We are trying something different with our coverage of the board meeting this week. Within the story, there are hyperlinks to the relevant portions of the board meeting so readers can watch that section for more details. Let us know what you think about the change by commenting below or sending an email to info@mplsschoolsvoices.news.

The Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education met on May 14 for its regular business meeting. On the agenda was a presentation by the American Indian Parent Advisory Council, an update on curriculum adoption, and approval of new contracts with the district’s teachers and education support professionals. Two resolutions were read which will come up for a vote at the June 11 board meeting.  One, a gender inclusion policy that would codify rights for transgender and gender expansive students and two, a resolution that  directs the superintendent to develop a plan to locate Anishinabe Academy in its own building.

American Indian Parent Advisory Council delivers a vote of non-concurrence to the board, indicating their belief that the district is not doing enough to ensure the success of American Indian students in the district.

Lucie Skjefte, Nation Wright, Sr. and Nellie Long, members of the district’s American Indian Parent Advisory Council, presented a vote of non-concurrence to the board. Under Minnesota statute, the council can make such a vote when a school district is not adequately meeting the needs of American Indian students. The council identified three areas where the district needs to improve– culturally relevant mental health services, accountability and student discipline with a focus on middle school suspensions, and developing a long-term vision with community engagement.

The district has 60 days to respond to the vote of non-concurrence.

Under Minnesota law, school districts with more than ten American Indian students must have an American Indian Parent Advisory Council. The law empowers the council to vote annually whether the district is meeting the needs of American Indian students.

The board approved contracts with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers for educators, adult educators and educational support professionals. Along with the contract approvals, the board also voted to lengthen the school day and shorten the school calendar next year.

After union members voted to approve the tentative contract agreements, the board unanimously voted to approve new contracts with the district's teachers and education support professionals. The new contracts include an increase in pay for teachers by 4% this school year, retroactive to July 1, 2023, and next year by 5%. Educational support professionals will receive a raise of 4% for the current year retroactive to July 1, 2023, and next year by 6%. In addition, some ESPs will receive longevity pay.

The district is in the process of purchasing a new curriculum for elementary and 6th-12th grade literacy and math, and 6th through 12th grade math, social studies and health.

Senior Officer of Academics Aimee Fearing updated the board on her team’s  development of a formal curriculum adoption process, which now includes an audit of each curriculum after five years. The audit will determine whether the curriculum continues to meet the needs of students and educators while also meeting state standards.

Minneapolis Public School is also in the process of formally adopting curriculum for multiple subject areas. The district will conduct three curriculum pilots next year in elementary literacy, and 6th through 12th grade literacy and science. The elementary literacy curriculum pilot will include 15 schools that will pilot three different curricula. Eleven of the 15  schools are currently part of the Groves literacy partnership, which the district is ending after the Groves curriculum was not approved by the Minnesota Department of Education as part of the READ Act, which  requires school districts to use literacy instructional practices aligned with the science of reading.

The district is recommending the school board select iReady as the middle school math curriculum and Open Up as the high school math curriculum. Teachers would begin using the new curricula next year if approved by the board.

Parents, staff and students speak in favor of a resolution to provide Anishinabe Academy with a separate building.

Anishinabe Academy is currently co-located with the Sullivan STEAM Magnet School in a building at 3100 E. Lake St. The school integrates Dakota and Ojibwe culture and language into elementary education, and is open to all American Indian students who live in Minneapolis. Parents, students and staff from Anishinabe Academy spoke about the need for the school to have its own building to expand the offerings that the school provides, including smudging, pow-wows, wrap-around services and garden space to grow traditional herbs and foods.

School board Director Adriana Cerrillo, who serves with Director Joyner Emerick as the board’s Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors and Philips Indian Educators representatives, brought forward a resolution that would direct Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams to have a plan for moving Anishinabe Academy to its own building by the end of September. The resolution also directs the district to provide separate transportation to the current school building. Currently, students attending Anishinabe Academy share buses with students attending Sullivan. The resolution will be voted on at the June 11 board meeting.

The board’s policy committee, chaired by Director Lori Norvell, introduced a resolution to approve a gender inclusion policy.

The proposed policy would be the first time the district adopts a formal gender inclusion policy. During public comments, students, parents and community members spoke in favor of the adoption of the proposed gender inclusion policy. The board will vote on the policy at its June 11 board meeting.

The policy would codify the rights of transgender and gender expansive students to be called by their preferred name and pronouns at school. Students would also have the right to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

Student Representative Leo Peralta asked for the policy to be amended to forbid the practice of “shirts and skins” in athletic practices. He also asked that students have the right to access a single-user gender neutral bathroom, even if it is located in a school office or health office. Norvell noted that the district’s buildings are old, and that presents a challenge to adding single-user, gender neutral bathrooms for students in all buildings.

The Minneapolis Public Schools school board meets again on May 28 for a committee of the whole meeting. The meetings are held at the Davis Center and can be watched online here. Committee of the whole meetings do not include public comments and the board does not take any votes at these meetings. The board will review an updated proposal for the budget for next school year at the May 28 meeting.