Sondra Samuels

Recent Articles

Northside Achievement Zone gets mid-term report card

By Isaac Peterson

Contributing Writer


Almost three years ago, the Spokesman-Recorder reported on the origins and mission of the Northside Achievement Zone, or NAZ, which was described as “a $28 million social experiment” whose goal was “increasing educational outcomes so that kids and families have opportunities that they can point to” over the following five years. (“Northside Achievement Zone envisions a ‘tipping-point’ of success,” MSR February 22, 2012)

The NAZ is focused in an area on the Northside that is 18 blocks by 13 blocks and runs from Penn Avenue east to Interstate 94, and Broadway Avenue north to 35th Avenue. The Wilder Foundation earlier this month released a report card on NAZ’s 2014 performance and gave it an overall good grade, but the report also highlighted areas that need improvement. The key finding of the Wilder report was that the longer children in grades 3-5 were in the NAZ program, the more their scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) improved. The report noted that NAZ was on track in that area. 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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Chasing the tornado money





By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Jerry Freeman

Senior Editor


Almost immediately after the tornado struck North Minneapolis in May 2011, the Minneapolis Foundation established its Minnesota Helps Fund and raised $1,756,060 to assist Northside residents. Many other groups and organizations furthered the cause with food drives and fundraising events. On July 14, MSR began a series of stories called “Chasing the Tornado Money” with the following subhead: “Community individuals, local corporations and foundations have contributed well over a million dollars in donations, grants and matching funds to assist North Minneapolis residents affected by the May 22 tornado. Responding to questions from readers about where all these dollars are going, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder decided to provide a community service by reporting, in the interest of transparency, on just where the funds have gone and how they have been used.”

One year and several “Chasing the Tornado Money” stories later, the MSR interviews three individuals representing three major contributors to the recovery effort — the foundation, the participating community organizations, and the Northside Community Response Team — on how they now view the work completed and the relief provided to storm victims through funds totaling more than $2 million.  

The Foundation

“Our fundraising efforts were really concentrated on the first year [of the recovery],” reports Minneapolis Foundation Grantmaking and Special Projects Director Jo-Anne Stately. Continue Reading →

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Northside Achievement Zone envisions a ‘tipping-point’ of success


By Vickie Evans-Nash

Contributing Writer


Over the next five years, just over 1,000 families in an 18-by-13-block area of North Minneapolis will be participating in a $28 million social experiment. What is at stake is much more than money; what is at stake is the future of these families’ 3,000 children, and perhaps, insofar as it could become a model for other such efforts, the futures of countless more families and children. It started with Michelle Martin and Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels founding the Peace Foundation in 2003. Martin served as the organization’s original executive director. The Peace Foundation’s mission was to combat violence in North Minneapolis by first determining what was causing higher crime rates. Continue Reading →

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Contract for Student Achievement can transform our public schools



Today the Black community has an opportunity to take real leadership in ending our cities’ persistent educational crisis. We have an opportunity to change the game by impacting the negotiations that are currently happening between the Minneapolis Public School District and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT). We can do this by individually and collectively raising our voices in support of the Contract for Student Achievement (CSA). CSA is a manifesto created by active parents, citizens and stakeholders. It calls on the district administration and MFT to “negotiate a different kind of contract — one that recognizes the academic crisis in our schools and makes student achievement the top focus.”

As stated in the CSA, “The teachers’ contract currently being negotiated represents almost $240 million in annual wages and benefits and directly controls who is teaching our children in the classroom. Continue Reading →

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