Text message exchange raises questions about negotiations between Minneapolis Public Schools, educators
Weeks before Minneapolis teachers voted to go on strike, an exchange of text messages between two parties now involved in talks between the district and union raises questions about the negotiation process.
The text messages were first publicized Wednesday by the education blog Bright Light, Small City.
They appear to show Eric Moore, the district’s senior accountability, research and equity officer, asking Greta Callahan, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, for her support to become the next superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.
On Jan. 26, Moore texted Callahan, asking, “Can I have your support as interim? Need all in…” and “If you can’t carry strongly…Ed likely 3 years. I’m it…”
“Oh wow!” Callahan responds. “Can’t wait to hear more! Nothing is happening right now, right?” and, “Or are you saying this is happening right now?”
Moore then responds, “Will you give me 100 support?” and “Could happen if we make it. Needs to be decisive of…and I’m it.”
Callahan then responds, “You know we’re in the middle of bargaining right?” with a laughing emoji.
After a few more messages, Moore writes, “TRUST. This will happen quickly. Can you carry?” and “Ready?”
Callahan replies, “There is a lot going on and we are in mediation and there’s no way I can commit to anything right now. We certainly look forward to new leadership in mps, but our students need all of our support right now.”
Bright Light, Small City reports Callahan then brought the conversation to the attention of district officials.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Moore for a statement on this story and is awaiting a response.
Both Minneapolis Public Schools and a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers confirmed the authenticity of the text messages between Callahan and Moore.
“It looks like, at this point, that he is indicating that he would like to be superintendent of the Minneapolis School District,” said David Schultz, professor of political science at Hamline University. Schultz added, “If so, you start to wonder how his interest in becoming superintendent is affecting the content and the process of negotiations.”
Schultz teaches a variety of classes at Hamline, including public policy and government ethics. He says the text exchange creates a possible conflict of interest for Moore.
“What I mean by that is if by some way, shape, or form, he stands to benefit from these negotiations, or has a personal interest in these negotiations, beyond being a negotiator for the school district … then he’s got a conflict of interest and he should no longer be negotiating,” Schultz explained.
Minneapolis Public Schools tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that what Moore did was not illegal.
In a statement, a district spokesperson wrote:
“The timing of the visibility being given to a series of text exchanges from eight weeks ago is at least curious, but perhaps very intentional, given the current status of negotiations to end the strike. As acknowledged in the post, General Counsel was made aware of the exchange, investigated the matter and determined that no laws were broken and advised that the clear priority was keeping the focus and attention of the MPS team on the resolution of contracts with our teachers and education professionals. That continues to be the focus.”
Callahan also issued a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, saying:
“It is no secret that their bargaining team is chaotic and have conflicting agendas but my only focus right now is on settling this contract to win safe and stable schools for students in Minneapolis.”
“It very well may not be illegal if there are no conflict of interest laws that apply,” Schultz explained. “But having said that, it doesn’t mean what’s going on here is not inappropriate from an ethical point of view. … It also doesn’t mean that because it’s not illegal, there isn’t a problem here.”