Community center director seeks School Board seat

Minneapolis School Board candidate Cindy Booker

Cindy Booker was a first-grader at Hale Elementary School in 1971 when the Minneapolis school district paired Hale and Field schools as part of its desegregation efforts.

Next year, she hopes to join that board that approved that decision.

Booker, executive director of the Sabathani Community Center, is running for one of the Minneapolis School Board’s two open at-large seats, which are currently held by Don Samuels and Rebecca Gagnon. Neither Samuels nor Gagnon is seeking re-election.

Booker said her priorities as a school board member would be to get parents involved and to support administrators and teachers. She said she is big on wrap-around services, such as health care and after-school programming, adding that those services will differentiate Minneapolis Public Schools from charter schools and other districts.

She said her main goal as a school board member would be to make sure that every student is college and career ready.

“That’s going to separate us and differentiate us,” she said.

Booker graduated from Washburn High School after being part of the Hale-Field pairing at its earliest stages. The pairing caused controversy among parents from the almost entirely white Hale school, some of whom said they didn’t want their children to be bused.

Booker said at a 45th-anniversary event this fall that she is thankful for the pairing, adding that it helped her throughout her entire life. In an interview, she said she was surprised not to see the diversity at the schools that the pairing had represented.

Field was approximately 50 percent African American when it was paired with the nearly all-white Hale back in 1971, according to parents who led the pairing effort. As of fall 2017, Field and Hale were each at least 75 percent white.

“I don’t think other students are having that same great educational experience,” Booker said.

Booker graduated from St. Cloud State with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She went on to work for St. Olaf College and Minnesota State University, Mankato before managing the career center at North High School for several years.

Booker later went on to for as a corporate finance executive for Target for 14 years, before a stint at Rasmussen College and subsequently joining Sabathani.

With the district facing a projected $33 million budget deficit, Booker said the district needs to be looking at outside partnerships and at how to use its resources efficiently. She said she wants to find out why students leave the district for other options, adding that she wants to build up Minneapolis schools.

“This is the time now to really get everyone thinking about what we want for our students,” she said.

Booker is one of at least four people making a run for the two open seats. Former MPS teacher Josh Pauly is also planning a run, along with northside parent Kimberly Caprini and frequent candidate Doug Mann.