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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

T. Williams, Education and Community Development Consultant
April 1, 2016

Bureaucracies not always open to outside ideas


Both schools and their communities should be held accountable for their children's education, says Minneapolis-based independent consultant Theartrice (T.) Williams. According to a proposal he developed in 1997, a school needs to have some knowledge of the assets of its community and the community needs to learn about the capacity of the school. The school and the community could then partner to identify some goals and a willingness to hold one another accountable.

Assets to take care of many student needs, such as health problems and homelessness, are in the community, not the schools, Williams says. Only when the community can organize itself so that kids are ready to be taught can we hold schools accountable for outcomes. He stresses the importance of evaluation and of reporting out the progress being made over time by all partners: the community, the school, the teachers and the parents. He asserts that community leadership is more challenging when kids in a community attend schools scattered across the city.

Williams's proposal, although it attracted early interest from the Minneapolis Public Schools, has never been implemented. That's the case, even though he served on the Minneapolis School Board for four years and every superintendent who's been in the district since 1997 has seen the proposal. He discusses the barriers of getting school district bureaucracies to take ownership and move forward with ideas developed by people from the outside.

For the complete interview summary see: Williams interview

Individual Responses:

Don Fraser
Reading T. Williams’ comments reminds me of how thoughtful—how wise—he has always been.  Actions that could flow from his remarks would be well worth undertaking.

Dennis Carlson
It is a discouraging piece to read. Williams has made many attempts to try to affect the improvement of our urban schools with, it seems, little result. He has tried it from many angles—school board, non-profit sector, and outside consultant.

We sometimes think as Superintendents and Cabinets that WE ARE EDUCATION. It is ours. We have the degrees, we have the licenses and we are the experts. All these other people get in the way – Federal Government, State legislators, School Boards, consultants, parents sometimes, and kids sometimes. We know what we are doing and why – the others, the outsiders, don’t.

That belief is not only misguided, it is simply not true. It is not ours to own. It is a shared ownership with a voting public, caring parents, dedicated staff, and students who come to school ready to learn – and also for those students who come not able to learn. Some students come hungry, scared, in physical pain, stressed beyond belief, mentally fragile, and a few will be homeless. How can you be prepared to concentrate and learn if that is your current situation?

The troubling part to me, particularly in 2016, is that public education is also shared with a bitter, polarized, fickle, schizophrenic public and two deeply divided political parties (who are also splintered within their own parties). These elected officials will determine funding, policies, testing, and even gender identity laws on which bathroom you and your students will use. Operating in that kind of atmosphere is what makes the superintendent "insider" job so difficult. That environment also exists for an "outside" consultant and certainly explains in part why his efforts have gone unimplemented.

As we head into the 2016 elections, I am certainly concerned for our democracy. As I read constant criticism of the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts in our Twin Cities newspapers I am also concerned whether or not this system of urban public education is the best one to have.

Scott Halstead
Excellent report!

The power of lobbyists is tremendous. Legislators that change occupations to become lobbyists, along with piles of money and lobbying is corrupting the political process.

Minnesota totally lacks public reporting of actions by legislators.

Combining legislative bills into Omnibus bills that are negotiated in secret and then sent to the Senate and House with little time to read and analyze and no changes allowed is a terrible way to legislate.

The performance of Minnesota State Government in the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch has declined significantly. Our elected leaders have failed to address major issues: Subjecting constituents to higher costs defending proposed constitutional amendments and just wasting everyone's time on issues that have zero chance of passing. The legislative Auditor identified deficiencies in the Met. Council leadership in a 2011 report. There aren't performance standards for high cost transit projects. The state is still looking at high-speed rail projects that don't make any economic sense. Non-partisan redistricting, judicial selection.

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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman




The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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