Former Area C leader takes over at Washburn

Craig Vana named interim principal

TANGLETOWN — Craig Vana, a former Minneapolis Public Schools associate superintendent, will come out of retirement to take over as interim principal at Washburn High School.  

The district announced Vana’s appointment to the temporary post at Washburn April 12, one day after it made public the decision to reassign principal Carol Markham-Cousins. Markham-Cousins joined the school during the 2007–2008 school year and led it through a so-called “fresh start,” but was forced out after a week of student protests relating to a district investigation of the school’s athletic director, Dan Pratt.  

It had been a rocky few months for Markham-Cousins and Washburn. This winter, the school attracted unwanted attention for an incident in which a dark-skinned doll was hung from its neck in a school stairwell. Pictures of the doll were shared on social media, igniting a community controversy.

Vana retired in August 2012 after a 26-year career with the district. He spent time as a principal and assistant principal, and as associate superintendent for Area C schools. Before retiring, he was the first executive director of the district Emergency Management, Safety and Security Department, created in 2007 in the aftermath of the Interstate 35-W bridge collapse.

The district also released this statement regarding the leadership transition at Washburn:

“At Minneapolis Public Schools, our priority is to ensure that every child is prepared for college and career. Our schools need to help our students focus on learning in order to accelerate student achievement.

Ms. Carol Markham-Cousins has been and will continue to be a passionate advocate for students and families. She has been a strong turnaround leader for Washburn and we would like to recognize her efforts during her tenure at the school. Ms. Markham-Cousins will be reassigned within the school district.

Because events over this current year have distracted from the learning environment at Washburn, the MPS administration recognizes that a change in leadership is necessary to restore an effective learning environment. In order to accomplish this, we will bring Mr. Craig Vana to serve as interim principal for the remainder of the year as we begin the process of engaging with the Washburn community to identify a new principal who will build on the successes of Ms. Markham-Cousins.

We want to emphasize that this decision is not related to any specific investigation or act and that this situation is challenging for both the Washburn community and the MPS community as a whole. We will be providing opportunities for the school community and staff members to give input on the desired attributes of a new school leader.”

More information on the appointment of Vana was posted on the school’s website.