Schools notebook

Viva City celebrates student artists

The 17th annual Viva City celebration showcases the student artists, musicians and performers of Minneapolis Public Schools in February and March.

Visual arts and poetry by middle-school students will be on display in the Cargill Gallery in the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, through Feb. 27. The high school visual arts and poetry exhibition opens in the same space March 2 and runs through March 29.

More than 300 elementary, middle and high school student musicians, vocalists and dancers were expected to perform
7 p.m. March 14 in the Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 4th St. S., on the University of Minnesota Campus. Local actor and musician T. Mychael Rambo will host the concert.

Students selected to participate in both the visual and performing arts exhibitions receive tours of the University of Minnesota campus and its College of Music facilities. The district reported the experience is intended to give students a sense of what it would be like to pursue a career in the arts.

The district also arranged “Session Days” for students to experience advanced classes in their chosen artistic field.

High school students in the visual arts exhibition are eligible for the Tracy Award, a scholarship supported by Gary Fink, director of Museum “Louvre It or Leave It,” located in the Northstar East Building, 608 2nd Ave. S.


Whittier student among top district spellers

A fifth-grade student from Whittier International Elementary School was among the top-three finishers at the Minneapolis Public Schools district spelling bee held Jan. 20 at Sheridan Global Arts and Communications School.

Oscar Booth finished in second place and will move on to the Metro Spelling Bee with first-place finisher Becky Norling-Ruggles, an eighth-grade student at Seward Montessori School. Norling-Ruggles won by correctly spelling “bromeliad,” a member of a family of tropical plants found mostly in Americas, while Booth misspelled “extemporaneous,” an adjective describing something said, composed or performed impromptu.

Both students were honored at the Feb. 8 School Board meeting along with third-place finisher Noah Wrolson, an eighth-grade student at Northeast Middle School.

The 35 students in the district competition emerged from a pool of about 750 fifth- through eighth-grade students who competed in school-level spelling bees. Only the top-finisher at each school site advanced to the district competition.

Norling-Ruggles and Booth compete at the March 12 Metro Spelling Bee at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. The winner of that competition advances the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held in June in Washington, D.C.


‘MEAN’ confronts bullying

STEVENS SQUARE — Local theater group Youth Performance Company examines bullying in schools in a new production of “MEAN,” running through Feb. 27 at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, 1900 Nicollet Ave.

Set in a high school, the play includes several examples of mean behavior commonly experienced by young people. The effects of teasing, taunting and harassment are seen from the perspective of bullies, victims, bystanders and adults.

Founded in 1989, Youth Performance Company is a nonprofit theater company that involves children and teens in theater workshops and performances.

For more information on “MEAN” or to purchase tickets, visit the Youth Performance Company website, or call the box office 623-9080. The website also includes a downloadable educator’s guide to “MEAN” for teachers.


AchieveMpls seeking career fair presenters

AchieveMpls will host a series of career fairs at Minneapolis high schools in March and April and is seeking professionals willing to talk about their line of work with students.

High schools were hosting both traditional career fairs and a series of classroom presentations on various professions. Those interested in representing their careers were asked to register on the AchieveMpls website,

Southwest High School will host a career event 1 p.m.–3 p.m. March 10. The Washburn High School career fair was scheduled for 9 a.m.–11 a.m. April 29.

AchieveMpls is the non-profit fundraising partner of Minneapolis Public Schools.


Another pre-Labor Day start

Minneapolis Public Schools is once again planning to start the school year in August, a week before the traditional start of the school year on Labor Day.

The proposed 2011–2012 school year calendar presented to the School Board Feb. 8 included an Aug. 29 start date for grades 1–12. Kindergarten students would begin class Aug. 31.

The proposed calendar also included a two-week winter break Dec. 26–Jan. 6 and one week of spring break April 2–6.

The School Board was scheduled to vote on the 2011–2012 calendar at its Feb. 22 meeting. If the calendar is approved, next school year would be the third in a row to start before Labor Day in Minneapolis.

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]

Schools notebook

Teachers and School Board approve contract

The School Board unanimously approved a new $14.7 million contract for Minneapolis teachers Jan. 25.

The long overdue contract, covering the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 school years, included no cost-of-living increases to teachers’ salaries but did award some payments for “step and lane” advancements related to educational achievement and tenure. Earlier in the month, 87 percent of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers union members voted to ratify the contract.

The district initially projected the cost of the contract to be $11 million. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson blamed “an error in our calculations” for the $3.7 million underestimate.

Under questioning from School Board Member Carla Bates, district staff reported the previously uncounted costs in the teachers’ contract were related to summer school programs. Staff in the district’s finance department uncovered the error.

Contract negotiations began in August 2009 and ran past a state-imposed deadline over a year ago. The district was fined $800,000 for missing the deadline.

Talks on the next two-year teachers’ contract were expected to begin in May. According to its most recent projections, the district was anticipating a $30­–45 million budget shortfall in the 2011–2012 school year.


Purchase agreement for Lehmann Center approved

A Minneapolis developer and manager of multi-family housing properties will pay $6.15 million to purchase the Lehmann Center, a district-owned Uptown landmark.

The School Board on Jan. 25 approved a purchase agreement for the building, located at 1006 W. Lake St.

Dominium Development planned to convert the sprawling former factory, also known as the Buzza Building, into about 120 units of loft-style, “workforce housing,” Managing Partner Armand Brachman told the Southwest Journal in December.


Student artists honored at MCAD

WHITTIER — Eight students from two Southwest-area high schools received Gold Key awards in the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards in January, advancing to national competition.

Southwest High School seniors Reed Monson and Mackenzie Neaton both received Gold Keys, recognizing the highest level of achievement at the regional level of competition, held at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Gold Key winners from The Blake School were junior John Chipoco and seniors Sydney Armstrong, McCall Bliss, Perrin Burke, Michael Lima and Stasio Ramirez.

Minnesota jurors reviewed 1,279 art pieces and 168 portfolios entered in this year’s regional competition, awarding Gold Keys to just 126 individual entries and 11 portfolios.

Work by Gold Key winners from around the country will be evaluated in February for possible inclusion in the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Exhibition this June in New York City. Only about 300 works of art and 50 pieces by young writers will be included in the exhibition, with the winners invited to a celebration at Carnegie Hall.

Artwork from the Minnesota competition remains on view through Feb. 13 at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. S.


Thinking baseball in February

Who’s thinking about baseball in February?

The folks at Minneapolis Youth Baseball Association, who hold two days of tryouts for players aged 9–14 each February. A first day of tryouts was scheduled for Feb. 5 at the Midtown YWCA, 2121 E. Lake St. — before the date of this issue — but a second tryout was set for 9 a.m.­–2 p.m. Feb. 12 at the same location.

Formerly known as Washburn Youth Baseball Association, MYBA expected to field about 250 youth on 19 baseball teams that travel and compete in the south-metro area. Teams start practicing in April, and the season runs May to July.

Players mainly come from South and Southwest neighborhoods, and commit three to four days per week to the program. Home field for the teams is the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Neiman Sports Complex located between Fort Snelling State Park and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

For more information, or to register a youth for tryouts, go to the MYBA website,

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]