Choral festival caps Viva City

More than 600 middle and high school students from 10 Minneapolis schools are expected to participate in a choral performance that will bring the district’s 18th-annual Viva City arts festival to a close on April 25.

The performance is supported by a grant from the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of Equity and Diversity. Musical selections for the extra-large choir include “Tshotsholoza,” or “Go Forward,” an African folk song associated with the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and “A Song for Mother Earth,” which celebrates Native American traditions.

The event will include a guest performance from local gospel musician Sam Reeves. Students also will sing an original arrangement of a song by the band Green Day written by Southwest High School graduate Eric Sayer, now a Pillsbury Community School teacher.

Students have been rehearsing for the performance since March, a period recorded in a short documentary that will be screened the night of the performance. The choral festival begins 7 p.m. April 25 at Patrick Henry High School, 4320 Newton Ave.

District 6 candidates meet April 30

TANGLETOWN — The candidates vying to represent District 6 on the School Board have been invited to participate in an April 30 forum at Burroughs Community School, 1601 W. 50th St.

Announced candidates for the District 6 seat include David Weingartner, Alex Phung, Tracine Asberry and Curtis Johnson. They are running to represent an area that includes most of Southwest south of Lake Street.

Forum moderators will be Seth Kirk and Peggy Clark, who also manage the MPS Parents Forum online message board. The forum was initially organized by a group of district parents, including Kirk and Clark, but will be sponsored by Minneapolis DFL.

The forum runs 7 p.m.–8:30 p.m. at Burroughs. Candidates will respond to four prepared questions and take additional questions from the audience as time allows.

Washburn career fair is April 20

TANGLETOWN — AchieveMpls plans to host a career fair 9:30 a.m.–11 a.m. April 20 at Washburn High School, 201 W. 49th St.

Representatives from a variety of industries will be on hand to talk about their careers with students. Students will have the opportunity to meet with professionals in both one-on-one and group settings.

The Washburn event is one in a series of eight career fairs hosted by AchieveMpls at various Minneapolis high schools. AchieveMpls is the nonprofit fundraising partner of Minneapolis Public Schools.

For more information on the Washburn event, go to achievempls.org.

Washburn coach in School Board race

Curtis Johnson, a coach for the Washburn High School track and cross country teams, plans to seek the District 6 School Board seat.

Johnson, who lives in Lynnhurst with his wife, Lisa, and their 5-year-old daughter, is one of four people seeking to represent District 6 on the board (see the candidate forum story in this column). He attended Minneapolis Public Schools as a student, including one year at Washburn, and his daughter starts kindergarten at Burroughs Community School next fall.

“I’ve got a child entering the district, and I’ve really observed the district closely for five years with … the work I’ve done at Washburn, but I also have six nieces and nephews who are in or have been in the district,” Johnson said. “… All that experience has led me to a real interest in what’s going on in the district.”

Like the other candidates running in District 6, Johnson plans to seek the DFL endorsement.

Johnson said one of his priorities, if elected, would be to promote “equity across the high schools.” Giving high school students across the district equitable access to rigorous programs and courses has become more important since the Changing School Options reforms approved by the School Board in 2009, he said, because most students now attend neighborhood schools based on their addresses.

It’s a particularly sensitive issue in Southwest. Washburn parent Kip Wennerlund recently went public with his concerns that course offerings for his daughter were not as rigorous as those at nearby Southwest High School, a school most students don’t have access to unless they live in its attendance area.

Johnson said he’s concerned some families in his neighborhood are choosing private schools over the public options closer to home.

“We have families who have resources here,” he said. “When we lose those students, when we lose those families, we really lose that resource of having those families in our schools.”

Johnson said his other priorities included promoting early assessments to ensure students are on track for academic success by third grade. He also suggested the district could do more to share best practices between schools by promoting exchanges and interactions between teachers in different buildings.

To learn more about Johnson and his priorities, visit his website: curtisjohnson.org.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.