Staff Directory 6370436

Mara Klecker

Reporter | Minneapolis K-12 schools
Phone: 612-673-4440

Mara Klecker covers Minneapolis K-12 schools for the Star Tribune. She previously reported on the suburbs of the Twin Cities. Before coming to the Star Tribune, she was the social services reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.. 

A native South Dakotan and a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's journalism college, Klecker has always called the Midwest home. She's worked on journalism projects in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Nepal. In her free time, she can be found reading, hiking or planning her next international trip.
Recent content from Mara Klecker
Sonia Stewart responded to a question posed by student representative Halimah Abdullah, left, at the meet-and-greet preceding her interview with Minne

What to know about Sonia Stewart, one of two finalists for Minneapolis school superintendent

The school board interviewed Stewart on Monday night.
Lisa Sayles-Adams, left, and Sonia Stewart are finalists for superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.

Minneapolis Public Schools leaders laud 'very strong' superintendent finalists

The public will have a chance to meet the two finalists — Sonia Stewart and Lisa Sayles-Adams — and watch their interviews next week.
Felipe Patino, 17, Basti Bakare, 17, and Obi Asogwa, 17, chatted while doing homework together with the Close the Gap club at East Ridge High School i

At one Woodbury school, teens saw the achievement gap and stepped up to tutor their peers

The Close the Gap club at East Ridge High School draws up to 40 students each Tuesday after school.
Annalie Peterson sued her high school for its handling of background checks after being assaulted by the volleyball coach.

A school missed a coach's sexual assault record. Then he did it again.

Minnesota schools' handling of background and reference checks are at the center of two high-profile lawsuits. A separate case before the state Supreme Court could determine whether if schools are liable when someone with a problematic past is hired and goes on to abuse students.
School administrators across the state are looking for new solutions to curb vaping in schools.

How Minnesota schools are trying to stop students from vaping in bathrooms

About 14% of high school juniors and 6% of eighth-graders reported using e-cigarettes, according to the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey.
Students eat breakfast and color at the new East African Elementary Magnet School in St. Paul.

Minneapolis, St. Paul school districts continue to see enrollment slide

Both districts hope for signs of stabilizing enrollment in the coming years.
Elsie Korioth taught music therapy in a classroom at Pillsbury Elementary School in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis schools expand music therapy to help students play and cope with emotions

The district added music therapy lessons, long a tool in special education, for all students at some schools.
This fall, Sandburg Regional High School, an alternative program for high schoolers in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, moved into an old school bu

Alternative high school's move brings students back to downtown Anoka

Sandburg Regional High School relocated from a leased space in Coon Rapids to the site of the former Sandburg Middle School, which closed in 2010.
Maria Ahlgren talked with a student at Patrick Henry High School.

Schools work to combat rising levels of chronic absenteeism

The number of students missing too much class has risen since the pandemic because of many factors, including increasing mental health challenges.
Bethune Elementary in north Minneapolis is among the district’s schools still in need of teachers a week into the new academic year.

After first week of class, Minneapolis school district still needs hundreds of teachers

The district added hundreds of other new positions this year and now faces an almost 15% vacancy rate.
Applications are now open for the permanent superintendent job in Minneapolis, and the school board aims to select a finalist by the end of the year.

Do you have what it takes to lead Minneapolis Public Schools?

Applications are now open for the permanent superintendent position, with hopes of picking someone by the end of the year.
Ninth grader Adna Ali, left, talks to her advisory teacher Betsy Winzig during the first day of school at Edison High School in Minneapolis.

It's the first day of school for most Minnesota students. Here's what to expect.

More than 800,000 kids are back in the classroom as free meals and new school safety initiatives kick in.
One of the classrooms at The Legacy of Dr. Josie R. Johnson Montessori School, which recently moved into Family Baptist Church.

Minneapolis charter school finds new North Side home after rental dispute with landlord

The Legacy of Dr. Josie R. Johnson Montessori School has moved to Family Baptist Church. The school's old landlord, Our Lady of Victory Church, has "ceased operations."
Savanah Watson had her picture taken during the first day of school last year at Hayes Elementary School in Fridley.

