Not too long ago, Rashad Turner might have been at Edina City Hall, speaking out against police mistreatment of a black man, just like the 150 or so people who showed up at a meeting Tuesday night.
But the former leader of Black Lives Matter St. Paul has a new public profile. He was named this week as director of community engagement for a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap in schools. And on Tuesday, two weeks before his official start date, one could say Turner already was on the job.
He sat in on a board meeting of Minnesota Comeback, his new Minneapolis-based employer, with Ed Graff, the new superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. Turner heard Graff, a white man, speak of having grown up in a highly mobile family and of having the experience of being a racial minority in a school. Powerful, Turner said, and a story not unlike that of the students and families both men now serve.
Turner, once the battler, now is out to build partnerships in a quest to ensure Minneapolis is rich with what he says are “high-quality schools doing great work with kids.”
His hiring, announced on Monday, came a short time after Turner left Black Lives Matter over a call by some of its leaders for a moratorium on charter schools, which are publicly funded schools that operate outside school district control. Asked whether his support for charter schools gave truth to suspicions aired earlier this year that Minnesota Comeback could undermine Minneapolis Public Schools by steering its students to charter schools, Turner replied: “That’s a false narrative.”
Minnesota Comeback simply wants to make sure parents have access to a quality school that best meets the needs of their kids, he said, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a school district school, a charter school or a private school.
In Turner, the group has chosen a leader who has worked at both the school district and college levels but is better known for the controversial ways by which he has protested police brutality and fought to improve police-community relations. Turner has threatened to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon and wintertime’s Crashed Ice event, and led a Black Lives Matter shutdown of a gate at the State Fair.
Minnesota Comeback says it is thrilled to have him.
“Rashad is a proven and inclusive leader passionate about fostering equitable communities and improving education,” Al Fan, the group’s executive director, said in a news release. “Our community is stronger because of his ability to advance social justice, engage communities and change the status quo.”
In Minnesota Comeback, Turner has the opportunity to glean lessons from foundation leaders like Tad Piper, former CEO and chairman of Piper Jaffray, one of the board’s co-chairs. In an interview Wednesday, Turner expressed admiration for the people in the meeting room on Tuesday.
“I’m 31. I’m still young,” he said. “It’s going to be great to learn from those people.”
Source: Star Tribune | Anthony Lonetree