Schools notebook // Costain to head AchieveMPLS

Costain to head AchieveMPLS

Pam Costain this month will make the move from School Board member to head of AchieveMpls, the nonprofit organization, a foundation supporting Minneapolis Public Schools, announced June 1.

Costain said she planned to start at the AchieveMpls office June 23, and would sit in on her last public School Board meeting June 8. She previously announced she would not seek re-election when her School Board term ends later this year.

“I had made a decision to leave the board … largely because I had to get a job,” said Costain, who had not held a full-time job for almost two years since leaving her last position to work on the district referendum campaign in July 2008.

Costain had extensive experience working in nonprofits prior to joining the School Board in 2007. She spent 14 years as executive director of Resource Center of the Americas and was a program director with Wellstone Action for 12 years.

AchieveMpls manages several district programs, including the Step-Up Summer Jobs Program and the College and Career Centers in high schools. The organization also supports Arts for Academic Achievement and other initiatives that address educational challenges in schools.

“It’s really for me the job of my dreams,” Costain said. “The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from Minneapolis Public Schools and the agenda, right now, we’re pursuing.”

Costain said she forged close relationships with both district administrators and community members during her time on the School Board.

“What I think I will help to bring to Achieve is greater alignment with the new strategic and academic focus of the district, because I know a lot about it and I know where the district is trying to go and where they need money to support it,” she said.

District policy requires the School Board to appoint a replacement for Costain until a new board member, elected this fall, is sworn into office in January 2011.

———

Next superintendent planning leadership changes

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent-Designee Bernadeia Johnson will fill four key positions in the district’s academic leadership team this summer, the district announced in May.

Johnson, who takes over the district’s top job July 1, was seeking candidates to fill her former role as chief academic officer. That opening was posted nationally, as were openings for the associate superintendents for Area A, B and C schools, the district reported.

Associate Superintendent for Area C schools Marianne Norris, who in that position worked closely with Southwest-area schools and elementary school principals across the district, said she plans to retire. Norris, 66, served as associate superintendent since 2007.

“I think my heart has always been in the schools, and I think part of what I bring into the central office is that school perspective,” said Norris, who previously served as principal of two district schools and a member of former Superintendent Carol Johnson’s leadership team.

As an associate superintendent for Area C, she was the face of district administration for many Southwest-area parents. It could be a difficult role, especially as the district prepared a controversial plan to close some schools and limit transportation options.

“I think [parents’] emotion comes out of their love for schools, which is a good thing,” she said. “The hard thing is sometimes they feel like you’re not listening because you don’t change a decision.”

She added: “Overall, they’re just such an asset to our school system that we’re really lucky to have them.”

The district reported Associate Superintendent for Area A Willie Fort would leave that position to work as a principal at a district elementary school next year. Associate Superintendent for Area B Brenda Cassellius, who also led the district’s high school redesign process, will leave the district to become superintendent of East Metro Integration District, headquartered in St. Paul.

———

Armatage teacher wins award

ARMATAGE — Armatage Community and Montessori School teacher Ralph Sievert won the 2009–2010 Tribute to Teachers Award sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, the company announced June 1.

Students in Sievert’s fourth-grade classroom nominated him for the award. The annual contest invites students and parents to explain in 150 words or less how teachers have made a difference in their classrooms and in the lives of their students.

Sievert was one of four Twin Cities-area teachers to win $500 cash for classroom expenses and two tickets to a University of Minnesota men’s hockey game in the 2010–2011 season.

———

School Board ballot set

The deadline for School Board candidates to withdraw from this fall’s election passed June 3, leaving 15 candidates in the running for two at-large seats and three district seats.

Running for two at-large seats were: Chanda Smith Baker, James Everett, Rebecca Gagnon, Shirlynn LaChapelle, Steven Lasley, Richard Mammen, Doug Mann, Mohamud Noor, R.E. (Dick) Velner and incumbent T. Williams.

In District 1, voters will chose between DFL-endorsed candidate Jenny Arneson and Mike Endrizzi.

Hussein Samatar is running unopposed in District 3.

The District 5 candidates are John Saulsberry and Alberto Monserrate.

Mammen, Arneson, Samatar and Monserrate won endorsements at the Minneapolis DFL convention in May.