Twin Cities Business Executive Editor Adam Platt was blunt in his chat with Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson for the magazine’s interview issue. As a parent of a student in the southwest portion of the district, he told Johnson the area’s schools get little attention and that parents feel ignored.
Adam Platt: Let’s talk for a minute about your other district, the district of high-performing, overcrowded schools in southwest Minneapolis. The part of MPS that gets little attention and whose parents feel vaguely ignored (speaking as one of them).
Bernadeia Johnson: I don’t disagree with you. Southwest High School has been the No. 1 ranked high school in the state for several years and I sensed that we were almost ashamed of it, to have such success [and so many failing schools] in the same system. But we have to recognize these schools and be proud of what they do.
Platt: There’s not a lot in common between your challenged schools and your academically thriving schools, is there?
Johnson: No. It’s like we have three different districts, north, southeast, and southwest. They have different needs and we have to provide resources based on school needs.
Plat: How do you take those successes and replicate them for the families that can’t get into overcommitted schools like Southwest or Armatage Montessori or Barton Open?
Johnson: You don’t do it by moving their leaders to other schools, which some people suggest. I thought about asking Bill Smith (Southwest principal) to take over Washburn, but when you have a great leader in a school you have to know when to leave well enough alone. It comes down to getting the right teachers and principals.
Click here to read the full interview—which covers the district’s “shift,” the school board’s change over the years, the teachers union and much more. Then tell us how you feel about the treatment of southwest Minneapolis schools. Are they ignored or is it a case of salutary neglect?