Schools notebook: Superintendent selects deputy from Chicago

Superintendent selects deputy from Chicago

Rick Mills, an area superintendent for Chicago Public Schools, is Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s pick to fill the district’s vacant deputy superintendent slot.

As Minneapolis Public Schools’ second-in-command, Mills will help to manage day-to-day operations of the district, providing oversight of various departments and supervising the associate superintendents, who work directly with principals. He will also serve as acting superintendent in Johnson’s absence.

Prior to joining Chicago Public Schools in 2001, Mills completed a 25-year career with the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In Chicago, he worked in that district’s office of military schools and also served as an area instructor for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, program.

“At (this) time, he’s established the highest-performing high school area in the Chicago Public Schools,” Johnson said when she announced her selection during the June 14 School Board meeting, adding later: “He brings a depth of knowledge and experience in leadership, strategic plan development and execution and performance management.”

Also in June, Johnson selected Michael Thomas, a former principal in the Osseo Area School District, to serve as associate superintendent for Area A or Zone 1, which includes North and Northeast neighborhoods as well as Bryn Mawr.


Lake Harriet student is History Day champion

FULTON — Nathaniel Larson of Lake Harriet Community School was named national champion in the individual website category at the National History Day finals held in June in Washington, D.C.

Larson was among six Lake Harriet students who qualified for the trip to nationals, more than any in the school’s history. The 18 national awards going to Minnesota students made it this year’s most decorated state in the competition, the Minnesota Historical Society reported.


District budget scheduled for June 28 vote

The School Board was expected to vote June 28 on a $693.7-million Minneapolis Public Schools budget for the 2011–2012 school year.

The district’s chief financial officer, Peggy Ingison, highlighted two significant areas of uncertainty when she previewed the budget plan at a June 14 School Board meeting: the still unsettled state budget plan and the various district employee contracts that end this summer, including the two biggest contracts with teachers and educational assistants.

On paper, general fund expenditures appear to drop about $28 million to $517 million. But Ingison said the district would probably spend nearly $15 million less than budgeted for the school year just ended, and that the major difference between that budget and the one for 2011–2012 is the loss of $15 million in one-time federal stimulus funds.

Employee salaries and benefits make up the largest portion of the general fund budget, by far; more than 80 percent. The smaller budget would require the district to cut “about 80 full-time equivalent” positions from the district, Ingison estimated.

“We don’t know if that will end up translating into actual lay-offs,” she said.


Push to recruit reading tutors continues

The Minnesota Reading Corps was seeking tutors to fill positions at 10 Southwest-area Minneapolis Public Schools as its largest-ever recruitment campaign continued in June.

The AmeriCorps program places full-time and part-time tutors in preschools and elementary schools across the state to help struggling readers achieve grade-level reading ability by the third grade, a target considered crucial to the future success of young learners. Minnesota Reading Corps’ goal was to recruit 800 tutors for next school year, up from 670 tutors this year.

As of June, reading tutors were still needed at Bryn Mawr, Kenwood, Jefferson, Whittier, Lyndale, Burroughs and Kenny community schools, both the upper and lower campuses of Lake Harriet Community School, Ramsey International Fine Arts Center and Windom Spanish Dual Immersion School. Those sites all had between one and three full-time positions waiting to be filled.

Tutors receive a bi-weekly stipend and some benefits. After a full year of service, tutors receive an education award ($5,550 for full-time members or $2,775 for part-time members) that can be used for education expenses or to pay back federal student loans. Members 55 years old or older may transfer the education benefit to a child or grandchild.

Applications are accepted through July, and training begins in August. For more information, visit


Southwest is top MN school on national list

LINDEN HILLS — Southwest High School was the top-ranking Minnesota school on The Washington Post’s High School Challenge list, released in May.

Southwest placed 112th overall in the Challenge, which attempts to rank high schools by how effectively they prepare students for college. The ranking formula divides the number of college-level tests administered at each school site by the number of graduating seniors, so schools where many students take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams rank higher.

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]