February 18, 2009 • 7:00 am
(Originally published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, 2/18/09)
Faced with a growing – and seemingly permanent – gap between revenues and finances, Minneapolis Public Schools is organizing meetings where parents and teachers are invited to give input into the district’s future. It’s not news that school politics and policy in the Twin Cities are less transparent than a brick wall, with precious few people trying to shed light on the goings-on in either district. But not everyone at one of Thursday night’s three community meetings was convinced MPS is trying to shed its old, top-down, bureaucratic ways as it looks to reorganize and shrink the number of elementary, middle, and high schools, and the complicated and expensive busing system.
“Community engagement is just an obligation for the district to fulfill,” said community activist and Ramsey Fine Arts Center parent Ralph Crowder, who was disappointed that the Northside meeting did not include a broader discussion of why poor students and students of color were not succeeding in the school system.
“People have a lot of suspicion that the community opinion might not sway what happens,” said David Allen, a contractor who works with the district’s Student Placement Center. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Minneapolis, Achievement Gap, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Kate Towle, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Public Schools, Restructuring, Shameless Self-Promotion
February 13, 2009 • 9:25 am
I spent yesterday evening at one of MPS’ community meetings on the Northside (see previous post), about re-structuring the numbers and types of schools, as well as the current busing system, in order to close a growing structural deficit in district finances, caused by declining enrollment. District officials there seemed honest and earnest, but I think the best quotes of the night may belong to activist Ralph Crowder:
“Community Engagement is nothing but an obligation the district has to fulfill.”
…and to a Henry High parent whose name I think I forgot to write down:
“It was advertised well to people who’re really involved in the schools, but not to the average, working-class parent.” (there were around 30 people there, I counted 4 members of the District Parent Advisory Council, a voluntary organization of parent leaders)
All of the various options participants were asked to discuss were extremely short on data — what kinds of cost savings would they generate, how the district would ensure all schools were good schools if the district went over to all-neighborhood schools, etc. Moreover, in the process outlined by Deputy Superintendent Bernadiea Johnson, this is one small part– there are a lot of other parts of the bureaucracy that will have input, and the School Board will be presented with one plan by the administration by March 24th.
Kate Towle, a big-time parent activist I spoke with yesterday before the meeting summed up her feelings: “There’s going to be a big push nationally for more autonomous schools, and more direct community involvement. It just remains to be seen what way [the district bureaucracy] is going to fall apart.”
More details to come in tomorrow’s Daily Planet…
Filed under: Minneapolis, Achievement Gap, Education, Education Funding, Education Reform, Governance, Kate Towle, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Ralph Crowder