“Good afternoon and welcome! I am incredibly encouraged by the work that all the people here do to support and enrich the democratic process in our wonderful city. Our city is benefitted by the hard work and passion of people like you all, so thank you!
I am Sally Trnka and I am a DFL-endorsed candidate running for the Duluth Public School Board for an At Large Seat. I am a native Duluthian—born and raised in the Central Hillside Neighborhood—and I received the most incredible education through the Duluth Public Schools. I began my academic pursuits at Kenwood Elementary School, moving on to Grant Elementary School (now Myers Wilkins), and graduating from Duluth Central High School. The passion and dedication of the teachers and leaders in the school district—including many who are here today–set me on an incredibly fulfilling journey; my success is inextricably linked to the work that the Duluth School Board conducts.
Now, our family is raising an incredible young person in the District, Noah Singler Birnbaum. His experiences at Myers Wilkins undoubtedly shape the person he is becoming.
As a School Board member, my priorities would be to address the social determinants of education and education equity; reducing the achievement and education access gaps; and to address—head on—the funding challenges facing the district. We cannot, however, do that on the backs of our hard-working teachers and staff. This work will not be easy, but by working with community leaders including unions, educators, families, and students, I will work hard to build coalitions that are focused on positive outcomes for the District.
I have spent the last decade of my career building healthcare networks and collaboratives both locally and across the country to achieve strong outcomes for communities. At present, I am the Executive Director of the Northern Minnesota Network—a health care collaborative comprised of Federally Qualified Health Centers and Migrant Health Centers. The clinics serve more than 30 communities across more than 20,000 square miles in the Upper Midwest. None of us is an island onto ourselves, and by collaborating and partnering we can foster creativity and achieve stronger outcomes. Civil and political discourse are paramount to success. We must, as community leaders, be bold and NAME the problems we face recognizing that doesn’t require placing blame or finger-pointing.
We must work to engage our communities and educators to develop community-driven solutions that consider The Whole Student. Our students aren’t just “students” in the classroom; they are individuals who live complex and, at times, hugely difficult lives. According to statistics, over 20% of 5-17-year old’s in Duluth live in poverty compared to the statewide average of 14%. At the end of the day, they’re all our children and we need to work with community groups and coalitions to identify ways in which we can help them thrive in all aspects of their lives. Whether that means partnering with community organizations and business leaders to develop robust career-training programs that allow students to see, first hand, their individual pathway to success or working with the city and county to identify mutual goals and concrete, measurable outcomes—there are significant and exciting opportunities to strengthen the social and educational safetynet in our community.
I 100% support our public schools in the District and I support continuing to enhance the great work that is already underway including the Bulling Prohibition Policy and the community school collaboratives. We can and should look to other progressive models to further enhance development in the District. It is vital that public education not be a thing of the past, but rather a beacon for the future. We must not sacrifice the future successes of our students by holding onto the past. There is so much great work happening in our District—and we need to deliberately celebrate those successes!
We also need to ensure that our teachers, paraprofessionals, and other dedicated District staff understand that the full weight of the District is behind them. Our talented teachers, paraprofessionals and school staff face increasingly difficult jobs. Let’s make the School District an employer-of-choice which means the talented team of educators need to feel secure in their jobs and earn sustainable wages.
I am proud to have received the DFL endorsement at the Convention earlier this month, and I look forward to working across the community to earn your trust and, ultimately, your vote. I would like to thank my fellow candidates who are here with us, today:
Josh Gorham (At Large Candidate)
Rosie Loeffler-Kemp (District 1)
Jill Lofald (District 4)
I would also sincerely like to thank the sitting School Board members—including Annie Harla who has served the Board loyally for the last four years–District leaders, union leaders, teachers and my incredible family for their help and support on this exciting journey. I look forward to serving our community on the Duluth Public School Board.”