St. Paul teachers build parent engagement, trust through home visits

Since beginning with seven teachers in 2010, the St. Paul Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project has grown to include teachers at more than 40 schools and 150 families during the school year just ending. Teachers working in the St. Paul School District will end on a positive note that not only students, but also countless parents can attest to. The program officially launched in 2010, when Nick Faber, then a science teacher at John A. Johnson Elementary learned about a home visit program taking place in Sacramento.  Then there were 11 states participating. Now, there are several districts in 15 states carrying out the initiative — St. Continue Reading

Minneapolis school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson tackles less-publicized issues in first 2013 Soup with the Supe

What’s an average day like in the shoes of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson? At the February 4 Soup with the Supe event at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, about 150 people learned that Johnson juggles meetings and school visits day-to-day. They also told the superintendent about their issues and experiences with Minneapolis Public Schools over a light dinner of soup, sandwiches and cookies. A handful of translators and a fluid passing of the mic to anyone wanting to speak made for an inviting and successful conversation.One parent, Al Flowers raised concerns about re-iterating the importance of black culture in classrooms as well as the aftermath of the recent racial incident at Washburn High School. Due to MPS student confidentiality policies, Flowers didn’t gain much information about how students involved in the incident were punished.Johnson suggested bringing in influential community members to speak to students about black history and their experiences. A Jefferson Elementary teacher raised concerns about problems connected to homeless and highly mobile students. In this teacher’s classroom there are two problems — an unbalanced student-teacher ratio with 32 first graders; in addition, 10 percent of the entire school’s homeless and highly mobile population is in her classroom. Continue Reading

Minnesota gun owners speak out against new assault weapons ban, restrictive legislation

President Obama’s February 4 visit to North Minneapolis and the legislative hearings beginning February 5 in the Minnesota legislature both put the focus on proposals to tighten controls on guns — whether by restricting who can buy guns or types of guns and ammunition that can be sold. We caught up with three gun owners via phone and email interviews: student Andrew McLain; Craig Burris, instructor and owner of Tactical Training Solutions and Danielle Lockwood, creator of the Change.org petition against the Minnesota Assault Weapons Ban and the Facebook group MN Gun Owners Against HF241. They shared with us their perspectives on how proposed legislation will impact them as well as their opposition to an assault weapons ban.1) What are your opinions on national gun control laws/ Minnesota gun control issues in general?Craig Burris: There’s a lot of regulation in place that is duplicate in nature. We have a process here; if you want to purchase a firearm you need a permit to purchase or a permit to carry, which is essential a background check. When you go to purchase a firearm the dealer runs another background check on you.Danielle Lockwood: Gun violence is not the root of the problem, violence is. Continue Reading

What’s going on at the “new” North High: Small classes, emphasis on arts and communication

In fall 2012, North High School in Minneapolis kicked off a revitalization effort that effectively separated “old North” from the incoming class of 2016. The freshmen enrolled in the new North Academy of Arts and Communications, which is structured as a small learning community. Having just completed the first semester of NAAC, Principal Shawn Harris-Berry says things are looking up.“Students have bought into the program,” she said. “They’re true Polars and they’re performing very well academically.”Dr. Harris-Berry’s new office is located on the second floor of Minneapolis North High, right in between the freshman classrooms. Normally, she’d be in the corner of the administration office.  However, now that North Community High School operates as one school with two separate academies (Senior Academy and the Academy of Arts & Communications), that office space belongs to Senior Academy principal David Branch. Harris-Berry prefers it this way. Continue Reading

Penn Gas Stop joins Appetite for Change Healthy Corner Store Project in North Minneapolis

