Interview with Bob Walser, District 4
Meet the School Board Candidates
THE RACE FOR THE MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL BOARD COULD BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTIONS THIS NOVEMBER 8TH
Challenge the Education Code
This November Minneapolis voters will be asked to elect the members for the Minneapolis School Board.
This week we interviewed Bob Walser, who is running agaisnt Josh Reimnitz in district 4 in the central western part of the city
- Please explain what makes you qualified to be a good decision maker about education policies for students and their parents, educators and administrators in MPS?
I have 30 years plus experience in schools across the nation and even internationally. My PhD is in studying music as a strong method of teaching as well as learning. I am a MPS parent and married to a teacher. In addition, I have served on several nonprofit boards, so know about board process and governance.
- How should MPS attract and retain the highest quality, most diverse teaching workforce?
Retention is really important. This is a big question, however research shows that it is good to begin with low hanging fruit. Teachers of color are often placed in situations where more is demanded of them, so that should come with more training, more time, and ultimately more support. Retention is doable.
Attracting a qualified workforce is creating a pipeline. We are to make teaching an attractive career path, the best example we have is Finland, where teachers are of the most respected and highest paid of professionals.
- What is your best advice for parents of color who deeply care ensuring educational success for their child/ren?
My advice to parents is the same as I give to myself–show up. You need to be there and show up at conferences, sports games, and be a part of the school community. You must help with homework. I strongly believe in relationships and know what is going on with them.
- What would you do to ensure that every MPS student graduates academically multilingual?
To my knowledge, MPS does not have this as policy. That is a pretty high level change and massive transition and massive allocation of resources. I have to give this more think.
I want to add that given my own experience with French, Spanish, and Swahili, there is no question in my mind about the benefits, but I am not sure how to pull this off practically.
- Do you support community partnership schools, and if you do, what would you do to increase the number of these schools and make sure they’re successful?
When Southwest High School came before the Board of Education this year to request to become a community partnership school, a Director asked the principal BIll Smith Why do you want to be a partnership school? He answered we want to be an IB school, but haven’t been able to do that, so we want to have the liberty to become an IB school through the community partnership model. The Director then responded you want to strive to be what you already are.
I value that we are not all the same. The needs of each child are different and we must respect those differences and also respond to needs.
That particular label-community school–may not be helpful, but the concept of schools to meet the needs of the particular community the school serves is something that I believe in.
- What can we do to help ELL families feel more welcome in MPS schools?
To be honest, I don’t know what the District is doing right now. I know that there are family liaisons. They are actively reaching out to communities and some people are trying very hard. This is not my area of expertise. I will say that I value listening to all families.
- What do you know about individualized learning and what can be done to better individualize student learning?
Well, I talk about child centered education. I like to use this analogue. If you go see a western movie. They always say “That’ll learn ya” and it is never the end. Nobody can make anyone learn. At the most basic level, we must inspire our children to learn. Adults always seem to know what a child needs to learn, but if the child is not ready to learn there will not be any learning. The idea is to get to know each student and know how to inspire them to learn.
- What should be done to dramatically increase graduation rates?
Back in June, MPS brought in a researcher from Oakland, last name Andrade, did a 2 hours presentation at North High. It was powerful.
He shared research that highlights that graduation rates can be increased when a relationship with a caring adult is present. Teachers need time to be able to establish a relationship with their students to then be able to meet students as individuals.
- As a board member, what role will you play in working with newly hired Superintendent Ed Graff?
I see myself as a listener and a consensus builder. I believe that not one person should steer this ship.
I met with all the members of current Board of Education, including Josh Reimnitz. I wanted to get a flavor for this. We have to learn about each others values and find common ground. The nature of the Board is that we have one employee. First order of business is to advocate setting priorities. This Board position is a part time job. It has to do things by law, like budgets and meet, so often this means that you have little time to go above and beyond. The other thing about the nature of the Board is that you get a new board every 2 years. I believe the process of working with other people is so important.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add that I am also thinking about the outside work of building relationships with the Legislature (which sets the budget) and the city council, as really important work. I am endorsed by so many people, I believe that I am already building bridges with people who can help us work for Minneapolis kids.