Remember that scoreboard that was headed for Washburn High School before the resulting imbroglio led to the reassignment of both the principal and the athletic director?
Well, there are still plans to install it, but the job likely won’t happen until after the school’s planned Sept. 13 homecoming game. That would make the second straight homecoming without a permanent scoreboard since the school got a new artificial athletic field last year.
District officials met this week with about 20 school neighbors to preview the board’s design and placement in a meeting that made clear there are larger issues to be resolved to make neighbors happy.
The scoreboard was the least of their concerns. In fact, some seemed happy that the scoreboard will be about 10 feet shorter than the $140,000 version proposed last year before work was halted because the necessary permits hadn’t been pulled. It also will be shifted to the field’s south end.
Instead, neighbors focused on the noise and lights that spill over from an increasing number of events held on the field now that it has turf that can be used more intensively.
“I hear every referee, ever whistle, every sound,” said Washburn alum David Hilden. “Our house glows in the dark, and it’s a block away.” The field lights throw off the sleep patterns of children, he said. He said the money spent on the field should have been devoted to the school itself.
“Make Washburn a good academic school and parents will send their kids there,” he said.
Ryan Fisher, president of the Tangletown Neighborhood Association, said the school and neighborhood need to engage better, but the neighborhood will want some reasonable limits on field use.
There’s been a leadership void at the school, caused by the reassignment of former Principal Carol Markham-Cousins in April, and then the district’s misfire on the hiring of her intended successor, Patrick Exder. He was reassigned last week after four days on the job due to an allegation of test cheating at his former school. Assistant Principal Linda Conley has been put in charge temporarily.
The scoreboard issue blew up last August. A smaller scoreboard that previously served the athletic field was pulled out for installation of the ersatz grass. It stood in the field’s north end zone. The new scoreboard was too big to go in that space, potentially interfering with place kickers and player safety, the district said at the meeting. So the replacement was to go outside the north stadium fence, sitting on columns and standing a total of 37.5 feet tall.
That plan fell apart when neighbors blew the whistle. Angered that two trees planted to screen neighbors from the lights had been cut down for the support columns, neighbors complained to the city, which said the scoreboard did’t have the necessary approvals.
Cousins raised questions about not following the proper process, and when students later heard that Athletic Director Dan Pratt was in danger of losing that post, some of them walked out and later sat in to protest that. Pratt was reassigned back to teaching physical education full time, and left the district for a new administrative post with Rockford schools. Markham-Cousins was reassigned in April after the protests. The school still hasn't named an athletic director, said district official Dave Wicker.
Besides standing shorter, the new scoreboard will lack some of the ad and sponsor features of the original proposal, according to the district. The city wants input from residents on intensity of lighting and hours of operation, zoning administrator Steve Poor told the group.
Markus Lynn-Klimenko, another neighbor, said the new scoreboard was a far better design than the first proposal, but said the neighborhood concerns need to be heeded on an ongoing basis. “We are good neighbors and we’d like to have the school board treat us as good neighbors,” he said.
(This is a reposting of a story that originally appeare on Startribune.com on Aug. 8 before it was superceded by events.)
The principal search that yielded Patrick Exner as the only finalist for the top post at Washburn High School in Minneapolis was flawed by a late start, the school’s recent turmoil, a change in supervisor over the school and a lack of ambition in the search.
The district confirmed last Thursday that it assembled a pool of 23 applicants for the job, but forwarded only Exner to a school interview panel before he was appointed by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.
The appointment of Exner left the district in the embarrassing position of yanking Exner away from his duties in his second day on the job after a detailed anonymous e-mail accused him of testing misconduct last month at his previous job at a charter school. Critics questioned why the district didn’t catch the issue when it vetted Exner.
“I have questions of my own that I have to have answered, and I’m going to meet with the superintendent tomorrow to get them answered,” school board Chair Alberto Monserrate said.
The job Exner filled opened up in mid-April when Carol Markham-Cousins was reassigned after a turbulent year at Washburn that involved a doll-hanging incident, and a walkout and sit-in by some students involving the athletic director post.
