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Urban League Academy wins one-year reprieve

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: April 8, 2014 - 9:32 PM

The worst-performing alternative school under contract to Minneapolis schools for completing the education of students who have failed elsewhere will get only one year to show it can improve despite a show of force for a longer trial period.

Numerous board members and supporters of the Urban League Academy urged the board to give them three years to meet new district-devised accountability standard for alternative schools. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson originally recommended that the contract be terminated, but changed that to one year.

The board defeated on a 5-4 vote a proposal to give the school a two-year contract. Voting for two years were Tracine Asberry, Carla Bates, Kim Ellison and Mohamud Noor, who proposed the longer term. Voting against two years were Jenny Arneson, Rebecca Gagnon, Richard Mammen, Alberto Monserrate and Josh Reimnitz.

The board's debate centered on the reasonableness of expecting improvement in one year and whether the district is providing sufficient assistance in making those improvements.

Johnson stood up for her staff's recommendation. She argued that alternative schools got their contracts because years ago, "They said, 'We can do it better than you can...When I get someone to do a contract for me, I don't expect to do the work with them."

"This is not the first time we've had a performance conversation with the Urban League," she added.

Urban League representatives argued that they get students who have attended multiple schools and have accumulated few credits late in their high school careers.  But other alternative schools that serve similar students show better results.

Publisher and league board member Al McFarlane pressed the board for a three-year contract with reasonable conditions built in.  Any length contract would be subject to cancelation, the board was told by General Counsel Steve Liss.

The decision came as the board has professed a desire to increase accountability throughout the district. But board member Tracine Asberry was critical that the standards of accountability are directed more outwardly at such schools than at the district's own schools.

All but one of the other alternative schools, which is expected to convert to a charter, were recommended for two of three year contract extensions.

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