Tag Archives: Community Partnership Schools

Minneapolis Southwest High School Investigation Leads to Administrative Shake Up

August 2, 2017

“We look forward to appointing these new assistant principals as quickly as possible.”

With that, Minneapolis Public Schools administrator, Cecillia Saddler, confirmed rumors swirling through the district’s Southwest High School community: when school starts up again in August, the school will be without three of its four administrators. In an email sent to parents and staff on August 1, Saddler informed them that assistant principals Sue Mortensen and Brian Nutter are “leaving the Southwest community.” 

This notice comes on the heels of the surprise July 28 announcement that Southwest’s longtime (and high profile) principal, Bill Smith, is retiring–a year earlier than most people expected. Mortensen, according to Saddler’s email, is also retiring while Nutter–a young, Roosevelt High School graduate–has been moved to an administrative role in the district’s Davis Center headquarters. 

Bill Smith in his Southwest office

This news sent shock waves through the community, leaving parents and staff to wonder what has caused all three of these administrators to suddenly exit the school. Only Tara Fitzgerald, an assistant principal new to both Southwest and the administrative tasks of a large high school, will be returning to the school this fall. Saddler’s email gives no indication what, if anything, has caused Smith and Mortensen to suddenly retire, and Nutter to be moved elsewhere.

It is known, however, that an internal investigation has taken place at the school, although MPS officials have yet to share this information with the community. It is believed that the investigation began in 2015, before current superintendent, Ed Graff, took the helm. The fallout from the investigation appears to have included this last-minute administrative shake up at Southwest, a high school that consistently ranks high for both academics and community support.

On July 31, Southwest staff and parents gathered for an impromptu meeting to discuss the loss of the school’s administrative team. Among the concerns outlined by supporters was the level of upheaval this is expected to cause for the school and its students, as the August 28 start date rises on the calendar. Letting go of Smith and Mortensen seemed inevitable for those gathered, yet a desire to bring Nutter back to the school was expressed. He had been given the key tasks of managing both the school’s budget (which is buoyed by a private school-like foundation, in the face of shrinking district dollars) and schedules. And he has been instrumental, some said, in building relationships with students.

The fact that Nutter was responsible for these fundamental aspects of running a large high school led many to believe that he was being tapped to take over for Smith upon his eventual retirement. Why, then, is he being moved from the school?

Anyone looking for answers in Saddler’s email will be left wanting. Also, parents and staff seeking protection from district decision-making via the school’s “autonomous,” Community Partnership School status have thus far been disappointed. One parent assumed that the school, thanks to its carefully crafted, independent “by-laws,” would be able to now choose its own administrative team.

Not so fast, she was told. Those Community Partnership School by-laws are not valid unless they’ve been ratified by the district, and they haven’t. The Community Partnership School ballyhoo appears to have been a flash in the pan, anyway, as many expected. It was a project of previous interim Superintendent Michael Goar and former teachers union boss, Lynn Nordgren. Both are gone, and the “self-governed” Community Partnership School agreement they put in place just a few years ago–selling it as the solution to the achievement gap, of course–is on its way out. (SeeAll That Glitters: Top Down Change in MPS.“)

Saddler’s email does make it clear, however, that the community will be invited to help select replacement assistant principals in the next few weeks, although any final hiring decisions will remain in Superintendent Graff’s hands. Whether or not the reappointment of Brian Nutter is possible remains to be seen.

Southwest consistently ranks as one of Minnesota’s most successful high schools, based on its relatively high four-year graduation rates (hovering at or above the 80 percent mark for most student groups), its strong IB program and the amount of high level course offerings available. The school is whiter and wealthier than any other Minneapolis public high school (just over fifty percent of students are white), and sits in one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods. Still, it draws students from across the city and remains a school of choice for many–as evidenced by the looming, suburban style expansion the school recently underwent. (A contentious expansion at that!)

Smith is known throughout the district for being a non-stop booster of the school and is famous for showing up at countless events dressed in the school’s purple and white colors. He has an inside baseball reputation for being a tough administrator who has successfully stood between the district and the school for years (my 2014 interview with him regarding Focused Instruction, another short-lived district initiative, was telling). 

The IB approach tends to be more application, or outcome focused, where Focused Instruction is more of a skill set that promotes a right or wrong answer. Both methods are standards-based, but those of us who practice IB believe it is a holistic approach to living and learning. IB practitioners are interested in self-mindedness and collaboration.

