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New St. Paul school board — with 3 new members — will face challenges in 2024 – Twin Cities

When three new members join the board in charge of St. Paul Public Schools in January, they will immediately face significant challenges.

The school district, which has 33,000 students and a billion-dollar budget, will face not only a $150 million deficit in the coming year with the end of federal aid in the event of pandemic, but also in contractual negotiations with the Federation of Educators of Saint-Paul.

There is already a significant gap between what the union is asking for and what the district is willing to spend on salaries in the future. SPPS says it has set aside a little more than $12 million for the raises, while an initial incomplete estimate from the district found the union’s demands could total at least $106 million. Teachers nearly went on strike in 2022 when the union and district positions came together.

“They don’t get into this placid scene where they have time to absorb, evaluate, make their own judgment and try to figure these things out,” said Jon Schumacher, a former school board member at St. Paul. who served from 2016 to 2020, new members of the board of directors.

Enrollment, Safety, and Academic Success Issues

Budget negotiations and negotiations with unions are not the only challenges ahead. St. Paul schools have seen declining enrollment: the district’s 33,000 students are down from 37,000 a decade ago, and charter schools serving specific ethnic groups have become competitors of major city ​​public schools.

Parents are also concerned about safety at schools, especially after a fatal stabbing at Harding High School earlier this year. A survey at the time indicated that 28% of students felt unsafe in school hallways and 23% in bathrooms. Surveys have also shown support for reinstating school resource officers removed in 2020, although in general, board members are more interested in alternative school security personnel and non-punitive measures to address school discipline.

Academic achievement also remains an issue, especially after the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Results from the 2023 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test showed that about 26% of the district’s students were proficient in math and 34% were at proficiency. school reading.

Mathematics results showed improvement in 2023, but are significantly lower than they were in 2019, the year before school closures and remote learning were introduced at the start of the pandemic. In 2019, 32% of students were proficient in math and nearly 40% were proficient in reading, according to test results.

Three new members

So with ongoing issues like declining enrollment, academic achievement and school safety concerns, who will join the seven-member board in charge of Minnesota’s second-largest school district?

The three new members bring a blend of strong community ties, nonprofit experience, and educational leadership experience.

Two of the newly elected board members are active in community service organizations in St. Paul and are new to the education field. Another comes with a background in school administration and served a temporary term on the school board in 2021.

New members Carlo Franco and Erica Valliant say their experiences with community organizations will give them a unique perspective and give a voice to students and families from communities who may not always have been heard in the decision-making process.

Erica Valliant

Portrait of Erica Valliant
Erica Valliant. (Courtesy of the candidate)

Valliant is the outreach director for People Serving People, an emergency homeless shelter. She lives in the Rondo neighborhood of Summit-University and has four children enrolled in St. Paul schools.

“We all have connections, in one way or another, to community organizations that work with youth,” she said.

Valliant’s priorities include increasing funding for “restorative justice practices” in the district and working to “foster a culture of pride, respect and belonging at school with staff, students and families”.

Restorative justice in schools focuses on addressing behaviors through mediation and other means rather than through sanctions such as suspension or detention. Valliant and other school board members are pushing for the practice as a way to address safety concerns, and the teachers union is seeking additional funding for the practice as part of ongoing contract negotiations.

Valliant also said she hopes to encourage students to graduate with “strong financial literacy skills” and ensure access to early learning and pre-kindergarten for all children.

Carlo Franco

Portrait of Carlo Franco
Carlo Franco (Courtesy of the candidate)

Carlo Franco is a fourth-generation resident of St. Paul’s West Side and Humboldt High School graduate who works as a youth engagement and training manager for the City of St. Paul.

He is president of the West Side Boosters and a board member of Neighborhood House, a West Side nonprofit that provides food, housing and educational assistance. His priorities include increasing investments in the district’s school counselors, community intervention workers and restorative justice coordinators.

Franco said his past work with the city and volunteering puts him in a good position to address school safety issues. He worked as a restorative justice coordinator in Humboldt in his previous job with the school district.


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