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Schools Candidate Alex Phung: I'm Devoted to Hearing All Sides

Alex Phung is running to represent Southwest Minneapolis on the Minneapolis Board of Education.

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.

Lynnell Mickelsen February 22, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Hi James and Alex: For the record, Put Kids First Minneapolis is not campaigning to eliminate tenure. Go to our website and check out our FAQs. We support teacher tenure as a form of due process. We don’t want to see teachers fired because of their political views, personality conflicts with their principals or a powerful parent or false accusations, etc. If we want passionate, fearless teachers in the classroom, they need some protection. That's why tenure is a good thing. At the same time, we do not support teacher tenure as a virtual life-time job guarantee, regardless of performance or what students need. We'd like to hold on to tenure to protect academic freedom, but fix it so it stops protecting ineffective teachers. RE: Cooperation. We are always open to collaboration and cooperation. But we've been watching the teacher contract negotiations since October and from what we've seen, the MFT's treats the district pretty much like Congressional Republicans deal with the Obama administration. They call for cooperation and then say no to absolutely everything while complaining bitterly that the district didn't reach out to them enough. If Alex Phung will only propose changes that the MFT will support---in the name of cooperation and collaboration--then our status quo will continue. And that's not good for students, families, taxpayers or the common good. The MFT's job is to represent its members. School board members need to represent the larger public.
Peggy Clark February 22, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Dr. Tracine Asberry, a Minneapolis Public School parent and former teacher, is also running in District 6. Thus far, she has a facebook page, and you will see more from her campaign in upcoming weeks.
James Sanna (Editor) February 22, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Thanks, Peggy! I hadn't known she had formally decided to run yet. And Lynnell, I'm sorry if our description of PKF got edited down too far, to the point that you thought we were mischaracterizing your positions. I had hoped that, through linking to a number of other reports on the contract process over the last few months, our readers would have a solid grasp of what you stand for.
Mike O'Brien February 22, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Curtis Johnson is running for the Minneapolis School Board in District 6, with a formal announcement coming shortly. His Facebook page can be found at Curtis Johnson for Minneapolis Schools (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Curtis-Johnson-for-Minneapolis-Schools/342283302460000)
Julie H Mueller February 28, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Find Tracine @ http://www.facebook.com/groups/181215561985819/198185323622176/?notif_t=group_activity
Nikki Shultz March 04, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I've had the pleasure to get to know Alex really well over the past year and I couldn't ask for a better candidate for school board. What makes me so impressed with Alex is that he is so reasonable and has such a clear perspective. He truly does listen to all sides and I believe that he can move change forward by taking partners and collaborating. You can learn more about Alex at http://www.alexphung.org/ or http://www.facebook.com/AlexPhungForSchoolBoard.

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