School board votes down equity audit

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by Mike Knaak

A proposal to conduct an equity audit of Sartell-St. Stephen schools failed to get school board support at the Aug. 5 meeting.

The board heard a proposal on July 20 from the executive director of Equity Alliance to conduct the audit and develop a plan for training and policies. A plan to pay Equity Alliance $80,000 to conduct the audit and develop followup actions failed on a 3-3 vote. Board members Jeremy Snoberger, Jason Nies and Patrick Marushin voted in favor of the plan while board members Pam Raden, Lesa Kramer and Amanda Byrd opposed the measure.

The idea for the equity audit developed this summer when the board focused on racist and other discriminatory issues. During a listening session on June 24, students, teachers and community members shared stories of racism, insensitive, hurtful comments about religion and failed attempts to correct the problems. Equity Alliance, Woodbury-based consultants, works with schools to research and develop plans to provide equitable education for all students.

The board members who opposed the plan questioned moving ahead because of the expense, disruptions and distractions to teachers and students because of Covid-19 changes and if Equity Alliance was the best choice to help the district.

Nies argued against delaying action because of Covid-19 disruptions.

“Covid is not going to go away,” he said. “I don’t want to lose the momentum that we have in the community around this issue.”

Kramer suggested that before going forward, a multicultural committee that was set up a few years ago needs to be involved. Several members suggested that a board member participate in that committee.

“I want to make sure that what we are doing with the study is giving our community and the voices that want to be heard what they need,” Kremer said.

“We should focus on Covid,” Raden said. “Look at this in two weeks. I’m worried about how fast we’re going on this contract.”

The next board meeting is 5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 17.

Author: Ellarry Prentice

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