Dr. Lisa Sayles-Adams joined the school board for her first meeting as superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools on Feb. 13.

During the public comment section of the meeting, the board room was filled with sounds of chants from Minneapolis Federation of Teachers members who had gathered outside the meeting room to demand a new contract with the district. Board Chair Collin Beachy silenced perennial public commenter Gary Marvin Davidson when he mentioned the new superintendent by name, a violation of the parameters of public comments. Davidson began shouting as he was escorted out of the board room.

After the chanting crowd departed, public comments ended, and the board returned from a brief recess, Sayles-Adams delivered a presentation on her plan for her first 100 days leading the district. Similar to her presentation during her interview in December, Sayles-Adams promised to start her tenure listening and learning about the district.

Ibrahima Diop, senior officer of Operations and Finance, delivered a somber update to the board about the state of district finances and the budget for next school year. Reiterating much of what he has said before, Diop reminded the district that federal pandemic aid is expiring on Sept. 30. The district’s revenue will decrease by $90 million next year without the federal aid, and new State aid will not be enough to make up for the loss.

“We will be making the necessary cuts at the central office, but schools will be impacted, too,” Diop said. He later added, “We will do our best to limit the impact on schools, but everyone will feel the $90 million plus gap as we close that gap.”

Diop reminded the board that the district has weathered budget cuts before. He added, “I am speaking as a staff member, but also as a parent. I have my kids that attend this school district, proudly so,” Diop said.

“Budget cuts are not an easy exercise. They are really painful and we have nights that we don’t sleep. And this is not a night or two. This is becoming more constant than not because we take our work seriously,” Diop said of the coming budget cuts. He added that the cuts will include eliminating some jobs in the district, but did not give specifics.

“It’s a really challenging situation that we are [in],” Diop explained, adding, “At this point everything has to be on the table.”

In addition to the $90 million in cuts that will be made because of the end of the pandemic aid, Diop said that if collective bargaining agreements are more expensive than expected, when they are eventually settled, the district will have to make additional budget cuts. This is the situation that played out after the 2022 educator’s strike, when the district re-opened school and department budgets after a settlement was reached.

Diop said that while budget cuts will be focused on the Davis Center, that in the past the district has cut so much from administration that it impaired the ability of the district to function, including missing key State reporting deadlines. Although he did not name the event, he was likely referring to actions taken by the board in 2018 to shift additional budget cuts to Davis Center to preserve school funding, primarily for Washburnl and Southwest High Schools. Current board vice chair, Kim Ellison, was one of the board members at the time who did not support the cuts at Davis Center. Current District 6 board member, Ira Jourdain, did vote for the 2018 cuts.

The district had originally planned to release school budgets to principals on Feb. 13, but budgets have been delayed until the end of this week, or potentially next week. Whenever they come out, Diop indicated that they will include cuts to staffing at schools. Administration department budgets are scheduled to be shared at the end of February.

Diop did not include any specifics about the coming budget cuts. After his presentation, board members did not ask any questions.

At the end of the meeting, Jourdain announced he won’t be seeking reelection in the fall. Jourdain has served as the representative for District 6, which covers the Southwest corner of the city, since 2017. In addition to District 6, Districts 2 and 4, and the at-large seat held by Ellison are also up for election in November.

Greta Callahan, the current president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and parent of a Southwest High School student, is running for the District 6 seat, according to citizen journalist Josh Martin. Also running for the seat is Lara Bergman, a parent of students at Armatage Elementary School.

The board will meet again Feb. 20 for its monthly committee of the whole meeting. There are no public comments at committee of the whole meetings, but the public may attend in person or view the meeting online. On Feb. 22, the board’s finance committee will meet at Davis Center. The finance committee meeting can only be attended in person; finance committee meetings are not streamed or recorded.