Minneapolis North High grads want Summatech back

“They drown-proofed us repeatedly.”For Minneapolis North High School graduate Dr. Ronda Chakolis, learning how not to drown in deep water, literally, was an important part of the North High magnet program, called Summatech, that she attended. Chakolis remembers being taken to the pool at nearby Franklin Middle School and getting tipped over in a canoe, in an exercise designed to teach students to survive a potential drowning.In a less literal sense, Chakolis remembers her whole high school experience in the Summatech program as being about “drown-proofing.” Summatech, which was prominent at North High in the 1980s and ‘90s, was built around a hands-on math, science, and technology curriculum. For Chakolis, who was always interested in these subjects, attending Summatech also meant learning not to drown by being immersed in the real-world coursework of scientists and academics, and learning how to succeed.Dr. Rhonda Chakolis Today, Chakolis is a pharmacist in Minneapolis, and she is part of a group of Summatech graduates who would like to see the program restored to North High, as part of the school district’s Five-Year Enrollment Plan. For Chakolis, one key aspect of Summatech was the way the teachers, especially the three African American women in the program who were science teachers, taught science-based protocols to their students. For example, Chakolis says she was taught dissection, how to properly dispose of materials, and how to use chemical equations, which are the kind of practical skills and knowledge she still uses today in her work.  Peter Jirak Her fellow North High graduate, Peter Jirak, also vividly remembers his time in the Summatech program. 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

New North High School to open in 2012? Minneapolis schools take another look

Community members who’ve offered to help the Minneapolis Public Schools’ administration figure out a curriculum and facility that will attract enough students to stay open, stand by to be engaged. In a surprising twist, MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson announced November 4 that a new North High is a possibility.  While she is firm on phasing out North High School’s present program, and not accepting any new 9th graders, Johnosn said the MPS administration will work “in partnership with school and community stakeholders” for several months, “possibly up to a year” to “develop and finalize a design for a high quality school that truly reflects the needs of the community and is in the best interest of students.” The new school could open in fall 2012, though it might not be located at the current North campus.Speculation that the Minneapolis College Preparatory School (MCP) operated by Chicago-based Noble Network would locate at North High’s location (1500 James Ave. N.) ended with Johnson’s announcement that MPS is negotiating to house the charter at Lincoln (1100 Penn Ave. N.)Johnson said, “after a year of planning and designing, rising ninth graders will have the opportunity to choose North High School again. Continue Reading