Schools notebook

Brookings report: MPS third in improvement

Minneapolis Public Schools was one of the best-performing districts in the nation in terms of bringing its student test scores closer to the state average, the Brookings Institution reported in February.

The Washington, D.C., public policy think tank studied 37 urban school districts across the country and found MPS ranked third in increasing student achievement. The report, prepared by the institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, standardized scores on different state tests to make the comparison.

Big-city schools typically lag behind their suburban and rural counterparts in achievement, but 29 of 37 urban school districts in the study raised test scores closer to the state average between 2000 and 2007. MPS followed New Orleans Public Schools and the Dallas Independent School District on the center’s list.

The report’s authors did not identify a source of the improvement, but speculated it could have to do with district-level policies, the federal No Child Left Behind program or other reforms.

Football Lakers host fundraiser

LINDEN HILLS — Out thousands of dollars for work they were never paid for, the Southwest High School football team is hoping to make up some ground on fundraising with a March event.

The Lakers Football Booster Club will bring comedian and hypnotist Thomas Krueger to Southwest 7 p.m.–10 p.m. March 27. Tickets are $10.

Booster Club Treasurer Ann Mackinnon said the team was owed nearly $11,000 by Twin Cities events planner Paul Ridgeway for work they did last June parking cars during the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. Due to Ridgeway’s publicized financial troubles, the team was unclear if it would receive those funds, Mackinnon said.

She said the March 27 appearance by Krueger was the first of possibly several events to help the team make up for the lost fundraising dollars. The team also planned to sell rounds of golf at Interlachen for five unaccompanied foursomes donated by the country club.

To purchase tickets for Krueger, contact Head Coach Sean McMenomy or any Laker football player. Tickets also will be for sale at the door the night of the event in the auditorium at Southwest, 3414 W. 47th St.

For information on purchasing a round at Interlachen, email Mackinnon at [email protected]

Kenwood principal retiring

KENWOOD — Kenwood Community School Principal Susan Craig will retire at the end of this school year after 32 years in education, 21 of those spent in Minneapolis Public Schools.

"It’s an enormous amount of a person’s life to spend with kids and working in schools, so that part I am really going to miss," Craig said. "I’m going to miss the incredible partnership with the community and parents."

Craig said she and her husband, Gavin, are an active couple who bicycle regularly and hope to spend more time traveling in the coming years. They also will have more time to spend with their children and two grandchildren, she added.

Craig is in her fifth year as Kenwood principal. She previously served as assistant principal at Southwest High School, principal at Longfellow Community School and was principal at Cooper Community School for 11 years before joining Kenwood.

Craig began her education career in California.

"I really enjoy my job a lot and I enjoy Kenwood," she said. "It’s just an extraordinary school."

Craig expected a replacement to be named in May.

Blake is a National School of Character finalist

L — The Blake School is a finalist in the National Schools of Character Awards sponsored by the Character Education Partnership.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit promotes character education in schools and every year recognizes those schools that excel at teaching students ethics, responsibility and caring behavior. Blake is among 25 schools and two school districts in the running for an award in 2009.

The Partnership received a record 185 applications to the 2009 awards. Representatives will visit nominees in April before selecting 10 winners in late May.

Blake previously was recognized with a Minnesota School of Character Award by the Center for Academic Excellence. The North Mankato-based education center partnered with the Minnesota Department of Education to create a state award based on the Character Education Partnership’s national award model.

Cargill supports MPS science education

Two new grants from the Wayzata-based Cargill Foundation aim to promote science and engineering careers to Minneapolis students.

The foundation donated $2.5 million in March to the Science Museum of Minnesota, which will introduce the Engineering is Elementary curriculum in public elementary schools in the Minneapolis and Hopkins districts. The program engages students in grades 3–5 in hands-on projects.

The district also announced a $622,000, five-year grant from the Cargill Foundation to support Project Lead the Way in public middle schools in Minneapolis and Osseo. Project Lead the Way is a national nonprofit that introduces students in grades 6–12 to engineering, design and technology concepts.

Schools notebook

Viva City opens March 9

The annual Viva City Festival of the Arts opens March 9 with Minneapolis Public Schools student performances at Orchestra Hall.

The annual festival began in 1995 as a showcase for student work in the visual and performing arts. Now in its 14th year, the district-wide event also includes a show of student visual art at Minneapolis Central Library.

The performing arts exhibition features orchestra students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Opening acts begin at 6 p.m. in the lobby and the concert starts at
7 p.m. in the main hall of Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall.

The visual arts exhibition runs March 11-–May 12 at Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall. The opening reception is 5 p.m.–7 p.m. March 26.

Art Buddies seeks creative mentors

WHITTIER — Art Buddies is looking for professionals in advertising, design and other creative fields to pair with children from low-income families for the program’s spring session at Whittier International Elementary School.

Art Buddies’ adult mentors work one-on-one with students in six weekly after-school sessions. The art projects inspire creativity in both students and adults, and encourage students to dream about their future goals.

Sue Crolick, a former art director and designer, founded the nonprofit Creatives for Causes in 1994. Crolick forged a partnership with Whittier four years later, and now the school hosts two Art Buddies sessions each school year. For more information, visit

Ellison announces arts competition

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison invited high school students from the 5th District, which includes Minneapolis, to join the 2009 Capitol Congressional Arts Competition.

The annual competition is an opportunity for high school students from all congressional districts to have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building. The Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley will choose three winners from the 5th District.

The first place winner will have his or her work displayed in the Capitol. The second and third place winners will be featured in Ellison’s Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis offices.

Students can find the required submission forms online or by calling the Congressman’s district office at 522-1212.

Entries will be accepted March 23–April 3.

Choice meetings continue in March

A second round of community meetings on changes to Minneapolis school locations, bus routes and attendance areas was scheduled for March.

About 320 parents and community members attended one of three Feb. 12 meetings on school options planning, a district effort to limit spending on facilities and transportation. As a result of the planning, some school programs could close or move and bus routes may be altered or eliminated.

District administrators promised additional information on the proposed choice scenarios and their fiscal impact for this second round of meetings, which begins the week of March 9–12.

Two meetings were scheduled that week in Southwest: March 11 at Church of the Incarnation, 3817 Pleasant Ave. S.; and March 12 at Whittier International Elementary School, 315 W. 26th St. Both meetings are 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

For additional information on meeting times, locations, interpretive services and childcare, visit the district website and click on "Changing School Options" or call 668-0230.