Schools

Windom likely to get curriculum change By Bob Gilbert On Sept. 9, a Minneapolis Public Schools’ committee will propose to the School Board that Windom Open School, 5821 Wentworth Ave. S., become the district’s first Spanish-English immersion school, beginning fall 2004.

Windom, a kindergarten-through-8th-grade school, currently uses an "open" curriculum. The school would switch curriculum gradually: kindergarteners and 1st graders would be taught in Spanish and English in 2004, with a new grade level added each subsequent year.

Erin Glynn, former Marcy Open School principal on special assignment to the district’s Long-Range Planning Committee, said Spanish immersion programs are in high demand. Emerson Spanish Immersion Elementary School, 1421 Spruce Pl., has a waiting list. She believes there is a legitimate need for another.

However, what the committee suggests for Windom is a little different. The "dual immersion" concept accelerates learning for both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking kids, Glynn said. At full-immersion schools such as Emerson, English speakers learn everything in Spanish. At Windom, English and Spanish speakers learn together, becoming literate in both languages. Beginning in kindergarten, students may be taught half their studies in Spanish — for example, health and science — and the other half, such as math and social studies, in English.

"You only learn to read once, whether you learn in English or Spanish," said Glynn. "You learn to read, make images in your head, process what you’ve read, and all the inferences first and then you duplicate that in the second language. You don’t learn to read twice. So why not have both groups become multiliterate and learn to value the language of two different cultures and groups together?"

Glynn said Spanish-speaking kids benefit because they would learn to read in their native tongue. District officials hope Spanish speakers will achieve higher test scores using this new teaching method.

Why try this at Windom?

"Over the last eight years, the Spanish-speaking community has been consistent at Windom, making up about 40 percent of the student body," said Glynn. "The program is embracing those students and the community that is already there. We are interested in accelerating the learning of both groups. This provides a curriculum that has been proven to do that."

Also, in recent years, some English-speaking families have left Windom, complaining the Open program they chose has been de-emphasized. The school recently performed poorly on the federal No Child Left Behind ratings based on standardized tests given in the 2002-03 school year.

"Schools like Windom which had Open programs were not appealing to parents anymore in part because it is so hard to define what an Open program is," said Kyle Samejima, who has an 8th-grader, a 3rd-grader and a kindergartener at Windom.

Glynn believes the new program will better engage Anglo and Latino families.

"One of the things that we are hoping for at Windom is that we can develop a program that families feel a strong commitment to and that will help stabilize the community," she said.

Educational research shows that both English and Spanish speaking students in the program are successful. Locally, the program has worked well in St. Louis Park, said Glynn.

Windom parent Samejima thinks it’s a great direction for the school.

"Dual immersion has had a lot of great research supporting it," said Samejima. "As far as brain research goes, they get more neurons and more connections going because they are learning in two languages. I imagine it will appeal to Spanish speaking families as well."

A Thursday, Sept. 4 meeting for parents will be held at Windom before the Sept. 9 School Board meeting. On Tuesday, Sept. 16 there will be a community meeting/public hearing at school district headquarters at 807 NE Broadway, where people can weigh in on the proposal from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.. The Board will vote on the curriculum change Sept. 30.

In Uptown, it’s now Wellstone High

Uptown’s International Center for Accelerated Language Learning will become Wellstone International High School, according to a Minneapolis School Board decision in July.

The two-year-old school, located in the Lehman Center on Lake Street and Colfax Avenue, is an alternative high school for recent immigrants and older students ages 17-23, with limited English and little formal education. Wellstone, a Minnesota U.S. Senator from 1991 to 2002, died in a northern Minnesota plane crash last October.

School administrators consider Wellstone High less of a special site and more like the city’s eighth high school.

"It’s geared for older immigrants who are not looking for the high school experience," said Minneapolis Schools Supt. Carol Johnson. "They are a lot older than our traditional high school students and often come from war-torn countries. They are looking to get educated quickly so that they can get a job and integrate into American society."

