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School board supports race equity initiatives

An effort to close education gaps between white students and those of color is now officially supported by Brainerd schools.

A trio leading the effort appeared before the Brainerd School Board during a special meeting Wednesday, asking for support.

Officials started meeting two years ago to begin looking at data, have conversations about race and equity, and start talks on changing demographics.

“This is ground-breaking work. Very few organizations are crafting a project such as this,” said Mary Sam, from Central Lakes College. “This is courageous work. It is making a difference and has the potential impact to change lives and the community in very big ways.”

She continued, “Folks are standing up, paying attention, and raising questions about how students of color are doing.”

Officials have found some initial data about the education gaps between white students and those of color in area schools.

At Brainerd High School, according to the team’s research, students of color make up about 5 percent of the population.

Student demographics:

American Indian: 1.8 percent

Asian: 0.8 percent

Black: 1.9 percent

Hispanic: 0.9 percent

White: 94.6 percent

It’s the students of color who make up 9.2 percent of referrals in attendance and discipline, the group says.

The achievement gap at BHS, according to the group:

White/Hispanic gap: 7.7 percent in reading; 15.8 percent in math

White/black gap: 15.4 percent in reading; 20.9 percent in math

White/American Indian gap: 12.4 percent in reading; 16.7 percent in math

(Average over six years)

“The gap has been closing slightly (at BHS),” said Tammy Quist, a Minnesota Minority Education Partnership Race Equity fellow. “Students of color are improving at a slow rate, but they are improving.”

Another positive for the district, Quist said, is that all students are at the same level or higher than the state average.

Still, there is work to be done, said Jennifer Godinez, associate director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership.

Quist added, “Even though Brainerd is doing very well, there is a sizable gap that exists for students of color. We are doing better, but there is more work to be done.”

The resolution that the board supported says the board will support the initiative, allow superintendent Steve Razidlo to participate when necessary, agree to engage and encourage stakeholders and community members to participate, and will support collaborative grant seeking in future funding.

It passed with unanimous approval. Absent were Ruth Nelson and Bob Nystrom.

In other school board news:

• The board approved the sale of $2.87 million in general obligation alternative facilities bonds to Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis at the rate of 1.938 percent.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at