A song about the Muslim holiday Eid on the set list for Blaine High School's holiday choir concert Thursday prompted concerns from some parents.
The song, "Eid-un Sa'Eid," includes the phrase "Allahu akbar," which is translated to "God is great."
The concern rose from a parent complaint on Facebook about the song one week ago, and spurred phone calls to the school from community members, said Jim Skelly, Anoka-Hennepin spokesman.
In total, the school administration has discussed the song with 10 Blaine parents, and some outside the school community have called the district, too. Some said they're upset because they believe Muslims are the enemy, Skelly said.
"Eid-un Sa'Eid" was included for a second year and was on the set list as a "singalong" song, meaning the audience participates as choirs transition from one to another on the stage. Students selected it and other songs to reflect their cultures, Skelly said.
Lyrics include "Thank you, Allah for this blessed day" and some others in Arabic. It's one in a group of songs about the holidays, including some about Christmas and Hanukkah. In the past, students have sung about Kwanzaa and are considering adding a traditional Hindu song, he said.
Skelly said the activity is neither graded, nor mandatory. There are an estimated 80 to 100 Muslim students at Blaine, a number of whom are involved in the choir program, he said.
Anoka-Hennepin school board Chairman Tom Heidemann said the district welcomes students from all backgrounds and faiths.
"It should be a good mixture of the communities and the faces of the individuals we educate," he said of the songs at the concert.
When "Eid-un Sa'Eid" was performed Thursday, the district said it was received just like other songs at the concert. There were no disruptions, and audience members participated in the song.
Grants recognize inspired lessons
A group of ninth-grade math teachers at St. Paul's Washington Technology Magnet School will have another opportunity next year to help students build relationships with their counterparts in Masaka, Uganda.
The North End area teachers are repeat recipients of inspired educator grants announced recently by the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation. The awards total $29,470 and are being given to teachers at 12 schools for use in the 2016-17 school year.
The grants are designed to encourage critical thinking and artistry among students, as well as creativity and innovation among teachers.
The Washington Technology project seeks to expand on a previous effort in which students used their iPads to communicate with Ugandan students to share numerical data about their respective cultures. The 2016-17 update will include creation of a film showing how the students analyzed culture through data.
Other projects being funded include the transformation of an "unsightly patch of dirt and weeds into a Japanese style garden" at Parkway Montessori and Community Middle School and the creation of a sensory room to be used to help calm students at Ramsey Middle School, the foundation said.