U alumna joins Mpls. School Board

Two other members were elected to the board Nov. 2.

Lacey Crisp

She graduated from the University two years ago, and now she is an elected official.

Peggy Flanagan, a newly elected member of the Minneapolis School Board, graduated from the University in 2002 with a degree in child psychology. She said she has the University to thank for where she is today.

Flanagan said her education has made her the person she is today and the best way she could give back was to run for the Minneapolis School Board.

Judy Farmer, director of the Minneapolis Board of Education, said she was the one who encouraged Flanagan to run for the position.

“I met her at a parent meeting that she organized,” Farmer said. “I went specifically to think of any Native American parents that would make good school board candidates, and Peggy was there.”

Although 25-year-old Flanagan is not a parent, she is part of the White Earth band of Ojibwe.

“I want to close the achievement gap between students of color,” Flanagan said.

The other two members elected to the school board Nov. 2 were Sharon Henry-Blythe, who is black, and Lydia Lee, who is Chinese-American.

“I think it’s good to have a board that better reflects our students and parents,” Farmer said. “It’s important to have the perspective of different communities.”

Flanagan said she was asked if she will only represent American Indian children on the board.

“That’s ridiculous,” Flanagan said. “Do the white members only represent the white children?”

Flanagan will sit on the school board until 2008.

“I think she’ll have a lot to learn – as most people do, even if they have kids and are involved,” Farmer said. “She is very smart and a quick study.”

But don’t tell Flanagan that she is too young to be on a school board.

“Being young is an asset,” Flanagan said. “I am ready to jump in and go.”

Larry Lucio, principal of Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, said having a younger person on the board will benefit everyone.

“I think she brings a fresh perspective to the whole board, a knowledgeable and respectful view,” Lucio said. “She doesn’t depend on the old school way of doing business.”

Lucio said some board members get into a rut after being there for a while.

“It’s really refreshing to have someone like her on the board,” Lucio said. “She really does bring an objective, solid perspective.”

He said he has seen Flanagan at community meetings, and although she doesn’t claim to be a community leader, she is a strong voice.

Flanagan got her start in politics when she volunteered for Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone’s re-election campaign in 2002.

She said she saw people of all colors and ethnicities help with the campaign, which made her feel she could run someday.

“There is a notion in partisan politics that you wait your turn, but I don’t think that should be,” Flanagan said.

Since March, Flanagan has been busy campaigning not only for herself, but also for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

“It was a bittersweet election,” Flanagan said. “I am glad I won, but I wish Kerry would have won too.”

Flanagan said Democrats might not have won the White House, but in Minnesota, American Indians turned out to vote in tremendous numbers.

She also had advice for young people thinking about running for office.

“Find mentors and work on campaigns, and find people who share your values,” she said.