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Meet the candidate: Carlo Franco

School Board candidate 

What are your three biggest priorities if you are elected? 

  • A budget that centers and prioritizes direct service and direct impact for our students’ future outcomes in literacy, college and career readiness and life.
  • Development of a stronger in-school and out of school time partnership between educators and out of school time providers, where our public infrastructure is accessible to the community and programming is maximized to provide the highest quality services to our youth.
  • Strengthened partnership with families, educators, frontline workers, students and community members to ensure our budget, our school policies & procedures, and culture reflects the needs of all members, while centering our youth and their education.

The School Board recently passed a $1 billion budget for St. Paul Public Schools for the 2024 fiscal year, the first budget of that size for any district in the state, with a plan to increase the number of teachers and support staff in the district. The increased budget includes an increase in state funding, a substantial portion of general reserve funds and federal COVID relief funds that will sunset at the end of next year. Do you approve of the plan for this budget? How will you prioritize budget items in future years as funding sources reduce, sunset or become otherwise unavailable?

We need to ensure that our basic education requirements are being met and delivered at a high standard for every student in our city regardless of their zip code. We need to be intentional about the programs that we are funding, the curriculum we are investing in and the frontline staff that we need to prioritize in receiving a thriving wage. We need to continue advocating at the state and federal level for additional funding to fully fund our public education, including a steep increase at both levels to off-set the current cross subsidy to pay for specialized services and MLL supports, to ensure our funding does not significantly decrease. We need to look at a model that  brings additional resources, through partnerships with nonprofits and government entities to provide the wrap-around services for all of our students and use our schools as a hub for these services in a full service community school model. I am a proponent of ensuring we continue to invest in the programs that work for our students, and revising practices and programs that have proven to be unsuccessful. We should continuously be evaluating our programming, asking questions about the operations, receiving actual feedback from participants and using that to make our determinations for future programming. 

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, test scores are continuing to show students tracking behind pre-pandemic levels. While test scores aren’t the only measure of academic success, what are your thoughts on the district’s response to the learning loss experienced by students during the pandemic? 

I believe the district has made some strides in the ability to support our students in recovering credits in order to graduate. SPPS has offered more opportunity and redefined the scope in which students can demonstrate knowledge of subjects through hands-on and experiential learning. Some students can experience credit recovery at their home school during the school day, students who participate in Right Track youth employment programs can recover English and social studies credits during their summer internships and there seem to be additional opportunities for students to recover credit through various formats which is certainly progress. 

Although, with the additional credits being recovered, I’m hopeful that the students at the secondary level are actually retaining the information and learning the content that is essential for grade level. It is critical that we ensure our students are making academic progress and are on track to graduate with not only the credits, but the knowledge that will set them up for a future that empowers them to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. 

Some of the programs that I believe will yield favorable student outcomes for our students, is our investment in WINN Teachers providing additional services to our students to ensure that they are having their direct educational needs met where they are at.

While there has been some investment in programs that I believe will yield strong results, I believe that SPPS has missed the opportunity to provide intensive support to our students and families who were impacted hardest by the repercussions of the pandemic. Prioritizing intensive attendance interventions, mental health supports, tangible resources to families and intensive individualized academic interventions and assessments. 

Student’s need to feel safe to learn their best, yet St. Paul Public Schools has had a number of high profile violent incidents in recent years. In fact, a recent survey by SPPS found that about a quarter of families reported one or more of their children being involved in a violent incident. What is your position on how the district is addressing violence in St. Paul’s schools and ensuring student safety?

Safety is the foundation that we must provide for every student, educator, staff member, family member and community member in order for out students to show up to school each day and be able to learn. With that said, community safety is something that we must do in partnership with the entire community. 

Too often, our government systems believe “we have all of the answers” and the reality is, if we are not in community, asking the questions, and inviting everyone to be part of the solution, then we are not doing the work in the way it should be done. Community safety is something that we need our entire community to commit to, and hold each other accountable to. When we talk about the student rights and responsibilities handbook, I do not believe the students who have been most impacted and have the most interactions with our behavior and discipline protocols, were consulted on what they believe would work for them. We did not bring those board adopted handbooks to our families to co-create, to ensure that we are in alignment of how we can partner in holding our young people accountable to the expectations of the school. We must spend more time in partnership with families, students and communities in order to see true results in shifting the culture for student safety. 

All of Team SPPS needs to commit to building restorative communities that hold each other accountable, remaining consistent in our ability to lead, while ensuring that all students have access to high quality education. Stronger partnerships with the City of Saint Paul Office of Neighborhood Safety is critical to moving forward, and committing to a community framework that works, and is rooted in centering our students and the purpose to why we are here. Leaning into our counselors, social workers, Restorative Justice Coordinators, Community Intervention Workers is critical to seeing progress, while streamlining the school day and our Saint Paul Out of School Time Programming Network. Intensive equity driven, student centered restorative practices and Social Emotional Learning professional development is another strategy to be considered in order to move forward. I led Student Success, Intervention, Restorative Practices, and Positive School Climate initiatives at Humboldt High School from 2017-2021, and would like to see the successes of that program replicated district-wide. Prevention, and intervention is key. Staff knowing what happens in community, and getting ahead of it, teaching strategies for dispute resolution and creating and modeling the community we want to see is important.

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