“Starting in April is kinda late,” said Ken La Croix, a former Hastings superintendent who specializes in school administrator searches. That’s especially true for principals, he said. And it’s getting harder to find quality principals in big cities, Monserrate said, as the job gets more complicated.
Moreover, this year was an applicant’s market for principals, said Charlie Kyte, a former Northfield superintendent and director of the state school administrators group, who now aids searches. “There were quite a few principal openings, and I know that quite a few superintendents were scrambling” to fill them, Kyte said.
Add the turmoil at Washburn, where Markham-Cousins and her approach to academic equity caused divisions in parental ranks. “These candidates were saying, ‘Hmm, there’s been a lot of trouble there — fair or unfair — and they applied elsewhere,” Kyte said. He recalled asking one retired principal if he was interested in serving at Washburn on an interim basis. “He said, ‘No way in hell,’ ” Kyte said.
Even as the search unfolded, a key player was changing as Associate Superintendent Theresa Battle, responsible for southwest schools, returned to St. Paul schools, and an interim associate was named.
But the biggest factor in the minds of some parents was a district search for the principal that several characterized as not sufficiently ambitious. They point to the fact that the district didn’t even forward its first batch of applicants to a school-level interview, reposted the job, and still only forwarded one name to the school for an interview. That was Exner, whom the teacher-parent group recommended.
“I am surprised and dismayed that given four months only one candidate could be found to bring to the stakeholders group,” said parent Margaret Richardson. “I read from that that the search was either too hasty or it was not truly a nationwide search.”
“It’s a really sad process. It’s really hard to believe,” said another parent, Jeanne Massey, who felt that the school deserved a more ambitious national search.
District spokesman Stan Alleyne conceded that the school’s issues might have scared off applicants, but emphasized that starting late with the search was also significant.
Parents like Massey say that if Exner doesn’t return to the position after being placed on administrative leave while the allegations are investigated, the district should take a different tack. “What they need to do, regardless of the time it’s going to take, is to do the search the right way,” she said. “It’s really the leadership that matters here, and we need to find the right leadership for the long term.”
She means a national search. Searchers like Kyte and La Croix say they maintain a list of up-and-coming candidates and beat the bushes for more, instead waiting passively for applicants. Plus, they said, they know the right questions to ask to elicit the kind of revealing information about applicants that minimizes chances of a bad hire that would mar their reputations as well.
Massey said another search should be more proactive in letting the school tell its own story — that there were divisions under Markham-Cousins, that the situation has changed with her departure, and that the school is on an upward trend academically.
(Photos: above: Board Chair Alberto Monserrate; below: April walkout at Washburn)
Saying that most Minneapolis police officers conduct themselves appropriately when dealing with the public, Chief Janeé Harteau on Monday said she plans to examine the department's training and hiring practices after two incidents in which white officers allegedly used racial slurs and got into fights with black men while off duty.
In both cases, the officers were out late at bars when the fights happened, and in both cases the officers disrespected the local police officers who showed up to investigate. Five officers from the two incidents, one in Green Bay, Wis., and the other in Apple Valley, are under internal affairs review.
Harteau said she plans to convene her 'Chief's Citizen's Advisory Council' on Wednesday, with invitations to city faith and cultural leaders, as well as the police union, to talk about the issue. Many of the department's rank and file have been upset by the stories, she said.
"They are tired of the negative actions of a few that overshadow the great work they do every day," said Harteau. "Enough is enough."
Harteau said she wants to create a "culture of accountability" at the police department and that she's requiring all officers to say something if they see another officer acting inappropriately. "If you continue to be silent, you're part of the problem," she said Monday.
That Dinkytown bike-ped bypass that MPLS told you about last week is now open for wheeled and foot traffic.
You can catch the new route either at the east end of Bridge 9 just off the Mississippi River, or just off the intersection of Oak and 5th Streets SE. That's not far from the west end of the existing University Transitway.
