District tests upgraded network
Minneapolis Public Schools officials were expecting two firsts on Jan. 20, and the swearing-in of President Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president was just one of them.
The other was the first big test of the district’s upgraded internal computer network. The Information Technology Services Department planned to transmit a video stream of Inauguration Day festivities directly into district classrooms, showcasing the network’s expanded bandwidth and new capabilities.
District computer technician Mike Williams said upgrades made to the district’s computer network over the last two years made the feat possible. In the future, the network upgrades also could allow for video conferencing among classrooms.
"Say, if the superintendent wants to broadcast a message to all the classrooms at once," Williams said, as an example. "It gives us a capability that wasn’t possible with our current … setup."
Why not just watch the inauguration on TV?
Williams said data projectors — which can project information directly from a computer — have replaced TVs in many classrooms.
Most schools also have a closed-circuit television system, allowing multiple classrooms in one building to watch the same thing at once. But streaming video over the district computer network allows classrooms across the district tap into the same video feed, Williams said.
School board elects officers
Southwest resident Tom Madden was selected to chair the Minneapolis School Board in 2009 at the board’s Jan. 13 annual meeting.
The board approved a slate of officers that also included board members Chris Stewart for clerk and Carla Bates for treasurer. Earlier, Bates, a new board member, took the oath of office alongside Jill Davis, who also was elected in November, and board veteran Lydia Lee, who won re-election this fall.
Both Madden and Stewart joined the board in 2007 and will serve through 2011.
The annual meeting was also the last meeting for two school board members.
The longest-serving board member, Sharon Henry-Blythe, lost her re-election bid in November. The board’s youngest member, Peggy Flanagan, did not run for re-election.
African American Parent Day
Schools across the country have activities planned for National African American Parent Involvement Day Feb. 9.
Founded by a Michigan educator following the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C., the day is meant to emphasize the importance of involving of African American families in their children’s education. Many Minneapolis schools have participated in the past by inviting all parents to the school.
For more information on individual school events, visit the website of your child’s school. National African American Parent Involvement Day always falls on the second Monday in February, which is also Black History Month.
Help balance the district budget
Minneapolis Public Schools has invited the public to contribute ideas for dealing with a $28 million budget shortfall for the 2009–2010 school year.
Parents, students, district staff and community members are invited to suggest cost-saving measures by clicking on "My cost-saving idea" on the district website (www.mpls.k12.mn.us/Cost_Saving_Ideas.html). The online suggestion box will remain open until Feb. 1.
The district also has posted a number of background documents and charts that illustrate the budget situation, including a budget FAQ and a timeline for finalizing the 2009–2010 budget.
This marks the eighth consecutive budget shortfall for the district.
Kenny to host garden awards
KENNY — Kenny Community School, 5720 Emerson Ave. S., will host the 2009 Blooms Day event, including this year’s Minneapolis Garden Awards, May 16.
Blooms Day and the annual garden awards are sponsored by Metro Blooms, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that promotes environmentally friendly gardening and landscaping. Metro Blooms has awarded Kenny its First Place Exceptional Garden Award two years in a row, the school reported.
The Kenny Community Gardens project began in 2001, when Kenny teacher Darwin Lee led staff and students in planting the school’s first rain garden. The school now has four rain gardens, which use native plants to help absorb stormwater runoff and prevent pollution from entering the local watershed.
The school has hosted Kenny Garden Day every spring since 2002. The event attracts Kenny families and neighborhood residents who help get the gardens ready for the growing season.