Schools Notebook // State of the Schools address

WHITTIER — Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bill Green described a district that, while still falling short of its goals for student performance in many areas, was “poised to surge” in his Dec. 8 State of the Schools address.

Green acknowledged the persistent gap in achievement between the district’s white students and students of color in areas including math and reading proficiency, kindergarten readiness and college preparedness. But he also emphasized the “incremental progress” the district made last year toward closing that gap in an early morning speech before a small audience in the Pillsbury Auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The district’s five-year strategic plan sets ambitious goals for improving student performance and narrowing the achievement gap by the 2012 school year. Those goals were encapsulated in a new district motto: “Every child college ready.”

By the district’s measure, though, only about 30 percent of all students were “college ready” in the 2008–2009 school year. Sixty-eight percent of white students met that standard, while many students of color and poor students lagged behind.

The district has a lot of ground to make up by 2012, when it aims to have 80 percent of all students prepared for college.

Green described the district’s high level of diversity as both its strength and a significant challenge. It must work harder to help students from all backgrounds succeed, he said.

He highlighted several areas where the district was making significant progress toward its goals.

Fifty-four percent of 10th grade students rated proficient in reading on state standardized tests in 2009, up from 48 percent in 2008. The district graduation rate reached 76 percent last year.

Green said voters’ approval last fall of a $60 million property tax levy for schools was crucial for continued improvement in the district. Still facing ongoing budget deficits, the School Board this fall approved Changing School Options, a plan to downsize the district by closing facilities and cutting back on busing in 2010.

With state government facing significant budget deficits, Green warned against cuts in state payments to school districts.

“Our need for support is greater than ever,” he said.

Local businesses help pay for vandalism repairs

LYNDALE — Donations from local businesses gave a boost in December to Lyndale Community School, where students and staff were raising money to replace playground equipment damaged by vandals.

In June, arson destroyed a slide and damaged other playground equipment at the school. Minneapolis Police Department investigators said later it was unlikely they would find the arsonist because they had no suspect descriptions.

Facing thousands of dollars in repairs with little extra money in the school budget, Lyndale administrators set up the Pennies for the Playground campaign, encouraging students to contribute their spare change to a playground equipment fund. By mid-December, the campaign had raised about $7,000 toward its $10,000 goal, said Lyndale parent Becky Dankowski.

Several local businesses contributed to the campaign, including Eyebobs, 2940 Harriet Ave. S. Owner Julie Allinson and her husband Paul Erickson gave $5,000, Dankowski said.

Dankowski said Gigi’s Café, Curran’s Family Restaurant, Butter Bakery Café and Anodyne Coffee House were among more than a dozen other local businesses to contribute, joined by the Lyndale Neighborhood Association. Lyndale students raised about $1,000 in spare change, alone, she added.

In a September incident police said was unrelated, arsonists damaged two slides at Bryn Mawr Community School. The Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association donated $5,900 to the school for replacement slides in November.

MPS Community Education to
host Wellfest

The district’s Community Education Department will host its first-ever Wellfest family health event 12:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at South High School, 3131 19th Ave. S.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature workshops on a number of wellness and fitness topics, including yoga, salsa dancing, cooking with whole grains and acupressure. Many of the workshops will be condensed versions of classes offered through Community Education.

The schedule for the afternoon event also includes belly dance and improv comedy performances. Diana Pierce of KARE 11 News was the scheduled keynote speaker.

A vendor section will feature local businesses and organizations that offer health and wellness products or services. There also will be activities for children.

For more information on Wellfest, visit the Community Education website at commed.mpls.k12.mn.us/Wellfest.html or call 668-3939.