Abdi is running for Mankato (ISD 77) School Board. His community involvements include membership on the Region Nine Development Commission, Mankato Public Safety Advisory Board, Blue Earth County Child Protection Advisory Board, and Habitat for Humanity Family Selection Committee.
He has been instrumental in improving English as a 2nd language educational programs in the Mankato school district, is a leader of the Mankato Somali community and a trusted friend to many in greater Mankato.
Board members left to right, top: Katie Avina,
Maggie Borman, Heidi Hahn, Amy Hewett-Olatunde, Anne Krafthefer. Bottom:
Jim Miklausich, Anne Lindgren, Brian Rappe, Abdi Sabrie, Loy Woelber.
Not pictured: Penelope Dupris.
the entity in charge of establishing requirements for teacher
preparation programs and licensure — and disciplining teachers who
violate the teachers’ code of ethics — the Board of Teaching has held a
lot of power. So when the board came under fire by a state court judge —
twice within a matter of months — for illegally halting a
state-mandated alternative teacher-licensing program for out-of-state
teachers, state lawmakers took notice.
power struggle was made even more complicated by the fact that
legislators were in the midst of considering an overhaul of the entire
Minnesota teacher licensure system. According to a 2016 state audit,
the "broken" system was in need of significant fixes, many of which
were rooted in the blurred lines of responsibility and accountability
between the Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education.
preparation for the transition, members of the new board will begin the
onboarding process next month, under the direction of Interim Executive
Director Alex Liuzzi.
Erin Doan, the former executive
director of the Board of Teaching, left her post this past summer for a
position as head of school at Oak Hill Montessori in Shoreview.
limitations of the old structure are really, in my opinion, just the
separation between policy and implementation,” Liuzzi said, contending
the Board of Teaching’s work was made difficult by the fact that the
educator licensing division of the state Department of Education was in
charge of policy implementation. “The board itself — the structure, the
board members — I don’t think there were any limitations. I think it
functioned extremely well within the parameters that it was given.”
So what’s changed?
of how steeped in controversy the Board of Teaching had become, most
agreed on the need to streamline all teacher licensure responsibilities
under one entity. Liuzzi says he’s hoping there will be a lot less
confusion under the new Professional Educator Licensing and Standards
“We definitely see it as a new beginning, to have everything under one roof,” he said.
the PELSB members start the orientation process next month, Liuzzi says
they’ll be briefed on things like what teacher discipline looks like
and what data practices entail, so they're clear on open meeting laws.
As outlined in state statute, this new group must also start the process
for hiring an executive director before they officially take office.
also have an opportunity to start looking at and discussing rulemaking
drafts that the current board has been queuing up for the PELSB to
revise and eventually adopt. The Board of Teaching recently caught some
heat from Ed Allies,
an education advocacy group, for hashing out the details of such drafts
at its final retreat at a board member’s farm in Avoca — a rural
community in southwestern Minnesota that is 183 miles from St. Paul.
terms of board composition, the PELSB is a mix of teachers, school
administrators, a cooperative unit, and a member of the public. The
teacher seats, however, are now specified even further to ensure there
is representation for charter schools, schools inside and outside the
seven-county metro area, student support services, special education,
and the teacher preparation sector.
Liuzzi says 121
people applied to serve on the PELSB. Only about five or six applicants
fit the charter teacher criteria, he said. And about the same number met
the teacher-prep criteria. Otherwise, the competition was spread pretty
evenly among the various seats. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed all 12 members on Sept. 12.
Two incumbents from the Board of Teaching will serve a one-year term,
expiring in 2019. From there, three seats will open up each year. Here’s
a look at each appointee’s experience in the education sector and why
each of them applied to serve on the new board.
Anne Krafthefer, who currently serves on the Board of Teaching, is a fifth-grade teacher at Lester Park Elementary School in the Duluth Public Schools district, ISD 709.
She’s been in her current role since 1999. But this marks her 41st year
with a teaching license. Throughout her career, she’s taught at every
level from kindergarten through college-level courses and general
education development for students seeking a GED. She even taught in a
one-room private school in Brimson, Minnesota.
Beyond her teaching role, Krafthefer says she’s very involved with teacher training through the American Federation of Teachers,
the national teachers union. She had already served a four-year term on
the Board of Teaching and was reappointed by Dayton. She sees value in
being able to bring her institutional memory to the new board.
have certain criteria as a board,” she said, noting they refer to rules
to guide their decision making, but they also draw upon each others'
areas of expertise when discussing things like disciplinary measures and
reviewing requests to place a non-licensed teacher in a classroom that
would otherwise go vacant due to the various teacher shortages. “Without
having that continuity, the standards we’d been using for those things
would be lost.”
She says she doesn’t view the PELSB as a
fresh start. Rather, she maintains that the old board “has been a very
cohesive board.” While she thinks it’s unfortunate things ended the way
they did, she says, “That doesn’t mean that I don’t welcome new people.”
Amy Hewett-Olatunde, an English Language Learner teacher at LEAP High School,
a school in the St. Paul Public Schools district serving an immigrant
student population, has been appointed the interim chair of the PELSB.
She’s been at LEAP since 1999 and this is her 19th year as an EL teacher
for the district. Before that, she taught adult English learners and
workforce English for the district’s adult basic education program. She
has more than 20 years of experience teaching in formal and informal
settings in Norway, Canada and the United States.
her additional roles as a current supervisor for prospective ELL
teachers in the graduate ESL program at Hamline University, where she
acquired both a master’s degree and a doctorate, she fulfills the
teacher-prep requirement for one of the new board’s teacher seats. She’s
also been working for the University of St. Thomas Graduate School of
Education’s ESL Licensure Program since 2007.
