As schools emptied for winter break, the Southwest Journal took a look back at the area’s significant schools happenings in 2008.
A new public school teachers contract, giving school principals greater power to interview and select candidates for teaching positions, won approval from the teachers union by a surprising 2-1 margin.
The 2007–2009 contract marked a shift away from the seniority-based hiring rules in place in the district for decades. The Minneapolis school board approved the contract unanimously, concluding nine months of negotiations.
In the eyes of some board members and district administrators, interview-and-select was an essential tool for completing the reforms outlined in the district’s five-year strategic plan. The new contract also included salary increases for teachers over two years.
After listening to passionate testimony from more than a dozen people, the Minneapolis school board voted to limit military recruiter access to high schools.
Students and community members — on both sides of the issue — packed the meeting room Feb. 26. Ultimately, board members were unanimous in setting more restrictions.
Military recruiters’ activity was limited to the high schools’ college and career centers, putting them on equal footing with college recruiters. Military recruiters were no longer allowed to interact with students in lunchrooms or hallways.
A fall 2008 fresh start for Washburn High School was announced.
Edison High School in Northeast, too, would get a fresh start, district administrators said. Edison and Washburn were the two lowest performing of the city’s seven traditional high schools.
A fresh start allows principals to make significant staff changes. It was the first time district high schools were given a fresh start.
After the district announced it would close Uptown Academy, an alternative program housed in the Lehmann Center, 1006 W. Lake St., it looked as if the district’s Uptown property might soon be up for sale.
The closing of Uptown Academy followed an announcement that another Lehmann Center program, Wellstone International High School, would move. Emptying the building also played into a plan to unload excess district properties.
Down to just 42 students, East Harriet’s Visitation Catholic School closed after 61 years.
It was a local manifestation of national trend. Like many urban Catholic schools across the country, Visitation experienced a decline in enrollment while at the same time finding more of its students required tuition
The school building, at 4530 Lyndale Ave. S., reopened in the fall as Fraser Academy, a public charter school.
The inaugural session of Camp MPS ran July 8–31 at four school sites in Southwest and 14 others across the district.
Camp MPS was a revamped version of the district’s K–8 summer school program. While the focus remained on improving reading and math skills, as in past years, the district lengthened the days to include time for field trips, art projects, physical education and other programming.
The goal of the changes was to keep more students in the voluntary program for the full three-week session and improve educational outcomes. Expect Camp MPS to return next summer.
There was some reshuffling of teachers and classrooms just a few weeks into the school year after Minneapolis schools welcomed hundreds more students than expected.
The district’s student accounting office predicted a loss of about 1,600 students this fall, in line with years of declining enrollment. The actual loss came to fewer than 400 students.
The lower-than-expected decline meant the district would receive about $6.6 million more in per-pupil funding from the state than predicted.
One year into its five-year strategic plan, the district missed four of five targets for raising student achievement, Minneapolis Public Schools Supt. Bill Green reported in his first State of the Schools address.
Green said the district fell short of its goals for improving kindergarten readiness, 3rd-grade reading proficiency, 8th-grade math proficiency and the percentage of students deemed college-ready at graduation. In many cases, white students were outperforming other demographic groups on those measures, highlighting disparities the strategic plan aimed to eliminate.
Still, there was some good news to share: Graduation rates jumped 6 percent in the spring of 2007, and had risen 20 percent in just four years. While graduation rates held steady for white students, they rose across the board for students of color.
It was a big Election Day for the district.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a $60 million-a-year, eight-year property tax levy for schools, essentially doubling the district levy already in place. A strong majority also approved significant changes to the school board election process.
On top of that, two well-known parent advocates — Carla Bates and Jill Davis — won seats on the Minneapolis school board, as did incumbent Board Chair Lydia Lee. Sharon Henry-Blythe, the longest serving board member, failed to win re-election.
But it was the last election for a school board made up entirely of at-large representatives. The expansion of the school board from seven to nine members — including six representatives elected from the city’s park districts — will play out over the next two election cycles.
Investment losses and expected cuts in state funding ballooned the Minneapolis School District’s projected budget deficit to $28 million for the 2009–2010 school year.
Previous projections pegged the budget deficit at around $20 million, but wave after wave of bad economic news caused a bad situation to get even worse for the district. The shortfall was roughly equal to 5 percent of the district’s budget.