Looking back on past school year, looking forward to student success

As I near the end of my first year as superintendent, I have been reflecting on the work we have done together. I was inspired, as I began the year, by the actor Danny Glover, who dedicates every performance to someone. It might be Nelson Mandela or the old man who guards the stage door, but he is always working for someone other than himself. This focus gives his acting purpose and makes his work more meaningful.

Following Glover’s lead, I dedicated my work this year to the 3,100 college-bound kindergarten students who entered our school doors. I made a commitment to them and to their families that they would be reading by winter break. I was pleased to announce in March that over 60 percent of kindergarten students achieved or exceeded reading at “Level B” or higher. At the mid-year point, approximately one-third of kindergarten students already achieved reading levels that met or exceeded those expected for the end of kindergarten.

On behalf of Minneapolis Public Schools, I want to thank our families, staff and community members for their involvement and dedication to education. I am proud to be a member of a community with a strong tradition of volunteerism and social responsibility. Numerous parents, city workers, business people, retirees and students devote their valuable time to our schools in support of our next generation of leaders. We know that this effort — supporting each and every young person we serve — is at the heart of the work we do each day at the Minneapolis Public Schools.

I am driven to lead our efforts to raise academic achievement for all students. I have been clear that focus and coalition-building are critical components of this work. A perfect example of this work was illustrated on May 2, when four Minneapolis corporations — Target, Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic — announced grant support of over $13 million over three years to support strategic initiatives. Now is the time, with the support of public and private partners, to accelerate efforts and intently focus on core strategies that will deliver the results we desire for every student: preparation for college or career.

On that note, I wish to extend my most sincere congratulations to the graduates of the class of 2011. I would also like to thank them for helping us to lead by example to demonstrate that academic success is attainable for all Minneapolis students to become productive global citizens who will contribute to and shape our communities.

As our graduating seniors take the education that they have gained in our great city and move on to become successful global citizens, I realize that they have enriched our schools by sharing their unique gifts, perspectives, and pride in their own identities while learning from and interacting with their fellow students. The success of our graduating seniors continues to bring us closer to realizing our goal of preparing all students for college or a career.

We have accomplished so much, yet we still must focus on the work that needs to be done. Remember that we are still here to serve families over the summer months — whether it is through providing enrollment support for the 2011-2012 school year or providing rigorous summer school options to help learners at all academic levels become stronger students over the summer.

We wish our students, families, staff and friends in the Minneapolis community a safe and enjoyable summer and look forward to kicking off another great school year in August.

Bernadeia Johnson is superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.