Rochell Cox held her first school board meeting on Aug. 16 in her new role as interim superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. Her new leadership team took turns presenting updates on enrollment, payroll, literacy program training, a new math curriculum, and implementing the district’s new strategic plan. The board also unanimously approved a resolution brought forward by Director Kimberly Caprini to direct Patrick Henry High School to change its name. The board also welcomed Student Representative Wakan Austin from Edison High School.
The district is continuing to fill approximately 300 job vacancies before students return to classrooms on September 6, Senior Officer of Human Resources Candra Bennett noted. The district has lost over 3,300 students in the past year, a majority of whom are Black and Somali, Director of Engagement and External Relations Tyrize Cox, shared.
Sarah Hunter, the executive director of Strategic Initiatives, shared updates on how district leaders are beginning the work of delivering on the new strategic plan. Hunter said that district leadership has been using the district’s climate framework to guide its work, focusing on “relationships, trust and communication” to begin its work this school year.
Senior Academic Officer Aimee Fearing announced that principals and associate superintendents have participated in the LETRS for Administrators training, which is a professional development on the science of reading. This professional development is part of the district’s literacy framework intended to improve students’ reading proficiency. The district will be funding LETRS training for 80 teachers this school year. The training takes place over 2 years and in an intensive course on how children learn to read. This program is being offered in addition to the funding the Minnesota Department of Education has offered to teachers in Minnesota to take the LETRS course.
Fearing also shared that the new K-5 math curriculum materials, Number Corners, have been delivered to schools, and are ready for educators to return for professional development on utilizing the new curriculum.
Cox said that the district’s payroll department lost three of four staff members earlier this summer which led to errors in some employee’s paychecks. While the department continues to add staff, the district has arranged with a contractor to fulfill some functions.
“[I] want to acknowledge that these issues have caused some concerns and challenges for our staff and want you to know that we are working very hard to get those alleviated and resolved,” Cox said.
The board will meet again at 6 p.m. on Aug. 23 for a Committee of the Whole meeting. Per a new meeting structure for the Committee of the Whole, each meeting will focus on a specific topic. For the Aug. 23 meeting, the topic for that meeting will be “Systems and Structures: Creating the Foundation.” In September, the topic will be “Culturally Responsive and Engaging Curriculum.”