As Minnesota kids go back to class, school choice pushes districts to up their marketing strategy

Public school enrollment in the state has stalled in recent years as more families opt for private schools or homeschooling.
Minneapolis Public Schools said Friday it is notifying families affected by a February cyberattack.

Minneapolis Public Schools has begun to contact families whose data was accessed in February hack

The cyberattack paralyzed computer systems across the district in February; a ransomware group claimed responsibility in March.
The Rabbit Race game at the Penny Arcade in 1976.

What happened to the Rabbit Race game at the Minnesota State Fair?

The carnival game dated back to the 1930s and was a staple at the Penny Arcade.
Search ongoing for missing pilot in northern Minnesota

Search ongoing for missing pilot in northern Minnesota

St. Louis, Cook County officials said Saturday the pilot, who went missing Friday, had not yet been found.
John Pearson and his wife, MauNghi.

John Pearson, longtime Minneapolis Southwest High teacher, dies at 62

He started his career at NASA before trading the lab for a classroom.
The proposed Minneapolis Public School cellphone policy changes, drafted based on a proposal from a student group, strikes language stating that havin

Minneapolis school board holds off on updating student phone policy

Board Member Lori Norvell moved to send the policy back to the policy committee and seek more input from teachers, students and parents. That passed unanimously.
Minneapolis students could have more freedom to use cellphones in class — with their teachers’ approval — under a proposed policy the Minneapoli

Minneapolis school board to vote Tuesday on allowing for more flexibility for cellphones in class

The proposed revision to district policy allows teachers to set classroom rules with the input of students.
This fall marks the first college application season since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.

Without affirmative action, how should students approach the college applications process?

The College App opened the application season Tuesday, the first one since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down affirmative action.
Our Lady of Victory Church in north Minneapolis moved to evict the Legacy of Dr. Josie R. Johnson Montessori School after disputes over which party wa

Minneapolis charter school seeks new home in dispute over broken bathrooms, unpaid rent to church

The Legacy of Dr. Josie R. Johnson Montessori School must move out of Our Lady of Victory church by mid-August.
Mayor Jacob Frey announced the expansion of the Stable Homes Stable Schools program at Loring Elementary School on Tuesday.

Rental aid will be available to more Minneapolis Public Schools families facing homelessness

The Stable Homes Stable Schools programs are expanding this fall.
Ajulo Awow, Josh Raboin, and Carson Macynski check out Chrome laptops in need of work. The three are working with South Washington County School Distr

Minnesota school districts turn to students to help fix growing backlog of broken laptops

South Washington County schools recently launched a pilot program to train teens to repair district Chromebooks.
Bill Webb at his home with his two favorite instruments: the trumpet and French horn. Webb taught band for more than 30 years in Edina and was recentl

Bill Webb, longtime Edina band director, inducted into National High School Hall of Fame

Dave Stead, the longest-serving executive director of the Minnesota State High School League, was also inducted at a ceremony this month.
The Minneapolis school board is considering a new policy that would allow teachers to define their own rules for student cellphone use. Other metro di

Should Minnesota students have cellphones in class? It's often up to principals and teachers

The flexibility in a proposed revision to Minneapolis schools' student device policy is similar to other districts'.
University of Minnesota officials say they will be looking closely at the Supreme Court’s ruling and how it could affect their “holistic” admiss

Supreme Court says considering race in college admissions is unconstitutional

Minnesota colleges had been bracing for the ruling on affirmative action and emphasizing their commitment to diversity on campus.
Vadnais Heights charter school to pay $325,000 after teacher sexually harassed, assaulted student

Vadnais Heights charter school to pay $325,000 after teacher sexually harassed, assaulted student

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that school staff violated Minnesota's civil rights law by failing to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault.
Minneapolis students could have more freedom to use cell phones in class — with their teachers’ approval — under a proposed revision to school p

Minneapolis students may soon have more freedom to use their cellphones in class

The proposed revision to district policy says they could use their phones "as established by classroom norms set forth by the students and the teacher."
The Minneapolis school board on Tuesday approved the budget for the 2024-2025 school year.