–Bill Smith on his preference for the IB method

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No Art, No Counselor: Budget Concerns Follow Goar’s Exit From Minneapolis

May 13, 2016

At the Tuesday, May 10, Minneapolis school board meeting, interim superintendent, Michael Goar, received something of a hero’s farewell from several board members, along with a handful of parents and community members. Board member Don Samuels, for example, praised Goar for many things, including his negotiating skills with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT), which resulted in “unprecedented concessions” from the union.

It is not clear which concessions Samuels was referring to, but they probably have something to do with the still-nebulous “Community Partnership Schools” plan that Goar and MFT president, Lynn Nordgren, agreed to during 2014 negotiations. More principal power over “hiring and firing” of staff is a key aspect of this “autonomous/accountable” school model. (The academic freedoms supposedly associated with these schools don’t make sense in a district flush with a diversity of school models, from magnets to IB and beyond.)

Coincidentally, or not, the day after the May 10 board meeting, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article about the slippery budget practices that have gone on during Goar’s time as district CEO and interim superintendent. The gist of the article is that MPS has a “$15 to $17 million budget deficit” this year, in part due to the practice of purposefully cooking the books ahead of time–by willfully underestimating costs for known expenses–to make the budget look better. (Goar has faced budget-related issues in previous school district jobs.)

This issue was actually presented at the June, 2015 school board meeting, when board members first approved the 2015-2016 budget, while also agreeing to an emergency addition to plug the gaping $17 million hole within it.

Red flags also flew up in February, 2016, when an audit of MPS’s finances revealed the shifty budgeting practices that local media outlets are only now covering, months later. (This audit was discussed at the February 9 school board meeting, just after Goar withdrew his name from consideration for the superintendent position.)

The multimillion dollar budget discrepancy for this year could be attributed to any number of things, such as:

  • The sudden addition of an extended school day this year, at district middle and high schools, with no apparent planning for what this would cost.
  • Community Partnership Schools (CPS). How are these schools being funded? What additional monies are being given to the four CPS sites? It is not clear, partially because the funding formula (called “student-based allocations”) used for these sites is different than the one applied to every other district school. A Minneapolis parent requested the formula months ago and has yet to see it.
  • Ongoing patterns of mysterious budgeting, as when, in 2015, Goar publicly announced he was “right-sizing” the Davis Center, by cutting staff, only to hire many of them back, under different job descriptions. Positions were also pushed off onto schools, which were required to absorb the cost of jobs previously included in the Davis Center budget. 
  • The auditor presenting information at the February 9 board  meeting raised–ever so politely–questions about the board and district’s budget processes, noting that there did not seem to be an accurate “paper trail” attached to district requests for additional spending.

The good news is current district CFO, Ibrahima Diop, seems unwilling to continue on with shady budget practices, telling the Star Tribune that he “did not know why the previous financial staff crafted the budget in such a manner, but he and his staff members, who are almost all new to the district, have committed to budget expenses accurately.”

In the meantime, some Minneapolis schools are finding it difficult to navigate the capricious spending priorities of the Davis Center. At the May 10 board meeting, Field Middle School parent Darren Selberg described the painful choices confronting Field this year, as it struggles to absorb what parents say is a new, district-imposed program for special education students, without additional district resources.

“As I understand it,” Selberg later said, “the budget was essentially flat but Field is now required to add a program that eats up $100,000. so other cuts were needed. The choices were to fully cut a language arts class, which is part of the core curriculum. The most viable option–if it can be considered that–was to cut art completely, a Media Tech position, and the school counselor.”

Selberg has daughters in fifth and seventh grade at Field and is especially concerned about losing the school’s counselor. “My fifth grader’s classmate has been subjected to bullying most of the year from a group of boys. She’s a little quirky and has some behavior issues herself, so the bullying has been difficult,” Selberg noted. He says the child had further trouble coping at school, and even attempted suicide while at Field. Thankfully, Selberg reports, the counselor was able to help the girl access potentially life-saving outside resources.

“My concern without a counselor is how much time staff may have to spend dealing with these issues that they’re not trained for, nor have time for, when they should be teaching their subject.  Additionally, with the behavior issues around the district, who will implement whatever plans they put forth?”

In June, Goar will leave the Minneapolis schools for a new job, and the school board will be tasked with final approval of the 2016-2017 budget. Whether or not that budget will include a counselor for Field Middle School remains to be seen.

