Principal in place at Ramsey

Bancroft Principal Paul Marietta to lead new middle school

TANGLETOWN — Several weeks before Minneapolis Public Schools named a principal for the new Ramsey Middle School, one of the candidates quietly dropped in at Lyndale Community School.

The majority of future Ramsey students are likely to come from the Lyndale and Burroughs community schools, and so the candidate stopped by to take a tour, meet with Lyndale Principal Ossie Brooks-James and anonymously observe some of the families who might walk through Ramsey’s doors when it opens in August.

“You didn’t know him, but he was here,” Brooks-James told parents at an after-school meeting that month.

The visitor was Bancroft Elementary School Principal Paul Marietta, who would eventually win the job, said David Weingartner, one of two Lyndale parents who served on the principal selection committee. Marietta “was the consensus choice” of the committee, Weingartner added.

Marietta received a warm reception at Feb. 4 open house that drew a crowd of at least 200 prospective students and parents to the Ramsey building on a sunny Saturday morning.

Burroughs student Cameron Sullivan, 10, and his mother, Cheryl, were among those who waited in line to shake Marietta’s hand. The line snaked right through a Washburn High School jazz quartet coolly jamming in the school’s lobby, a reminder of the two schools’ proximity and the potential for collaboration between the two programs.

Ramsey is expected to enroll 170–220 sixth grade students for the 2012–2013 school year, and Cameron Sullivan is likely to be a member of that inaugural class, his mother said. After exchanging a few words with Marietta, the fifth grader said, “He seems nice.”

His chief concerns: What time would the school day start? And would the new program offer sports like hockey, football and baseball?

Timeline

Those are questions Marietta and Cindy Reuther began work on in February as they developed what Reuther called a “four-month plan” for the new school. The founder and executive director of Laura Jeffrey Academy, an all-girl, 5–8 charter school in St. Paul, Reuther was hired by the district to help get the new middle school off the ground.

She said teacher interviews would commence in March, but the specific timeline depends on whether the school is awarded new program status. That designation would allow Marietta to interview and hire teachers ahead of other district schools.

The district and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers were still negotiating new program status for Ramsey in early February, Dan Loewenson, the district’s acting human resources director, said.

Ongoing education

Marietta, who grew up in Circle Pines and attended the Centennial School District in the northern suburbs, now lives in River Falls, Wis., with his wife, Jenny, and three daughters. The oldest, Emma, 11, is in sixth grade.

“I have a lot of empathy for what it’s like to be a middle school parent,” Marietta told the crowd at the open house. The adults responded with knowing chuckles.

In an earlier interview, Marietta was cagey about his age, which he said was “mid-30s.” His relative youth was sometimes a source of discomfort in an ambitious education career that included work in schools in three states, a nonprofit, state government and Minneapolis Public Schools administration.

Marietta’s own education continues. He said he “spent the whole last year learning Spanish” and, after speaking a few words in that language at the open house, remarked that his visit to Lyndale, with its large population of Somali-American students, convinced him to start studying another language.

“I’m going to learn Arabic, as well,” he said.

Staying flexible

Marietta has led Bancroft since 2009 and helped to usher that school through the final stages of becoming an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) school. Whether the new middle school would use the IB curriculum like nearby Anthony Middle School was a question on the minds of many parents at the open house.

Instead of naming a specific academic approach for Ramsey, Marietta has said the school would emphasize “inquiry- and project-based learning,” blending approaches used in IB and STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, schools.

Randy and Linda Madson said they were willing to give Marietta and his staff the time and trust to develop an academic identity for Ramsey, where their daughter, Lila, a Lyndale fifth grader, is expected to attend next fall. Like many other parents, they have a clear sense of the offerings at Anthony — an IB candidate school attended by their son, now a Washburn student — but don’t know quite what to expect at Ramsey.

“My sense is that on some level there has to be a place to start,” Linda Madson said, adding that, while she hoped to see a “clear direction” for the new school, she also wanted it to have “room for growth.”

“This should be approached with a lot of optimism and excitement, but also some flexibility for where the principal takes the program,” she said.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.