Minneapolis Public Schools uses state aid, pandemic relief money and reserves to balance budget

Administrators warned that some of that money won't be available in future years.
U.S. and British cybersecurity officials warned that a Russian cyber-extortion gang’s hack of a file-transfer program popular with corporations coul

Minnesota Department of Education hacked in global data breach

The agency said 24 files that included student information were accessed.
The Minneapolis School Board is set to vote on the district’s budget for the 2023-2024 year.

Minneapolis Public Schools looks to one-time funds to help cover $97M gap in proposed budget

The district is planning to balance its budget with pandemic relief funds, which sunset in 2024, and withdrawals from the rainy day fund.
Richfield High School senior Elsy Cruz Parra attended forensics class on May 30. When she graduates this week, she’ll be the first in her family to

Extra attention for students helps Minnesota schools shrink graduation gap

Districts have emphasized those individual supports amid recovery from the pandemic.
Filmmaker Nikko John Anderson sinks into his chair while watching the premiere of “Crash! Bang! It Sank” with his parents Jessica and Tyler Anders

'Crash! Bang! It Sank!' Minnesota preschoolers make own version of Titanic movie

The filmmakers — ages 3 to 6 — began their project when one student brought in a photo of the ship for show and tell.
Katelyn Stack demonstrates how Woodstock the white-crested duck relaxes in her hand during class at Stillwater Area High School.

Quacking in class? Ducklings imprint on Stillwater High students

Retiring teacher Andy Weaver has long incorporated ducks — and many other animals — in hands-on biology projects for students.
Mini Jain, left, her wife, Anne Robertson, and their dog Lance at home in Minneapolis.

Minnesotans see first census count of same-sex married couples as sign of acceptance

Before the addition of the new box in 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau had a history of altering data reported by same-sex married couples.
Jane Curtis-Cunningham helps first-grade students sort their food waste at Bel Air Elementary School in New Brighton.

Minnesota farm recycles school lunch leftovers to feed thousands of pigs

Barthold Farms in St. Francis picks up food scraps from several area schools in the Food to Hog program.
Eighth-graders Sully Moseley, right, and J.J. Keating worked on book reports at the library in Anthony Middle School in Minneapolis. Before parent vol

Minneapolis district aims to reinstall licensed librarian at each school

Bucking the state and national trend of cutting librarian positions amid budget crunches, MPS' proposed budget includes a part-time librarian position for each school.
The Rev. Patricia Hawley

Rev. Patricia 'Pat' Hawley, one of the early female Lutheran pastors, dies

She quietly led efforts toward inclusion and women's rights inside and outside the church.
Students at Wayzata High School in Plymouth hardly use their lockers, opting to carry backpacks from class to class instead.

Why metal lockers are going the way of chalkboards in Minnesota high schools

Lockers, once a rite of passage and a meetup space, are nearly obsolete among today's teens.
Hamline University President Fayneese Miller said Monday said that the university did not infringe on the academic freedom of a professor whose contra

Months after controversy over Islamic artwork, Hamline president plans to retire

Miller became school's second female president in 2015. Last days will be in summer of 2024.
Student of the month winners check out their certificates during a school awards assembly at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School in Minneapolis.

Will Mpls. have to close some schools? Question raised as district faces enrollment drop

School board Chair Sharon El-Amin says the "time is now" to start the conversation that could include closing or consolidating schools.
Minneapolis student school board representative Halimah Abdullah listened to speakers at a recent Minneapolis Public Schools board meeting.