If you look closely between the two ‘No Trespassing’ signs on the outside of Penn Gas Stop, an improved addition is advertised on another sign — fresh produce. As a part of the Healthy Corner Store Project, the station located on the corner of Penn and 26th Avenue N. in Minneapois has just ramped up its supply of healthy “grab and go” options.“We wanted to do this for a long time and I just think we needed a little push, “ said store manager Fouad Bazzine. “There was an incentive too, because most people ask for fruits and vegetables all the time anyway.”Penn Gas Stop is one of more than a dozen corner stores in North Minneapolis taking part in the project, which kicked off January 4 at this location. The Minneapolis based Appetite for Change program, the City of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support and the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition teamed up to create the initiative, which encourages healthy eating in communities with minimal access to healthy foods.“Now we have things that we haven’t had before. It’s like a store. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Kevin Hart turns up the heat at Target Center

Almost midway through his 57-minute comedy set Kevin Hart pleaded, “Don’t judge me, let me explain.” It was an appropriate suggestion, as the three latter words are also the title of his tour. On December 21 at Target Center a familiar, bubbly and extra-funny Hart took the stage. Thankfully—unlike one of the opening acts—Hart skipped over the cliché cold weather icebreaker jokes and instead turned up the heat with a laser and pyro grand entrance accompanied by rapper Meek Mill’s song “I’m a Boss.”Before unleashing his quirky still manly personality he promised to rev up “pointless fire” throughout the show. Why? Because Jay-Z and Kanye West had it at theirs. Continue Reading

New Minneapolis school board member Tracine Asberry focuses on transparency, group effort

In early July, when newly elected Minneapolis schoolboard member Tracine Asberry found out she’d be running unopposed in District 6,, she was elated to get a head start on contributing to schools and communities. Her district had been the most competitive, with four candidates in the running. After Asberry received an endorsement from the DFL, the other three dropped out.“It was tough,” Asberry said of the campaign. “Running unopposed after that was a beautiful thing.” Since she did not have to campaign against other candidates for her seat on the school board, she had time to work to defeat Voter ID and the Minnesota Marriage amendments, and to work for other candidates during the campaign. Asberry plans to be transparent and vocal. “A lot of things are code: the acronyms, the jargon,” she explains. Continue Reading

AchieveMpls celebrates 10 years

Wes Moore, author (The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates) and youth advocate delivered the keynote speech at AchieveMpls tenth annual Education Partners Luncheon on November 16. Attendees included educators, school board members, students from Best Academy and Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who also spoke briefly.”Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” she said in an introductory video. “We’re here to make sure our students’ futures are tailored to success.”Patrick Henry High School senior and AchieveMpls student Antonique Martin reeled in the crowd with her personal story about family struggle. She named AchieveMpls as the main reason she’ll be attending Grambling State University next fall.Moore talked about his own story, recalling that he was once a troublesome teen, the catalyst for his mother sending him to military school.”There I finally found myself surrounded by people, role models and mentors who helped me understand that we lived in a big, beautiful world and I had a place in it,” he said.”Family and education matter,” Moore said, “but there’s one overall thing: expectations matter.”Moore spoke about inclusion of all students, especially those involved in the criminal justice system. His advice to adults and leaders in education was to create outlets for all students and deem every one as capable of achieving. Continue Reading

Minneapolis school board forum highlights differences

The final Minneapolis school board forum focused on the two contested races: incumbent Carla Bates, and Doug Mann, who are running for the at-large seat and Josh Reimnitz and Patty Wycoff, both running for District 4. Teacher tenure, diversity, and the school budget were among the topics at issue in the October 25 debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis and held at Jefferson Community School.Although they were introduced to the audience, candidates Kim Ellison (District 2) and Tracine Asberry (District 6) were excused from the panel as they were running unopposed.Moderator and LWVM member Mary Fisher thanked the audience for their enthusiastic participation, and asked candidates questions posed by the audience. The questions focused on past experience with students who live in poverty, alternative teacher licensing programs, dealings with multimillion dollar budgets and helping parents speak out.“We need to have community forums that aren’t technically controlled by the school district. In forums like these, audience participation is restricted, “ said Mann in regards to encouraging parent involvement.He would prefer brief introductions and an open conversation with community members. Both Wycoff and Mann said several family and teacher meet-ups should take place throughout the year in order for parents to better understand the transparency of school and district program offerings.The Minneapolis School Board currently disperses $750 million. Continue Reading