Of course a new bike trail wouldn't be official without a few politicians proving they can ride bikes. So if you want to join them for the ceremonial opening, they're meeting at noon Sunday on the mall of the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. Meet at the corner of Carter and Eckles avenues. That's near the Transitway's east end. Other stops along the way are at 12:20 p.m. at Malcolm Avenue and 5th Street SE in Minneapolis, and at 12:45 p.m. at Oak and 5th.
If you don't like crowds, the new trail is lit so you can ride or walk it any hour.
The city is calling the new route the Dinkytown Greenway, but be forwarned that there's been no special planting along the route so far. There are some scrub trees along the path, but mostly it features views of parked railcars and idle tracks.
Steve Hankey drew lots of curious fellow bikers last year on Minneapolis streets as he hauled a covered bike trailer sprouting a pipe that extended up to his helmet level. Many assumed that he was photo mapping for Google.
Instead, the University of Minnesota graduate student was mapping one aspect of the city’s pollution—concentrations of particulates—with an eye toward improving the health of bike commuters and pedestrians, and potentially influencing public policy.
Although the health impacts of bike commuting are well documented, the downside can be increased exposure to a brew of pollutants, especially those from auto, truck and bus exhausts.
Hankey’s work could influence which routes bikers and walkers choose. Preliminary results found concentrations of particulates were about half again higher on the city’s arterial and collector streets than they were on off-street paths such as the Midtown Greenway. Moreover, those concentrations were almost twice as high in the morning rush hour as its evening twin.
Ultimately, he’ll use sophisticated statistical analysis and land use modeling to produce a block- by-block map that estimates particulate exposure across the city. He’s hoping to integrate that with online bike route finders, such as Cyclopath at the university, so that commuters have a choice of mapping the shortest route, the fastest or the healthiest.
The work could also be integrated into bike route planning, although representatives of two prominent organizations that site bike facilities say they first want to review Hankey’s work when it’s completed.
But it’s already influencing Hankey, who used to like to speed by snarled traffic on his bike, to pick less-traveled routes. His normal 100 weekly miles on a bike helped prep him for the demands of his fieldwork.
That involved repeatedly cycling three different routes that averaged close to 20 miles each, all while hauling more than 65 pounds of monitoring gear in the bike trailer. He sampled four types of particulate air pollution, including the finest particles that are associated with increased heart risk when inhaled. He accumulated more than 800 miles during his sampling runs.
The lesson of his studies isn’t that cycling is harmful. One Belgian study found the health benefits of cycling to average nine times the potential risk from higher inhalation of pollutants or accidents, when measured in years.
Rather, Hankey’s findings suggest that a biker could greatly reduce exposure by shifting over a block or two. Shifting just 100 meters (about one block) off a major road cut morning particulate exposure by about one quarter. That was the sharpest drop, although moving over another block would trim the risk by a cumulative one-third.
Hankey’s research for his civil engineering doctoral dissertation is already drawing attention. He’s won prizes for presentations at academic conferences in France and Switzerland. It grows out of dual masters he earned in engineering and urban planning.
But his real impact would be if he influences planners to shift the planning of bike route and facilities. For example, two of the higher traveled bikes lanes in south Minneapolis on Portland and Park avenues also are heavily traveled by motor vehicles.
Simon Blenski, a bike planner for the city, said the findings support the city’s efforts to add bike boulevards, which are bike-friendly streets, a block or two off main thoroughfares. But he’d like to see the final research. Ditto for Bill Dossett, executive director of the Nice Ride bike-sharing operation that sites stations for its ubiquitous lime-colored bikes. He considers it a sign that bikes are becoming mainstream as a commuting tool that work like Hankey’s is being conducted. But he considers vehicle pollution a moving target.
“We are doing things to reduce this exposure. Cars are a lot cleaner than they were when you and I started riding bikes,” Dossett said.
Photos: Above: Steve Hankey samples on the 5th St. NE bike boulvard at Broadway St., photo by Simon Blenski; Right: Hankey's bike and trailer with air intake pipe and sampling equipment.:
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