Following a month-long engagement process in January, members of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Directors expressed their dismay with both the engagement process and the results of that process. The Board met on Feb. 7 as part of a series of special meetings focused on the search for a new district superintendent.
On Jan. 17 the Minneapolis School Board voted to delay the superintendent search process until September. Read Minneapolis Schools Voices’ coverage of the superintendent search listening sessions here.
The meeting began with a presentation by Radious Y. Guess, the Managing Partner for EPU Consultants. The consulting firm was responsible for planning and conducting eight listening sessions and five focus groups as well as an online survey. EPU also analyzed and coded the data to bring back to the board. Additionally, EPU Consultants performed the community engagement piece for the 2016 superintendent search at MPS.
Guess began by discussing methodology, then spent the bulk of her presentation discussing major themes pulled out of the data after it was collected, assessed, and coded.
“In 2016, there were a total of 716 parents that completed the survey. But in 2023, the numbers were different. 1652,” said Guess.
Despite the increased number of survey participants, however, several board members were quick to point out that the engagement was still lacking.
“Based on the numbers we did not even reach 5% of the families that we serve,” said Chair Sharon El-Amin.
Directors Fathia Feerayarre and Adriana Cerrillo expressed frustration that the community engagement process did not include the names of recommended community partners who might have been better able to reach some parts of the MPS community.
Following the presentation and a Q&A session, the board discussed community engagement, board priorities and values, and the superintendent search.
“My question is, have we designed our process [for community engagement]?” asked Director Sonya Emerick. “If that firm is sitting right there, does anyone feel like they can speak on our behalf and say here’s our process. We’ve designed it, we’re ready to hand it off to you. I could not. So if we have not yet done that work, then there is work we need to do together that we need time to do.”
The discussion was sometimes very emotional, with directors making the case for different forms of community engagement, alongside of or prior to a superintendent search. This discussion is especially pertinent as the superintendent search firm will be attending the March 7 Special Meeting of the Board, and because the Board needs to renew the Interim Superintendent’s contract if they choose not to hire a new superintendent for next year.