers unions going to support? No, not first and foremost kids. Board members represent what’s best for our kids, first and foremost. Teachers unions represent teachers. It’s all Civics 101.

    Yes, our kids’ teachers teachers have earned my great respect and admiration. Union leadership, this year, not so much; they have taken things way, way too far. And indeed, this year, the union has made it glaringly easy to differentiate the values of my kids’ teachers from the union’s direction.