Our support for community challenges

COVID-19 Racial Injustice

Report date
May 2020
Learning Log

I was fortunate to have the Bush Fellowship Award. Since last year, I have learned a lot and I have travelled and visited different states in United States, Canada, and overseas. I was also fortunate to be appointed as a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Great City Schools. To be a member of that organization is very competitive. I’m sure that, as a recipient of the Bush Fellowship, that contributed to my selection. I believe my leadership started growing by being on the leadership team of the CGCS and having the opportunity to work with some of the top educators in United States.

The Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), founded in 1956, brings together 75 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems in a coalition dedicated to the improvement of education for children in the inner cities. The Council and its member school districts work to help our schoolchildren meet the highest standards and become successful and productive members of society. I am serving on different task forces including: Task Force on Achievement and Professional Development; the Task Force on Black and Latino Young Men and Boys; the Task Force on Black and Latina Young Women and Girls; and the Task Force on English Language Learners and Bilingual Education

I am sustaining my leadership through building strong networks and working relationships with top public-school system leaders in the nation such as Chancellor Richard Carranza of the New York Public Schools. Chancellor Carranza oversees America’s largest public school system with 1.1 million students. I also met Superintendent Thomas Ahart of Des Moines Public Schools, our neighboring state of Iowa; and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa of Dallas Independent School District with student population of 155, 000. He is one of the longest-serving superintendents in America; he has been Superintendent of Dallas Public schools for the past 25 years. I also met Mrs. Valerie Davis of Fresno Unified School Board and she has been serving the board for the past 15 years. Fresno Public Schools recently welcomed a significant number of refugee students from Syria. We had a deep discussion on how best we can welcome our new immigrants and refugee students. I had also an opportunity to meet Superintendent Barbara Jenkins of Orange County School District. Meeting these leaders and learning from them provided me with an exposure to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by our urban schools in America.

I have met a lot of people with knowledge and wisdom, with expertise in field of educational leadership. Many of them have doctorate degrees, and many don’t. I have been interested in pursuing my own doctoral degree. The work they do is unimaginable. I am honored to associate myself with a lot of these leaders who have a deep love for America and are committed public servants.

I have always had dream of completing a doctorate and enrolled at St. Mary’s University. I’ve completed the first semester (fall) and took 6 credits. But after meeting with my coaches (and I have many) – people who inspire me and help me to succeed, with whom I can share my challenges. They are non-judgmental, and I have a deep trust in them. I have a feeling now that I really want to see where I am going from here. My sense of urgency is around making a decision: Is it to get the degree or to develop my leadership during my fellowship program? It seems that the leadership development is more important for me now than being a student.

I am very pleased my application was accepted by James P. Shannon Leadership Institute and I am happy to be part of 2020 quarterly cohort which was supposed to start mid-March, 2020, and now it has been postponed to the month of June due to COVID19. I believe I will benefit from Shannon Leadership Development program and it will add great value to my leadership growth.

The Shannon Leadership Institute — then known as the Institute for Renewing Community Leadership — was created by Jim Shannon and Ronnie Brooks, with support from the Minnesota Council on Foundations, in 1992. The goal of the program is to ensure that Minnesota does not lose its philanthropic, nonprofit, and other community-serving leaders to burnout. Over the years since its inception, the program has continued to evolve — introducing new facilitators, formats, and curriculum — and has now served over 1,000 leaders in Minnesota and beyond.
This is a great country, with a lot of opportunity. I define these opportunities by the way the community welcomes you.

Working with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar for the past 12 years is another great opportunity. She gave me the opportunity to serve people of Minnesota and I’m very delighted to be a public servant working for U.S. Senate.

Now, with Amy as a presidential candidate, I was able to help the campaign. This past year has given me a lot of opportunities to look at issues from all American perspectives, from a range of different backgrounds. I’ve met many people I wouldn’t have met if not for the campaign. Now, I have to ask: Where do I go from here?

As an elected Board member of Minneapolis School Board, where I really want to see a change take place is in MPS. It’s a great institution, with lots of great people, but I feel there’s work that needs to be done. Students of color are not meeting their full potential. Academically, they are very low. That really bothers me and gives me sleepless nights.

Now, I am one of the Board Members leading the new change of the Comprehensive District Design (CDD), and we will vote soon, for a big reform regarding how to close the achievement gap. Some of the Minneapolis Public Schools’ parents believe this is not going to work, whereas some of the parents believe that this is the only hope. They want to see change take place, as their kids are not proficient in mathematics, science, and reading. I want to see the achievement gap closed. I support the CDD and believe that it is an important step towards addressing systemic racism and inequity that privileges some and harms families of color.

So, what is a surprise to me is that in going through the motions of developing myself, figuring out what questions I have, all these critical questions are helping me to define myself. Now, I will take every opportunity during these remaining two years of the Bush Fellowship to get answers.

This is scary time in our community, state, country and the world, coronavirus pandemic has changed our plans, work, study and our way of life. I am grateful and thankful to all medical frontline staff for saving our people’s life. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. On the other hand, it gives me an opportunity to think again, deeply, about humanity and public health for all of us. What do I need to help to save lives of people? At the moment, I pass information from the State Department and government agencies, helping people who need help — who never thought they would need help. So many lost their jobs due to COVID-19. I have helped of them file unemployment. My experience has helped me navigate the system better. Virtual learning technology teaches me how to be useful, how to rely on technology more than before.

My study tour with Finland has been postponed indefinitely, but I still have a plan to visit Finland. We have had great opportunities to participate in a number of conferences with Finnish professors through Zoom, professors we would have met in person had we traveled there.

So, the Fellowship and the learning continues despite all these challenges. It’s an amazing time. My trip to Harvard University for a summer Public Schools Leadership Program also has been postponed.

So, I think more globally now, as the globe is indeed one family. Covid-19 proves that. If someone gets sick on any continent, there’s a probability that is will come to your city. There is an urgency for global collaboration. The era of “my country; your country” is over. The world must unite.

We all need to know something about public health. We all face the same challenges, whether living in Africa, Asia, Europe, or North America, people are dying across the globe. With this disease, the first outbreak took place in Wuhan, China. This is how much people are connected, despite our differences. The practicality of our interconnectedness has been proven to us. We must all wear masks, we must all stay away from the people we love the most. Our health depends on the well-being of others. It’s not just us.

Now, I see hope. I see a lot of good things taking place. This Fellowship has given me an opportunity to pause and think, and this will continue.

Faith and family also play big roles in my leadership. Faith really guides me and gives me deep values for humanity. Faith teaches us to be kind to one another, and to be helpful to one another. This is the first time we’re having our Muslim holy month of Ramadan during a pandemic. Our places of worship are closed, and priests are encouraging people to worship in their houses rather than coming to the mosques for the sake of public health.

So, my journey to continues and I look forward another successful year of my fellowship program.