Schools notebook

New principals announced for three Southwest schools

BRYN MAWR — Three Southwest-area schools will start the 2008–2009 school year with new principals, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) announced in May.

The new school leaders are Renee Montegue at Bryn Mawr Community School, Cecilia Saddler at Anwatin Middle School and Mary Rynchek at Lake Harriet Community School.

Montegue was most recently assistant principal at City View Performing Arts Center and will replace retiring Bryn Mawr Principal Jim Lemmer. She began her career with MPS in 1994 as an elementary school teacher and also has served as a behavioral specialist, mentor and assistant principal at Sheridan Global Communication School.

Saddler was reassigned to Anwatin from Folwell Middle School, where she also served as principal. She joined the district in 1995 as a teacher and also has served as an assistant principal at Folwell and South High School.

Former Anwatin Principal Beth Russell will work as a principal on special assignment with a focus on professional

Rynchek’s assignment brings her back to Lake Harriet where she served as an intern assistant principal and teacher from 2000 to 2007. She served as Anwatin’s assistant principal last school year, and also has worked as a teacher at Jefferson Elementary School and Audobon Elementary School.

Rynchek takes over from former Principal Marsha Seltz, who retired during the 2007–2008 school year. Hank Taxis served as interim principal at the school.

Office space proposals call for sale of Lehmann Center

THE WEDGE — Minneapolis Public Schools is planning for its future administrative office space needs, and it appears more likely than ever it won’t be hanging on to a major Uptown property.

The Lehmann Education Center, 1006 W. Lake St., would be sold in all of the future administrative office space scenarios presented to the Board of Education June 10. Chief of Operations Steve Liss acknowledged after the meeting that the district probably would sell the building but added no decisions would be made until fall or later.

Board members have noted in the past the Lehmann Education Center’s desirable Uptown address would be attractive to developers. That’s a strong incentive to sell for a district struggling with a budget deficit.

Another reason to unload the building is it just never worked well for the district. Liss has noted that its awkward, sprawling layout made it a less than ideal setting for offices and classrooms.

Lehmann is home base for the district’s Adult Basic Education offices. Two programs once housed in the building — Uptown Academy and Wellstone International High School — moved out at the end of the school year. Uptown closed and Wellstone will relocate to Ramsey High School.

The building is one of four district properties included in the ongoing administrative offices planning study, but it is the only one located in Southwest.

District officials are currently considering selling two, three or all four of the buildings. The district would then lease or buy new office space, or lease space in one of the sold buildings.

The preliminary report was included in the agenda packet for the June 10 Board of Education meeting and is available at

Lake Harriet students raise funds for China earthquake victims

FULTON — Students at the Lake Harriet Community School Upper Campus raised more than $530 for earthquake relief efforts in China, parent Kathryn
Bauermeister said.

Bauermeister said the funds would be used to help children who were orphaned in the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan Province in May, as well as children living in orphanages that were damaged in the disaster. The funds will pay for food, foster care and medical care for the children.

Bauermeister is the executive director of the nonprofit Wishing Dream Foundation and will use connections with aid groups in China to get the supplies where they are most needed, she said.

Bauermeister’s daughter was adopted from China, and her fifth-grade classroom raised more than half of the funds, about $360.

Eighth graders screen documentary at Smithsonian

FULTON — A documentary produced by two Lake Harriet Community School students was shown June 18 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., National History Day organizers reported.

Eighth-grade students Becca Mattson and Emma Peacha Singer produced “Reserving Lake Superior” for this year’s National History Day competition.

The documentary recounts the story of an early victory for environmentalists in the nation’s courts. A 1970s lawsuit forced Silver Bay’s Reserve Mining Company to stop dumping waste rock into Lake Superior, which opponents said posed health risks for nearby residents and environmental concerns for the lake.

Mattson and Peacha Singer were among 2,300 National History Day finalists in competition at the University of Maryland June 15–19.

Schools notebook

Southwest freshman wins language camp scholarship

— Southwest High School 9th-grader Grant Jolstad was selected for a scholarship to attend Concordia Language Villages this summer, Heather Vick, assistant director for enrollment and outreach, said.

Jolstad was awarded a $770 scholarship in June, enough for a weeklong stay at the Japanese Language Village in Dent, Minn. Vick said Jolstad planned to stick around longer at the camp.

“He really, really wants to go for a whole month,” she said.

Students who complete a full month at a Concordia Language Village can earn credit for a full year of a high school language course.

Vick said employees at Concordia’s St. Paul office pooled money for a scholarship this year, but added that other scholarships to Concordia Language Villages were available. For more information visit

MPS high schools again among best

LINDEN HILLS — Newsweek magazine again ranked Southwest and South high schools among the best in the country.

Southwest ranked 214 on the list of the top 1,300 public schools in the nation, down slightly from last year, when it ranked 146. South was 1,165 on the 2008 list and 1,143 in 2007.

Patrick Henry High School also made the 2008 list at 877.

Rankings are devised by dividing the number of students who take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school by the total number of graduating seniors, the magazine explained on its website.

Edina High School, at 93, ranked highest of the 21 Minnesota high schools that made the list this year.

Student actors win SpotLight awards

Productions by Southwest High School and The Blake School were honored at the SpotLight Musical Theatre Awards in June.