Meet the student board representatives who give input on Minneapolis Public Schools' decisions

Abdihafid Mohamed, a junior at Edison High School, and Halimah Abdullah, a sophomore at Southwest High School, took on the roles in February.
Issuing thousands of devices to be used by students makes school districts especially vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks on school districts — like recent one on MPS — are on the rise

School districts' cyber liability insurance premiums have skyrocketed in recent years.
FILE- In this June 19, 2017, file photo, a person types on a laptop keyboard in North Andover, Mass. The availability of remote work has increased sig

Minneapolis Public Schools cyberattack: What to know and how to protect your data

The district has not specified exactly what information was accessed, but there are steps people can take to protect their information.
Minneapolis Public Schools Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox will remain in her role until July 2024, unless the board finds a permanent superintend

Minneapolis school board extends Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox's contract for one year

The agreement includes a clause to end the contract early if the board finds a permanent superintendent.
Minneapolis Public Schools says 'threat actor' has claimed responsibility for cyberattack

Minneapolis Public Schools says 'threat actor' has claimed responsibility for cyberattack

The group has posted some of the data it accessed online, and the district said it is working to have it removed.
Vice Principal Lisa Purcell shows a blouse option to Rabia Ibrahim, 17, a junior, at the free thrift store at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis.

With science projects, Green Teams, students seize initiative on climate change

Student-led efforts to help their communities and the environment include everything from thrift stores to bicycle repair.
Minneapolis Public Schools encouraged families to change passwords and monitor their financial accounts after a recent cyber attack.

Minneapolis Public Schools urging families to monitor financial accounts after cyberattack

The district's network was infected with an encryption virus and a "threat actor" may have had access to data, the district said.
Minneapolis Public Schools continues to deal with technology problems from an “encryption event.”

Minneapolis Public Schools' technology problems continue

The district hasn't given any more explanation for the "encryption event," but one expert notes school districts nationwide have been targets of cyberattacks.
Minneapolis Public Schools says computer systems nearly restored, ready for class on Monday

Minneapolis Public Schools says computer systems nearly restored, ready for class on Monday

The problems were related to an "encryption event," the district told families Friday.
Hamline Elementary in St. Paul held an open house last May, part of its efforts to court families in the neighborhood as it anticipates declining enro

Minnesota's public schools lost students again this year

Charter schools and private schools saw more modest gains in enrollment after a brief pandemic surge.
Minneapolis Public Schools acknowledged ongoing “technical difficulties” on Tuesday.

Minneapolis Public Schools says computer problems won't interfere with e-learning technology

The district has updated passwords, is working with a specialist to monitor the network and has employed a kind of "virus alert system" to allow MPS students and staff to keep using district devices securely, an update said.
Hennepin Healthcare, which includes HCMC, has expanded its health equity department.

Hennepin Healthcare expands health equity department, releases first annual report

The efforts include a yearlong program to teach employees about how systemic racism can affect health care and health disparities.
The burden of COVID-19 on the state’s hospitals is far lower than previous two winters.

COVID burden on Minnesota hospitals remains lower than past winters

Flu hospitalizations are also still down after spiking late last fall.
Stillwater High School juniors Sam Young, left, and Sam Rush, fit “Sadie” with the prosthetic design they created.

Stillwater High students get lesson in engineering with assist from three-legged dog

Sadie, a Brittany spaniel, had her leg amputated several years ago after she was hit by a car.
Minneapolis school board Chair Sharon El-Amin said a vote on a contract extension for interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox will likely come in March.

Minneapolis school board still undecided on timeline for hiring new superintendent

Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox has said she is willing to serve a longer term as district leader.
Paula Luxenberg, right, parent of three children in Minneapolis Public Schools, discussed goals for the school system with Willie Gentry, of EPU Consu

Minneapolis school board likely won't fill superintendent job until 2024

The school board's superintendent search committee voted Tuesday to delay the search for a new district leader until the fall of 2023, saying the added time allows for more community input.
Yashanna Brazelton, a mother of two Lucy Laney students, was able to rent her Minneapolis home with the help of the school district’s Stable Homes S

Rising number of homeless students challenges Minneapolis schools

As the number of homeless kids and costs to transport them rise, Minneapolis Public Schools is working to meet the growing need.
Attorney William Walker, left, and Tuesday Sheppard and Deshaun Hill Sr., parents of Deshaun Hill Jr., held a news conference Tuesday at the Hennepin

Family of slain North High football star requests criminal probe of principal over walkout

The family's attorney accuses Principal Mauri Friestleben of negligence and creating unreasonable risk.
Deshaun Hill Jr. was a Minneapolis NorthHigh School sophomore and quarterback on the football team. He died in February, one day after he was shot nea

Minneapolis school board OKs $500,000 settlement with family of slain student Deshaun Hill Jr.

