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Animate the Race: Refusal to Answer a Question and Invited to Leave

November 3, 2016

The purpose of the forum was to provide a space for school board candidates to answer questions generated by community.  

One candidate refused to answer the second question which was:

We harvest many good things here in the great state of Minnesota, what do you intend to harvest from your potential service as a Minneapolis School Board member if elected?

This is how the episode built up.

The Moderator set the Ground Rules:

  • Be Open and Present,
  • Think before you Speak,
  • Respect Time Boundaries
  • Direct comments to parents and students with your answers
  • Follow Directions

To test the mic, the moderator had each candidate in attendance say: “presente.”

Candidates present were:

At Large:  Kim Ellison

District 2: Kerry Jo Felder and Kimberly Caprini,

District 4: Josh Reimnitz (incumbent) and Bob Walser

District 6: Tracine Asberry (incumbent).

Candidates Doug Mann and Ira Jourdain were not “presente.

About 10 minutes into the forum, the moderator directed the second question to self identified educator Bob Walser to kick off the evening’s Animate the Race Forum. By minute 13:00 the candidate refused to answer. Instead, he said: This is a sham.

Candidate Walser exchanged words with an Animate the Race fellow covering this year’s school board election.  The episode played right into that paranoid style politics ringing louder than ever in this year’s election.  I call it the paranoid style simply because no other words adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy consistently at the center of the American urban education debate.

Rewind to the first 10 minutes and a review of the first question:

What hurts?

Kim Ellison answered that she has a former student who came from a refugee from Laos at age 2. He now has a daughter in Kindergarten and he is being detained by ICE. She acknowledges that ICE raids in neighborhoods highly impact various communities. What Kim statedd hurt was knowing that her former student’s daughter goes to school everyday not knowing when or if she will see her father again.  The hurt is imagining that type of family separation.

District 4 candidate Bob Walser answered being manipulated. It hurts to be invited into a non partisan event organized by someone who organized millionaires 2 years ago. That is manipulation. That hurts.

District 4 Director Josh Reimnitz stated that not making parents and students a priority and the systemic lack of serving our families hurts. He summed up the current education system as able to talk a good game, but do not walk it. Reimnitz a former teacher, shared a story of a student who he taught. The student would only get hot meals at school and often did not know where he would be sleeping for the night, similar to thousands of children in Minneapolis, Reimnitz mentions. It hurts that adults can not put aside differences, and our own hurts, which he believes are very different and in no way comparable to what our students face everyday, to then be capable of serving  our children well.

District 6 candidate and incumbent Tracine Asberry explained that the so called achievement gaps are, in fact, solvable problems, but that when decision makers have the opportunity to solve issues and then wimp out. Director Asberry stated that pausing and saying that change takes time and then we back step. That hurts.

District 2 candidate Kerry Jo Felder, & education organizer for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation shared: children disengagement too early, the system pushing students through school and not ready for real life, the amount of money that has been spent of school board races, and asking our white allies to redirect spending on housing for our highly mobile children. What hurts is our taking of our money and bringing kids in from the suburbs, when it could go to more teachers of color. That hurts. She concludes with: There is so much that hurts.

District 2 Kimberly Caprini stated what hurt was being able to know what it is like to know the answer to a question but not know how to answer it. For her it hurts to see students who are experiencing the same experience and are sometimes placed in a room with people who may not be trying other measures to unlock what is inside that student. That hurts.

Listen to the entire forum:

Posted in: School Boards

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