Insight News

Feb 13th

T Williams: Helping to ensure a positive school reforms for our children

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theatriceThe joyful sounds of kids spending their summer days in the parks or down the street tell us school’s out for the summer. The primary election is August 10 this year, and what happens in August may very well determine the November general elections and beyond. A large field of candidates are vying for two at large seats for the Minneapolis School Board. For us that means we must be clear on who represents the best choices for those two seats.

It is with a sense of urgency that we have found ourselves jumping onto the campaign team to support T. Williams’ re-election bid for School Board. We are compelled to help T. get re-elected because we have witnessed a number of positive changes taking place in our Minneapolis Public Schools. We need to keep those changes going in the right direction because they are good for our children. We do not believe our children will be adequately served without quality, experienced African American representation on the board.

It is our sincere opinion that T. Williams, with his four years of board experience, is the very best candidate to ensure stability and forward momentum as we continue to head into turbulent territory.

Regrettably, we just can’t seem to get away from talking about public education without also bringing up challenging and turbulent conditions. Uncertain and delayed funding by the State, changes in needs by new and divergent incoming populations, demographic shifts that reduce the number of children and thereby funding, more open choices and competition available to families, imposed unfunded and punitive No Child Left Behind federal mandates, stresses within the working ranks through periods of negotiating large employment contracts; these are but a few challenges that affect the Minneapolis Public Schools function.

There are also important internal changes within the school district itself. With this next election, we’ll see the departure of three board members who decided not to run for re-election.

In addition to two open seats for citywide representation, this election cycle will see the first three new board members come onto the board who represent the interests of their geographic-specific communities. This year the new Directors are being elected from the east side of the city. In two years, the city’s west half will elect its representatives.

Another change will be incoming superintendent Bernadeia Johnson. The advantage of her selection is that we can expect significant staff continuity. Certainly the new Superintendent’s style is different, but the demands on her to continue progress is uniquely different than those on the previous superintendent.

That’s a lot of change. It’s a lot of change at a time when we’re starting to see some turnaround. Therefore some measure of stability is critical given that there can be as many as five new members joining the Board. Re-electing T. Williams is a substantial contribution to that stability.

By many measures our kids are starting to do better. That’s not to say we don’t have a long, long, long way to go! But a journey starts with a step, and we believe our first steps are going in the right direction.

There’s general agreement that what is most needed right now is to stay committed, stay the course. We must let the improvements being put into place take on traction. The work was planned. It’s now time to work the plan. Further changes and reforms can take place within the context of the overall plan, but we must not lose the focus of our strategic plan.

We believe T. Williams is just the kind of leadership the district needs at this time. We’ve witnessed him be straight up, thoughtful, rational and a big picture thinker. We have seen that he’s been effective at building relationships with fellow board members to understand their passions and agendas. It’s important to channel that energy behind individual board agendas into reaching the collective good and we have witnessed T. lend his skills to accomplish that objective. We know he’s been courageous, making hard and sometimes unpopular, but good decisions. We have discussed T.’s style with other board members and know that T. walks the walk as a committed, experienced, often behind the scenes leader. T. Williams’ long history in North Minneapolis as a Community Servant/Leader as the Executive Director of Phyllis Wheatley, his service to our community citywide as President/CEO of the Urban Coalition at the time our community was in turmoil and later as the first State Ombudsman his record of impeccable service to community has no parallel among any of the candidates for election to the school board this election cycle.

T.’s challenge is that while he’s been busy “walking the walk,” he has been known not to take credit for his work on behalf of students. An introvert at heart T. has quickly noticed that at campaign time, simply walking the walk will only get him just so far. And that pretty much explains why we have jumped in. T. has yet to do enough to let the public know who he is and why he’s the candidate we all very much need. It’s my opinion that T. is our best choice to help keep the board stable, calm and focused towards progressing towards a stronger Minneapolis Public Schools system. And to get there means doing a lot of work while sounds of kids playing summer games in the parks and the smell of freshly cut grass is in the air. It also means our community in general and the African American Community in particular cannot be complacent and uninformed on those candidates that offer the best opportunity that direct our schools on the path of continuous and sustained improvement for our children. T. Williams is clearly one of those that stand heads and shoulders above the rest. Stay tune for further information on the importance of this school board election.


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