Raised on the South Side of Chicago as the second youngest of 10 siblings, Sharon Brooks Green often tagged along to local block meetings where her mother served as secretary. Those experiences set the stage for Brooks Green to not only serve as a block club president herself as an adult, but also provided the springboard and lifelong quest for community advocacy and political leadership.
On November 8, Brooks Green hopes to retain her current seat on the board of directors for Robbinsdale School District #281, where seven candidates are vying for four at-large positions. Brooks Green is currently the school district’s second Black board member. The MSR recently sat down with her to hear what issues matter most to her candidacy.
MSR: Where did you spend your early years, and how did that experience shape your decision to focus on education as a career?
SBG: I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois on the block of 89th and May St. It is significant because it is where I started my political career. My mother was the secretary of the block and very instrumental in our block club activities. I would follow her to meetings and watch how things were done.
When I came of age, I became the block club president and had the chance to work with the alderman, state representatives and state senators, which included Barack Obama. So that was my introduction to politics.
MSR: You recently published a book, Peace of Hope, helping families impacted by incarceration. What was the inspiration behind writing this?
SBG: I started a nonprofit in Chicago for Black mothers of Black brothers who were incarcerated. This is when mass incarceration was hitting America at its hardest in the disparity kind of way against Black people. Several of my family and friends were incarcerated, including my own son, so I started that group to rally, unite and organize.
When I moved to Minnesota, I continued the work of Peace of Hope to support families of the imprisoned. I also learned that while I had passion for this cause, I needed more knowledge, and began my education at a late age.
MSR: What has your educational journey looked like?
SBG: I had raised my children and been through plenty of other life experiences, but I needed more education, so I went back to school and got an associate degree at Inver Hills Community College. It was such a freeing experience that I wanted more. I continued at Metro State University, where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s of advocacy and political leadership.
I studied a lot of constitutional law, criminal justice, and even theater because there is a certain aspect to criminal justice that is definitely theatrical. Since then, I have finished my doctoral degree [coursework] from Walden University. It was three years of studying public policy and administration, and now I am currently working on my dissertation.
MSR: How were you appointed to the Robbinsdale school board last year, and what did you learn during this term?
SBG: Our school district, Robbinsdale Area School District 281, had a sudden vacancy last fall when one of the board members resigned. Out of 10 candidates, I was chosen to finish out the term. I became only the second Black person to ever serve on the school board.
Our current chair, Helen Bassett, is the first and was the only Black member for nearly 20 years until I was appointed in November 2021. She is a pioneer and a great leader for our board of education, and I am extremely honored to serve with her.
MSR: Why did you choose to run again?
SBG: I have been 100% invested in my role on the board, using all my education and experience as a human being and a mother. I am able to sleep at night with the decisions I vote on because I know they are very important and affect more than 11,000 students and their families. So, when I was asked to help present diplomas at one of our high schools—Armstrong High School—and shake every student’s hand, it was very motivational for me.
At the time, I had not made up my mind about running again, but on that day, seeing these future leaders, I decided to run. We planted many seeds over the last year, and I want to be part of creating policies that provide the foundation for adulthood for these young people.
MSR: What are the issues where you will focus your time?
SBG: I am heavily concerned about our schools and our staff, especially when it comes to mental health, transportation and safety. I am also passionate about our equity policy, which was formed in 2018. I lead the effort to have it integrated into our equal education opportunity policy, which recognizes that while students can learn the same thing, how they get the information and how it’s rated may need to be different. That is what equity is. It is grace.
MSR: Where do you see progress in the school system, and where are the challenges? How do you plan to address these issues?
SBG: I will start with what is working. Robbinsdale is like a private-school education in the public-school setting. We have a superb rating by our state auditor for financial fiscal responsibility, and that is working for us.
Our teachers are fabulous and go the extra mile even when we are short-staffed. We have also hired a new safety director for our schools, and I am happy with the plans they are proposing in that department.
One area where we need to focus is ensuring we pick up our children on time and get them to school safely. We also need to revisit our involvement within the community. I think we could do much more, as our listening sessions seem to be one-sided in terms of the format.
That extends to the students as well, to get a better understanding of what they think about the issues. They know a lot about today’s world, including social media, the Internet, and technology in general. We need their opinion to think more creatively about our policies.
MSR: What should voters keep in mind when they head to the polls regarding school board decisions?
SBG: I give credit to everyone who is running, given the amount of work involved and that it is a public service position that is primarily volunteer. What I would encourage voters to do is research and listen to the candidates to try and understand how they will improve the current situation, recognizing that the job of the board is about policies.
Regarding our district, we have about 30% Black children, and it is changing logistically. I am a candidate that will help relate to many of our students’ stories. While we are doing an excellent job, I would like to see more Black faces on the board, the staff, and certainly more Black voters exercising their right and getting involved.
To learn more about Sharon Brooks Green and her candidacy, visit brooksgreenforschoolboard.com.
Julie Gordon welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.