Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vote For Chanda Smith Baker for School Board

In my last post I shared a commentary piece written by school board candidate Chanda Smith Baker.  Today, I'm sharing a couple of video endorsements from two of our city council representatives.  The first one is City Council Vice President Robert Lilligren who represents parts of South Minneapolis, an area that has some of the same inner city challenges like NoMi has.  The second endorsement is from City Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden.  He ward is also in South Minneapolis and straddles the interstate, so her ward might be more similar to Diane Hofstede's ward in that it's got some of the same race and class divisions like Ward 3, very challenging to represent, indeed.

I'll be sharing more Chanda Smith Baker videos in the next few days and I hope you will also share them and spread the word of the excellent candidacy of Ms. Baker, we need her on the school board.

Election day is next Tuesday, November 2nd.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

North High School Reaction by Chanda Smith Baker

Chanda Smith Baker, school board candidate, ©Mary Hanson Photography 2010

 The whole city has been in a flurry about North High. Its future. Its past. Its failures and its successes.  I just want to take a minute to share and repost something written by school board candidate Chanda Smith Baker.  I hope each and everyone of you reading this, that lives in the city, will turn out on November 2nd and give Chanda one of your school board votes.  To me, it's the most important vote of this year.  Our state senator and our congressman are extremely likely to win their elections, the NoMi state rep incumbents seem secure.  And the school board at large candidates have very tight battles on their hands.  So if you can send some money, give some time and get out the vote for Chanda Smith Baker, it will be a very well placed vote.

This commentary was written by Chanda and first shared on her facebook page.  I'm reposting it here for those that don't follow her on facebook or don't use facebook.

North High School Reaction

by Chanda Smith Baker

The potential of North High closing has stirred up emotions in an unexpected way.  I was very well aware of the low enrollment and the many challenges North has faced over the last several years.  Last year, I met and spoke with several staff and leadership at North after they received notice that they were facing consequences due to the school being identified as a persistently low performing school.  The consequences included four choices; two of the choices meant significant turnover in staff and one was for the school to close.  We talked strategy and the decision was made to turnover staff at the school. 

This year I attended the open house for incoming students and the auditorium was fuller than expected with many supportive community members in attendance to welcome in the freshman students, all 47 of them.  Again, another sign that North was in serious trouble.  Despite the warning signs and my understanding that North closing was a real possibility, the superintendents announcement and recommendation to phase out North High and close it in three years was met with a heavy heart. 

 I am a fourth generation graduate of North High, the class of 1989.  North High is a mixture of memories of my favorite teachers, Ms Gregory, the librarian who recommended more books than I will ever remember, Brownie Lake field trips, basketball games, and where I met some very dear friends.  My late Uncle Richard Green was both a teacher and principal there, it is part of my family history. It is a place that is close to my heart and holds many memories for me, my family and my friends.  

The personal memories and my commitment to improve outcomes for all students have met head on.  The fact is North High School represents "community" and is a school that connects many of us in Minneapolis. This connection is what makes a strong community school, the connection and the love for North is an unspoken- underestimated factor. The loyalty to North seems to have tipped the scale towards blind loyalty- and we have collectively failed the students and families in North Minneapolis.  The same loyalty and commitment if directed and focused could create a stronger school and better academic results.

This recommendation came as a result of years of disinvestment and an overall lack of accountability and leadership. Currently, there are 267 students attending North High school.  There are fiscal realities that must be addressed and waiting too long without a solid and sustainable solution is a risk that would impact the entire district.  I understand why superintendent Johnson made a recommendation. I do not agree with how it was communicated and I do not believe closing North is a solution that should be made without community input and without a comprehensive plan for families.   In addition, the first publicized effort to "fix" North should not  have been to close it and as a result it has kicked up a large community debate and response.

I have a sensitivity on school closings  and a perspective that is unique.  I remember clearly when my uncle Richard and the school board announced the closing of 18  school closings in the 1980's.  I can vividly recall the emotions, the heated discussions, the frustration, particularly related to closing of Central High school in South Minneapolis. My uncle (and the board) closed  Central, the school my father (his brother) graduated from. It was a stressful time to say the least.   I know that the recommendation  to close North did not come easy and the superintendent came into a sinking situation and decisions have to be made. Having said that, I am not impressed with how the administration and the school board handled this announcement and recommendation to close North.  The district has to improve its communication and relationship with the community, particularly in North Minneapolis.  

The other major concern is academic achievement.  The superintendent stated that this is a moral issue and that she can not ignore the lack of academic progress for students at North High.  This is a valid point and the elimination of the achievement gap is the districts top priority.  In this context, the question becomes does closing North improve academic outcomes for students?  The answer is not clear. Moreover, if closing schools becomes the solution then what does that say.  There have been many changes and school closings, yet the gap has gotten wider.  The displacement of students is not an adequate response alone and has been proven not to work. 

Based on the enrollment numbers, North High has the best teacher to student ratios of all of the high schools.  Research has pointed out that smaller classrooms are ideal for student success.  If this is true and I believe it is, something is not lining up.  There are students at North who are doing exceptionally well.  In the student body: 20% proficient in reading; 8 % in math; and 4 % in science and we should celebrate their accomplishments.  On the other hand,  80% are not proficient in reading, 92% in math are not proficient and 96% are not proficient in science that is an extreme concern and we have to come together to figure out what our students need.   

Keeping North open will not improve outcomes for all students, unless there is a strong comprehensive plan in place.  A plan that includes commitment, multiple measures to evaluate effectiveness and accountability. This is a time for leadership.

