Area principals form ‘good trouble’ coalition to fight for educational justice

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A group of 159 principals and assistant principals in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding suburbs, such as Shakopee and Edina, are putting themselves out there in the fight for educational justice.

"It’s a risk, it really is, we’re not a super well organized, union-protected group," said Minneapolis North Community High School Principal Mauri Friestleben, who is leading the charge.

"When you mold and shape yourself as a school around children rather than expecting them to mold and shape themselves around you, I have seen those shackles fall, and I have seen kids who have been labeled ‘never going to get anywhere,’ ‘never going to excel,’ soar," she said.

Henry High School Principal Yusuf Abdullah is also working for change.

"How I see it, we’ve got to be culturally responsive, this whole narrative and the way the instruction has been over the years, for quite some time, our students sometimes are bored or disconnected," Abdullah said.

The ‘good trouble’ coalition is named after the late Representative John Lewis, who said, "Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."

The good trouble plan calls for de-centering whiteness and dismantling practices that reinforce it, like standardized testing and tracking.

It aims to reconstruct how schools function once students are back in class with face-to-face instruction, and it vows to hold everyone accountable.

"A lot of people think this is an anti-white movement or this is against white people, but this isn’t. We think that we can all benefit from making sure that we uplift students of color and provide equity and equitable outcomes, and equitable systems," Abdullah said.

Abdullah and Friestleben both know this is lifelong work.

"This isn’t going to happen overnight, at some of our schools it may happen quicker than others but some of our colleagues are in places where the ideas that we have are not welcome," Friestleben added.

Even with the challenges, the coalition will continue to push for change.

"We’ve got to love one another, we’ve got to support one another, we’ve got to understand each other‘s differences," Abdullah said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to Minneapolis Public Schools for comment, as both principals we talked with work in the district, but we did not hear back.