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District: Consulting biz not a conflict for Mpls. schools enrollment head

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Updated: 4:50 p.m. | Posted: 10:25 a.m.

The Minneapolis school district will review its conflict of interest policies after reports that a top enrollment administrator runs an education consulting business that helps families navigate school choices.

Bryan Fleming is director of enrollment management for Minneapolis. His department, Student Placement Services, is in charge of recruiting students to the district.

He is also the founder of Fleming Education Group, which according to its website offers several services, including working "with families who find themselves in the complex maze of school-placement."

The district was aware of Fleming's business when it hired him in 2016.

"This matter was previously investigated by the Minneapolis Public Schools General Counsel, who determined it did not present a conflict of interest," said Superintendent Ed Graff, who was hired a few months after Fleming. "I have directed our General Counsel to review the 3000 series of policies around conflict of interest and concurrent employment."

Fleming's dual roles were first reported in the Bright Light Small City blog.

Fleming did not return requests from MPR News for an interview.

On its website, Fleming Education Group tells prospective clients it "helps clients manage their fears and anxiety about educational options."

"We know how to broaden a family's school-choice lens in a productive, efficient way to achieve the outcomes that will maximize their child's promise," the site reads.

A section on the Fleming Education Group site headlined "Thoughts by Bryan" contains a post outlining the benefits of private schools, including their "valuable independence" on points like admissions policies and teacher credentials.

The district's conflict of interest policy says, in part, that Minneapolis schools employees "shall not engage in any work, paid or unpaid, incompatible with their employment at the district." It also prohibits employees from having "a financial or personal interest" that "would tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of his or her official duties."

School board member Rebecca Gagnon said the district's general counsel explained to her that Fleming Education Group does not work with Minneapolis residents and so does not present a conflict of interest.

Gagnon said that analysis is too narrow. "I want to understand how choice and open enrollment played into the conversation," she said, noting that students who live outside Minneapolis may choose to enroll in the district.

Gagnon said she wants to revisit and clarify the district's policy.

"If you don't support public education you shouldn't be working with public education. If you do not support Minneapolis Public Schools and believe in Minneapolis Public Schools, believe in our ability to educate all children, then it's a problem," Gagnon said.