Schools notebook: Armatage’s Franks honored

Armatage’s Franks is state’s National Distinguished Principal

ARMATAGE — Armatage Montessori School Principal Joan Franks was named Minnesota’s 2011 National Distinguished Principal in May.

The U.S. Department of Education and National Association of Elementary School Principals have honored top principals with the award since 1984, selecting one winner from each state and the District of Columbia.

Franks recently guided Armatage’s transition to an all-Montessori program this year after the community school program was eliminated in the district’s Changing School Options cost-savings plan. She has served as a principal or assistant principal in Minneapolis and metro-area schools since 1990 and was a finalist for the same award in 2008.


Carondelet has top teacher for independent schools

LINDEN HILLS — Carondelet Catholic School first-grade teacher Brigid Berger was named 2011 K–8 Teacher of the Year by the Minnesota Independent School Forum in May.

In her nomination letter, Carondelet Principal Becky Farber wrote Berger “demonstrates both integrity and commitment for teaching by continually bringing new learning techniques to the classroom,” including a new guided reading curriculum introduced two years ago that is now used school-wide. Among other accomplishments listed by Farber, she wrote that Berger also led the introduction of a composting program at Carondelet.


Lyndale students ‘Dreaming of Harriet Tubman’

LYNDALE — Fifth-grade students at Lyndale Community School perform the play “Dreaming of Harriet Tubman” 6–8 p.m. May 31 at the school, 312 W. 34th St.

The project was funded by the Jungle Theater Education Fund.

Local playwright Buffy Sedlachek wrote the play about the famed former slave and abolitionist who led other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad for Stages Theatre Company in the mid-1990s. Inspired by childhood squabbles over who would take the lead role in the school play, Sedlachek wrote a play where modern children find themselves transported to Tubman’s world.

“The kids walk in her shoes, basically,” she explained. “They walk the Underground Railroad with her, they cut timber with her, they stand on the auction block with her. And they really understand the truth of her life.”


Spotlight musical theater awards June 6

Student performers from Southwest and Washburn high schools and The Blake School will be featured in the sixth-annual Spotlight Showcase June 6 at the Orpheum Theatre.

The event celebrates the state’s up-and-coming musical theater talent, featuring 600 students from 47 schools. In addition to performances, awards for the top high school performers and productions will be presented beginning at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum, 910 Hennepin Ave.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the State Theatre box office, 805 Hennepin Ave., or by calling 1-800-982-2787. Tickets are also sold through


Teen’s public safety PSA in finals

A public service announcement Southwest teen Nate Smith created for a filmmaking class at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley won one honor and was up for another in May.

The 40-second short, “Don’t Text and Drive,” won in its category at CineYouth 2011, held in Chicago May 5–7. Smith, 18, was also a finalist in the “Don’t Drive Distracted” TV public service announcement competition for teens sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

More than 90 videos were submitted to the latter contest, and Smith’s video was among five still vying for the top prize in May. The video creator who garnered the most votes on the website would win $1,000 and have his or her spot aired during the MTV Video Music Awards this summer.


Honorable mention for Washburn documentarian

TANGLETOWN — Mike Meyer, a ninth-grade student at Washburn High School, earned an honorable mention in the C-SPAN’s 2011 StudentCam video documentary competition.

“A Generation of Innovation,” Meyer’s entry in the seventh annual competition for middle and high school students, was one of the 75 top videos out of more than 1,000 submitted by students from 40 states and the District of Columbia. Meyer learned of the award May 11 in a surprise school assembly, the district reported.