Schools notebook // Superintendent Bernadeia Johnsons contract renewed

Citing her strong and stable leadership, the School Board on Nov. 27 unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.

Johnson, who took over the district’s top job in 2010, will not see a raise in her base salary of $190,000, which is just slightly below what her predecessor, former Superintendent Bill Green, earned. But Johnson’s previous contract was also the first to include performance-pay incentives for a Minneapolis superintendent, and the School Board raised the ceiling on her annual bonus to $40,000 from $30,000.

School Board Chair Alberto Monserrate called the new contract a “fair and balanced agreement,” one that protects the interests of taxpayers and increases accountability for the district’s top administrator.

“Stability” may have been the buzzword of the evening. The new contract could keep Johnson in the superintendent’s position through the 2015–2016 school year, making her the longest-serving Minneapolis superintendent in a decade.

“The stability does mean a lot,” said Board Member Rebecca Gagnon, noting it has “made the difference” in other school districts.

Reading from a prepared statement, Johnson said the district was “making progress in some of the most critical areas” but also acknowledged “too many of our students are achieving at levels far below their potential.” She emphasized the importance of relationships and a district culture focused on student success, repeating a favorite phrase: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Johnson’s new contract takes effect after the end of the current school year.

The contract terms also include 28 paid vacation days in addition to 11 paid holidays and a $400-per-month automobile allowance. Johnson must contribute the same amount as other district employees to her health care plan, but the district will deposit $2,000 annually into her health savings account.

Following the 2010–2011 school year, the first year under her current contract, the School Board awarded Johnson an annual bonus of $12,184, just more than 40 percent of the maximum bonus. Her bonus for 2011–2012 has not yet been determined.

Coalition aims to close achievement gap

The Generation Next Partnership launched on Nov. 29 unites a broad array of local organizations around one goal: eliminating the achievement and graduation gaps in Twin Cities schools.

The public-private coalition includes leaders from area businesses, philanthropic organizations, government, K–12 schools and higher education and promotes a “cradle-to-career” strategy for ensuring local students are prepared for school, graduate on time and move on to college and careers.

The model is based on the Cincinnati Strive Partnership, where a similar collaboration has made progress in boosting kindergarten readiness, improving student reading and math scores and raising retention and graduation rates in area colleges and universities. Cities around the country, including Boston, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., are following Cincinnati’s lead.

The Generation Next Partnership set five goals and aims to eliminate in each area the gaps that have students of color lagging behind their white peers. Those goals are: making sure each child is prepared for kindergarten; meeting third-grade reading benchmarks; meeting eighth-grade math benchmarks; achieving a four-year graduation rate of 100 percent; and ensuring every high school graduate earns a college diploma or post-secondary certificate within six years.

The partnership launched with a two-year, $2-million federal Social Innovation Fund Grant, funds that will be matched by the partner organizations to raise $4 million.

The partnership’s leadership council is co-chaired by University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and General Mills Foundation President Kim Nelson. To learn more about the partnership, go to tcgennext.org. 

District seeking bids on former headquarters

The headline might as well read “Former light bulb factory for sale.”

Minneapolis Public Schools is soliciting purchase offers for 807 Broadway Street N.E., the sprawling former factory that was for 82 years its headquarters. Known simply as “807,” the building is not so fondly remembered for its awkward layout and wildly inefficient heating and cooling systems, both of which could make workdays uncomfortable for employees.

With district administrative staff settled into a newly constructed headquarters at 1050 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis Public Schools is preparing to part with 807. Through the city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, it is seeking redevelopment proposals the 5.8-acre site.

Several garages and a warehouse surround the 187,446-square-foot main building. The site is zoned light industrial with an industrial living overlay, which means it could be converted into apartments or condominiums.

The district reports an open sale memorandum will be posted online Dec. 17 at minneapolismn.gov/807Broadway, and proposals will be accepted through 4 p.m. Feb. 22.