Interview with Kerry Jo
Meet the School Board candidates
Challenge the Education Code
This November Minneapolis voters will be asked to elect the members for the Minneapolis School Board. This week we interviewed Kerry Jo, who is running against Kim Caprini in district 2 .
- 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 been paying attention for a long time in different areas, School Board one of them. I have relationships with current School Board members and teachers, including ESPs (support professionals). I have been putting together the pieces of what works and what doesn’t work. I have been piecing together what is new and innovative, as well as what is old and not working. I have been working on putting these pieces together and understanding how MPS works and how it all works. We have to respect each others diversity.
I do believe that I understand.
I have the experience of 6 people in a 1 bedroom apartment. I am the oldest child, often the ones with more responsibility and working at young age to have things.
I have the experience of my own high school experience being not to ago, all of my friends were different, some came from abusive homes, some had parents who working a lot, some who basically ran the home, so many cases with parents and with one parent, some without parents—these are all of the pieces that have to be address because we are not going through anything new.
We must take a fresher look at policies that reflect 2016 and take into account the changes that MPS and the budget has gone through. I have been looking at policies and reading them and getting to know how they work together. We must make more policies equitable for MPS children.
I have experience in helping to extract $2 Million dollars with a number of other groups. I know what it takes to get more resources for MPS schools.
- How should MPS attract and retain the highest quality, most diverse teaching workforce?
They used to go down to the HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities), but we need to start looking where do we have the most concentration of teachers of color and bring them in and support them from the get go. MPS has an issue retaining teachers of color, so we can not only do the front part and not the back part. We should ask outgoing teachers if we can make exit interviews public and also track the exit interviews.
We must also Grow our Own. Teachers should come from our neighborhoods because they understand these neighborhoods. Integration money was how many teachers of color were supported before, and the $250,000 for ESPs to become teachers is good, but we need to dig deeper and go back to the high schools for recruitment. We have to go deeper to fix the deep damage that has already been done.
Long term we take a student from the neighborhood, invest in them, and have them go back to be seen as a role model. Teachers from the neighborhood changes the relationships between teacher and student. That will help with student dropout and crime and we can do a lot of things to pile up opportunities to build wealth for the next generation.
- What is your best advice for parents of color who deeply care about ensuring educational success for their child/ren?
To go to the school and be in the school and be a part of the programming. Be a part of the activities that are going on and see how and what they are teaching your child. Share if what they are teaching is successful or not. All children learn differently and it is with relationships that will help build a strong bridge for your child to cross.
Speak up and come to board meetings if you are not being heard. Do not hold it in. Work with the teachers, build a relationships with them to make a difference.
Also, push for what you want and what you would want your child to have. It works.
- What would you do to ensure that every MPS student graduates academically multilingual?
We must start young. I started a language in high school and it was too late. We have to hear every student. We have to take time to nurture them and their interest. We can’t do that going all the way up the chain, the higher it goes up the more the request sometimes gets watered down. It is why I like full service Community Schools. If 5 students want certain programming or a club, then all that student has to do is get 4 more students to want it as well. The children are getting up and organizing. It has to be not only outside the school, but inside the school. We have a lot of people who want to help.
We should match that up with each child. We tried the Harry Davis mentoring program model in North Minneapolis, but the 20-30 minute lunchroom visits with the students resembled prison like visits, me and the other 45+ people were just turned off by that style and wanted to do more than visit the children in the lunchroom. We wanted to be in the community, go on fieldtrips, and really bond.
- 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?
That’s a tricky question. I do not believe community partnership schools are as genuine as full service community schools. If I have a choice I would tell all parents, students, community members, and teachers to choose Full Service Community Schools for a more genuine voice and for power.
I had the honor of being able to visit a full service community school in Cincinnati.
Full Community Schools are assessment based with basic need assessment. We also have to divide it up better, but if we want to integrate our schools and we have to move piece and people around to make it happen.
- What can we do to help ELL families feel more welcome in MPS schools?
We need to diversify the staff with people who can say hello and welcome to families. A full service high school in Brooklyn Center has the word welcome in 20 different languages on a wall at the main entrance. We also have to ask what do they need, just because you are ELL does not mean one method will work and we have many different languages and cultures. We must have access to who is teaching and how.
We must share information in different languages.
We have to make sure we have outreach with the parents.
- What do you know about individualized learning and what can be done to better individualize student learning?
Great for students and parents and a counselor to help shape their path to success. How are we getting all the counselors to help with developing this plan. I don’t’ think this is another piece we should put on the teacher, but it would be helpful to definition what the path is for the student.
This allows for talk about entrepreneurship, masonry, mechanics, roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc. all these side hustles are actually businesses. For healthy communities we need to support businesses. Maybe Senior year should focus on teaching how to apply for grants and loans. We have to be prepared to support this kind of individualized learning.
- What should be done to dramatically increase graduation rates?
We can start full service community schools, in mass. We can start really reaching out into the community (part of full service community school), access whether SRO or multi cultural community member/s in hallways is better, we could have 2-3 multicultural hall monitors for 1 SRO given how expensive the presence of police in our schools costs. In some communities, we work in a village-type realm. Our children are more afraid of their mom or family member, than someone they do not know.
SRO and teachers should all go through cultural comp trainings.
Send homework home. Acknowledging all students for their areas of interest and raise up the self esteem of our students. Include more music and arts and field trips so that our children can really see the world. That makes a big difference.
Listen to the students and want to get them excited about school. We have changed so much, we don’t play dodge ball any more, we play pokemon go.
We have to give them life skills and a better understanding of how the world works. We want to have a successful person, not just hit the graduation numbers–get them ready for later in life- whether the student wants to go to college or be career ready–we have to be fair and not stress them out if college is not what they want to do. I have a friend who makes $36 dollars an hour as a diesel mechanic. We would be creating wealth for future generations.
- As a board member, what role will you play in working with newly hired Superintendent Ed Graff?
I have already had a couple of meetings with him about different issues and giving him a true account about community feeling about those issues. I think it is important to be honest. I look forward to working with him and shaping District 2. I also look forward to working with him on the policy pieces and realize where we are. I look forward to the change as well.
I am looking for some change on the board, as well to working toward moving in another direction given that the leadership positions of many power players in Minneapolis has changed. We have a new superintendent, there is a new union president for MFT Local 59 (Minneapolis Federation of Teachers), and a new president for ESPs (Education Support Professionals). I am excited about the future and working with him (Superintendent Ed Graff).
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have really thought about this run for a long time. I didn’t want to do it because sometimes it is easier to push from the outside, but I decided to run because I am someone with a very strong voice
I am innovative. I am experienced from programs to the precinct. It is all interconnected and that is how we are going to make change moving forward. Our kids face systemic and institutionalized racism that has to be take out at every corner. I am not shy and I will point it out.
We have to bring communities together and work together or we are not going to make it. The tale of two cities is real.