Next up: Zuki Ellis, DFL endorsed candidate for School Board! Here are Zuki’s answers to our questions:
Why did you decide to run?
Four years ago, I launched my run for school board from a place of anger, and of passionate belief that our district could do better. Advocating for my youngest child, navigating the district for support, trying to bridge home, school, district resources – all these things were frustrating, painful and maddening. I felt a parent perspective was needed.
I am a graduate of St Paul Public Schools. I am proud of that. I’m a child of this city, this district and this community. It worked for me, and it needs to work for all of our kids. This is something that I take very seriously.
I am still working to change our board policy, our practice – to ensure our belief in students and support for the amazing people who work in SPPS is steadfast. I believe we now have the right leadership and the right plan to give our kids what they need to succeed.
I decided to run for re-election because I feel like I have more to contribute to our students, our families and the community. I am excited for the future of the district and we need to bring new energy to old ideas and be flexible to the changes that can, should, and will happen in education.
What’s your vision for the St.Paul School District 30 years from now and advice for the Class of 2049?
In 30+ years I would like to be walking into St Paul Public schools as a grandparent. To share the history of the district, it’s growth, it’s impact on the city; and to celebrate the accomplishments of past graduates from SPPS. I want to hear from the new leaders that graduated to become educators, building engineers, school board members, the Mayor, city council members, the governor, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and to careers in trades.
I’d like St Paul Public Schools to have Mechanic Arts High School reboot to see the highest enrolled trades high school in MN. The vision of St Paul being innovative in education, creating educational pathways that are student led, community based and fully funded.
And my advice: I was sitting where you are once. I didn’t think about being a school board member when I was in that chair. I need you to picture yourself being and creating in a role of leadership in your community, and to think about service and how you want to give back. Dream big, work hard, play, take risks, explore, and always be a student, always be willing to be reflective, and never stop learning new things.
How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?
As board member and chair of the BOE these past two years, I have formed trusting relationships with our staff, families and students. I’ve visited all of our 59 different schools, many times. I’ve grown in my knowledge of education and the district, and I’ve used that expertise to help make change that matters.
Experience counts. Relationships count. There’s still work to be done. I’m still fired up and still have the passion necessary to do the hard work this job requires. I hope to earn your vote because I listen to all our communities, I am an active director, and I am driven by love for and belief in everything our kids can be.
What’s the last book you read?
I read multiple books at the same time. I am reading The White Architects of Black Education by William H. Watkins and Akita Warrior by NNedi Okorafor.
Name one previous teacher/ administrator who left a lasting impact on your life?
My 3rd grade teacher Ms. Laurie is someone who has had a lasting impact on my life. She told me I was smart, she was able to tap into my creative side, and she challenged me to be and do my best. Ms. Laurie always made a tough day so much easier with words of encouragement, a calligraphy pen, and a hug.
Ms. Laurie still checks up on me. Even though she said I could call her by her first name, I won’t do that. Ms. Laurie is still my teacher.