From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Teachers cut through test-day tension with a power ballad parody

Posted by: Shannon Prather Updated: April 17, 2014 - 11:25 AM

Standardized testing can stress out the littlest students all the way to the most seasoned teachers.

A group of teachers in Mounds View Public Schools decided to shake loose some of those nerves with an original power ballad and accompanying music video that’s become an Internet sensation.

The fifth grade teachers at Turtle Lake Elementary in Shoreview wrote and released “Let it Go” a testing parody with some impressive vocals and inspired, if not frenzied, interpretative dance moves. The video starts with the backpacked teachers disembarking a school bus in front of the school in a snow storm.

“I’ve learned so much this year. It’s like a swirling storm inside, I can’t keep it in. It’s time to shine,” one teacher sings.  “...Let it go. I will let my knowledge show.”

The four-minute video has had 130,000 views on YouTube and other sites, according to a district spokesman. It’s also generated plenty of giggles as teachers across the country have shown it to students to cut through the nerves on testing day.

"Teachers are getting responses from all around the country and even beyond," said district spokesman Colin Sokolowski. "Teachers around the globe are finding it, sharing it and saying 'thank you' to our teachers. They get an A+ for creativity and we're thrilled their work is appreciated by so many."

Inver Grove Heights district to interview six superintendent candidates

Posted by: Erin Adler Updated: April 17, 2014 - 10:43 AM

The Inver Grove Heights district has selected six candidates to interview for the position of superintendent, a position currently held by Deirdre Wells. Wells, who has been superintendent for nine years, will step down at the end of June.

The candidates chosen for the first round will be interviewed next Tuesday and Thursday by the school board and an advisory committee, according to Ken LaCroix, the consultant managing the search.

They are:

John Bezek, Assistant Superintendent, Shakopee Public Schools
Jeffrey McGonical, Associate Superintendent, Anoka-Hennepin School District
Gregory Winter, Superintendent, Braham School District
Dave Bernhardson, Assistant Superintendent, South Washington County Schools
Teri Anne Staloch, Assistant Superintendent, Osseo Area Schools
James Lentz, Superintendent, Pipestone Area Schools

Between April 30 and May 2, the top two or three candidates will be invited back to meet with staff and community groups, tour the district's schools and have a second interview with the board.

The Inver Grove Heights district has 10 schools and enrolls 3,900 students.

LaCroix is a longtime superintendent search consult in the Twin Cities.

No criminal charges to be filed in St. Louis Park school drowning, boy's family says

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: April 11, 2014 - 3:54 PM

No criminal charges will be filed in the death of Abdullahi Charif, the 12-year-old boy who drowned Feb. 27 in a St. Louis Park Middle School swimming pool.

Charif's family issued a statement that said they were very upset to learn Thursday that no criminal charges would be filed in the case, which was investigated by the school district and the St. Louis Park Police Department. The case was reviewed by the Hennepin County attorney's office.

"This decision has been made despite the fact that no one has yet explained how Abdullahi was able to sink to the bottom of the deep end of the pool and drown without being detected by those responsible for his safety," according to the statement released by the family's attorney.

The family has said that Charif did not know how to swim.

They are asking for anyone with information about the incident to contact attorneys Fred Pritzker or Eric Hageman at 612-338-0202.

U, TFA seek state's first alt licensing OK

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: April 11, 2014 - 1:33 PM

Teach for America and the University of Minnesota are in a race with the calendar to win state approval for the first alternative teacher licensing program in the state before its scheduled start in June.

The Minnesota Board of Teaching got its first look at the proposal submitted by the university to train teachers over two years for TFA, mostly while they’re already teaching students.

The proposal has been controversial among some students and staff at the university, who say it undercuts traditional teaching programs. But proponents say it actually gives TFA corps members more upfront supervised time in classrooms—under an experienced teacher—than the current five-week TFA program to train teachers before they get their own classrooms.

Chair John Bellingham said state staff will make every effort to get the matter on the board’s May 9  agenda, in time for the scheduled June 2 start of the university program, but that depends in part on outside academic reviewers who will review and comment on the proposal application.

The 2011 Legislature authorized alternative programs. The board last year balked over continuing blanket waivers from full licensing it had previously given TFA corps members, and required them to apply individually.

Deborah Dillon, a university professor specializing in curriculum and instruction, called the board’s questions on the proposal constructive.  The 30-credit program plans a June 2 start, assuming board and final internal university approval, but the academic portion doesn’t begin until mid-June.  “We’re feeling respectfully nervous about having it be processed in a timely fashion,” she said.          

Youth coaches to talk character at "Why We Play" workshop

Posted by: Shannon Prather Updated: April 11, 2014 - 6:52 AM

Sometimes it can be one of the hardest lessons learned in competition for both parents and kids.

More than 100 youth coaches and parent boosters will meet on Monday night to talk about good character in competition at the “Why We Play” workshop.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District is hosting the free workshop from 5:45 to 9 p.m.. on Monday at the Coon Rapids High School auditorium, 2340 Northdale Blvd. NW., Coon Rapids.

The district is teaming up with the Anoka-Hennepin Education Foundation and the Minnesota State High School League to organize the event. Presenters will discuss the importance of responding to mistakes positively and defining success by more than the numbers on the scoreboard.

“Youth coaches have the unique opportunity to teach, shape and impact students positively. They may not realize it now, but these coaches are influential well into the future,” said Anoka-Hennepin Schools Associate Superintendent Jeff McGonigal. “Character is developed throughout a child’s life and the experiences that children have early in their extracurricular and academic career are critical. Students develop physical and mental skills that prepare them for conflicts and teamwork when competing in high school sports and later in life.”

Coaches may register to attend online through Anoka-Hennepin Community Education at



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