UPDATED: Mpls school change plan details, meetings tonight

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District administration for Minneapolis Public Schools is considering major citywide changes in magnet and community school locations, high school program offerings, and bus routes. To view the presentation that will be made at February 12 community meetings click here.

Writing in the Minneapolis Public School Parents Forum, Rob Panning furnishes details of the proposed changes and problems he sees with the proposals:

The district staff heard the presentation on the options for restructuring this afternoon (Wednesday) at a meeting at Sullivan. The proposal includes three options for elementary (includes middle schools) and two options for high schools. I strongly encourage parents to attend the meetings on Thursday and upcoming School Board meetings.

As others have pointed out, the School Board is expected to act on this in about two months. This timeline is stunning when you learn how little information has been collected or considered by those who crafted the proposals.

MPS set up three meetings, all for this Thursday evening, in different locations (below.)

A number of parents protested that this time conflicts with activities in their children’s schools. According to posting on the MPS Parents Forum, district officials will also be present and take feedback on the plans at the Area A meeting on the 19th.

Community Meeting:
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

North Commons Rec Center, 1801 James Ave N

St. Maron’s Church, 600 University Ave NE
Presented in English and Hmong

Sullivan Community School, 3100 E 28th St
Presented in English, Spanish and Somali

The MPS announcement said that the presentation will be the same at all locations, and that parents may call to reserve a spot for childcare or for more information — 612-668-0230.

The three elementary scenarios were as follows: 1) Make them all community schools. Exceptions for citywide special education, ELL, and culturally specific programs.

2) Community schools with fewer citywide magnets, all of which would be located in a central zone. “Demagnetized” schools could choose to retain the program focus as a school theme.

3) Community schools with zoned magnets. Reduce the number of magnets, divide the city into 2, 3, or 4 zones, and put magnets in each zone. Students would go to their community school or a magnet in their zone.

The two high schools scenarios are: 1) Make them all community schools. All students attend their neighborhood school. All schools would offer what they call the “Core 4:” I.B., A.P., Signature career and tech ed., and C.I.S.

2) Citywide high school choice. All schools would offer the “Core 4,” with some “specialty” programs offered such as Summatech and All Nations. Students would have a choice of high school, but those “over-selected” schools would be filled by a lottery. The bussing would have new limitations.

Both of the high school options seem to spell the end of the Liberal Arts and Open programs at South. Both of these are very popular and I in many ways “successful” programs. Why should every school have I.B.? It is not a magic bullet.

Staff members present were asked to give “feedback” on the pros and cons of each proposal. This was almost impossible to do in any meaningful way given the lack of details. They had no information to present on things like dollars saved by each plan, the level of segregation created by each plan, the effects on currently “successful” schools, the effect on families currently enrolled in magnet schools, the effects on families who currently have a child in a school and have a sibling coming into the system in the next few years, and many more.

The real kicker for me was when it became clear that there was no conversation with those who actually manage the buses! When someone from transportation at the meeting presented a number of difficult problems created by the various plans, the presenters not only gave no answers, but it seemed clear that the district had not considered the issues raised. How do you present a plan that centers around transportation, having failed to include the bus drivers and managers of transportation?!

It seems the District is once again rushing to action without having a real conversation with those affected. With all of the unanswered questions and lack of data, there is no way to justify voting on a change in two months. I hope the parents can talk some sense into District leadership. They stopped listening to the teachers years ago.

Rob Panning-Miller

South High Teacher, Barton Parent, and former Teacher Union President

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