Fulton resident Alex Phung is running for a seat on the Minneapolis Public Schools board. This district, covering Southwest Minneapolis, follows the boundaries of the Park Board’s sixth district. So far, the young lawyer is the only declared candidate in this part of the city.
Patch: You’re a bit of an anomaly since you don’t have any children in the school system, and you’ve never been a teacher or an administrator.
Alex Phung: I’ve been interested in schools, probably dating back to high school. My senior year, I was part of a committee that helped pass a referendum. My family’s always taught me the benefits of a good education. My wife is also a teacher (in the Hopkins School district). Her experiences have definitely informed my views, and help me see education and education policy from a teacher’s point of view.
Patch: What do you see as the primary issue facing the district?
Phung: There’s a lack of trust among teachers and the school district, and between teachers and administrators. Teachers want to make contracts ironclad because they know not all principals are effective—they don’t want to be subject to whims. There’s also a lack of trust between parents and the school district. Some parents feel like their high-performing kids aren’t getting their needs met, and the school district should not be putting a ceiling on their development. On other end of spectrum, you have parents pulling kids out because the system isn’t adequately addressing the low-performing students.
Patch: What will you bring to the school board, if elected?
Phung: I’ll bring my experience and skills as a problem solver. In the legal and business world, I work through big issues with my clients and business partners. Unless you’re a trial lawyer—and I’m not—collaboration is key. Having an adversarial relationship with other stakeholders has never worked for me. Maybe Put Kids First's ideas are valid enough to have a discussion about them, and maybe that discussion will reveal concerns and issues that you can move forward and address as part of the solution.
Editor's Note: Put Kids First is a citizen group campaigning to eliminate traditional tenure as a way to promote teacher quality.