Roy Magnuson: Brodrick brings the right blend of old school, new vision to school board

Incumbent school board member John Brodrick (right), with St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper, will be among the labor candidates seeking DFL endorsement June 8.

John Brodrick (right), with St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper, is a labor-endorsed candidate for St. Paul Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election.

In the Kevin Bacon movie “Six Degrees of Separation,” the premise is that everybody on the planet is connectable to everyone else in six degrees or less. St. Paul Board of Education member John Brodrick’s world is the city of St. Paul, and St. Paul is smaller than the world, so Brodrick is disappointed if he has to go to the second or third degree of separation. And if you spend time with him, you see that he rarely does.

Brodrick is both “old” St. Paul and connected to St. Paul’s present. A proud graduate, teacher and coach at the former Mechanic Arts, he keeps the tradition of the Trainers alive – to those who share and remember the school by the Capitol and to those who have never heard of Mechanic Arts and its history of success. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, civil rights leader Roy Wilkins, Elmer Bailey, Floyd Smaller and Brodrick are all “M club” members.

Brodrick’s history is connected not only to working St. Paul, but to St. Paul as a “labor” town. His mother was a union member while working at the Stahl House on Rice Street. Brodrick’s dad and step-dad were active Teamsters and Laborers. Brodrick’s first job was union, at Pioneer Sausage. He is a retired member of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, a former delegate to the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation and a consistent supporter of labor’s issues during his years on the school board.

Project1_Layout 1Brodrick’s St. Paul starts from the heart of the city and works outward. Growing up almost in the shadow of the capitol, in the old Scheffer neighborhood, he migrated north from Mechanic Arts to Washington Senior High and then west to Como Park Senior High. In all, Brodrick taught social studies for 34 years, and he coached hockey and some baseball for most of those years. As St. Paul’s education community is close-knit, so too is its hockey community. Brodrick’s Trainers, Prexies and Cougars never quite had their own “miracle on ice,” but his players created their own lifetime of memories.

As a school board member, Brodrick has kept in mind that our schools serve to knit our community together. One way is by helping our students, families, teachers and coaches create their own lifetime of memories. He believes that step one to closing the various gaps in our schools is making them welcoming places where students learn – including life lessons – and where teachers can teach and parents are welcome.

One of the few shared experiences left in our increasingly segmented world is our school days. Brodrick grew up and started his teaching career in a time when diversity in St. Paul had a different meaning than it does now, but Mechanic Arts and Washington and Como Park all reflected the diversity of their times. Brodrick’s block in Frogtown is a classic example of today’s St. Paul, and by reflection, our schools. From his 90-year-old neighbor (who he helps with yard and sidewalk chores) to the Murray High grad across the street, to the Hmong-American families down the street, Brodrick’s world is still the world of St. Paul, our schools and our neighbors – all of whom are workers.

Brodrick has won three elections to the school board. He has actively campaigned for four successful school levies. He was nominated for his first DFL endorsement by Mee Moua before she was State Senator Moua. He has been a consistent campaigner for DFL and labor-endorsed candidates in other races. His commitment to St. Paul, to St. Paul’s kids and schools and to the workers of St. Paul is sincere and lifelong.

Brodrick’s connectedness to St. Paul is proof that we do better together, not apart. What some call connectivity, the labor movement calls solidarity. Brodrick’s life has been one of solidarity – with our schools and kids, with our communities, with the labor movement.

The labor community has had one of its own on the SPPS school board during Brodrick’s years of service. Let’s make sure that we remember to turn out and vote Nov. 5, and return John for one last term of service.

– Roy Magnuson is a teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools, a member of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers and a trustee for the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

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