Growing up on the Eastside attending Minneapolis Public Schools, I realized early on that it's up to the entire community to make sure our teachers have the resources they need so our students have the opportunities they deserve. Education has been a top priority for me throughout my entire life in public service because of that experience. Strong communities mean strong schools and strong schools mean strong communities.
Below is letter I sent to educators in the ward reaffirming my commitment to building on the progress we've made together for our local schools over the past 8 years.
As another school year begins, I want to thank you for everything you do to make our neighborhoods the wonderful communities that they are. I’d say welcome back to school but I know you’ve all been prepping and working on your classrooms well in advance to make them the nurturing and stimulating environments they are for our students.
Growing up in Logan Park and attending Webster Elementary School, I had the benefit of an education marked by dedicated teachers who strove day in and day out to prepare their students for success. I also witnessed first-hand the challenges our local public schools faced.
Then as now, classrooms and extracurricular activities relied on community support to supplement tight budgets. When I was a student at Edison, I remember parents, neighbors, local businesses, and civic organizations stepping up and putting in the work to ensure my fellow students and I had a wide variety of extracurricular athletic and arts opportunities in addition to a quality education. These lessons stuck with me both as a policymaker and as a parent: government works best when we work together.
The lessons I learned wrestling and playing football at Northeast Junior High, participating in student government at Edison, and watching my daughter, Oshana, thrive in Minneapolis Public Schools have stuck with me through my life.
It is no secret that Minneapolis Public Schools have some of the largest disparities between white children and children of color in the country. Part of the problem is the uneven opportunities in our city of programs and infrastructure beyond the bare minimum and unfunded mandates from higher levels of government. That’s why from day one, I’ve been committed to working with our community to break the trend on the Eastside. Here are some of the things we’ve done together since I’ve served as your Council Member:
- Facilitated the partnership between Minneapolis Public Schools, Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to make the Edison High School athletic field the greenest high school field in the state and a test model for other youth fields in the system.
- Brought Minneapolis Public Schools, Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), Sundial Solar, Xcel Energy, Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (HNIA) and local artists together to secure resources to install solar panels at the Edison High School Community Plaza, construct a new concessions building, build the sculptural fence and field entryway, and establish the community garden. These combined amenities are also designed around an outdoor learning laboratory for Eastside students, a first of its kind in the nation.
- Completed renovation of the Edison High School parking lot to install stormwater recapture infrastructure, new surface and landscaping, and new signage.
- Collaborated with Minneapolis Public Schools, Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), and the Audubon Neighborhood Association to convert a portion of the Northeast Middle School parking lot into a rain garden and outdoor sustainability laboratory for Northeast Middle School science students.
- Crafted a partnership between the University of Minnesota, Stantec, and the Edison High School science program to undertake water monitoring studies to measure the effectiveness of the parking lot Swedish Tree Trench, allowing science students to see and participate in live field research at the collegiate level.
- Built a relationship between Center for Energy & Environment (CEE), Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association, and local artist James Brenner to create the Green Light Project – an installation of sculptural street lights working in concert with our community-wide energy usage reduction initiative, which is monitored by the Edison High School science program.
- Set higher standards for school zoning because every educational institution has the obligation to provide a safe space for our children.
I am thankful for the education I received through Minneapolis Public Schools. I owe an unpayable debt to the outstanding educators I had the opportunity to learn from.
It’s a fundamental responsibility of our democracy to provide public education, and if there’s a problem, or something we can do better, it’s the public’s duty to support our educators to get it done. As long as I am your City Council Member, you can count on me to continue to be a full partner in this effort.
Once again, thank you for the work you do for us all. Thank you for coming in early and staying late. Thank you for buying school supplies with your own money. Thank you for coaching our state champions, encouraging our award winning artists, and educating our future doctors, poets, plumbers, and educators. Thank you.
I hope to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 7th so we can continue working together to support our students for years to come.
Edison High School Class of ‘85