From 2016-17, she served as the president of MinneTESOL,
the state’s chapter of an international professional association for
teachers of English as a Second Language. The year before, she was named
the Minnesota Teacher of the Year. She continues to speak nationally
about English learner needs and advocacy.
for applying to serve on the PELSB is fourfold. She says a lot of her
work in and out of the classroom is based on advocacy and policy, so she
feels qualified and credible. She believes having a teacher voice on
the board is crucial because teachers are well attuned to students'
academic and social-emotional needs. She’s interested in helping teacher
education programs design and implement strategies and best practices
that will better prepare future teachers for the classroom. And she says
she’ll bring a unique perspective on the needs of English learner
students to the board’s conversations.
“I know there is a
lot of work ahead of me, but I am willing to do what is necessary to
ensure that all stakeholders in our children's education is taken into
consideration,” she said. “I will do my absolute best to uphold
Minnesota's high standard of education.”
of the classroom, she’s held a number of different roles in the local
education sector. She served on the state Department of Education’s
Teacher Evaluation Working Group, which designed the statewide default
teacher development and evaluation model. She was a New Leaders Council fellow in 2016; and she has worked with the Minnesota chapter of Educators for Excellence,
an education advocacy nonprofit, on policy issues like Q Comp and
discipline disparities. Also, she’s currently serving on the board of Teach for America-Twin Cities.
why she applied to serve on the new board, she said, “I wanted to
represent the voices of charter students, families and teachers. I also
want to help Minnesota find ways to bring in more talented and diverse
teachers from other states. I want to help the board create policies to
allow every student, especially students from low-income backgrounds and
students of color, to have access to a great teacher.”
Anne Lindgren is a speech language pathologist in the Anoka-Hennepin School District,
where the bulk of her time is spent serving middle-school students with
needs in the area of speech/language and communication. She’s been in
her current position since 2010. But her ties to the district go back to
1988, the year she received her master’s degree. She also holds an
administrative license qualifying her to work as an elementary principal
and superintendent. She took a midcareer hiatus to develop, open and
operate a public charter school. She went on to serve a stint as a
charter school liaison at the University of St. Thomas “early in the
charter school movement,” she said, “helping to build the capacity of
the the university as an authorizer.”
In addition to her
work with students, she serves as a union negotiator for her district’s
teachers union, and has been serving on the state teachers union’s
Special Education Committee for several years. She has also held
leadership roles and stays active with the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, along with the group’s Minnesota chapter.
Given her role with this group, she says she’s been paying particular
attention to how the debate over educator licensure impacts students who
— given the shortage of speech language pathologists, especially in
greater Minnesota — are often taught by teachers who aren’t fully
“The mechanism of granting limited licenses
was used — which, from our professional perspective, left the children
who were identified with disabilities in our area of expertise
vulnerable to having unqualified practitioners as their service
provider,” she said. “The opportunity to represent related service
fields on the licensing board will make it possible to conduct greater
Brian Rappe is starting his second year as a sixth-grade special education teacher at Nicollet Middle School, which is part of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.
He has 22 years of experience working as an educator in the same
building, which converted from a junior high to a middle school two
years ago. He started as an education assistant in an emotional behavior
disability program and held a number of other positions.
see a great opportunity in helping develop the rules surrounding the
new licensing system and I want to make sure Minnesota’s teacher’s
licensees continue to remain strong,” he said. “I hope to bring an
insight and understanding of the unique needs of special educators from
around the state.”
Penelope Dupris is currently the interim assistant principal at St. Louis Park High School.
She did not reply to MinnPost's interview request. According to a
notice of appointments issued by Dayton’s office, she is fulfilling the
sixth teacher seat on the PELSB.
Katie Groh de Avina, executive associate at the Academia Cesar Chavez,
a charter school located in St. Paul, also could not be reached for an
interview. She was appointed to represent human resource personnel on
He says he hasn’t held any
other positions with teachers unions or other education-related groups.
But he believes his leadership experience in both rural and urban
schools struggling to find qualified educators will be of value to the
“My experiences allow me to see the
challenges we are facing from all sides,” he said. “The teacher shortage
in key licensure areas is real and we need to be thoughtful looking for
solutions while maintaining the traditional high standards that
Minnesota has in its teaching ranks.”
these two roles, his ties to the local education sector are expansive.
He’s a co-founder and former director of the African Family and
Education Center, a nonprofit serving African immigrants in the Mankato
area. Among other roles, he also co-founded and serves on the board of
the Mankato Islamic Center.
He’s the recipient of a 2012 national Jefferson Award
for public service. He’s lived in the U.S. since 1982 and moved to the
Mankato area in 2009, where three of his children are currently
attending college and the other four are enrolled in the public school
“I applied to the board as public member to
represent my cultural, racial, and social experiences on the board,
which are often unrepresented on important circles,” he said. “I hope to
help bring equity to the board in licensing and standards for educators
of all social backgrounds who reflect the students that are served in
our education system.”
Loy Woelber, the other incumbent who is currently serving as chair of the Board of Teaching, has been working for Westbrook Walnut Grove Schools
since 2001. He’s spent 27 years in the education sector and 20 as a
superintendent. Currently he’s serving as his district's superintendent
and 7-12 principal and doubles as a bus driver, when needed. Over the
years, he’s stepped into different leadership roles, mentoring younger
administrators and expanding his reach to neighboring districts, in an
effort to help his district save money on administration costs.
wife, Sheryl, is a teacher in Fulda. They have four daughters and one
son, who’s autistic. They live on a farm in Murray County and also have a
small cow and calf operation.
“Generally folks think of
‘getting out of the cities’ as Hutchinson, Duluth or Mankato,” he said.
“ I have been 45 miles from the South Dakota border for 23 years and
feel comfortable in rural Minnesota issues.”