Codifying community wisdom for educational equity

The murder of George Floyd demanded that Minnesota, and the country, reckon with the violent systemic racism in American policing.  The pandemic has made similar demands of our education system. The past couple of years were supposed to be a watershed moment of transformative change. Unfortunately, there now exists a narrative (and for the most part, a reality) that little progress has been made.

It has become clear that our systems are unlikely and unable to lead change at the scale of what is needed. The Minnesota State Legislature adjourned with billions left on the table this year. While community groups continue to demand a special session to move critical legislation forward to meet the urgent needs of students across the state, it remains doubtful that the legislature will substantially reconvene and pass an education bill.

At Pillsbury United Communities and our Office of Public Charter Schools, we are not waiting for the political posturing and an election cycle to conclude to move forward with transformational change. We are acting now. The primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income students, and families we serve deserve an educational accountability system that is built for and designed by them. 

Pillsbury United has been a community-driven charter school authorizer since 2007. We intentionally authorize schools that serve students who have historically been served poorly in traditional district settings, enduring chronic educational disparities for decades. We come to the work with an investment and a track record of attacking the institutional racism that plagues education.

In 2021 our team set out to redesign our accountability system for the schools in our portfolio to align with our values as an organization and the assets in our schools. Our goal has been to develop an accountability system that celebrates schools’ innovative, anti-racist, student-centered, and community-responsive practices, while also calling all of us to be better and do better.

No longer could we accept a narrative that our students were failing.  Our students, families, and communities are incredible assets that bring infinite wisdom to our education system – if only we really listen to them and act.

In our structures, we have codified community wisdom into an accountability framework that is relevant and responsive to our students and not reliant on racist, white normative measurements of assessments.  Our Equity Framework, developed in partnership with Future Focused Education, is the highlight of this work and will be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education for approval to ensure our schools report outcomes using our new system for the 2022-2023 school year.

This is the work our students, families, and communities have called for and it has been our mission to deliver.

Read the full framework here

Adair Mosley, CEO & President, Departing Pillsbury United Communities

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, AUGUST 16, 2022—Pillsbury United Communities Board of Directors announced today that Adair Mosley will transition out of his role as President and CEO. He will leave September 30 and will step into the role of CEO of the African American Leadership Forum in October.

Mosley has been President and CEO for the past five years and has been with the organization for 11. His time as agency leader has spanned philanthropic and community shifts, devastating tragedies, a global pandemic, and an uprising for social justice. Throughout it all, he has been a champion of meeting the moment with transformative innovation and investment. During his tenure, the agency’s budget grew from $12 million to $16 million. His accomplishments include:

    • Opening North Market, a full-service grocery store in North Minneapolis
    • Establishing Justice Built Communities, an economic development initiative with $20M in starting capital that will build equity in land, labor, entrepreneurship, and capital for Black Minnesotans.
    • Receiving a $1.5 million state appropriation to launch a career and early college program.
    • Securing a $750,000 investment from the Kresge Foundation to launch a policy and mobilization department and $1 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota to focus on social determinants of health through cross sector partnership.
    • Raising $1 million to give every member of the North High graduating class of 2022 a post-secondary scholarship

“When I took over this role, I promised to lead ‘change at the speed of community.’ Today, I leave an organization that is fiscally healthy and even more committed to dismantling systems of oppression,” said Mosley. “I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together. I look forward to my next chapter galvanizing policy makers, philanthropy, and corporate partners in pursuit of community’s agenda, and I look forward to doing it in ongoing relationship with Pillsbury United.”

“Thanks to Adair and his leadership team, the tireless staff, extraordinarily generous donors and supporters, PUC is in an exceptionally strong position,” said Heath Rudduck, chair of the board of directors. “We’ll miss Adair tremendously, but he has helped prepare us for the next chapter of the organization’s growth and its steadfast commitment to the prosperity of the communities, people and places we serve.”

The board of directors is in the process of initiating a national search for the agency’s next leader. In the interim, Brenna Brelie, head of operations, will serve as CEO. Brelie has been with the agency for eight years and played a key role in the leadership transition between Mosley and his predecessor, Chanda Smith Baker.

“I’m grateful to have worked alongside Adair for the past eight years. His visionary leadership has changed the trajectory of this organization, and he will definitely be missed,” said Brelie. “However, I am confident our board of directors will find the next passionate leader to continue this legacy at Pillsbury United Communities.”

About Pillsbury United Communities

Pillsbury United Communities is one of Minnesota’s most well-established organizations with 140+ years of service to diverse communities across the Twin Cities and beyond. Pillsbury United Communities has an annual operating budget of $16M (including affiliates) and 150 change agents. We are community builders co-creating enduring change toward a just society where every person has personal, social, and economic power. Our united system of programs, neighborhood centers, social enterprises, and partnerships connects individuals and their families across the region. More information about Pillsbury United Communities is available at www.pillsburyunited.org

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