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Continued: Sanford Middle School turns itself around

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 19, 2013 - 9:54 AM

Mack now mostly teaches a skill-building class called AVID, aimed at preparing students for the rigors of high school and beyond. They write, they discuss, they work on adult skills with e-mentors from Xcel Energy, and they read. Mack has an easy camaraderie with students born from mutual respect.

One of those students is eighth-grader Sadiq Mohamed, whose mentor has helped him learn to talk professionally and keep a conversation going.

After spending sixth grade in classes tailored to students learning English, he switched to mainstream classes last year and hopes to attend Roosevelt for its medical curriculum. The loss of his kidney to an infection in 2008 fired a desire to be a surgeon.

Students like Mohamed benefit from a faculty that largely has bought into an approach they describe varyingly and almost mystically as “Sanfordization,” a term Davis coined. Some describe it as a welcoming indoctrination for new faculty; others say it’s an approach where teachers leave egos at the door and pitch in together to get things done. But Davis is why many stay.

“She is 100 percent supportive and she always has the teacher’s back,” Mack said. Sparks, coming up on 20 years at Sanford, asked, “Why should I leave something that works?”

As Davis nears 65, uncertainty looms. The district is about to survey teachers and parents about what they want in a new leader before advertising the job; representatives of those groups will interview finalists. Davis also reassured a faculty she said provided her best ideas. “Hang in there. It’s going to be fine,” she told them recently. “If the United States government can survive changing leaders every four years, then Sanford can survive.”


Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib


  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Sanford school turn-around

    Monday February 18, 2013

    From the verge of being closed the school fought back and is now at or above middle school averages...

  • History teacher Eric Sparks worked with seventh-graders Lilah Schulz, Lydia Larson and Walker Ferguson. His flexible classroom allows for work in the hallway.

  • Donna Biggar used sticks with students’ names to encourage random participation in math class. Aidee Escobedo is at center; Hani “Sabrina” Muridi is at right.

  • Students in Chadly Koppenhaver’s eighth-grade science of technology class worked on making glue for an adhesion experiment.

  • Sanford, THEN AND NOW

    Here’s a profile of Sanford when the district tried to close it in 2005:

    Enrollment: 384

    Poverty rate: 74.1 percent

    Racial-ethnic groups: Black, 57.5 percent; white, 29 percent; Indian, 6 percent; Latino, 4.2 percent; Asian, 2.5 percent.

    Here’s the school at the start of the current school year:

    Enrollment: 767

    Poverty rate: 62.5 percent

    Racial-ethnic groups: Black, 36.1 percent; white, 34.2 percent; Latino, 18.4 percent; Indian, 7.3 percent; Asian; 4 percent.

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