Firms pledge $13 million to Minneapolis schools

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2011 - 8:11 PM

The three-year investment is a school-business partnership model, Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said.

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Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The Minneapolis school district will use more than $13 million in grants to help more students read by third grade, enroll in math, science and engineering courses and ultimately emerge from high school better prepared for college.

Target, Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic pledged the eight-figure investment over the next three years to support Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson's efforts to improve education in the 32,000-student district.

The funding comes with five priorities: early childhood literacy; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education; leadership training for principals and administrators; college and career centers in Minneapolis high schools; and Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), a program designed to help low-income and minority students prepare for college.

The grants are the result of more than a year of behind-the-scenes talks to determine how some of the district's biggest supporters could combine resources. Participants gathered Monday at Anne Sullivan Communications Center, a south Minneapolis school.

"The issues facing our educational system are too large and complex for any single entity to solve alone," Mark Murphy, executive director of the Cargill Foundation, said during a news conference at Anne Sullivan.

Overall, the funds represent a fraction of what the district will spend over the next three years, but Johnson and the donors hope the money will address several significant obstacles to student success.

"We are tremendously grateful ... ," Johnson said. "Together, there is no limit to what we can achieve for our students."

Where the money will go

Target will donate more than $6 million over the next three years toward improving early literacy.

The money will expand the Minnesota Reading Corps, an initiative to help students read by third grade, into every Minneapolis elementary school and also fund a partnership with the University of Minnesota for "Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites" or PRESS, another literacy program.

Target also will continue providing makeovers for Minneapolis school libraries, said Laysha Ward, president of community relations for Target and Target Foundation.

Cargill will donate close to $4 million to support AVID, STEM education and the district's career and college centers, which have helped boost the number of students attending college immediately after graduation.

Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic will partner to create a "Collaborative for Education Excellence," an effort to recruit and train talented educators to serve as principals and administrators over the next three years. The combined $2.8 million contribution from the corporations will also provide executive training for the superintendent and other district leaders.

"These generous gifts represent the best of what makes Minnesota great -- a strong partnership between the public and private sector on behalf of our children's futures," said Pam Costain, CEO of AchieveMPLS, an educational foundation that support the district's work.

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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