Schools notebook // International Baccalaureate at Washburn

Washburn to offer International Baccalaureate next fall

TANGLETOWN — Washburn High School became the district’s latest International Baccalaureate World School in March.

Officials from the internationally recognized college preparatory program authorized the school to begin offering International Baccalaureate (IB) classes for students in grades 11 and 12 next fall. The announcement capped an application process that began almost 18 months earlier, said Washburn IB Coordinator Marianne Melton.

“It’s probably the most important thing that’s happened to that school in 25 years,” Melton said.

Minneapolis Public Schools has expanded IB offerings to six of its seven traditional high schools as a part of a broader high school reform initiative. The goal is to enroll more students in high-level courses through programs like IB, Advanced Placement, Career and Technical Education and College in the Schools.

“Our expectation is that all students will take college preparatory courses, at least three of them, before they graduate from Washburn,” Melton said.

Students who take the maximum number of IB classes and perform well on end-of-year exams will complete the Diploma Programme (so-called because the international organization prefers the British spelling of “program”). Students who achieve high scores on IB exams are often given credit for college coursework.

Washburn students also may take fewer courses and earn an IB Medallion or IB Certificate.

Earlier this year, IB officials authorized Southwest High School and Anwatin Middle School to jointly offer the IB Middle Years Programme for students in grades 6–10. Washburn also will pursue Middle Years Programme authorization, Melton said.

In Southwest, the IB Primary Years Programme for elementary school students is offered at Whittier International Elementary School. In all, 10 district schools will offer IB courses next fall, said district spokesperson Emily Lowther.

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School Board closer to vote on new district headquarters

The School Board was scheduled to discuss three plans for a new district headquarters April 6 and vote to accept one of the proposals as soon as April 13.

District staff recommended in March that the Board approve a plan to build a new headquarters on district property at 1250 W. Broadway Ave., now home to an alternative high school program for pregnant and parenting teens. Still under consideration, though, were a proposal to renovate the district’s main administrative building at 807 Broadway Ave. NE and another proposal to take over the former Valspar Company headquarters Downtown.

Steve Liss, district chief of policy and operations, said the three options represented the best of the responses to a request for proposals issued by the district one year earlier. While staff preferred to construct a new headquarters at 1250 W. Broadway Ave., all three options would improve the district’s administrative space while reducing costs over time, Liss said.

District staff repeatedly made that argument over the past year. They were anticipating concerns that now — a time of ongoing budget deficits and school closings — was not the best time to propose a new construction project.

But Liss said the district spends more than $1 million annually on excess space for its administrative offices, which are currently spread out among four buildings. The main headquarters in Northeast — known as “807” for its street address — is a run-down former light bulb factory with high utility costs.

Liss said maintaining the status quo would cost the district $85 million–$90 million over 30 years. That figure included an estimated $8 million in deferred repairs to 807 that “would not improve the quality of the building,” he said.

Noting that real estate markets were still recovering and that construction costs were at “historic lows,” Liss urged the board to act soon. He said Chief Financial Officer Peggy Ingison agreed an improved administrative office plan was “one of the most responsible things we can do to reduce our costs over time.”

“We think that now is the right time, that if we delay any further, costs for the project will escalate significantly,” he said.

Legacy Management and Development Corporation and Mortenson Construction jointly proposed the 1250 W. Broadway Ave. project favored by staff.

Ryan Companies forwarded the plan to remodel 807 so it could accommodate more offices. A plan from Transwestern would remodel the former Valspar headquarters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and 3rd Street, near the Metrodome, to give the district a central location for its headquarters.

Liss said the proposals assume some administrative space would remain in a district building in South Minneapolis to retain a presence in that half of the city.

The district planned a public information session on the headquarters proposals for the week of April 6, but a specific time and location had not been chosen when this issue of the Southwest Journal went to press.


Superintendent search update

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on March 17 voted to hire Waters Oldani Executive Group, a Dallas, Texas-based firm, to conduct its superintendent search. Its responsibilities will include developing a candidate profile, screening candidates and testing semi-finalists.

Despite the expanded name, it is essentially the same firm the board used for its 2004 superintendent search. The finalists that year were then-Interim Superintendent Jon Gurban, Dirk Richwine and Cris Gears, who now oversees the Three Rivers Park District.

The Park Board is hoping to hire someone in September for a Nov. 1 start.