This is a benchmark moment in our community.  It will either document the end of an era with the closing of North or it will be the time when our community comes together despite our differing opinions to not only save North, but to save our children. 
Please vote for Chanda for school board on November 2nd.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oktoberfest in NoMi

Every October in NoMi is celebrated with an Oktoberfest party at the home of some good friends.  It's part birthday celebration, part autumn celebration, but really just another reason to get together with framily.  Framily. That's what we are, framily. More than friends, less than family. 

Hope you enjoy my photo journal of this years Oktoberfest, it was a beautiful night with beautiful people and a few framily members who were only there in spirit.

This apple struddle was made by Deb Wagner, whose creations always impress
Of course the fire pit was ready to go
It's just not Oktoberfest without Denny Wagner and some football, right Honey?

A sunset stroll to the parkway

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mill City Farmer's Market - October 2, 2010 - Photo (And Video!) Journal

In my previous entry, I mentioned the awesomeness that is called the Mill City Farmer's Market, and how there are just two more opportunities to experience the amazing sights, sounds, smells, tastes and yes, even amazing things to touch with your very own hands. The market is open Saturdays 8-1 and the closing celebration day is Saturday October 16.  Be sure to get there this season. Here is a photo journal and a fun little musical clip to enjoy today.

I was there to help Stefan at the Local D'lish General Store.

Local D'lish employee Stefan Meyer and two loyal D'lish customers, Bob and Mary.
MCFM does a super good zero waste effort.  They try to compost everything.
Cute munchkins get to roam the market each Saturday while their parents sell their wares.
I hear their chicken empanadas are awesome.
Some of the most beautiful jewelry I've ever seen is right here.
Market Chef Heather Hartman made a 'Winter Squash-Red Lentil-Coconut Curry' and a 'Red Cabbage-Apple-Pistachio Salad in Maple-Apple-Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette'
The sample of above. Delicious! Email me if you want the recipes!
Former 5th Ward council aide, Jose Velez, and his better half Rosemary with their son Bobby.  The apple donuts they are enjoying were also getting a lot of buzz around the market. 
This little munchkin picked out a carrot for a horse, which he hid behind his back as if my camera would snatch it straight from his little hands.  Now, off to find the horse. (Note, there was no horse at MCFM!)
The market sits right under the famous Gold Medal Flour sign.
These folks were having a great time, some of them were visiting from Costa Rica.

Well-known local artist Adam Turman created this "Eat Locally" print for the Local D'lish store. They are available at Local D'lish. I have the other version, done in red instead of blue.
Super cute little gourds.
A mini-farm for kids to get up close to where their food comes from.
State Senator Linda Higgins and her hubby Brian Bushay are often at the MCFM with their wee-beasties.  Linda said she has seven (7!) farmer's markets in her district! Woo-hoo!  We should get a prize for that.
A variety of Goat cheese products to sample and buy.
Their goat farm is a little bit south of Northfield.  The pictures looked like my kind of heaven.
This goat's milk laundry soap is available at Local D'lish.  It sells fast and becoming really popular.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Virtual Tour of Growing Lots Urban Farm

If growing your own food, with plenty left over to share with friends and family, makes you as happy and grounded as Stefan Meyer, sign me up.  I met Stefan through my good friend Ann and her local foods store Local D'lish.  He couldn't be any nicer, any more authentic, entertaining or bright even if he was designer made in a future human creating science lab.  Stefan has become Ann's right hand man, helping immensely and bringing an amazing amount of urban farming and local food passion to an already wonderful driver of the whole food movement.

I first visited Stefan's urban farm, Growing Lots, earlier this summer, when the potato vines were spilling over in abundance and the crops were at their peak.  My camera was having emergency surgery and I was kicking myself for not having a back up.  No worries, though.  Growing Lots wasn't going away and I figured I'd just connect with Stefan as soon as my camera was recovered, coincidentally my phone happened to ring as we were there, telling me to come pick up my camera from the hospital.

But connecting with this in-demand urban ag guru turned out to be much harder than anticipated. Seriously.  This fella needs an appointment setter just to pencil me in.  Fortunately, today I had him cornered at the Mill City Farmer's Market;  he could not escape me now; I stalked him all the way back to Seward while he pedaled his bike in the crisp, bright autumn sunshine.

So here you go NoMi passengers, a virtual tour of Growing Lots Urban Farm.  I bring this to you so you can lust and fantasize during the upcoming "W" months (I refuse to say that word, for fear of summonsing it here sooner than necessary).  You can cozy up to the snow banked windows and map out your own urban farm.  However, if you want fresh, homegrown garlic, as I do, you'll need to drop those babies in the ground soon.

By the way, did I mention how popular this guy is?

If you want to enjoy the awesomeness that is the Mill City Farmer's Market,  you've got just two Saturdays to do so. And I highly recommend rearranging your schedule to make that happen. It's one of my favorite places in the city.  The energy is awesome, the location is amazing.  The food, vendors, people watching; it's just awesome.  I'll post more photos soon.  But get there yourself before it comes to a close in two weeks.  Saturdays 8-1, next to the Guthrie Theater.

Then starting in November, pencil in the third Saturday of each month for the Indoor Market at Local D'lish.  A great thing to do on a "W" Saturday to remind us that we haven't frozen to death and the thaw will come.  Just not soon enough. It will be a little slice of the Mill City Market, picked up and set inside for a few months.  See you there!