Ira Jourdain Candidate-MPS Board of Education District 6 Dear
MFT Members and Delegates,
During these trying times we are all being challenged in new ways. I respect the MFT endorsement process, but as I continue to prioritize being an active board member, father, and earning money to support my family, submitting a video response wasn’t feasible at this time. I hope to earn the MFT 59 endorsement again. To introduce myself to you I want you to know that I have been a practical and principled decision maker as your District 6 representative. Some of the practical and principled accomplishments, of course with community support, are thirty minutes of recess, tire mulch removal, expansion at Washburn, and voting to restore funding that was cut from middle and high schools. I’m running for re-election because I think we need to keep that perspective on our school board–especially sense we are now facing the Comprehensive District Design. I am dedicated to ending racially predictable outcomes. We will make progress to that end, but we shouldn’t do it with the current versions of the CDD. I hope to earn your support not only at the convention or for an endorsement, but to be a partner in moving MPS forward together.
District 6 Representative
MPS Board of Education
#1 Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Culturally Competent Instruction: MPS has a diverse student population, where over 65% of students are people of color. Parents and educators agree that in order for students to be successful, we must have culturally competent instruction and curricula that reflect the diversity of our city.
What concrete changes will you make to assure every student has a culturally reflective curriculum and culturally competent instruction?
Students need to see themselves in their curriculum. And not just as an add-on. Funding High Schools and Middle Schools to have Ethnic Studies classes and programs are important step in that direction. Having students and families see themselves reflected in the curriculum will build trust and stronger communication within communities that have not felt heard or valued throughout the District. Also having a robust culturally reflective curriculum and competent instruction also is valuable to the growth of our teachers and staff. Too often professional development does not continue on a path to greater understanding of how to implement culturally relevant curriculum into instruction. I have heard from teachers that they participate in professional development that repeats the same basic principles to convince them to include more culturally relevant material. They are convinced. Many of our teachers are ready to move beyond this baseline and want more relevant professional development to help do so in an impactful way. The second issue I want to raise is hiring and keeping our educators of color. I was disheartened to hear that MFT’s proposal to protect teachers of color from budgetary layoffs wasn’t accepted by the district out of fears of a lawsuit. There is a compelling government interest in keeping teachers of color that I think would protect MPS from a lawsuit though.
#2 Predictable Staffing and Budgeting: Every school has unique strengths and areas to improve. The current budgeting process has created a system of schools where some students have access to art, music, language, and media centers while others schools cut those programs to fund other initiatives within the school.
Additionally, some schools have even greater needs for resources and funding to meet the basic needs of students and are forced to make even bigger trade offs between basic needs and programming that makes our schools special.
This has led to vastly different experiences depending on the school you attend, its geography and demographics.
How will you work to ensure every school has equal access to programming like art, music, world language, and other offerings and equitable funding to meet the safety and wellness needs of all of our students?
It is clear we need to improve the funding of our schools. Minimum programming must include licensed staff in all media centers, language, art and music in the formula of District Minimal Programming. It is outrageous we have so many schools without working media centers. Studies have continually shown that including these classes and curriculum positively influences students’ social emotional growth while improving academics at the same time. This imbalance of funding has led to high school music programs to be mostly white students and directly correlated to which middle schools had music classes. As a parent I have been fortunate that my children have had access to art and music, but that doesn’t mean I won’t advocate for students across the district without the same access. For example, Southside schools had more recess than Northside schools. I advocated for and passed mandatory thirty minutes of recess for elementary schools and K-8s. Schools with more students of color had fewer minutes of recess. That was wrong and I did a significant part in changing that.
#3 Economic Justice: MFT believes that one job should be enough for all of our employees. During this extraordinary time we are seeing how our hourly employees are critical to our students’ education, physical and emotional well being.
If elected, how will you work to increase the wages of hourly workers to a living wage?
I have advocated for higher wages. I know from my experience in Human Services working with families on public assistance that there is a distinct difference between a minimum wage of $15hr to a living wage. I will continue to advocate to move towards a living wage. As we move towards the CDD the District is gonna have to spend more money for programming. Instead, we can prioritize making changes that will not upend the apple cart to increase educational outcomes. One way of helping education outcomes is keep our employees in the district. With too much turnover of ESPs, students lose another caring adult in their lives and lose connection to our schools. It is simple. Instead of gambling with a mass overhaul, this will continue to cost the district more money in the first few years especially, we could be using that money to pay our employees better so our students are served better.
#4 CDD Question: Over the past year and a half Minneapolis Public Schools has worked to create a comprehensive plan for the district that involves changing pathways, programming, transportation, placement practices, and more. The intent of this plan is to close academic disparities through school integration, expand access to quality programming options in historically underserved communities, and make operational adjustments to ensure the financial viability of the school district.
There has been widespread criticism about the process in which the district made decisions, specifically that it left out key stakeholders from the decision making process (staff, students and families) as well as concerns about whether it will meet its stated goals.
Whether it passes or not, there will be many more big changes and important decisions to be made about the organization and future of MPS. As a board member how will you ensure that decision making processes like this one are inclusive, impactful and representative of all of our school communities?
There are three things to consider. First I fear this attempt to stabilize the district’s funds is more destabilizing because 65% of families will be impacted and most will be students of color. The issue is enrollment and making such drastic change at once may actually cause more families to leave MPS.
Second issue, MPS has tried to reach out to families to inform them of the proposed changes, but results show that most families who have been engaged in surveys, community listening sessions, or left a voicemail with the board are mostly white or from the Southside. That means simply we are not hearing enough from families of color who will also be drastically impacted by the CDD. This brings me to my final point.
The history of making decisions that will impact families of color could be characterized as done to them instead of with them. If we pass the current form of the CDD we will continue that history. If change is done without them then that change is done to them. That means we must push the district to try new ways of reaching out that are more time intensive but demonstrate how much we as MPS value them. For example, we should be knocking on doors and making phone calls with actual people to listen to families who are not engaging in the conversation.
When it comes to staff in the district, we should make leadership available to rank and file members of our bargaining units, but consistently engage, listen, and respond to labor leaders concerns. I am more than happy to have those conversations and listen, engage, and respond as well. It is not asking too much of district leadership to do the same.