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Four Minneapolis school board candidates debate top issues

October 3, 2018

Four candidates one incumbent and three challengers contending for spots on Minneapolis school board faced off in a forum Tuesday night to deliberate issues such as equity, referendum, strategic plan, school safety and the fiscal stability of the district.

The forum the first of two scheduled before the November election hosted by the Minneapolis League of Women Voters drew about 50 people, to South High School. Pam Telleen of the voters league moderated the debate.

During the nearly two-hour forum, each candidate gave two-minute opening statements and then talked to groups of voters who came loaded with questions on how the candidates could move the 36,000-student district forward.

Currently, the citywide seats are held by two-term incumbent Rebecca Gagnon and first-term Board Member Don Samuels, who is not seeking re-election. The challengers are Kimberly Caprini, Sharon el-Amin and Josh Pauly.

Both Caprini and Pauly got the backing of the DFL Party and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

Board Members Jenny Arneson and Siad Ali who are running unopposed in other district races were present at the forum. Only Arneson participated in the forum. Meanwhile, board chairman Nelson Inz was absent from Tuesdays forum.

Caprini, an active parent and a north Minneapolis resident touted her experience of sitting on many site councils and district committees where she said she helped advocate to bring International Baccalaureate program at Olson Middle School, among other things.

El-Amin, a North Side resident, said her priorities are accountability, community engagement and transparency within the school district. If elected, she said she would consider making cuts in the athletic department, noting athletic directors earn more than teachers. She also said she would monitor how much the district spends on staff cellphones and consider adjustments.

Pauly, a former Minneapolis teacher and south Minneapolis resident, emphasized the importance of wraparound services, smaller class sizes and good leaders who can ensure the district is fiscally responsible.

Gagnon, whose remarks were the most polished during the forum talked about how far the district has come since she was elected on the board in 2010. Gagnon blamed the state and federal for not adequately funding special education and English language learners, noting its the one of the main reason the district faces chronic shortfalls year in year out.

Faiza Mahamud 612-673-4203

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