A few weeks ago I met with Vallay Moua Varro who is running for a position on the St. Paul School Board of Education. There has not been much news about Ms. Varro’s campaign. As a St. Paul resident and St. Paul School alumni I was curious to learn more about her background and her plans to improve the school district.
St. Paul, Minnesota is home to the largest Hmong population in the United States. According to a district report, 25% of the students in the school district speak Hmong at home.1 However, given the size of Hmong students in the school district, the representation of Hmong-American leadership within the school district is relatively low. If elected, Ms. Varro will join Kazoua Kong-Thao - the only Hmong-American currently serving on the board.
Ms. Varro and her family moved from Appleton, Wisconsin to St. Paul when she was in middle school. Although Ms. Varro did not attend a school in the district and neither do her children, Ms. Varro has extensive knowledge of the school district. She has been able to gain additional insight into the school district through her nieces and nephews who attend St. Paul schools and through her job.
Ms. Varro is currently the Education Policy Director for the City of St. Paul. This position has allowed her to build a relationship with the school district. Ms. Varro does not believe that her current position will conflict with her position on the school board if she is elected. Instead, she believes that it will enhance her position. She will be able to bring insight from her current position with the City of St. Paul to the school district.
Besides talking about her background, we spent some time discussing the struggles students of color face, the achievement gap and early childhood education. Ms. Varro is well aware of the achievement gap within the school district. Her answer to lowering this gap is to start early. She spoke passionately about how most children of color, in comparison to their White peers, do not possess enough vocabulary in kindergarten which later has a detrimental effect on their education. She argued that the only way to level the playing field is to start early. The St. Paul School District must work to ensure that no child, especially those coming from limited-English speaking homes, falls through the crack.
After meeting Ms. Varro I was convinced that St. Paul students, teachers, administrators, and community members needed her on the school board. Ms. Varro not only possess theoretical knowledge but also has practical experiences which will be a contribution to the St. Paul School Board.