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Mpls. school board member apologizes for Southwest H.S. remark

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • November 21, 2013 - 5:49 PM

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."  . 

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