Two Minneapolis high schools head for 'fresh starts'by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Washburn High, near Minnehaha Creek and I-35W, and Edison High, in Northeast Minneapolis, are going to get a ''fresh start'' for the next school year.
Minneapolis, Minn. — District officials announced the changes Thursday evening.
The district's plan means the entire staff could be replaced at the schools. Two of seven high schools in the city, each school has about 1,200 students.
It's a radical turn for the district.
The announcement of the makeovers come just a week after the school board finalized its new nine-point strategic plan.
That plan calls for closing the racial achievement gap, narrowing a multi-million dollar budget gap and making four out of five graduates ready for college.
Chief Academic Officer Bernadeia Johnson said the school board felt the need to follow up their planning with quick action.
''We realized we needed to really accelerate our work with these particular schools before the next school year,'' Johnson said.
The school principals, Carol Markham-Cousins, Washburn, and Carla Steinbach, Edison, will be staying on.
As part of the fresh start, the schools will also offer more arts classes and the highly regarded International Baccalaureate program, as well as additional academic counseling and two weeks of additional training for the new staffs.
The makeovers are the 8th and 9th in the district since 1996.
Some, like those at two North Side elementary schools, this year have been required under the federal No Child Left Behind education act.
The overhauls have sparked unrest among parents and staff.
A ''fresh start'' at Benjamin Banneker Elementary in 2002 drew scores of angry parents and prompted a revision of the initial overhaul plan.
The most recent makeovers at Nellie Stone Johnson and Lucy Laney schools prompted an angry response from the head of the Minneapolis teachers union.
Robert Panning-Miller said they were an effort by the district to blame teachers for the schools' problems.
Johnson, the Chief Academic Officer, didn't make that connection on Thursday.
''Everybody knows what works,'' she said. ''I think we have been maybe not as systematic with some of the supports we have been giving students and our schools, so we believe this is an opportunity to be quite clear about the needs of our students and the schools and allocate resources in that way.''
She said that overhauls are one of a number of approaches district officials plan to take with the lowest-performing 25 percent of schools in the city.