Schools notebook

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.

Schools notebook

Group funds museum visits

WHITTIER — Every second-grade student in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will have an opportunity to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) during the next three years thanks to a $60,000 gift to the district.

The gift from the Friends of the Institute volunteer group was intended to cover bus transportation costs to the museum for approximately 3,000 MPS second-graders each year through 2011. The initiative is supported by the Friends Children’s Fund, which was established in 2007.

The group also operates the Friends Transportation Fund, another effort to fund museum visits for Twin Cities students. Gifts from that fund are awarded on the basis of financial need.

In announcing the gift, the Friends of the Institute emphasized the role of visual art in developing students’ critical-thinking skills.

Membership in Friends of the Institute is open to all MIA members. For more information, contact the Friends office at 870-3045 or visit their page on the MIA website (www.artsmia.org).

The Blake School hosts admission nights

LOWRY HILL — Families interested in enrolling students at The Blake School have an opportunity to learn more about Blake at two admissions information meetings this month.

The private, independent pre-K–12 school has about 1,400 students at its three campuses in Wayzata, Hopkins and Minneapolis. The Minneapolis campus is for students in grades nine–12.

Admissions information night for high school students is 7–9 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Upper School, 511 Kenwood Parkway. Families with pre-K–8 students can attend an information session 6:45–9 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Lower School, 110 Blake Rd. S. in Hopkins.

Current students, their parents and Blake staff will be on hand to talk about their experiences at Blake during the meetings. The application deadline is Jan. 31.

Wallin Scholarship deadline approaching

Students with a promising academic record who need college tuition assistance can now apply to the Wallin Scholarship Program.

The Wallin Scholarships, open to all MPS students who meet academic and financial eligibility requirements, provide up to $4,000 per year for four years of college education. Students must plan to enroll full-time at a four-year college or university in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin or Iowa, or a historically black college or university in another part of the country.

Maxine and Winston Wallin first opened their scholarship program to South High School students in 1991. It expanded to all Minneapolis public high schools in 2000, and then expanded again to high schools in some adjacent districts.

Over 2,000 Wallin Scholarships have been awarded to date, the program reported on its website.

Students can pick up an application from their school’s counselor or college and career center. An application worksheet — including two essays — must be completed before students begin an online application process and collect teacher recommendations.

To qualify, students must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average, demonstrate an annual family income of $75,000 or less and meet other requirements.

Applications are due Jan. 22. For more information, visit the Wallin Scholarship Program website (www.wallinscholars.org/).

Parents of gifted and talented CHAT

LYNNHURST — The Minneapolis Chapter of the Minnesota Council for Gifted and Talented has scheduled a series of meetings at Burroughs Community School, 1601 W. 50th St.

The series of monthly Parent CHAT Nights begins Jan. 15 with a discussion on advocating for gifted students. Following meetings will begin with a presentation on a topic of interest to the parents of gifted and talented children and include time for parent discussion.

The meetings are 7–9 p.m. and continue through May.

DPAC meets Jan. 22

ARMATAGE — The first meeting of the District Parent Advisory Council of Area C in 2009 is scheduled for 6:30–8:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Armatage Community and Montessori School, 2501 W. 56th St.

The District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) is a group of parent representatives who regularly meet with and advise the MPS superintendent and staff. Area C includes all schools in Southwest.

For more information on the January meeting and other upcoming events, visit the DPAC website (dpac.mpls.k12.mn.us/).