Kimberly Caprini is committed to listening to and collaborating with parents. That’s why she ran for and won a citywide seat on the Minneapolis school board — to which she was named vice chairwoman Tuesday night.
Josh Pauly, 31, the youngest elected board member and a former Minneapolis Public Schools teacher, is all about advocating for young people and giving them the leverage he says they desperately need.
Together they have attracted a new group of people to get involved in the Minneapolis Public Schools, a system some say has festering inequities.
“In the beginning stages, I was advocating for my own children,” said Caprini, a North Side resident. “But I felt like there were opportunities for parents who were not being reached to be reached.”
Among those attending the board meeting for the first time was Katherine Barton, a volunteer with Racial Justice Network, who came to speak against disparities in school discipline between whites and students of color.
Caprini and Pauly officially joined other board members after a swearing in as Minneapolis school board members Tuesday night. This was the nine-member board’s first meeting of 2019.
It offered a fresh start for the state’s third-largest school system and a chance to set priorities that include rolling out a new strategic plan, which officials hope will address the district’s fiscal stability, among other things. Leaders also are pushing to attract about 6,000 additional students to the embattled district.
Pauly, who won a citywide seat, said he resisted the urge to seek a leadership position in his first year, instead choosing to learn from his mentors and focusing on other priorities. He wants to boost students’ access to wraparound services, keep class sizes smaller and guard the district’s reserve funds, which are at a dangerously low level. To keep track of the success of his priorities, the south Minneapolis resident said, he will serve on the policy committee.
“I’m excited, and I’m a little nervous. I have never done this before,” the soft-spoken Pauly said. “It’s important that our generation has a voice on the school board.”
As a newly elected leader, Caprini is convinced her efforts of involving families in their neighborhood schools will yield many positive results, including stopping the district’s enrollment woes. She has sat on many school site councils and district committees. This time around, Caprini says, she wants to take her leadership up a notch.
“If I’m going to do this, I’m going to start out in a position where I can learn and also be in a position to guide some of the collaboration and cohesiveness I’m hoping to bring to the board,” Caprini said. “I’m not afraid to make a mistake or take risks.”
In a first test of their leadership, Caprini and Pauly on Tuesday tackled the issue of whether to reopen the district’s existing contract with the Minneapolis Police Department for school resource officers, who many feel are unprepared to work with students, particularly those of color.
Caprini and Pauly agree that the district is paying a hefty sum to get the officers in its schools; the total is $1.2 million annually for 14 school resource officers. But Caprini, who abstained from voting, said she is opposed to reopening the contract, especially if the district doesn’t know how to replace them. Meanwhile, the full board voted to negotiate a new contract with MPD by the end of June.
Caprini and Pauly replaced incumbents Rebecca Gagnon, who took the controversial step of restoring funds to secondary schools in last year’s second round of budget cuts, and Don Samuels, who did not seek re-election. Pauly is the executive director of PeopleSourced Policy, an organization that promotes civic engagement, and Caprini is a resource navigator at Neighborhood Hub, a social service organization in north Minneapolis.
Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203