Parents call for integrated approach to education in Minneapolis

Parents from eight Southwest schools signed a letter to Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council Members on Dec. 5, calling for a citywide forum on education issues.

&#8220As parents, we are struggling to help our kids deal with large class sizes,” the letter stated, &#8220we are strategizing and lobbying to keep high-qualified teachers in our schools, and we are opening backpacks and poring over homework to help span the achievement gap.”

It asks that education be a priority at City Hall, &#8220just as the city mandates environmental studies for new development, so too should the educational impacts of new development be weighed; just as the city plans transportation around the needs of our business sector, so too should the city consider taking over the burdensome costs of transporting our children to school. The ideas are never-ending; now, it's time to measure our political will.”

Parents urged city officials to work closely with the Board of Education and other school officials. When asked what compelled them to compose the letter, some parents quickly responded via e-mail.

One of those parents, PTA Co-chair Christine Blumenfeld at Armatage Community School, 2501 W. 56th St., said she hopes this will be a more proactive approach to determining the direction of Minneapolis Public Schools.

&#8220Personally, I've become frustrated with the Band-Aid fixes that have been applied to a system that is bleeding (students and funds) from so many places. With so many choices in education now, we need to be aggressively positive about what MPS is doing and where it's going,” she wrote.

Additionally, parent Marie Franchett, co-chair of Barton Open Elementary School's site council, wrote that parents in Southwest should discuss ways to secure state funding to decrease large class sizes. She also noted that she &#8220would like city/school officials to take a leadership role at the Legislature.”

Carla Bates, a parent of kids at Seward Montessori School, 807 NE Broadway Ave., played a key role in drafting the letter. She wrote that the basic idea behind it is to initiate a conversation with public officials. &#8220We all know we need to work together to start making great things happen for our kids. And we do what we can do.”

Elizabeth Short, a parent of a student at Lyndale Community School, 312 W. 34th St. signed the letter because, &#8220As a community, our futures hang together. The education of our children has strong social, economic and political repercussions. (By political, I mean that a strong democracy needs an educated populace to support it.) Everyone in the community is affected by what is happening to and in the schools in the community.”

In response to the letter, Mayor Rybak has scheduled a public schools roundtable on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Logan Park, 690 13th Ave. NE at 10 a.m.

In a statement to the parents, Rybak said, &#8220I, too, share your concerns with the state of the public schools and want to help make the public schools, like you said, ‘one of the crown jewels of the city.'”