Schools Notebook: Superintendent Selection Committee set

School Board Member Rebecca Gagnon pushed for greater geographic diversity on the Superintendent Selection Committee. File photo

The Minneapolis Board of Education filled the remaining seats on its Superintendent Selection Committee during its April 5 meeting.

The 11-member committee includes three board members, two students, the CEO of the consulting firm hired to conduct community outreach during the search and five additional community members. Three of those seats were assigned in March when the school board elected Board Member Nelson Inz to chair the committee and reserved two seats for the EPU Consultants CEO Radious Guess — whose role will be to relay the feedback gathered during community outreach sessions —  and the school board’s student representative, Shaadia Munye.

Joining them will be: Collin Robinson, a Southwest High School sophomore; Teto Wilson, owner of a North Minneapolis barbershop; Joseph Rice, executive director of Nawayee Center School, an alternative high school for American Indian youth; Rhonda Larkin, principal of Stadium View School, a district alternative that serves imprisoned students; Rebecca Miller, an early childhood special education teacher; and Henry Jimenez, executive director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. The board also elected two more of its members to the committee: Siad Ali and Kim Ellison.

The committee’s job now is to review all the candidates for Minneapolis Public School’s top job. They’ll forward up to three finalist names to the board in late May.

“As the person who’s going to chair this committee, I’m really excited about this group of people,” Inz said.

The board approved the slate unanimously, but only after a two-and-a-half-hour debate. That included a 30-minute recess called after questions were raised about the geographical diversity of the original list proposed by EPU, which was tasked with recruiting committee members.

The original slate included no Superintendent Selection Committee members from District 6 in Southwest Minneapolis, which Board Member Rebecca Gagnon, who hails from that part of town, called a “huge problem.”

“And I cannot approve this slate in any capacity with that huge void,” Gagnon added.

Inz noted that the board had instructed EPU to deemphasize geography in order to achieve other forms of diversity on the committee. But Gagnon’s concerns were quickly picked up and echoed by others on the board, who noted District 5 — the area of South Minneapolis around Lake Nokomis — was overrepresented.

Ultimately, only one name was dropped from the slate originally proposed by EPU. During the recess, the consultant swapped in Miller for special education teacher and District 5 resident James Thomas, who was moved to the alternate list.

The board members seemed to agree that — even with more than 150 applicants for the committee — finding a perfectly diverse and balanced slate was impossible.

“I’m really looking forward to learning from these people and working with them collectively to find the best possible superintendent for our district,” Inz said.


Barton to celebrate 100 years

Barton Open School is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an April 16 community event.

Barton opened in the fall of 1915, and the K–8 school marked the centennial in November when students and staff formed a giant “100” and posed for a photo on the playground. The celebration continues this spring with an event they’re calling “Making Barton Beautiful: 100 projects in 100 minutes.”

The school is inviting both current families and alumni to the event, as well as friends, neighbors and supporters of the school. During a 3 p.m.–5 p.m. open house, visitors can view 100 different classroom projects created by current Barton students and a slideshow on the school’s history.

A brief program scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. will include remarks from State Rep. (and Barton parent) Frank Hornstein, Principal Jonas Beugen and former principal Steve DeLapp, who retired in 2012 as the district’s longest-tenured principal, having spent two decades at Barton. There will be a performance by the school’s Uppers Choir and several kindergarteners are expected to share their hopes and dreams for the future of Barton.


Planting trees for Earth Day

A local organization aims to give away 10,000 free trees to students in celebration of Earth Day on April 22.

When Fulton neighborhood resident Vikas Narula founded Neighborhood Forest in 2010, he had three goals: raising environmental awareness among students, beautifying Minneapolis neighborhoods and making a small impact on the amount of planet-warming carbon in the atmosphere by planting trees. The program has since expanded to schools outside the city, connecting with an estimated 20,000 children.

Participating schools in Minneapolis include Kenwood, Dowling, Lake Harriet, Bancroft, Burroughs, Windom, Whittier, Kenny, Seward and Northeast Middle School. Parents at those schools can go to to sign up their children for free trees during the giveaway. The website also includes information on how to register a school with the program.