No grant, no guru, no outside funding source. My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated!

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Dysfunction Junction: Innovation in the Minneapolis Schools

April 13, 2016

Last night, two new Minneapolis schools—Southwest High School and the downtown FAIR School–became district-sponsored Community Partnership Schools (CPS), after winning approval from the school board. At last! Becoming a CPS site means these two schools can operate as “innovative, site-based educational models that utilize increased autonomy, accountability and partnerships to meet the unique needs of their school communities and accelerate student achievement.” according to MPS’s website.

But…both Southwest and FAIR already are, or claim to be, built around “innovative, site-based educational models.” Southwest has been an IB school since I was a student there, in the dark ages of the 20th century, and FAIR’s website describes the school this way: 

The FAIR School is the result of imaginative educational conception, inventive curriculum planning, and innovative architectural design.

So why would these two already innovative schools want–or need–to also become CPS sites? Besides the half-promise that Community Partnership Schools will be allowed “charter-like freedom” in hiring and firing decisions (an idea that seemed to be dispelled at last night’s school board meeting), what is the benefit?

Let’s admit it: the Minneapolis Public Schools is full of mixed messages. On the one hand, the district pays for a fancy Office of New Schools, where lucky teachers and parents got to take a grant-funded trip to Los Angeles (in March, no less!) to see what innovative, creative schools look like up close (maybe they had to go to L.A. because the Office of New Schools has tried and failed to adequately implement “innovative” schools here already). If they liked what they saw–and who wouldn’t, when you’re going to LA on someone else’s dime–they could come back and “replicate” the innovation in their own Minneapolis school, as long as the school agreed to become a Community Partnership School.

But, on the other hand, many Minneapolis schools are already being given beautiful levels of autonomy, without having to become a CPS site, or taking a trip to LA. Check this video out, from the newly reopened, redesigned Webster Elementary School, in northeast Minneapolis:

From the video, it sounds like principal Ginger Davis Kranz simply had a great idea: “let’s build community at our school through family-style dining,” and was allowed to…try it, without having to become a CPS site. Genius. (And probably part of a comprehensive effort to attract and retain organized downtown Minneapolis families, who tend to be whiter and wealthier than most.)

So, why can’t every school in Minneapolis do this? Why can’t principals, teachers and staff come up with ideas on their own, and try them out? Why are some schools in Minneapolis granted “autonomy”–as they should be–while others struggle under mangled mandates that depress spirits (and keep test scores and morale low, undoubtedly)?

Why does Minneapolis promote “focused instruction” out of one side of the Davis Center, while simultaneously fawning over the idea that empowered, innovative schools are the key to success? Focused instruction, if you will recall, is MPS’s awkwardly implemented, standardized approach to “transforming educational outcomes” by putting test scores and standards first, and then creating instructional strategies that “align” with those tests and standards.

MPS FI

Click to enlarge

Even with focused instruction, MPS understands that not all of its schools are the same. Here is a picture from the district’s internal website, advising school staff to find which type of school they work in, and then go from there:

Presumably, then, innovation, school choice and autonomy already exist in the district. If magnet schools–which Minneapolis has had since the 1970’s–are not already the “unit of change,” then why aren’t they? If they have not already been granted the “autonomy” to do their own thing, according to the professional judgment of school staff and the input of families, then why would becoming a CPS site change this? What makes CPS a guaranteed approach, while magnet status does not? 

And Webster Elementary is neither a magnet school nor a CPS site. It just sounds like a forward-thinking, well designed rebuilt public school that has been encouraged to lead with developmentally appropriate, professionally conceived strategies. 

Why can’t all Minneapolis schools be allowed to operate like this? Why is focused instruction a “non-negotiable” for some sites, as former superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said in 2013, while other schools are encouraged to become dream-driven, flexibly arranged sites?

It’s hard to see how CPS sites will eradicate decades of uneven leadership, mishandled initiatives and unequal levels of trust, in terms of who is allowed to act innovatively, and who is not, and at what cost. But I can’t blame FAIR and Southwest for trying.

No grant, no guru, no outside funding source. My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated!

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MinnPost Piece on Minneapolis School Reform: PR or Not?

