Schools notebook

‘Historic’ season for Southwest boys’ soccer 

LINDEN HILLS — With a perfect regular season record capped by a second-place finish in the state tournament, the Southwest High School boys’ soccer team had a year for the record books — literally.

Head Coach Jamie Plaisance said the team set a state record for consecutive shutouts with 16. The Lakers held their opponents scoreless in 20 games, including several state tournament matches, setting another state record in what Plaisance called an “historic” season.

He credited a solid defense and a “keep-away” style of play that relies heavily ball control and passing for a third state record: Opponents scored only two goals against the Lakers in their 17-0 run during the regular season.

They eventually lost the state Class 2A championship game Nov. 4 at the Metrodome 3-0 to Apple Valley High School, a suburban soccer powerhouse. But even that was notable.

“Second place in the state tournament is the best in the history of the Minneapolis Conference,” Plaisance said, adding that it was the first time any Minneapolis team made it to the championship round.

He said the team finished the season as the number-two team in the state, its highest ranking since 1991. That year, the Lakers ranked first, Plaisance said, adding: “The reason I know that is I was a senior at Southwest that year.”

Plaisance said old coaches, teammates and classmates from his time at Southwest came out of the woodwork prior to the state championship. Even crosstown rivals from South and Washburn high schools were wishing him luck going into the state tournament.

When some showed up wearing purple to cheer on the Lakers for their final game, “it felt like the whole city was behind us,” he said.

“It was just phenomenal, the support we had,” Plaisance added. “The downside is you kind of feel like you let some people down, too.”

Nonetheless, it was an inspiring season.

Out of 11 starters on the Lakers squad, seven were juniors expected back next season, when expectations will be high. Winning the state tournament “doesn’t sound like a crazy dream” anymore, Plaisance said.

“It sets a new standard for what we can expect, what our goal realistically can be every year,” he said.

District budget shortfall widens

Minneapolis Public Schools’ projected budget gap heading into next school year is now projected at $30–45 million, Chief Financial Officer Peggy Ingison told the School Board Nov. 9.

That amounts to about 8 percent of the district’s roughly $500 operating budget. The updated figure also was almost double last year’s estimate of a $20 million gap, although Ingison said the actual budget shortfall would take time to come into focus.

“There’s just so many moving parts and so many things up in the air,” she said.

Last year’s estimated budget shortfall was based on the expectation of a 5-percent cut to the state’s general education formula, costing the district about $10 million in revenue. If district operations grew by 2 percent in 2011–2012, it would add $10 million in expenses.

Ingison said the new estimate accounts for the drop-off in one-time federal stimulus funds, a loss of about $15 million.

“Everybody said let’s just make sure we’re spending this [stimulus money] on things that are one-time in nature, but it’s really hard when you hire staff with it,” she said.

The new estimate also anticipates potentially larger cuts in state funds for schools.

“Especially as you’ve got such a change in the make-up of the leadership of the legislature, and the pie is certainly not going to get bigger and is more likely to be smaller, people are saying, let’s redistribute it,” Ingison said.

The budget shortfall widened further when state arbitrators recently ruled the district unfairly froze teacher and staff salaries in 2009–2010. The estimated budget impact was $17 million.

There was, though, some good news in Ingison’s presentation to the board. District enrollment this year declined less than 0.5 percent from last year, a significant slowdown from the dramatic losses of a decade ago.

As Ingison reminded the School Board during her presentation: “In Minnesota, the key component in revenue is the student enrollment.”

‘Honk! Jr.’ at Barton

EAST HARRIET — The Southwest Theater Project presents an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th century fairytale, “The Ugly Duckling,” Dec. 3–5 at Clara Barton Open School.

A mixed-age cast performs “Honk! Jr.”, the musical theater version of the story of a homely swan-to-be. The performance is sponsored by Minneapolis Public Schools and Barton Community Education.

Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 3, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 4 and 4 p.m. Dec. 5 at Barton, 4237 Colfax Ave. S. Tickets are $5 at the door.