The Sartell-St. Stephen School District, one of the best in Minnesota, is becoming too woke for some parents.
During an informative 35-minute discussion Tuesday on St. Cloud’s KNSI Radio, Troy Molitor and Chris Yasgar explained their efforts to tackle the challenges, and focus on continuing to deliver quality education for the district’s 4,100 enrollees.
The duo are among the leaders of a Facebook group called “Concerned parents and community of ISD 748.”
Several hundred members are flummoxed by the district hiring “Equity Alliance Minnesota” (EAM) last year and approving an $80,000 audit focused on equity that was originally voted down, but then approved with a smaller quorum. Board members Amanda Byrd, Patrick Marushim, Jason Nies and Jeremy Snoberger voted for the audit.
EAM has a quixotic goal to “make the educational ecosystem across Minnesota equitable for every single student.”
Some of the progressive group’s core beliefs are:
- We believe that race and culture fundamentally shape and influence our core values, our thinking, our policies and our practices.
- We believe that excellence in education is achieved through equitable, integrated and purposeful lifelong learning.
Molitor and Yasgar say they too have “‘CORE beliefs’: Character Over Race Every Time.”
EAM first conducted a survey seeking to address racial issues and so-called inequities. The findings, released June 21, were presented almost solely through the lens of race, according to Molitor and Yasgar.
The men requested additional surveys and results from other Minnesota school districts, because EAM appears to have preconceived notions and formulas to obtain similar results and isn’t willing to get into details.
Parents simply want transparency.
“We have a phenomenal school district by any measure,” Molitor said. “We have competent, capable teachers and administrators that we believe can handle this internally.”
Parents are also considering a recall process “because at least one school board member is not able to serve in a balanced capacity.”
“We want Equity Alliance out of the picture, because they’re creating division,” Yasgar said. “The Sartell staff is extremely talented, and along with engaged parents, can solve this problem. It’s never too late to make the right decision, because this is coming to a district near you. They are not going to call it critical race theory; they mask it in different words. But pay attention, because it’ll infect and divide your district.”
Molitor and Yasgar also highlighted the eye-opening differences in the Minnesota Department of Education’s “purpose statement” of updated teaching standards from 2004 to 2020.
Sixteen years ago, it hoped to “help students gain the knowledge and skills to protect and maintain freedom” and said the U.S. was “built on ordinary and extraordinary individuals, united in an ongoing quest for liberty, freedom, justice, and opportunity.”
By 2020, it was all about race and identity, with a goal of helping students “be conscious and critical of their own biases and societies” and preparing them “to address powerful culture, social and political inequities by looking at their identity through a lens of race and gender.”
“We need to stop teaching kids that this country is evil,” Molitor said. “It’s not gonna get us anywhere … I worry about content of character, not race; otherwise you’re trampling over Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Get off race and onto character.”
Jeff Ridelhoover, who began July 1 as district superintendent, met with Molitor Wednesday to discuss these issues.
“Oftentimes when there’s controversial topics, I think that there’s a tendency to create our own narratives. And sitting down at the table and actually having conversation and asking good questions and listening makes a big difference,” Ridelhoover said.
“If there’s tendencies to have conscious or unconscious biases, it’s different than somebody who’s out there with an overt, racist behavior. And I just think that there needs to be more conversation around how we can work together and understand the little nuances that make a difference to the kids that walk through our doors,” he added.
The former Mounds View superintendent has promoted an “individualized approach” to assist students’ education.
A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.