March 23, 2016

They say you better listen to the voice of reason/ But they don’t give you any choice ’cause they think that it’s treason /So you had better do as you are told

–Elvis Costello,Radio Radio

The local Bush Foundation funds education coverage at MinnPost, which bills itself as a site for “non-partisan…high quality journalism” about Minnesota. The Bush Foundation also funds MN Comeback, a privately run education reform outpost of the national group, Education Cities. (Additionally, Kayla Yang-Best, the Bush Foundation’s Education Director, sits on the Board of Directors of MN Comeback.)

MN Comeback, in turn, funds the Minneapolis Public Schools’s “innovative” new approach to school reform, called Community Partnership Schools (CPS).  Therefore, anyone who has read MinnPost education writer Erin Hinrich’s positive March 22 review of the CPS model should bear in mind that the Bush Foundation is paying for both the CPS strategy and media coverage of it.

Let’s be clear: This is PR work, not “high quality journalism.” 

I mean no disrespect to Hinrichs, who may be unaware of the reformy minefield she has stepped into at MinnPost, nor can she be expected to singularly answer for questions such as these, posed by Bill Moyers at a 2015 journalism award ceremony: 

What happens to a society fed a diet of rushed, re-purposed, thinly reported “content?” Or “branded content” that is really merchandising — propaganda — posing as journalism?

Hinrichs’s March 22 story about the Community Partnership Schools concept sits only on the surface of this ideal-sounding education reform strategy, and seems to swallow whole the idea that CPS sites are truly about empowering individual teachers and schools to do what they think best for their students. 

One tenet of CPS sites and their host “portfolio” districts

If only. CPS sites are supposed to take on more “accountability” (test scores) in exchange for “greater autonomy.” This concept is shrouded in the fog of education reform jargon, such as buckets (which buckets can schools fill by themselves? which will be filled by the district?), stakeholders, units of change and so on.  What is missing is even a basic analysis of the agenda behind the concept.

There must be a reason, after all, that “autonomous” schools, like CPS sites, are so beloved and happily funded by the capital-soaked arbiters of education and economic policy, in Minnesota and beyond. We can’t find money for more school counselors or mental health support in our schools and our communities, yet MN Comeback is sitting on a $35 million nest egg, just waiting to fund–through private grants–their own pet reform projects, like CPS.

This should raise red flags for anyone tracking the movement of the CPS model through the Minneapolis schools. What, truly, are we–as taxpayers, residents, and parents, students, and staff–being asked to forfeit, in exchange for a crumb of greater “autonomy”? 

…no peer-reviewed studies of portfolio districts exist, meaning that no reliable empirical evidence about portfolio effects is available that supports either the implementation or rejection of the portfolio district reform model. Nor is such evidence likely to be forthcoming. Even advocates acknowledge the enormous difficulty of designing credible empirical studies to determine how the portfolio approach affects student achievement and other outcomes.

–Education Policy Professor Kenneth J. Saltman, 2010

No foundation grant here! My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated.

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Top Down Change in Minneapolis, Part 2: When they look up, it will all be in place

Minneapolis’ Nellie Stone Johnson school, a high poverty K-8 site in north Minneapolis, was named after a pioneering African-American woman who had a “long and distinguished record of public service in support of the advancement of minority concerns.” Johnson was in fact a labor activist and the first “Black person elected to citywide office” in Minneapolis. 

But, will the school named after her survive a bout of “autonomy”?

On Tuesday, April 14, the Minneapolis school board will vote on whether or not to allow Nellie Stone Johnson (NSJ) school to become one of four “autonomous” district schools in the city. This is being pushed forward under the Community Partnership Schools (CPS)  concept, which the district and the Minneapolis teachers union agreed to embrace during 2014 contract negotiations. (The CPS model is intended to pair district schools with outside partners, as the schools are given more “freedom” in how they structure their days and hire staff members, etc.) 

In the fall of 2014, Nellie Stone Johnson school had a new principal and a mostly new staff, after a few years of leadership change and the loss of some experienced teachers. The school also had a new relationship with a nearby community organization called the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), which is run by Sondra Samuels, wife of current Minneapolis school board member Don Samuels. NAZ won a federal “Promise Neighborhood” grant in 2011, worth $28 million. (It is important to note that this five-year grant is set to expire in 2016, or before the three-year “trial” period would be up for NSJ’s experiment with autonomy, should it become a CPS site.)

All of this “newness” is making it harder to document the community’s involvement in the push to turn Nellie Stone Johnson into a “partnership” school, which would further connect it to its proposed partner, NAZ. If this goes through, NAZ’s “scholar coaches” would be placed in classrooms throughout the school, as support staff.

