Board OKs two community partnership schools

Plans submitted by Southwest High School and FAIR School Downtown to become the district’s latest community partnership schools won approval from the Board of Education in April.

They join four other community partnership schools that a year ago were granted some autonomy from district rules in hopes of spurring innovation and ultimately improving student outcomes. The district fast-tracked the application process for FAIR and Southwest this spring while four additional schools were still preparing community partnership school plans.

FAIR plans to use the autonomy to retain the unique character it developed while part of the West Metro Education Program, an urban-suburban integration district, before it was conveyed to Minneapolis Public Schools last year. At Southwest, there are discussions around changes to the school calendar, flexible class scheduling and expanded opportunities for students to earn at least 12 college credits before graduation.

In both cases, the school’s plans for autonomy are expected to change and evolve.

The two new community partnership school agreements approved by the board run through the 2018–2019 school year. That gives the schools three full years to demonstrate their ability to improve student outcomes.

Just how well the first four community partnership schools are doing after one year of autonomy should become clearer in the coming months. The district began an annual review process at all four schools in March.

DFL endorses four for Board of Education

Four candidates for the Board of Education — just one of them an incumbent — won endorsements at the Minneapolis DFL City Convention held April 10 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

All four candidates were previously endorsed by Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the district’s teachers union. They are: KerryJo Felder in District 2; Bob Walser in District 4; Ira Jourdain in District 6; and Kim Ellison, the board’s vice chair and current District 2 representative, who won union support in her bid for an at-large seat.

Walser is set up to challenge first-term incumbent Josh Reimnitz in District 4, and Jourdain will go up against another first-term incumbent, Tracine Asberry, in District 6. Asberry was the DFL’s endorsed candidate in 2012.

This is Walser’s first run for school board; Jourdain ran for a citywide seat in 2014 but finished with the fewest votes out of four candidates. The District 2 race has attracted at least one other candidate, Kimberly Caprini.

The official filing period for school board candidates runs May 17–May 31.

Armatage teacher honored for excellence

Armatage Montessori School teacher Christian Houdek was named recipient of a 2016 WEM Outstanding Educator Award for Teacher Achievement in April.

The recognition comes with $15,000 award for Houdek, a veteran teacher with 18 years of experience. He teaches fourth- and fifth-grade students at Armatage, and according to the school’s website he also teaches graduate-level Montessori math courses at University of Wisconsin–River Falls.

WEM Foundation honors two Minnesota teachers each year with its statewide Teacher Achievement Awards. The awards go to teachers whose outstanding classroom work is demonstrated through student achievements.

WEM Foundation is an independent charitable foundation founded in 1988 by former Cargill CEO Whitney MacMillan. The WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program launched a decade later, and it also includes the Ethics in Education Award and the Academic Challenge Coach Award.

Share your views on the next superintendent

Minneapolis Public Schools scheduled six listening sessions in April and May to gather feedback on the ongoing search for the district’s next superintendent.

The listening sessions are meant as an opportunity for district stakeholders to share their views on the direction of the district and the qualities they’d like to see in the next superintendent. The information shared during the listening sessions will be given to the superintendent candidates.

Four evening sessions run 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m.: April 21 at Bryant Square Park, 3101 Bryant Ave. S.; April 25 at Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St.; April 29 at Brian Coyle Center, 420 15th Ave. S.; and May 5 at Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave. N.

Two daytime listening sessions are scheduled for April 23 at Windom Northeast Recreation Center, 2251 N.E. Hayes St. and April 30 at Elliot Park, 1000 E. 14th St. Both run 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m.

EPU Consultants, selected by the school board to manage community outreach during the superintendent search, will lead the listening sessions. The firm’s CEO, Radious Guess, also sits on the 11-member Superintendent Selection Committee.

That committee is scheduled to begin reviewing candidate resumes by the end of April, according to the district’s search timeline.