Bernadeia Johnson

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MPS superintendent bids farewell to all-consuming job

Bernadeia Johnson

She leaves proud of many achievements as ‘a fierce advocate for children’

Among the “frustrating challenges” she often faced during her nearly five years as Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) superintendent was the unfair “characterization” she received from some in the Black community, says Bernadeia Johnson, who announced her resignation last month. Her last day is January 31.
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MPS curtails suspensions

‘Reverse racism’ used to combat discipline bias
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 
Since this story was published, Minneapolis Public Schools has emailed the following statement:

In regards to the article posted on Dr. Johnson’s recent announcement to reduce the disproportionality of nonviolent suspensions between black and brown students and their white peers,  Dr. Johnson has not lifted the moratorium on nonviolent suspensions for students in grades pre-kindergarten through first grade. This moratorium began in September, and continues to remain in place. Dr. Johnson also did not communicate that she would not consider extending the moratorium to other grades. The option to extend it to other grades is still under consideration. In fact, she specifically announced that she challenged all schools to work to reduce nonviolent suspensions for all students. Continue Reading →

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Generation Next tackles the achievement gap

Some educators feel left out of the conversation
 
By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Solving current educational problems over the years, especially the achievement and opportunity gaps for Blacks and other students of color in the Twin Cities, has been attempted many times in some form or another with mixed results. However, leaders of “a powerful coalition” last week announced a multi-faceted plan that, if successful, could make a much-needed difference. Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak last Monday — exactly a week before the new school year begins in Minneapolis and two weeks before St. Paul schools open — stood behind the podium at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs and unveiled “an aggressive, comprehensive plan” by Generation Next, a local organization that he now heads. Target Corporation has consented to grant $1.1 million to Generation Next for this initiative. Continue Reading →

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North Mpls targeted for new early learning center

Partnerships formed to better prepare more kids for kindergarten 

By Charles Hallman 
Staff Writer 
Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and University of Minnesota officials point out that additional slots for early childhood learning, especially on Minneapolis’ North Side, are needed more than ever because the number of children and families are increasing. U of M Educational Psychology Professor Scott McConnell told the MSR last week that last year, after the state legislature allocated funds for early children education and “promised to focus on high-poverty communities,” he and another faculty member looked into North Minneapolis. “Literally on the back of an envelope, we pulled together Census information and information from the State licensing board on early childhood and calculated roughly how many kids live in [zip codes] 55411 and 55412 and how many spaces there are,” he recalled. “We found that they are about 1,000 [preschool] spots short. There’s a gap between what we think is the number of children that might be eligible for high-quality early childhood education and those who might [attend these programs].”
Minneapolis School Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson added that her district and the university long have worked together on improving public education. Continue Reading →

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STEM evolves into STEAM in Mpls Public Schools

Five-year enrollment plan attempts to tailor schools to neighborhoods’ needs 
By Charles Hallman 

Staff Writer

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said that the former Summatech program will not be part of her new five-year enrollment plan recently approved by the city’s school board. “We are going to put in a STEM-related program” similar to the Summatech, a math and science program once housed at North High School during the 1980s and 1990s,  said Johnson in a recent MSR interview. She added that she understands the sentiment for the former program, particularly from graduates and other supporters, but Johnson pledged that the district is committed to a program that focuses on math, science and engineering for

Minneapolis high school students along the lines of the old Summatech program. Two MPS schools — Cityview on the North Side and Wilder on the city’s South Side — will be used for the new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) program. Although the MPS superintendent quickly admitted that she doesn’t know everything about Summatech, Johnson said she wants to learn more about it. Continue Reading →

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Mpls. school board approves measure to decrease suspension

Superintendent disputes claims that schools are warehouses, mini-jails
 

Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

The Minneapolis School Board last week approved a new district-wide discipline policy. The “Behavior Standards Policy,” which will take effect in the 2014-15 school year, “sets clear expectations, defines consistent responses and helps staff members find alternatives to suspensions.”

This came in response to an “alarming” suspension rate of one in five Black males annually being suspended compared to one in 29 White males, especially in the early grades. According to Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who spoke with the MSR during a December 19 interview, a new policy is needed to help Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) close the achievement gap between Blacks and other students. “It’s really about expanding learning time for students and reducing suspensions and out-of-school time, especially for our African American students and African American boys,” Johnson explained. “I am not saying that kids are creating an unsafe environment and leaving them [in school], and I am not sure I am interested in in-school suspension rooms either. Continue Reading →

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Clearly, Black Americans can succeed at anything

 

 

To all of you feeding your children that fib that we are inferior to White people and will never be successful, please stop the madness. I was talking to someone last night who told me the reason we (African Americans) cannot succeed is because since slavery we have been told this over and over again. According to this person, we have been told that we are inferior and will never amount to anything and will always be inferior to White America. I take offense to that because my mother never got that memo. I don’t know why people buy into this propaganda, but please speak for yourself. Continue Reading →

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Hiring, retaining more teachers of color urged by MPS superintendent

 

 
Some see ‘bold leadership’ in her proposals prior to union negotiations

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent Dr. Bernadeia Johnson is asking the community to support her new district priorities that “will be a significant, real and challenging shift for our schools and students.”

A key component of this shift that Johnson impassionedly unveiled May 13 at Hennepin Country Central Library in downtown Minneapolis is establishing “an innovative partnership zone.”

“Schools will own critical decisions, like hiring the people that best match the needs of students,” explained Johnson, who noted that separate contracts will be arranged with the teachers at these schools, which the district will identify during the 2013-14 school year and begin implementing in 2014-15. Other key components include:

• Recruiting and hiring more Black teachers and other teachers of color: “Our youth must see themselves reflected in the adults who are working with them on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “We need more quality teachers and staff members who look like the students they serve.”

• Extending the school day, and partnering with local businesses and community groups “for extended and wrap-around services… We want our schools to become community hubs that are open to learners of all ages and whose lives call for educational opportunities beyond the school day…” stated Johnson. Northside Achievement Zone head Sondra Samuels and Harvest Prep School President Eric Mahmoud were among the estimated 250 persons who attended the May 13 invitation-only meeting. Both spoke approvingly of Johnson’s plans after the presentation. Continue Reading →

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Financial aid workshops, free ACT exams to boost college applications

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is sending a strong message to students, families, staff members and the community that we believe it is imperative that all students be prepared for college, career and life. Providing more students with the right preparation will advance our whole nation. We know that when college is affordable, the chances of college completion increase. Each year hundreds of MPS students fail to get federal college aid because of difficulties completing the required Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These students are 70 percent less likely to apply to college. Continue Reading →

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Washburn Black doll-hanging incident stirs outrage

 

By Mel Reeves

Contributing Writer

 

The hanging of a Black doll by four Washburn High School students on January 11 created quite a furor at the school and in the Minneapolis Black community. A press conference was called last week and held at the MSR in Minneapolis by parents and community members, in which they expressed their hurt “that this kind of thing is still going on” and the desire to see that the perpetrators disciplined by the school. In a statement read at the press conference, participants said that this is a “needed opportunity to discuss and examine our collective perceptions of safety.” The group also pointed out that it was important to use this as an opportunity to teach students and staff about what is okay to say and do racially and what is not. Last Wednesday a community meeting was held at Washburn in which hundreds attended, primarily students. Parents and community members were concerned initially about the incident being swept under the rug and were alarmed about what appeared to be a delay in informing the students and parents about what occurred. Continue Reading →

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