In fact, behind the scenes and under the cover of anonymity–which seems to be the only way to puncture the “Come on get happy!” promise of these partnership schools–employees with inside knowledge of Nellie Stone Johnson are speaking out and raising questions.

Yesterday, I published a post that included excerpts from a NSJ staff member, who has sent an emailed list of concerns to school board members. The email included this blunt statement:

“This movement was forced from the district down. From a Union meeting I attended at NSJ, it should have come from the community up. It did not.”

These assertions are backed up by recent conversations I have had with other people from the school, including another employee who isn’t satisfied with the plan to “autonomize” NSJ:

  • People at NSJ “don’t seem to understand the concept” of the Community Partnership School model
  • The presentation to families about converting to a CPS site was “not professional” or thorough, and included leading questions, such as: “Do you want your children to go to a better school?”
  • The budget for next year is uncertain for NSJ, as it will depend on how many students actually show up at the school (because of MPS’ requirement that all CPS sites also pilot a new “student-based” funding model).
  • “A lot of positions at the school have been cut,” and people were told it was due to seniority. But, this employee is suspicious of that because of the proposed partnership with NAZ and their “scholar coaches,” who will be paid half of what the district pays associate educators to work at the school. 
  • The whole NAZ connection is worrisome. The organization’s presence at Nellie Stone Johnson has been growing since last year, leading to the impression that the “whole partnership thing has been in the works for a while.” Still, this employee maintains, “Nobody can explain what NAZ’s role is in the building.”
  • Another concern: there is no engaged, informed parent body at Nellie Stone Johnson (the principal herself made this clear at a fall 2014 staff meeting, when she introduced the CPS model). “Parents don’t really know” what CPS is about. This employee’s fear? “When they look up, everything’s going to be in place, and they (parents) won’t have a say in it.”
  • Final question on this employee’s mind: “Is CPS a pretty package with an empty box inside?”

The tricky thing is, if NSJ becomes a partnership school, it won’t really have autonomy, as in, independence. Instead, it will be bound to the same accelerated, test-based “accountability” guidelines laid out by the district’s new strategic plan, Accelerate 2020. (I believe this is what former MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson used to call “bonded autonomy.”)

Nagging questions: What happens if Nellie Stone Johnson becomes a Community Partnership School but can’t meet the “accelerated” pressure from MPS to boost student test scores? What are the consequences of “failing” at autonomy? 

Reflection time: Why might MPS be pursuing this? Is it because Minneapolis became a “portfolio district” back in 2010, under the guidance of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE)? The CRPE was started by Paul Hill, and is built around a market-based reform model of school choice (autonomous, independent schools as far as the eye can see).

Here is a video of Hill describing the portfolio district concept, in which he states, among other things, that “diversity is a problem that districts have to solve in new ways,” that the purpose of schools is to serve the economy, and that “collective bargaining agreements further constrain schools.” It also says that districts should be “seekers of the best schools for children, no matter who runs them” (This starts with “flexibility” in hiring practices, and requests for deviation from the union contract–kind of odd for a school named after a labor activist….)

Inline image 1This is the language of the market-based, privatization movement for public schools (privatization=independent, non-public entities managing public schools and public money). And this is the guiding light and structural framework for the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Community Partnership School model. 

Don’t believe me? Just watch.

(Side note: The union may have signed off on this for a variety of reasons, including a documented preference for alternative school models, such as the “Site-Governed Schools” concept it helped bring to MPS in 2009. To date, however, there has been only one site-governed school in Minneapolis, Pierre Bottineau French Immersion. This school will cease to operate as an independent school this fall, after just a few rocky years in existence.)

Danger! More autonomy straight ahead

Today I got a notice from Pinterest in my email. It’s tagline goes like this: “Boring living room? How to liven things up.” 

Immediately, it struck me as an apt parallel to the attempt to introduce “Community Partnership Schools” into the Minneapolis Public Schools. (I am imagining a behind-closed-doors PowerPoint pitch that went something like this: “Boring public school system? How to liven things up with autonomous schools!”)

The PR promise of the school district’s community partnership plans drips from the MPS website–“Community Partnership Schools are collaborative, innovative, site-based, educational models that meet the unique needs of their students, accelerate learning, and prepare them for college and careers”–but will it be able to deliver on this promise?

