South, Southwest parents criticize Minneapolis Public Schools 5-year plan, process

Chris Rigert seemed to embody the sense of frustration and exhaustion that characterized the Minneapolis Public Schools Area C meeting on the district’s new Five-Year Enrollment Plan. Rigert, who serves on the district’s Parent Advisory Council, said it seems as though the district officials rolling out the plan are “all new” employees, and have not been around long enough to know how many new initiatives and changes parents in the district have been subjected to.

Another parent, Scott Bordon, echoed this sentiment by saying that “we are where we are now” because of poor planning on the district’s part. Speaking during the meeting’s question and answer session, Bordon asked the district to concentrate on “right sizing our classes, buildings, and attendance areas” rather than spend money on new programs and buildings.

About 200 parents and community members packed in to the Ramsey Middle School cafeteria in Minneapolis to listen to Cecilia Saddler, Associate Superintendent for south and southwest Minneapolis schools in Area C, explain the district’s latest initiative, which is designed to address an expected increase in student enrollment.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Sadler reviewed some of the highlights of the plan, which was introduced in a presentation to the school board on September 24. Following this, attendees participated in small group discussions and a final question and response segment.

Some parents expressed support for the difficulties facing the district, in terms of fluctuating enrollment numbers and the desire to offer competitive school choices to all, but all who spoke publicly during the evening had questions or criticism about the district’s plans.

Many parents in attendance were from the Hale/Field dual campus schools, and they immediately pressed the district to settle a rumor: would Hale/Field students, under this new five-year plan, be routed to Roosevelt High School, rather than Washburn? Apparently, an earlier version of the proposed Five-Year plan made reference to this as an option, causing many in the community to become alarmed at the thought of losing their pathway to Washburn. Saddler assured these parents that sending Field students to Roosevelt would not be part of the final recommendations the school board will consider in November.

Another point of contention for many was the proposed creation of a new audition-only performing arts high school, to be placed at the Wilder Elementary School building in south Minneapolis. Parents who spoke during a question and answer session asked why the district would start a new high school, when three out of the seven high schools in existence—Roosevelt, Edison, and North—are currently under-utilized. One parent suggested locating the proposed arts high school in one of these buildings, rather than spending the money on the Wilder building.

Additional listening sessions are scheduled for:

Area A / Zone 1 from 6-8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 14, at Northeast (955 Hayes St. NE)

Area A / Zone 1 from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Lucy Laney (3333 Penn Ave. N.)

Related stories: 

• South, Southwest parents criticize Minneapolis Public Schools 5-year plan, process

• Parents not thrilled with Minneapolis Public Schools five-year enrollment plan meeting

• Northeast Minneapolis parents offer praise and questions for MPS Five-Year Enrollment Plan

• Angry parents challenge Minneapolis Public School plan to move Marcy Open

Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.

  • One of the questions which remains unanswered is, "why an arts high school now?". We have continually pulled funding from arts and music across the district in the elementary schools and middle schools. Some elementary schools have almost no offerings, some pay for them through PTAs or grants and others offer limited programs. If not for the hard work of music teachers who often teach at multiple schools we would have even less to offer. So why not fund our students when they are young so they have options in high school and then fund music at the high schools we have? Where is the push coming from for a new performing arts school and how big is the need? And aren't we part of the cooperative Perpich School? Isn't that an option? If there is a need, how big is it and how much is it going to cost? We constantly hear we want to keep students in the district. Should we focus on the schools we have, improving them and keeping programs going, and funding successful projects/teachers/communities or start fresh, or do both? Would love to hear from the district on this issue. - by Blaire Hartley on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 3:32pm
  • The district really needs to stop hiring young people with very little knowledge of what it takes to run a school, let alone a district. I would love to seem some stability in this district. There are only a handful of people left who have any memory of what has been done in the past. Also, the superintendent should be let go, she has only added more chaos, and has hastened the selling off of our schools to charter interests. - by on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 5:19pm
  • Did anyone notice that Barton would go to Wilder, Ramsey to Barton and Ramsey would become an extension of the Washburn High School Campus? That sets Wilder up to become a mega school--not in anyway a community school. Another mega school is being proposed for Zone 1-Cityview. These factories would have several schools including the Emerson Spanish Immersion school (much like what St. Paul) - by Peg Thomas on Thu, 10/17/2013 - 9:52pm
  • Hey Sarah, Chris Rigert here. Thanks for the great article. Really good job! I also wanted to clarify, that I previously served as the DPAC co chair, but do not currently serve. Probably doesn't matter, but I wanted you to know. Thanks again, Chris - by Christine Yueill Rigert on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 7:39am
  • In addition to the criticisms noted above, parents did voice support for the district's plan for an addition at Southwest High School and a 6-12 dual campus idea at Ramsey/Washburn. - by Lora Aadalen Joshi on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 8:39am
  • Thanks for this report. What was the response to the suggestion about putting the art hs in an existing building? Why does the district feel a need to an "audition only" high school? - by Joe Nathan on Sun, 10/13/2013 - 9:07pm

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Sarah Lahm

Sarah Lahm (sarah dot lahm at gmail dot com) is a writer, blogger, and former English Instructor. She has children in the Minneapolis Public Schools and volunteers for ACT for Education.


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We can do better

Thank you for the article. I don’t believe the problems we have today are mainly because of poor planning by MPS administrators.  What I said is we are where we are today because of the people in the room—because of parents of privilege were and continue to be afraid that our public school district may make a change that will “disrupt” that privilege. I said that we in that room are not outside the system. That system we have in MPS is one that we helped to create. We all need to examine the role our “choices” have on the system—to acknowledge our role in protecting privilege, in perpetuating inequity, in creating the system we have today. And then we need to change.

Scott, the broader nuance of

Scott, the broader nuance of your comments at the Area C meeting were hard to capture in a shorter article. However, I would encourage you to more fully express your ideas via the Community Voices segment here at the Daily Planet. That way, your points about privilege and fears of disruption, etc., could be better explained, with specific examples and a more authentic representation of your ideas. Submitting a Community Voices piece is a great way for people to share their thoughts directly with others. I hope you will consider doing so!