MPS board welcomes new members, chair

New School Board member Ira Jourdain takes the oath of office Tuesday. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

The Minneapolis Board of Education welcomed three new board members on Tuesday and elected Rebecca Gagnon as chair.

Kerry Jo Felder, Bob Walser and Ira Jourdain joined the board, replacing outgoing members Carla Bates, Josh Reimnitz and Tracine Asberry. Board member Kim Ellison, who was re-elected in November, also took the oath of office.

The new board elected Gagnon as chair by a 5-4 vote over Nelson Inz. The board members elected outgoing chair Jenny Arenson as treasurer in a unanimous voice vote and elected Walser as clerk.

Walser, who represents parts of Southwest and Downtown, said he expects these next four years to be “complicated” and said that he’s grateful for the chance to work with the new board. He said he glad for the mutual respect among the board members.

Jourdain, who represents Southwest, said he will work to ensure the district is actively recruiting, retaining and mentoring teachers of color and that students are “culturally aware of each other.”

The board also welcomed a new student representative, Edison High School sophomore Gabriel Spinks. Spinks has participated in the Achievement Via Individual Determination program for five years and has also participated multiple years in Junior Achievement, a program that aims to foster work-readiness skills. He said he also is a member of National Honor Society and chess club.

Spinks replaces outgoing student representative Shaadia Munye, a Patrick Henry student. He said he wants to see more authentic conversations between students and teachers and better support systems for students.

“Edison staff have observed that Gabriel regularly forges connections between all types of students to build community and is able to elevate others with dignity and respect,” Supt. Graff wrote in a letter to the board. “Also notable is his desire to address social issues, racial equity and promotion of minority voices.”