NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | PEN Promotes Northeast Schools

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Public Education Northeast or PEN was established in 2004  by Jill Davis,  Dean DeGroot and Marcia Thomas when the Minneapolis School District threatened to close Waite Park School.

After the decision was made to keep Waite Park open,  PEN continued on as an organization and has now  become known as group of supporters of Northeast Minneapolis Public Schools. The schools supported included Waite Park, Pillsbury, Sheridan, Northeast Middle School, Edison, and Marcy (75% of the kids who attend live in NE).

In years past, Northeast Schools have traditionally been ignored by the Minneapolis School District and only recently have they been better represented on the school board. Now with two board Members from NE elected to the school board: Jill Davis and Jenny Arneson, Northeast public schools may get a fairer shake.

PEN’s mission according to Jenn Bennington, who sends out the E-Digest for the group  is basically one of public relations and fundraising.  PEN currently meets five times  a year and everyone is welcome to attend the meetings.   Representatives from the 5 schools meet to plan quarterly fundraisers to help pay for advertising in the Northeaster and The Downtown Journal for upcoming events. Three of the meetings plan the Northeast Showcase that is held each November. This spring, PEN will be working on the Schools’ Spring Carnivals, a silent auction at Waite Park and the Notheast Parade.

The E-Digest sent out biweekly by Jenn Bennington has a distribution list of 300 and is used to promote what is happening at the schools and to show the district how much the community is supporting them.  Bennington said that there are good things happening in the schools and the community and the District needs to hear about it.

One of PEN’s accomplishments has been to get all the NE schools involved in the Northeast parade.  Bennington said that it was a real important accomplishment.

“Everyone goes to that parades,” she said.  And for people to see all the kids and parents who are involved and that enthusiasm for their schools makes others reconsider school options for their kids. 

Another major event is the annual Northeast Showcase held last November at Edison High School. The Showcase highlights the Northeast Schools to parents who are looking for schools for their kids.

PEN’s dedication to promote NE schools will help the neighborhood grow stronger as well. 

“Schools are unifying places,” Bennington said. “It’s where you meet your neighbors and work together to make your neighborhood strong. “

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