MPS superintendent supports North High Coalition

Scott Redd: “We really want the community to be proud of the decisions and for us to

support each other.”

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

Despite an earlier call for its demise, North High School’s supporters insist it is alive and moving forward. “North is open, first and foremost,” proclaims Marcus Owens, a spokesperson for the North High Community Coalition, a group of alumni, parents, teachers, students and community members who have been meeting on a regular basis since last fall. “It is not closing. The community needs to believe that.”

A February 17 community meeting is scheduled to select three community members for an interview team that will select a consultant to develop a new model for the longtime high school, said Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Family and Community Engagement Executive Director Scott Redd in an excusive interview with the MSR last week.

“We are bringing in three really great national consultants,” Redd explained. “We are going to have them make public presentations to the community on what their process would be like, what their results have been in other urban districts, and really let the community come and give feedback on who they think would do best for their community.”

Redd said that the district intends to have as much community input as possible in the redesigning of North High. In the past, “We sometimes made the decision, presented it to the [school] board, and then rolled it out to the community. Our process is not going to be like that [this time]. We are going to get the community input first — they are going to have a say on what happens.”

“With [community] participation, we believe that we will make a better decision at the district [level],” adds MPS Director of Strategic Planning Maggie Sullivan.

Although she earlier recommended its closing, MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson has been working with North supporters, especially the North High Community Coalition. She told the MSR during a phone interview last week that she fully supports the Coalition.

“I am very supportive of it, and we are doing everything we can to help in their recruitment efforts,” said Johnson, who made appearances last week with Coalition members both on KMOJ and KBEM Radio. She also attended a Coalition-sponsored potluck on January 29.

“We had over 70 people involved,” notes Owens, a 1999 North graduate. Three future events are planned: an “eighth-grade lock-in” February 18 at Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club, and two family nights at North boys’ basketball games February 21 and March 4.

“We are trying to do as many events [as possible] to promote more positive programs at North,” says Owens.

Redd said he has been “very involved” with North High, which he calls “a community of excitement,” as well as attending Coalition meetings and being inside the school at least three times a week. “There’s some resilient folk over there, and they are feeling empowered,” he said. “If I had to pick a word that describes [them], I would say ‘resiliency.’”

After Superintendent Johnson’s decision caused a rift within the North community, Owens says the relationship between the community and Johnson is slowly improving. “If I would to rate it on a scale of 1-to-10, we’re probably at a 6-to-7 now. We were at a 1-to-2 when this thing started. It is not perfect and it is not where we want it to be, but it’s getting better,” he points out.

“Marcus and his leadership have been great in this process,” said Johnson, who admitted that some mistrust still lingers among some community members. When asked if people fully trust what she is doing regarding North High, she admits, “I would say no. We still have to continue to build trust, and the only way to do that is by delivering on our promises.

“We said we would pick a design team, and we did,” the superintendent continued. “We said we would help with recruitment efforts, and we are. We are showing up [at Coalition meetings] and participating.”

Of those who may still regard her actions as only for show, she said, “I can’t remove that from people. I have a lot of work to do, and we all do.

“Ultimately it comes down that I want high-performing options for students, and I am willing to work with the community to design it [at North],” Johnson pledged. “It is going to take everybody building trust among all of us.”

“There are groups like ours and other community members that are really looking to the district now for their leadership in making sure that this is going to happen,” says Owens, who adds that “transparency” in the eventual redesigning of North High must be in place in order for the community to fully trust the district. “When we start to see those things, I think we will have even more confidence in this process.”

“I see the community as partners,” said Redd. “I know that we don’t have all the answers. We’ve seen how things went down before, and we don’t want that to happen [again]. We really want the community to be proud of the decisions and for us to support each other.”

Redd said his office’s goal is “to make sure that the community has ownership of [redesigning North High]. It’s not about us coming up with a decision and rolling it out. We’re coming to a decision as a group, as partners.”

The Feb. 17 meeting on North High will be held 5-7 pm at the Urban League, 2000 Plymouth Avenue N. For more information on the North High Community Coalition, email them at NHCCoali tion@gmail.com.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.