Parents in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District, just north of St. Cloud, continue to push back against critical race theory (CRT) and nefarious aims from outside groups.
A “work session” was held Monday evening at Sartell High School to discuss Equity Alliance Minnesota (EAM), a progressive group hired for an $80,000 audit on racial inequities, which was reportedly paid for with COVID-19 relief funds.
Despite the entire new school being open with ample space, more than 100 concerned people crowded into a small, hot room. One attendee said they felt “unwelcome.”
Before the meeting, Troy Molitor and Chris Yasgar — leading the efforts of Concerned Parents and Community of ISD 748 — feared the school board could use the session to “spread misinformation on our movement ” and “gin up controversy around Sartell opening enrollment,” which is not a concern for Molitor and Yasgar.
“Our group has thousands of posts on the Facebook group with virtually zero mention of opening enrollment. It’s not a concern,” Yasgar said. “The board came across smug and very dismissive of our concerns about CRT. I’d call it gaslighting.”
Sartell currently has closed enrollment, which “means you have to live in the district to attend school.”
“Some people have expressed worries about open enrollment because of EAM’s comments, but not us,” Yasgar explained.
Molitor and Yasgar said EAM recommends open enrollment to increase diversity within other districts, and when interviewing teachers in their focus groups as part of the audit, EAM claimed, “Your closed enrollment is racist and should be addressed.” Two teachers independently confirmed this.
Just hours before the meeting, Molitor and Yasgar returned to KNSI Radio to share their concerns about the accuracy of information.
“We stand by our belief that CRT is infiltrating schools. The largest teachers union, the NEA, pushed it at their annual meeting,” Molitor said. “We need the school board to determine what to do with the Equity Report — either validate the results or move on with flawed data.”
The findings of the audit, released June 21, were presented almost solely through the lens of race, said Molitor and Yasgar, and lacked hard data.
According to Dan Johnson, chairman of the Benton County Republican Party, what is “most concerning” is the “inability of the school board and citizens to get basic information, such as the questions asked to the students” when they were surveyed for the audit.
“While Equity Alliance Minnesota says they will supply it, it remains questionable why such basic information asked to the district’s young learners wasn’t immediately provided. Parents deserve to know everything asked of their children in a public school,” Johnson said.
Yasgar met with Sartell Superintendent Jeff Ridelhoover July 9 seeking transparency. Ridelhoover instructed the assistant superintendent to develop a process so parents can potentially opt out of the curriculum. He also indicated he will hire a third party data analytics company to review the methodology EAM used in its report, which is crucial.
“He’s been very good, and we appreciate it,” Yasgar said. “I don’t think most teachers or administrators know they’re teaching CRT because it’s a huge umbrella. But if it gets a foothold in the system, it’ll take off. We have a phenomenal staff, and racial issues, if any, can be handled by them.”
“The district maintains they aren’t interested in CRT but two board members are well versed in it and the writings of Ibram X. Kendi,” added Molitor.
Former Sartell school board member Michelle Meyer is advising the parent group, which now has more than 900 members and a website dedicated to putting students over politics.
“They are smart, articulate, well organized and do their research,” she explained. “I can tell you this story is not even close to being over. Think of the financial implications (not to mention bad press) for this top-rated district and other districts around the state when parents begin pulling their kids and sending them to private schools or choose to homeschool.”
Sartell parents are beginning to pull their kids from the district due to concerns these issues will not be rectified by the start of the school year.
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.