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Timely and better communications are needed at Minneapolis Public Schools ASAP

The chance to do better this budget cycle was possible; the opportunity was missed.

Tracine D. Asberry

This is my second year of a four-year term on the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Board of Education and I am convinced that timely, transparent, competent, and respectful communication is the best way a) to honor the decision of families to choose our schools, and b) to maintain community engagement throughout their educational experience.

This became glaringly evident last week at the MPS Area C meeting at Lake Harriet Community School, Lower Campus, held after the district budgeting error that left particular Area C schools questioning the district’s commitment to academic funding for the second year [PDF]. Topics included academic programming and budgeting alignment, rallying around high-priority schools, narrowing boundaries to address overcrowding, student-to-teacher ratio necessary to meet safety regulations, and educating Gifted & Talented students [PDF].

A first-time observer may define this exchange as community engagement at its finest and I would agree. As a second-year observer, I would recognize that the opposite is true, considering that parents repeated budget concerns from last year as well as last month.

Let me be clear. My goal is not to blame. Rather my goal is to acknowledge that the chance to do better this budget cycle was possible, the opportunity was missed — and to express why we can’t wait.

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1. Excerpt from my communication to District Leadership, March 19, 2014:

Equally important to the budget process is addressing previous concerns shared by MPS Area C families to demonstrate a better transparent and competent process this budget cycle. You will notice by the emails to follow that this process has significant flaws.

I request your leadership to understand why similar questions and concerns expressed by Area C families last year resurfaced again at the Area C meeting tonight, in the email below as well as additional emails and Facebook comments. 

My concern is that the concerns are not new since last year and it appears as if we, as a Board and District, were not listening and prepared. 

I shared emails regarding budget concerns from Lake Harriet Community School (LHCS), Burroughs Community School (BCS), and Kenny Community School (KCS) Site Councils last year. 

A few months ago, I shared emails from both LHCS and KCS focused on being proactive to ensure a smoother budget process this cycle. I appreciate that site meetings have taken place to provide assistance and will continue to take place with principals and Site Councils. However, I’m unclear how such a reactive response is an effective and efficient use of time and energy, especially, since this response to stakeholder concerns occurred last year. 

Respectfully, I request an evaluation of the budget process based on the concerns consistent to those expressed last year, the unclear definition of minimum programming, and the need to improve transparency and engagement.

2. Excerpt from my communication to District Leadership, March 20, 2014:

I want to clarify that this response addresses support with our principals. However, the response does not address my requests from last night and this morning regarding transparency and excellence with our Stakeholders.

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3. Excerpt from my communication to District Leadership, March 20, 2014:

Per my previous email, I look forward to a leadership response to budget concerns that maintains a commitment to equity, transparency, excellence, and our vision throughout MPS district wide.”

Unfortunately, my area has yet to receive a thorough response to school budget needs.

This is why I immediately reached out to parents after the Area C meeting and I later contacted district leadership to request Site Council conversations to a) give attention to school budget needs, and b) ask how to rebuild trust.

This is why I shared the Area C budgeting experience on 89.9 KMOJ FM radio last Friday. This is why I’m writing this Community Voices commentary in MinnPost today.

My constituents have waited long enough; every family deserves timely, transparent, competent, and respectful communication in every corner of Minneapolis Public Schools.

Policy 8110 – Purposes and Role of the Board #12 states, “The Board shall inform the citizens of the City of Minneapolis of the progress and needs of the schools.

Onward together!

Tracine D. Asberry, Ed.D., is a member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education, representing District 6. 

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