Jessica Kopp for Saint Paul’s School Board
In November, I will enthusiastically vote for Jessica Kopp to serve on our Saint Paul School Board. I write today to encourage you to connect with and learn more about her and her campaign (at http://www.jessica4stpaulschools.com); I am confident her record and her key commitments will earn your vote, too. Here are some of the reasons why.
I first met Jessica in a local forum where she represented the Hamline Elementary PTA. I took some time afterwards to ask questions about how she saw the school fitting into the broader Midway neighborhood. She gave me a quick yet thorough snapshot: students she knew, community organizations they had partnered with, programs she celebrated (and often had helped to set up), other parents and teachers who were doing phenomenal work, connections to key city agencies which made a meaningful change happen in the Rec Center or that engineered a community-wide arts project on the fences adjoining Snelling Ave. (She also gave me a delicious cookie.) I was struck by the depth of her network and her knowledge. Jessica doesn’t just know that schools are in, and dependent on, the surrounding community – one of her superpowers is the ability to facilitate and shape meaningful relationships between diverse community partners and stakeholders in order to get things done.
A core goal for her candidacy is to help Saint Paul Public Schools better understand and draw on these assets. She has repeatedly helped me see the intersections between various organizations and activists in our community, to see how we could – how we must – define powerful new collaborations between schools and community leadership to serve our students and families.
To do so, she knows the school board must also deepen its understanding of – and responsiveness to– the needs of parents and teachers. Jessica’s strengths as a community organizer are tied to her strengths as a listener. As a board member she will be intentionally and fully present in our schools, re-shaping how the district attends to the voices and needs of each community. Further, she recognizes that, all too often, too many voices are marginalized, neglected, or mistreated. As a teacher, she grappled with the inequities that traumatize students and families; her community activism in the years since has tackled systemic inequality, for instance helping to build a collaboration between Hamline Elementary and Hamline University which improves all students’ experiences in classrooms while also comprehensively rethinking teaching and teacher training.
Jessica Kopp is herself an incredible asset for Saint Paul Schools – she knows how to empower stakeholders, to understand and work with what they tell her, and to help make sustainable change throughout a big, complicated system. I urge you to consider giving her one of your votes for School Board.
Look through lens of Climate Crisis
Early on in Mayor Carter’s 2020 Budget address he said the following about the Climate Crisis: “We must act to protect our environment and adapt to the impacts of climate crisis on our city.” Following that during the speech he noted several ways in which the city is attempting to address the climate crisis such as; increase in non-carbon transit options, cooperation with Minneapolis to install 70 electric vehicle charging stations, expanded bike lanes, etc. I for one support those ideas and give the Mayor credit for his leadership in those areas. That being said, I will admit some frustration with how the Mayor and/or the city are approaching this issue of the Climate Crisis. Similar to what our state, nation, world community and many individual people are doing, the issue is looked at as yet another priority to address. It is looked at as yet another issue to get in line for the funding stream. When the reality is that it is THE issue of our time, present and future.
If we looked at climate change as priority number one, I think the reality of its daunting nature and its solutions would be easier to see. We would see that our concerns about education, poverty, violence, immigration are all tied into this issue. We would also see that any and all decisions made about those other issues need to be made looking through the lens of the Climate Crisis. In looking through that new lens we would see that must stop looking at what can we afford to do but rather what we need to do. To compare this to other issues, let’s pretend we have a sick child. None of us would ask the doctor what can we afford to do, what is the most pragmatic, etc. We would ask what do we need to do regardless of cost.
So with that in mind, I want to thank the city of St. Paul for their leadership but also throw some specific challenges and/or questions their way. It has been estimated that Saint Paul has the solar capacity for 800 MW of energy, yet we are planning to develop only 300MW of that by 2050. Why? When we look at new building/new developments (ie the Ford site) we are still seeing the use of natural gas. Why? As the new green economy develops, our city, the nation and the world will need the workers to fill those green jobs. How are we as a city being a leader in giving our residents ( adult and youths) the skills to become those green workers? I will end with a quote shared by the Climate Justice Now movement. “We need everyone, everywhere doing everything all the time as quickly as possible.” Saint Paul nice job so far but you are on the clock and it’s time to keep moving.