An active Minneapolis Public Schools parent who taught special education in Puerto Rico for nearly seven years is running for an at-large seat on the Minneapolis Board of Education.
Christy Caez, who chairs district’s Latino Parent Advisory Council and co-chairs its special education advisory council, is one of at least five candidates running for the two at-large seats. She’s one of at least four hoping to earn the Minneapolis DFL’s endorsement at the citywide convention on May 12.
Caez, who has a bachelor’s degree in special education, is the parent of a kindergartner at Lake Nokomis Community School and another child in preschool. Both receive special education services.
In an interview, Caez said she tried to work as a teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools a few years ago but never had the opportunity.
“So I feel that the district needs to do a better job increasing teachers of color and Hispanic teachers in the community,” she said.
Caez said that people started asking her last year, as she became involved in MPS as a parent, why she didn’t work in the district. People offered her a job recommendation, she said, but she decided that to make a change in the district, she wanted to instead run for School Board.
Caez said she wants to be accessible for parents and Hispanic communities, adding that she notices that the district is losing Hispanic communities and special education kids to charter schools. She said her goal is to be the voice of the parents so they can bring their kids back to MPS.
As a teacher, Caez said that she noticed that teachers sometimes don’t have the support they need to work with diverse populations. She said she wants to be a voice for teachers and give them support.
Caez added that the district has a team that is supposed to be doing evaluation and support for teachers but said that team is just doing the evaluation part.
“Maybe if they do minimum evaluation that’s required by the state, they can do the support too,” she said.
Caez said support for teachers would be a priority for her as a School Board member. She said she will to continue to go to parent meetings and would visit schools and site councils as a board member.
She noted that the district has a high population of homeless and highly mobile families, adding that she knows from experience how not having stable housing can impact learning. She said the district needs to do a better job identifying some of those families and giving them support.
Caez also noted that part of MPS’ deficit is because of legislative underfunding for special education and English language learners. She said she wants to advocate at the legislative level to get more funding for the district.
In addition, Caez said she will support the district’s grow your own program, which aims to increase the number of teachers of color in the schools. She said she plans to continue supporting the Increase Teachers of Color Act, a bipartisan bill to support efforts to hire and retain more teachers of color.
Caez said there aren’t enough preschool spaces in Minneapolis to accommodate all kids, adding that the city needs to increase the number of places in early-childhood education. She said she recently advocated at the state Legislature for more funding for universal pre-K with the coalition MinneMinds.
Caez added that the district needs to do more studies about equity and make sure that every student has the same services when it balances the budget or makes decisions. She said she disagreed with the School Board’s decision last month to restore over $6 million to middle and high schools over concerns about budget cuts at a handful of schools. She said the district cannot keep taking more money from the fund balance and favor just two schools when there are multiple comprehensive high schools.
Caez said she agrees with most of Superintendent Ed Graff’s plan for addressing the district’s budget deficit. Graff’s plan includes making cuts for the 2018-19 school year, creating a structurally balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year and increasing revenues through a November referendum.
But Caez said the district also needs to make sure schools have the support staff they need and that classrooms don’t have too many kids in them.
In addition to Caez, active parent Kimberly Caprini, two-term board member Rebecca Gagnon and former MPS teacher Josh Pauly are also seeking the DFL endorsement for the at-large seats. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers & Education Support Professionals has endorsed Caprini and Pauly for the two seats.
Voters from across Minneapolis elect at-large board members. The board has six seats specific to different areas of the city and three at-large seats.
Voters in District 1, District 3 and District 5 will also elect School Board members this fall. Board treasurer Jenny Arneson, vice chairman Siad Ali and chairman Nelson Inz, respectively, hold those seats. Each is running for re-election and is unopposed in seeking endorsement from the DFL.