The Minneapolis Public Schools, for the first time in history, has decided to let the community take a viewing of the public schools in the Minneapolis area. One school in particular that has a long history in the community’s South Side kicked off the recent “Visit Our Schools” event.
Richard Green Central Park Elementary School opened their doors to parents and community members at 9:30 am on October 1. Named after African American educator Dr. Richard R. Green, Green Central Elementary is based on four factors according to Principal Matthew Arnold:
- Quality first-time instruction
- Family and community engagement
- Positive school environment
“Quality first-time instruction” is offered by supporting “our students with out-of-the-classroom coaches to help focus on academics, increasing our rigor for our students,” said Arnold. “We deeply believe in family and community engagement, so today’s event was very important in letting the families know they are welcome here, and that the community is present in our school…
“The third aspect is so students are aware of what is expected of them, celebrating their successes and creating a positive school environment, and [we also incorporate] equity by making sure to plan our program and create an equitable education for our students.”
These aspects at Green Central are implemented in the classroom by the courses provided. Included in the curriculum for kindergartners is a Spanish program, with an English curriculum right next door.
“It is a dual-language program,” said Anthony Scott, family liaison for Green Central. “Students who speak Spanish natively at home
are learning English, and the English students are learning Spanish.” Both programs are full-day programs, Monday through Friday for the duration of the year. During the summer, the program is for six weeks, starting a week after the school year ends.
Sonia Alejandro-Mattson is the bilingual kindergarten teacher for Green Central. “We do 80 percent of Spanish and 20 percent English in this classroom to build up English skills for the ESL [English as Second Language] students,” she reported. “We build a bridge by teaching literacy and math in Spanish, and tie them with science in English. We use songs and games in an academic manner to assist with the bridge.
Jillian Caster and Soshona Daniels are also kindergarten teachers at Green Central. Caster describes the typical day for students: Starting the day with a morning meeting after breakfast at 7:45, the students have playtime and sing songs with each other. “That’s just a way for the students and us to get to know each other, feel welcome and help build community,” Caster stated.
Afterwards, they go to science, co-teaching with the ESL teacher. They also have literacy stations, followed by lunch, recess and specialist activities, which include either gym, music or art.
They also have math. “The cool thing about our math program is we use ST math, which is an app on iPads, with the program tailored specifically for each child’s pace,” said Caster.
For the remainder of the day, the students engage in a writers’ workshop, which involves reading aloud. Davis, mentioned briefly the aspect of the inclusive library Caster did some fundraising for, containing books that are representative of the students’ cultures.
“I’ve never seen a book with characters [who] wear hijabs, and I grew up attending Minneapolis Public Schools,” said Davis. “I think it’s really important for children to see themselves in the books we read to them.”
Green Central makes sure to get the parents involved as well. Every Monday at 6:30 pm, Central has CPEO courses (Connecting Parents to Educational Opportunities). This is where parents learn how to support students at home and how to communicate with school staff. Dinner and child care are provided for those who attend.
On Tuesdays, parents have a chance to meet the principal of Green Central with an event called “Pastries with the Principal.” The second Thursdays of each month are Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) days from 5:30-6:30 pm. Parents and teachers meet together to discuss leadership and parent-teacher involvement.
“Our kids are awesome and come from all different backgrounds,” said Caster. “It’s so fun to watch everybody connect with each other and grow as a team.”
“Visit Our Schools will be taking place until Monday, November 7. To tour Green Central during “Visit Our Schools Month,” simply call the school in advance to RSVP.
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Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org