Southwest’s performance of “South Pacific” was honored for Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical. The school’s chorus ensemble and orchestra also won awards.

Student performers Oliver Dutta, Noah Madoff, Palbasha Siddique and Jonah Sargent-Egermeier were all recognized for outstanding performances.

“Urinetown,” at Blake, also was recognized with Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical honors. Student actor Charlie Dolph and the school’s dance ensemble were recognized for outstanding performances.

Student actors Michael Mestitz, Lauren Morgan, Eric Barry and Ande Saunders and the chorus ensemble received honorable mentions in their categories.

Hennepin Theatre Trust sponsors the annual awards ceremony for metro-area high schools. Evaluators with professional backgrounds in musical theater or education attend and critique musical theater performances at participating schools.

Anthony students winners in Civil War essay contest

KENNY — Two Anthony Middle School students were among the top three finalists in the 2008 Civil War Essay Contest sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Nora Kane won second place for her essay, “John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry Raid,” and Brodin Jentz won third place for his essay, “The Emancipation Proclamation.”

The contest, now in its 10th year, rewards students’ ability to research and write about the Civil War, the Institute reported. This year, students from 30 high schools and seven middle schools participated.

Founded in 1994, the Institute sponsors history-based programs at a network of about 50 middle and high schools across the country. The program expanded to Anthony this school year through a five-year, $975,000 grant from the Cargill Foundation.

The Institute promotes student achievement through the study of American history. Coursework emphasizes research, analysis and the use of primary sources and documents over textbooks.

Free summer meals at MPS sites

Free summer meals for children and teenagers 1–18 years old will be available at some parks and Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) sites beginning June 16.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer food service program is sponsored in Minneapolis by MPS. Launched nearly 40 years ago, the program is meant to extend the benefits of school lunch and breakfast programs into the summertime.

Although free summer lunch locations are determined based on area poverty rates, the meals are available to anyone 1–18 years old, regardless of family income.

More than 25,000 children and teenagers a day attended free summer lunch program sites in Minnesota last summer, the USDA reported. In total, more than 1.1 million meals were served in the state.

Meals are served Monday–Friday through mid August at most locations.

A list of free meal locations is available on the MPS website at

Schools notebook

Anthony celebrating 50 years

ARMATAGE — Anthony Middle School commemorated its 50th anniversary this spring with the creation of a new “welcome garden” at the school’s main entrance, the school announced in May.

Social studies teacher Paul Sommers and 6th-grade students in his Minnesota history class designed a garden incorporating plants native to the state’s woodlands. The students raised funds for its construction and were building it in late May.

Some of the funding for the garden came through a service-learning grant from Eco Education, a nonprofit environmental education organization based in St. Paul.

Sommers said the project was a part of his classes’ studies on energy use, green space and their effect on global warming.

Some of Sommer’s 6th graders will hold a paper drive to raise additional funds for the garden and to improve recycling efforts at the school.

Drop off old phone books, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, cardboard boxes or other paper products June 5–8 at Anthony, 5757 Irving Ave. S. The more the better, Sommers said, because the students set a goal to bring in 9,000 pounds of paper, or 4-and-a-half tons.

The public is invited to the June 5th opening of the welcome garden, a kickoff of sorts to Anthony’s 50th anniversary festivities, which Sommers said will continue next school year.

New Kenny principal named

KENNY — Bill Gibbs will replace Kenny Community School Principal Susan Dreves-Libson as the school’s lead administrator next fall, the district announced in May.

Gibbs has served as coordinator of the Minneapolis Public Schools Teacher Advancement Program, known as TAP, since 2005 and an adjunct faculty member at the College of St. Catherine since 1997. A certified Montessori teacher, Gibbs previously served as a middle school TAP mentor at Seward Montessori School and a classroom teacher at several district schools.

Marianne Norris, superintendent for Area C schools, said Gibbs’ experience would help him as an “instructional leader” in the school. The district strategic plan calls for all principals to work more closely with teachers to improve classroom instruction, Norris added.

She said Gibbs will arrive at Kenny having “bypassed some of the normal channels” for becoming principal. His title, initially, will be assistant principal, but Norris expected “assistant” to be dropped “much sooner than later.”

Gibbs said his administrative experience in the TAP program and at district schools prepared him to become principal at Kenny despite never serving two years as an assistant principal, the path typically followed by future principals. In addition to working closely with teachers, Gibbs planned to recruit more families to the school.

Both Norris and Gibbs said Kenny’s enrollment lagged behind some other Southwest-area schools. They acknowledged community concerns that the school might close because of low enrollment, but said there were no plans to close the school.

“There’s enough families in Southwest Minneapolis to fill up all those [Southwest] schools,” Gibbs said.

The district reported Dreves-Libson would leave Kenny to join administrative staff at Andersen Open School for the 2008–2009 school year.

Kenny Community School completes rain gardens

KENNY — Kenny Community School completed in May the third of three rain gardens school staff, students and community members began planting on school grounds last school year, the school reported.

Kenny parent Janet Parker said a grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District helped fund completion of the project. The rain gardens use native plants to filter stormwater and snow melt before it eventually flows into nearby Grass Lake and Minnehaha Creek.

Parker said a separate grant through Assistance League of Minneapolis/St. Paul funded two visits from a naturalist in May. The naturalist, from Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington, taught first and second graders about plant growth using the school’s gardens.