The concept for this new model of public school was cemented during 2014 negotiations between MPS and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. The idea was that school communities could choose to become “partnership” schools, and become more autonomous, in exchange for “greater accountability.” 

These schools are supposed to be designed with lots of community input (meaning actual parents, teachers, maybe even some students) and fresh ideas (just like the Pinterest email) for how a newly liberated, autonomous school will be able to quickly boost student achievement.

That mostly means test scores, in the parlance of MPS’ new strategic plan, Acceleration 2020 (buckle up, kids), which is calling for all schools–autonomous or not–to produce large gains in student test scores:

  • 5% annual increase in number of students meeting or exceeding state standards on standardized reading & math tests
  • 8% annual increase in the number of “low performers” who meet or exceed state standards in reading and math

So, the district sets the overall standardized test-based targets for each school (this may be the “bonded” part of autonomous schools that former Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson used to talk about), and the Community Partnership Schools get to…innovate on their way to achieving those goals, while other schools do not? I am not entirely clear on the promise and premise of this new way to jazz things up in MPS, or why a school would have to become “autonomous” just to do what it thinks is best for its students and staff.

How does one “unlock innovation”?

Also, MPS already has an “autonomous” school model in place, which the teachers’ union brought to the table, back in 2009-2010, after getting legislation passed allowing for “Site-Governed Schools.” The language surrounding the purpose of Site-Governed Schools is almost exactly the same as that being used now for Community Partnership Schools, and focuses on greater “flexibility” for these schools in several areas, such as how budgets are spent, what curriculum models are used, and who works at the schools. 

Since the Site-Governed Schools law went into effect more than five years ago, MPS has–or had, rather–just one such school: Pierre Bottineau French Academy (the school will no longer exist next year, as I understand it, and will instead be absorbed into Cityview Elementary School). The story of Pierre Bottineau, which started with the glow of community-led innovation, is a troubling one, and calls into question MPS’ ability to carry out such autonomous schools that have been “freed” from district-created shackles. (I did a whole series about Pierre Bottineau for the Twin Cities Daily Planet last year; the articles can be found here.)

MPS’ “Office of New Schools” was originally tasked with running the Site-Governed Schools and bringing greater autonomy, as well as market-driven choice and competition, into the district, under the guidance of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (MPS–like Memphis and New Orleans–is one of the Center for Reinventing Public Ed’s “portfolio districts).

In fact, the Office of New Schools was created within MPS when the last strategic plan–written by McKinsey and Company consultants back in 2007–promised to bring accelerated success and greater flexibility and freedom to the district. Since then, the Office of New Schools has had at least five directors–most of which have had a charter school background but little else in the way of public education experience. Today, it is being run by 2009 Rice University graduate Betsy Ohrn, who is a TFA alum and now serves on the board of directors at Venture Academy (a “blended learning” charter school in Minneapolis) with Jon Bacal, who was the first director of the Office of New Schools.

These days, the Office of New Schools has been tasked with implementing MPS” latest push to bring “innovation” into the district, as it has been overseeing the Community Partnership Schools application process. So far, the first round of contenders for this more autonomous (I must remember to get that word accurately defined) school model are:

  • Ramsey Middle School (which, by the school’s own admission, already enjoys a fair amount of autonomy)
  • Bancroft Elementary School (which would like to go further in its mission to become an IB school)
  • Folwell Arts Magnet (also would like to go further with its magnet school mission)
  • Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School, which is currently a K-8 school in north Minneapolis, but will become a K-5 next year.

All four of these schools–should the Minneapolis school board allow them to become partnership schools at the board’s April 14 meeting–will also be expected to pilot MPS’ new, more autonomous and decentralized funding model, called “Student-Based Allocations.” (This topic requires its own separate blog post). Why should they have to become Community Partnership Schools and try out a new funding model at the same time? Good question.

Ironically, or perhaps, forebodingly, the Office of New Schools was rated MPS’ least effective department by district principals very recently. Just 22% of MPS principals–who are slated to become the “entrepreneurial” leaders of their schools, as the district tries to become more decentralized–identified the Office of New Schools as satisfactory; in contrast, the English Language Learner department was considered the most useful, according to 79% of principals.

If the Office of New Schools could not effectively manage the one site-governed, autonomous school it has authorized, and today’s principals do not consider it an effective department, how will it handle implementing the Community Partnership School model?

And how will any of this serve the district’s most vulnerable students and schools, who are perhaps in need of more support and less autonomy?

Could it be…?