A Minneapolis school board member apologized Wednesday for how she worded comments regarding Southwest students while she argued at a board meeting last week against expanding the school.
"Building how many more classrooms for high school, when 50 percent, when the most important kids we want to invest in aren't there," Carla Bates said in part, prompting some pushback from Southwest parents.
"I went back to my statement and went, 'wow.!" Bates said after issuing a statement clarifying her intent. She said she apologized because she didn't want the reaction to how she made her point to undermine the legitimacy of her arguments against the expansion proposal.
"I don't want to become a lightning rod for, "see, the district really doesn't like Southwest'" Bates said in an interview.
"I first of all want to assure everyone that I am a strong advocate for all our children in all parts of the city," she said.
Southwest, which has the smallest share of low-income students among the district's seven big high schools, leads those schools in graduation rate, ACT scores, and going on to college. The school enrolled a count of 1,662 students, and district administrators proposed a 450-student addition to the school at an very preliminary estimated cost of $47 million. Some parents also have questioned that approach to handling an expected enrollment bulge in southwest Minneapolis
Bates argued that investment in added school space doesn't make sense when so much learning is shifting online. She also argued that Washburn is a more appropriate site for an addition because of its more central location and the size of the campus it shares with Ramsey Middle School. And she suggested that improvements at Roosevelt High School, which have yet to show up in the district's statistical measures of performance, will draw more students there. "I think Roosevelt is poised to become one of the best schools in the city," she said. That might require redrawing the Washburn-Southwest boundary, she added in an interview, but they could be phased in.
Bates cited several factors in an interview that make her optimistic about Roosevelt;good leadership, engaged staff, a strong IB with diverse composition.
"I think that putting $40 million at Southwest is looking backward instead of looking forward," Bates said at the board meeting. "I'm very concerned, very very very concerned, about the Southwest proposal because of the money, because of the location of the school, because of how secondary [school] is changing." .
The scoreboard that accompanies the new athletic field that debuted at Washburn High School a year ago is now operational.
The new scoreboard was in place for Friday's homecoming football game against Roosevelt, won 62-6 by the home team, but was actually lit up for its first use the night before in Washburn's soccer matches against Southwest.
Using the long-anticipated scoreboard puts a punctuation mark on a painful chapter in the school's past year, when the scoreboard played a contributing role in the ouster of a principal and an athletic director.
The board was originally to be much bigger than the one pictured above and installed outside the north end of the stadium. But when neighbors objected to the cutting of trees for its installation, the city discovered that the district hadn't obtained the necessary municipal approvals.and ruled the original proposal too tall under city zoning rules.
That got Athletic Director Dan Pratt in hot water, and when some of the student body got wind that he was being reassigned to teaching full time, they rebelled with a walkout and a sit-in. That in turn led to Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson's reassignment of Principal Carol Markham-Cousins.
She remains with the district overseeing the small school operating within the Juvenile Detention Center. Pratt left over the summer to head ahtletics and activities for Rockford schools. The district's hand-picked replacement for Washburn principal, Patrick Exner, never got to serve in that role after an allegation that he participated in changing student test answers surfaced at Ubah Academy, his previous school. He denied doing so, but Exner is no longer with Minneapolis schools, the district said Friday.
Four public meetings divided by sector of the city have been scheduled by the Minneapolis school district on a proposal by district planners to shuffle programs and schools for about one-quarter of district students to handle rising enrollment.
The meetings are scheduled for these areas and the prooposal potentially affects certain schools in each sector:
North portion of Area A: Tuesday, 6-8 p.m., Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Av. S. Cityview, Franklin, Lincoln, Olson, North and Sheridan schools, plus Davis Center.
Northeast portion of Area A: Oct. 14, 6-8 p.m., Northeast Middle School, 955 Hayes Av. NE, Same schools.
Area B (eastern portion of South Side plus part of southeast Minneapolis): Oct. 10, 6-8 p.m., Northrop school, 4315 31st Av. S. Cooper, Hiawatha, Howe, Sanford, Seward, and Wilder schools.
Area C (western half of South Side plus downtown): Oct. 9, 6-8 p.m., Ramsey Middle School, 1 W. 49th St. Barton, Burroughs, Hale, Kenny, Lake Harriet, Ramsey, Southwest, Washburn and Wilder schools.
Also up for discussion at the meetings are potential city-wide impact changes affecting Longfellow, North, Roosevelt, Sulivan, Tuttle, Webster, Wilder and 2225 E. Lake St.
More information about the proposal discussed Tuesday evening is available through the district.
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