Osseo Schools debate racial disparities consultant
There is debate over how to address racial disparities in Osseo Schools.  The school board is split on whether to keep a consultant that has been training staff on racial issues, including narrowing the achievement gap.

The debate is whether to keep a West Coast consultant called The Pacific Educational Group or PEG.

One woman told the school board, "This program has given the teachers the vocabulary to use in the classroom to teach the kids to overcome the 'uncomfortableness' that is around race."

PEG was hired to work with staff on curriculum and communication in a district that's made up of 54 percent students of color.

"We've made so much progress together, the district, the community, PEG," said Abdullah Kiatamba of African Immigrant Services. "And that progress is at stake."

Community leaders, parents and teachers lined up to make the case to keep PEG training in the budget.

"My work with PEG over 10 years has taught me to be an effective white teacher in a classroom of non–white students," said teacher Erin Aulik.

Another teacher says Osseo schools have begun the work, but it's only a start.

"I strongly believe it would be a gross disservice, a grave oversight to accelerate the phasing out of PEG," said teacher Emily Bollinger.

The proposed budget would reduce money spent on PEG and eventually discontinue it, with the savings going to direct classroom services.

One school board member says the training is helpful, even though it moves some people out of their comfort zone.
"The PEG training rubbed some people the wrong way, some of the words are perhaps a little spicy for Minnesotans," said board member Jim Burgett. But he adds, "The discomfort helps us grow."

Others argued money can be saved and the work can be done in house.

"Our school district has spent in the top five in the country towards PEG," said school board member Heather Douglass. "But we have not seen specific results that correlate to that amount of money."
School board chair Richard Gerhart argued for moving the training in house this way: "I fully support having Osseo's values, Minnesota values rule the day here, not San Francisco values."

A three to three vote on the school board means the district will ask for an extension from the state and another work session as they put together a budget for achievement and integration.

The district points out the PEG portion of that budget is a small part of the dollars allocated toward efforts to close the achievement gap.

Mike Johnson, reporting

March 22, 2017


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