The school has 10 teachers and approximately 175 students. Half the students are from Spanish-speaking countries; the rest are from East African nations such as Somalia.

"It was our students who were the energy behind the name change," said Daniel Hertz, a school counselor. "We were all inspired by Paul Wellstone’s work. We really are thrilled that the School Board approved the name change because we want to make the school a living example of his work, especially in the area of peaceful conflict resolution between cultures and social justice. He was an inspiration to the immigrant community."

Hertz said the name change had the unanimous support of students and staff. Johnson said it also had the support of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association.

"The kids actually got up and cheered at the School Board meeting when it was approved," said Johnson. "They loved Paul Wellstone."

A naming ceremony is planned for the whole community in October. — Bob Gilbert

In livid color: young artists create cityscape mural The artists decided to paint the town yellow.

A three-panel, "cityscape" mural featuring the IDS Tower, the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, the Crown Theater sign and the Wells Fargo Center in yellow, black and white acrylic paint now hangs on a wall near the second-floor entrance to the Hard Rock Caf, by Block E’s 7th Street and North 1st Avenue corner.

The mural is the work of Samantha Huston and Joy Vang, both 18 and recent graduates of Washburn High School in Southwest Minneapolis.

The petite artists — 5 feet tall and 4-feet-11, respectively — spent about a month working on the 12-by-6-foot painting. It took its prominent position in the new mall Aug. 13, and will remain there for approximately one year.

"I love it. It depicts Downtown," said Sue Bonin, Block E’s general manager. "It’s just nice to partner with the community on this. The kids were so enthusiastic."

Bonin sought area student artists to paint a cityscape last spring. She gave the students free rein to depict the city skyline in any manner they wished.

The students submitted a proposal to Nancy Oikonomou, chair of Washburn High School’s art department. She accepted it and allowed them to use school art supplies and classroom space to complete the artwork.

The artists surveyed building images on the Internet, then sketched on the three canvases. They first painted the sky blue, but ran out of that paint color. Then, they opted for yellow.

"We didn’t like the yellow at first. It looked green," Vang said. "But it kind of grew on us."

Huston painted the IDS Tower while Vang worked on the Wells Fargo Center. The former’s style is marked by sharp and defined lines, while the latter’s is softer and more blended around the edges.

At the official unveiling, the artists stood near their work with proud looks. The girls received a gift bag with certificates from Block E merchants, and Washburn received $500 for their work.

Huston and Vang both plan to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in the spring. They said they want to study comic art. Both share a particular interest in Japanese animation. — Sarah McKenzie

Whittier Waldorf school gets $1.9 million in financing The city of Minneapolis will sell $1.9 million in tax-free revenue bonds on behalf of the City of Lakes Waldorf School, 2344 Nicollet Ave. S.

City of Lakes is a public charter school that has been in its Whittier building since 2000. About 250 students from nursery school through 8th grade attend. The annual tuition for grade school is $7,255 per year.

The money will pay off City of Lakes’ debt to the Waldorf Foundation, which gave the school startup money to open its doors. The 150 Waldorf Schools nationwide base their education on the philosophy and books of German philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

"The philosophy of Waldorf is to educate the whole person instead of only educating the brain," said Deb Rausch, the school’s business and property manager. "Its philosophy takes into account the different stages of development. Painting and drawing are an integral part of the curriculum."

David Fenner, president of the school’s board of trustees, said the school would pay off $1.579 million in Waldorf Foundation debt and keep the balance of the $1.9 million for capital improvements.

The city participates only to establish a public purpose that makes the bonds tax-free. City taxpayers are not obligated to pay off the bonds should City of Lakes be unable to.

Charles Curtis, a city financial analyst, said, "Revenue bonds are a tool that we encourage nonprofits to use. We do lots of revenue bond financing in the city of Minneapolis for various public purposes."

Liberty State Bank of St. Paul purchased the bonds, which carry a lower rate because income from them is tax exempt. The bank will receive the same after-tax net income from bond payments as from a standard loan. — Bob Gilbert