North High School will die and then be born again

Categories: Education

Thumbnail image for BernadeiaJohnson.jpg
Bernadeia Johnson wants North High closed, sort of.
Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson took a lot of heat recently for announcing that North High School had to close its doors.

The move outraged North Side parents, who saw it as just another kick in the gut for an already embattled neighborhood.

Elsewhere around the city there was a silent nodding heads, because North High is a shadow of its former self, and its enrollment was circling the drain.

The local NAACP chapter was so irate it encouraged Minneapolis parents to abandon the public school system altogether.

Now, there may be a compromise.

After public hearings in which parents and alumni pleaded with administrators and school board members, Johnson has announced that while she still wants the original North High to close, she's open to a new version of the school in the near future.

"This is not about whether the superintendent, school board, alumni or community members support schools in north Minneapolis. I can say without hesitation that we all do," she said at a press conference. "This issue is much deeper than a debate over charter schools or enrollment numbers. This is about guaranteeing Minneapolis families that no matter where you live or what your income is or what your background is, your child will get the same educational opportunities as other students. Being able to get into a high quality school should not be like winning the lottery."

The plan she's advancing would have this year's freshmen be the last class out the door in 2014.

Next year's rising ninth graders who live in north Minneapolis would have the opportunity to enroll in Patrick Henry or Edison High Schools. In addition, they could also enroll in the new Minneapolis College Preparatory School, currently under negotiation to be housed at Lincoln. The MCP school model, which is closely modeled after the Chicago‐based Nobel Network, has a strong national reputation for effectively preparing students for college. Almost 90 percent of Noble students graduate and are accepted to college. After a year of planning and designing, students starting ninth grade in 2010 would have the opportunity to choose the new North High School program in addition to their other options.

The board meets next Tuesday to consider the plan. Here's the full text of Johnson's statement:

Press Conference: New North High plan (11-4-10) Superintendent Johnson's statement to the press

Thank you for coming.

I want to begin my statement by acknowledging the passion and commitment that families and community members have expressed over the past few weeks concerning my recommendation to phase out North High School. I have listened to their thoughts for and against my recommendation and will continue to respect and accept the feedback.

I still plan to bring a recommendation to the Board of Education on November 9th that phases out the existing North High program. This means that if the recommendation is approved, the school would not enroll a ninth grade class next school year. Students who are currently attending North High would be allowed to complete their high school years at North High unless enrollment in those grades dips to an unacceptable level.

I want to be clear - I stand firm on my recommendation to phase out the current North program. The current program does not provide the full breadth of courses and activities that are available in other high schools in Minneapolis, offerings that I believe are essential to produce students who are college and work-ready. I can no longer accept the fact that some Minneapolis students are receiving less preparation and less education than others. When I accepted this job, I promised that I would work to lead change and dramatically narrow the achievement gap between white students and students of color. The current program does not deliver on that promise.

I believe it is important for everyone to understand the context of this complicated issue. This is not about whether the superintendent, school board, alumni or community members support schools in north Minneapolis. I can say without hesitation that we all do. This issue is much deeper than a debate over charter schools or enrollment numbers. This is about guaranteeing Minneapolis families that no matter where you live or what your income is or what your background is, your child will get the same educational opportunities as other students. Being able to get into a high quality school should not be like winning the lottery. This is about delivering excellence in education regardless of geography.

So why are you here today? I asked you to come to this press conference to give you new information pertaining to my recommendation.

After much deliberation and feedback, I announce today that my administration will work in partnership with school and community stakeholders to create a new North High School program. We plan to launch the new program in the fall of 2012. I propose that the administration and community work collaboratively to design a successful and sought-after educational program for North High.

We will need several months, possibly up to a year, to develop and finalize the design for a high-quality school that truly reflects the needs of the community and is in the best interest of students.

I am pleased to say that rising ninth graders who live in north Minneapolis will have a strong high school option next school year. They will have the opportunity to enroll in the new Minneapolis College Preparatory School that will be housed at Lincoln. This school model, which is closely modeled after the Chicago-based Noble Network, has a strong national reputation for effectively preparing students for college. Almost 90 percent of Noble students graduate and are accepted to college.

After a year of planning and designing, rising ninth graders will have the opportunity to choose North High school again. Having MCP and the new North in place will give families two high-quality choices for high school.

The design team will consist of a cross section of stakeholders including alumni, teachers, city and county officials, businesses and students. These individuals will be asked to advise the design process and serve as liaisons between MPS and the broader north Minneapolis community.

After establishing the design team, we will hold a series of discussions with the north side community that brings together diverse perspectives in the creation of the new North. We envision a school that all of us are proud of and where any parent would want to enroll their child.
This will not be easy. We will need people to maintain their current passion for North. The most difficult work begins now. We must build a new school based on research and best practices. We must also recruit a strong, proven principal and equip that leader with a talented and dedicated instructional staff.

I am pleased to announce that the design team will be led by Mark Bonine, Associate Superintendent for Zone1/Area A (north Minneapolis). Mr. Bonine has been a strong north side principal who knows the community and understands the issues facing the students and families.

More details about the design team and community discussions will emerge in the weeks ahead. As superintendent, I count on the ongoing enthusiasm, dedication and intellectual horsepower of many individuals to help us open a new North for our students in 2012.



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