Edison High School’s new principal, Carla Steinbach, said she has many aspirations for the Northeast school.
“My hope is to make this a school where the kids from the community want to come,” she said. “I want to have a waiting list.”
Although this year’s enrollment is about the same as it was last year, between 1,200 and 1,300 students, she said that Edison has an image problem. “There is a perception that the school isn’t safe.”
Steinbach, who has been on the job since July, refutes that, but also has plans to tighten school security. “We’ll be checking ID’s, watching how people come in and go out, tightening up hallways [so kids aren’t wandering halls], paying attention to who’s tardy, who’s in the building after school.”
She is starting the new year with a new administrative team that includes four assistant principals–Latonya Daniels, Jerry Pedersen, Michael Bradley, and Matthew Bouche–and two deans. Steinbach and the assistant principals will be spending more time in the classrooms, she added, while the deans “work with the discipline piece.”
Steinbach said, “I want to know what students are learning. I want to know if they know what quality work is. I’m there to be supportive. I want to help teachers look at students. I might pick up something about a kid that a teacher hasn’t. I’m a believer in modeling what I expect from the staff. There are certain things I look for in a teacher. I use a rubric [set of established rules] and give feedback.”
The week before school started, she said she was facing staffing problems, with a few positions still open. Steinbach said two things caused that: All of Edison’s probationary teachers from last year were let go, and some other teachers failed to obtain the licenses they needed to teach in Edison’s SLC (small learning communities). “Between those two things, probably 17 positions opened up. Then teachers got realigned and bumped. Some of our teachers were assigned elsewhere, but I was able to get some of them back.”
She said one of the first things she did on her new job was to study the data, including test scores and demographics, on Edison’s students. The racial mix at the school, she said, is 2 percent Native American, 10 percent Asian, 20 percent Latino, 13 percent white, 20 percent African and 36 percent African American.
“The biggest challenge I see is that some kids coming in are not proficient enough in the skills they need to move on. It’s not just an elementary or middle school problem, it’s a K-12 problem. Maybe at this school some students have more challenging home lives; their needs may not be met at home. That includes their medical needs and mental health needs.”
The school has attempted to address some students’ needs. For years, Edison has had a mini-medical clinic, and is part of a mental health collaboration, with a therapist on site.
Steinbach said the administrative team is looking at current systems in the building. “Our theme and focus is quality, rigorous instruction and staff development for teachers and support staff. We will nurture connections with colleges and the community.”
She said she worked at Northeast Middle School when former Edison principal Larry Lucio was the principal there. “He was big on teaming and getting teachers to work together, and so am I. Because I was a teacher for 12 years I know how a team should function. I’m a collaborator. Some decisions I have to make because I’m the principal, but I’m a situational leader. I’m not totally top down. I believe in teacher leadership.”
She said Edison has many AP (Advanced Placement) classes, including English literature and composition, U.S. history; government; macro economics; chemistry; biology; calculus; statistics; art studio; two-dimensional, three-dimensional and digital art; and Spanish. She would like to add more, she said. “We need to build it up and promote it more. AP is just as rigorous as IB (International Baccalaureate).” (IB is an international academic curriculum, used in Minneapolis schools such as Patrick Henry High School and, soon, Northeast Middle School.)
Edison has a “College in the school” program, through the University of Minnesota, for 9th and 10th graders, and a Voyager program, which provides students with mentors. After two years without a band director, the school got its former director back: Scott Erickson (Steinbach calls him “our new and improved band director”) will direct the high school band and also teach a section of music. The school still has no choir director. Students produce the school yearbook in a graphic design class taught by Mark Rizzardi, who also recently resurrected a small version of the high school newspaper (which has been defunct for about five years).
Steinbach said one of the staff members has agreed to be in charge of the drama program, but added, “we have to get our auditorium back up to speed.” She said she plans to go to the district for help on that project.
Gary Kociemba, principal of Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis, said he worked with Steinbach at Northeast Middle School. At the time, Kociemba was the assistant principal and Steinbach was a teacher.
“She’s absolutely a terrific principal and a terrific person. She’s genuine, honest, sincere and very hard working. She’ll do an absolutely fantastic job at Edison,” he said. “I think she’ll be a real nice fit there; she’s always upbeat and very optimistic. She takes a proactive approach to whatever is going on at the school.”
Steinbach, who comes from Fremont, Wisconsin (outside Green Bay), has a master’s degree from St. Thomas University in curriculum and instruction and is an education specialist. “I haven’t launched into the doctorate program yet,” she added.
She has been with Minneapolis Public Schools for 22 years. “I started as a reserve teacher at Edison and North High. My first job was as a social studies teacher at Southwest High School. I was low on seniority, though, and got bumped from Southwest. I was placed at Northeast Middle School and was there for 12 years.”
She was appointed assistant principal at Folwell Middle School in North Minneapolis, and was principal there for 10 years before coming full circle, back to Edison.
So far, she said, her experience at Edison has been very good. “When I came here, the students were so warm and welcoming. They’d see me walking down the hall and they’d come up and introduce themselves to me.”
For information on Edison High School, call 668-1300 or check the school district’s website, mpls.k12.mn.us. Edison’s 85th Anniversary All Class Reunion is Thursday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Sept. 30. For information, call Dick Anderson, 612-788-9771 or 612-788-3991.