15-year-old Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot while walking home from North Community High School the same day as a protest.
The Minneapolis school board will consider a $500,000 settlement next week with the family of Deshaun Hill Jr., a North High student who was fatally s

Minneapolis school board to vote on $500,000 settlement with family of Deshaun Hill Jr.

Hill was fatally shot in February while walking home from school.
The snow storm made for a topsy-turvy week for many Minnesota students who had been scheduled to return to class after winter break.

Minnesota parents again cope with distance learning, wistful for snow days

Many school districts called for second day of learning from home on Thursday.
The Minneapolis School Board held its first meeting of the year Tuesday, with five new board members elected in November.

Five new members join Minneapolis school board

One of the board's big tasks this year is picking a new superintendent.
Isabelle Alice Koopman, pictured with parents Ashley and Cameron Koopman, was born at midnight as the new year began.

Midnight baby born in Maple Grove hospital may be state's first of 2023

Isabelle Alice Koopman was born as the old year ended and the new year began.
Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox has named improved communication as one of her top priorities toward ensuring the district has a positive and welc

Minneapolis Public Schools to get new district website by 2024

The goal is to make information easier for families to access and understand, officials say.
The University of Minnesota is launching a public health bachelor’s degree to help fill the state’s need for workers in that field, which was stre

University of Minnesota to offer undergraduate degree in public health

The program slated to start next fall aims to help fill a "critical need" for more public health workers.
The number of people living in Minnesota grew by less than 1% — about 5,700 people — between July 2021 and July 2022, according to the U.S. Census

Minnesota's population growth sees 'concerning' stall for a second year

The U.S. Census Bureau released the new estimates Thursday.
Student and alumni volunteers moved frozen turkeys down the “turkey tunnel” to be added to the food boxes for Operation Holiday Basket, now in its

In 52nd year, Operation Holiday Basket delivers meals and ritual

The tradition that links Roosevelt students and neighbors is now in its 52nd year. This year, students and alumni packed and delivered 300 boxes of food.
Minneapolis public schools finance leaders on Tuesday repeated their message that the district is headed for a fiscal crisis — and that without sign

Minneapolis school board OKs budget changes, tax levy, high school start times

The final meeting of the current board focused on the district's finances.
Senior Finance Officer Ibrahima Diop addressed School Board Members Kim Ellison, Jenny Arneson and Adriana Cerrillo.

Minneapolis Public Schools leaders face tough choices ahead in 2023

The district's projections suggest the city's schools will run out of money by 2025 without major cuts in expenses or increases in revenue.
Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox, pictured in a file photo, said this week that the Minneapolis Public Schools current financial path “is not sus

Mpls. Public Schools projects 'fiscal crisis' within 5 years

The district's enrollment continues to drop and the pandemic relief money it used to balance its budget will sunset in 2024.
Humboldt High School.

Former St. Paul teacher settles retaliation claim against school district for $120,000

Rachel Wannarka said the district retaliated against her after she spoke to a reporter.
Marlene Gil Ortiz, Jolet Juarez Parra and Judith Cortes Rosas, left to right, cook pupusas during a culinary arts class at Roosevelt High School in Mi

Students cook up food, opportunity with culinary arts program at Roosevelt High

The program is set to expand next semester to include a course aimed at preparing students to join the industry.
Senior Finance Officer Ibrahima Diop speaks to the Minneapolis school board.

Mpls. Public Schools reports enrollment declines in line with district expectations

The district is also considering budget adjustments, including raising its debt service limit.