We with the Education Equity Alliance commend former Duluth School Board member Josh Gorham and member Nora Sandstad for their honesty and bravery in standing up for underserved students in our school district, ISD 709.
In announcing his resignation from the board this month, Gorham cited a lack of adequate attention to the needs of underserved students in ISD 709 and a lack of School Board and administration transparency (“Frustrated School Board member resigns,” Sept. 5).
Sandstad went further and asked for current School Board Chairwoman Rosie Loeffler-Kemp to step down from her leadership role.
Members Gorham, Sanstad, Alanna Oswald, and Sally Trnka have fought, and continue to fight, to make the School Board more transparent and more accountable and attentive to the needs of all ISD 709 students and families.
One example of a lack of transparency and accountability was the failure of the administration and the board chairman to inform the entire School Board of Assistant Superintendent Jeff Horton’s criminal background when they voted to hire him (“Duluth school admin hiring questioned,” Aug. 31).
Another example of the lack of transparency by the current administration is the current budget. Superintendent William Gronseth praised himself, his administration, and the School Board for an inclusive process to produce this year’s budget. We would like to know when Gronseth or his administration went to the community to discuss the budget. Particularly, when did they ask for input or even share the process with underserved communities?
Underserved communities in this city have far worse equity outcomes than News Tribune coverage would have you believe. The Sept. 5 article on Gorham’s resignation cited an increase in graduation rates for African-American students but neglected to include that the overall rate is still only 64% — and further, this statistic was for a single year. We have so relatively few African-American students in our school district that a small increase in numbers significantly changes the graduation rate. The story also failed to mention the decrease in graduation rates for Native American students and, as importantly, the persistent 30-point difference in graduation rates between students eligible for free and/or reduced-cost meals and students from higher-income families.
Loeffler-Kemp stated in the News Tribune that the district is facing “a difficult time,” including with budget restraints, and that we need to attend to the “needs of all students.” But all students do not have the same needs. Some students have far greater needs.
Many of us in the community who are fighting for equity in ISD 709 question the ability of Loeffler-Kemp to address the community’s needs, which, as stated by Gorham in his resignation, include an “accountability and sense of urgency” in improving graduation rates and student test scores. We thank Gorham for his service.
Mary Owen of Duluth is a member of the Education Equity Alliance, a grassroots collaborative of community groups and others. This commentary was supported by fellow alliance members Betty Greene, Doris Malkmus, and Bob Grytdahl, all of Duluth.
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