Schools notebook

Teacher’s contract approved

Principals have a greater say in which teachers they hire under a new contract approved by the Minneapolis Board of Education and the teachers union in January.

By more than a 2-1 margin, teachers approved the new contract, which promises them salary increases over the next two years. It also gives principals the authority to "interview and select" teachers, a departure from the district’s seniority-based hiring system.

The vote was 1,266 to 576, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers reported. The school board approved the contract unanimously Jan. 15.

"This new contract will allow all of us to move forward with our work on strategic planning and forge a new and stronger partnership with our teachers," said Bill Green, Minneapolis
superintendent.

The terms of a 2007–2009 contract were under negotiation for about nine months. About 68 percent of teachers voted yes, a smaller percentage than supported any of the four previous contracts, the union reported.

Union President Robert Panning-Miller told board of education members the new contract would not address major district issues, such as a drop-off in state funding and the additional burden placed on teachers by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"I have yet to see a teachers’ contract that fully recognizes the commitment and the dedication and the work of public school teachers and, unfortunately, this contract is not an exception to that pattern," Panning-Miller said.

District administrators framed new interview and select rules as essential for carrying out the district’s long-term strategic plan. In December, the board adopted nine broad recommendations from the plan that are meant to guide the district over the next three to five years.

Board Member Pam Costain asked teachers and district officials to put the long contract negotiation behind them and move ahead with the strategic plan.

"I think we have an exciting initiative going on in the district with the strategic plan, and I think this contract and the changes that have come to the district through this contract make that plan even more possible," Costain said.

Teachers will get a 2-percent pay raise this year, retroactive to July 1, the beginning of the contract. They get a 1-percent increase next school year and a one-time $750 bonus.

"With the teachers having ratified this, one of the clear messages is that they’re ready to get back to work and focus on the kids," Panning-Miller said.


Southwest students pen winning MLK essays

Minneapolis middle grades students selected as winners in the 2008 Martin Luther King essay contest were honored at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting.

The winning Southwest students were: Meg Adams, Alyssa Moore, Mary Thomas and Emily O’Dermott of Anthony Middle School; Christopher Lee-Foss and Emma Michl of Lake Harriet Upper School; Daniel Barlow of Anwatin Middle School; and Leslie Hays of Park View Montessori School. Barlow, an 8th grader, and Hays, a 6th grader, earned first place for their grades.

The annual contest, sponsored by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, invites all 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students in Minneapolis Public Schools to submit a short essay on a topic related to civil rights. This year, students were asked to consider why discrimination still exists today even though governments have taken steps to prohibit it by law, as with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


China trip fundraisers

A portion of purchases at an Edina Noodles & Company restaurant and the Galleria Barnes & Noble Feb. 2 will help fund a trip to China for South High School students studying Mandarin Chinese.

Several students from Southwest are among the 34 teenagers joining teacher Dingman Yu on a trip to China over spring break. Most are in their third year of studying Mandarin Chinese.

A percentage of all lunchtime sales 11 a.m.-–3 p.m. at Noodles & Company, 6531 York Ave. S., will be donated to the class. At customer request, a percentage of purchases made any time Feb. 2 at the Galleria Barnes & Noble, 3225 W. 69th St., also will support the trip.

Students will be at both sites the day of the fundraiser to answer questions about their class and the trip.

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected] or 436-4391.

Schools Notebook

As 2007 drew to a close and schools emptied for winter break, the Southwest Journal took a look back at the year in education.

Here are a few of the significant schools events covered last year:

FEBRUARY

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) announced its plan to do away with all admission requirements to its high school small learning communities by the fall of 2008.

The district’s decision sparked months of questions and controversy in the district, especially among parents whose students would enter high school in 2008.

MARCH

The Minneapolis Board of Education launched its North Side Initiative, a plan to close and consolidate some schools in North Minneapolis.

The initiative was framed as a plan to shrink the achievement gap for African American students and consolidate resources in a part of the district that is hemorrhaging students, but it met with fierce opposition from some community members. District leaders acknowledged schools in other parts of the city — including Southwest — may face closing in coming years.

MAY

The district launched a long-term strategic planning process that would continue through the end of the year.

Initially, strategic planning put some other district initiatives on hold, such as the ongoing high school transformation. This temporarily halted plans to expand International Baccalaureate (IB) to Washburn High School

By the fall, it appeared some district initiatives will be bundled into strategic planning. Plans to bring IB to Washburn are back on track.

Southwest High School was named to The Washington Post’s 2007 Challenge Index. It was ranked among the top 5 percent of schools nationwide based on its efforts to challenge students.

SEPTEMBER

Barton Open School, Jefferson Community School, Anthony Middle School and Lake Harriet Community School’s Upper Campus were celebrated by district leaders as schools that “beat the odds,” posting higher-than-expected scores on state tests.

Windom Spanish Dual Immersion and Open School formed a partnership with the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, aiming to increase urban students’ exposure to wild places.

NOVEMBER

Jefferson Community School was selected for the NASA Explorer School project. The three-year partnership includes a $17,500 grant for the purchase of classroom technology and opportunities to learn about science and technology from NASA staff members.

DECEMBER

The Board of Education adopted nine recommendations stemming from its long-term strategic planning process.

The reforms aim to narrow the achievement gap for minority students, increase performance across the district and prepare students for higher education. Possibly the most controversial recommendation is a call to “restructure” schools performing in the bottom 25 percent of the district.