Minneapolis school board keeps Southwest addition alive in plans to add classes

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2013 - 5:36 AM

Busy school board allows plan to add to Southwest High School’s capacity and tries to improve discipline while limiting suspensions.

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cav1234Dec. 10, 1310:47 PM

Mr. Brandt, if you could report on who, if anyone, besides Bates voted for her amendment stripping funding for the SW addition, and who, if anyone, ultimately voted against the enrollment plan, that would be great. The voice votes and bad TV audio made discerning the votes of these elected officials impossible. Roll call votes really should have been taken.

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bkind37Dec. 10, 1311:35 PM

How about putting special programs and classes into the schools with the lowest enrollment. This would attract more students to those schools. Even if the students have to bused, at least you are keeping them in their own district. If students want to be bused to the suburban schools, find out why. Create programs and correct discipline issues that make them want to leave.

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chlyn001Dec. 11, 13 1:32 AM

As a proud northsider, I feel I can honestly say it's a shame fellow northsiders abandoned our school district in some ways the last decade or so. Life ain't always better in the suburbs either, is it. Minneapolis Public Schools have not been supported properly here over the years, as they have been on the south side, especially around Southwest. We could have had better schools with more offerings had Edison not been make into an ELL magnate, so to speak, and/or a special ed magnate, again, so to speak. No wonder so many others bailed out. As for North High and surroundings, certain people let the place down, abandoning it in fact, as it sank lower and lower until now it's a shadow of its former self. We could have great schools on the northside again, but the public will have to rise up in force to reclaim them, and then support them and the people who staff them, unlike in recent years. There's no good reason North ( or Edison either) can't reclaim its role as a superior educational institution and be every bit as relevant as Southwest. If everyone wants to be like Southwest, let's make that our goal, to be as good or better.

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swmnguyDec. 11, 13 9:02 AM

Sanford Middle School is packed right now. My kids both went there; my son is now in 10th grade at South and my daughter is an 8th grader at Sanford. When my son first went to Sanford in 2009, there were about 400 kids and the school was not considered one of the "good" middle schools.

But it was considered better than Folwell. Folwell had some stressed demographics, but the feeling I got was that the root of the problem was a revolving door of principals and poor administration more than anything else. Converting Folwell to the Performing Arts Magnet put a lot of middle school capacity over at Ramsey, but left Sanford as the only middle school in South Mpls. east of 35W. So naturally the population exploded, and the influx of middle-class families dramatically improved the school.

Sanford has very good teachers, and the retirement of one long-term (and very good) principal brought in a new principal who seems in the early going to be very good as well; providing consistency and continuity while letting the excellent staff keep doing their thing. Sanford also has an excellent band program. The band director at South has said many times how pleasantly surprised he has been at the skill and solid foundation in music the Sanford kids had when my son's class showed up at South.

I've lived in this town for 30 years, and these things are cyclical. As the economy ebbs and flows, so do the schools. As neighborhood populations do well, the schools do better. As neighborhoods decline, the schools do worse. If the economy ever gets better and people start earning more from their jobs, we will see Southwest parents resume sending their kids to private and suburban schools and in a few years we'll be talking about how to fill seats in a 450-kid new addition at Southwest, just as nobody wanted to go to Washburn a few short years ago. I'd prefer they change the Zone 3 boundaries, and send the Bryn Mawr kids to the much closer North, and the Field/Page/Hale kids to Roosevelt. But those parents have the leisure time to use the clout that financial security brings, and they'd rather be dead than send their kids to Roosevelt. Which is a shame because those kids would turn Roosevelt around in a year, and we could use that building to its fullest rather than build new buildings we'll be talking about closing in 5 years.

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cav1234Dec. 11, 13 9:26 AM

Thanks Mr. Brandt for noting/adding the Bates amendment vote in your article. She sounded like the only one opposing moving forward with the addition, but it was hard to tell. Did she ultimately end up supporting the enrollment plan as a whole and/or did anyone oppose? Again, the voice vote instead of roll call is not a very good accountability tool.

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liberallymnDec. 11, 1310:26 AM

Sounds like the school Board needs to redistribute some of the teaching talent from the highly prosperous SW side of town to the NE side of town. I would imagine if you merely redistributed 25% of the teachers and 30% of the students from economically thriving families into the poorer and more racially diverse schools in MInneapolis, that everything would turn out just fine for these SW kids...and the benefits for the kids in North Minneapolis? Priceless.

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liberallymnDec. 11, 1310:28 AM

chlyn001...you don't get it. The only way to make the other MSP schools like SW is to make SW like the other schools. That's when you'll be able to claim there is no bias in any of the schools. If you continue to fail to reach your objectives, at some point it's necessary to lower your goals.

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cav1234Dec. 11, 1310:35 AM

swmnguy, always enjoy your perspectives as you speak from experience with kids in the schools. There is a lot to unpack in your final paragraph. I think it fair that Field families, for example, that have committed to and contributed to the turnaround efforts at Washburn through years of tumult and after the District locked down the attendance zone want to continue and strengthen that pathway. They've made the commitment to Washburn that the District asked of them. I think a prediction that any group of students could "turnaround" Roosevelt (and there are in fact some good things going on there now) in a year is optimistic from the experiences of other schools and the District's ability to move with any speed, and I think it reasonable that families with kids who would enter now would not want to take on the perceived risks and deficiencies with being the vanguard of a turnaround effort. Some of those risks may be overblown, but I think the concern is understandable and legitimate based on the District's track record and not the result of a leisure class with too much time on its hands. I also think that District policy, including but definitely not limited to drawing boundaries and CSO, has had huge effects on the success and lack of success of schools, and that those policies have very much shaped school outcomes - for better and for worse- as much or more than the ebb and flow of microeconomies. The changes in programming and attendance zone policies around Washburn is only one example, and certainly North High and other northside schools have there own experiences to recount with how District policy shapes schools and parent decision-making. As for the addition of SW, I'm not in that attendance zone, but the capacity need there is real now whether more kids come or not. More than the addition, I am disgusted that the enrollment plan is not aimed at also reducing class sizes in overcrowded schools (including South and Washburn), but rather aims at creating more classrooms that are themselves likely to be stuffed. Anyway, lot more here than can be discussed in comments.

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cav1234Dec. 11, 1311:00 AM

liberallymn, if your post was meant to be sarcastic I apologize, but the sentiment is one that is expressed often. I've always wondered though about the notion that busing SW kids and moving teachers from SW is the magic bullet for closing the achievement gap in the destination schools. One reason I wonder about that is, as Board Chair Monserrate pointed out last night, there is in fact at sizeable achievement gap at Southwest otself, where students who qualify for free/reduced lunch fail to meet performance standards at much higher rates than students who do not qualify. The SW teachers and students are already there, the school is not high poverty, and the achievement gap persists. We all have a stake in making the District work for all students, just not sure that moving pieces on the checkerboard is effective or efficient. Hopefully there are District staff taking an empirical view of what works - the District's recently touted refocus on reading and literacy from K-3 is one example they'll cite of finding out what the best practices are empirically and implementing the accompanying change.

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bkind37Dec. 11, 1311:02 AM

Don't give choices for open enrollment outside the district. If you live in Minneapolis, you go to Minneapolis schools...period. Giving kids the option to be bussed to the suburbs is a waste of money. The poor performing schools will not be corrected when the solution is just to leave. Fix what is broken!!!

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