By Ben Velderman
MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis school officials’ recent decision to close a popular, district-authorized charter school may have a happy ending for area families after all.
This spring, school leaders announced they were closing the Minneapolis School of Science, due to concerns about the charter school’s finances and allegations of cheating on state tests.
On July 1, Minneapolis officials booted the charter school out of the district building it had occupied for the past two years.
In its place, the district is re-opening Cityview School, a traditional public school that will be staffed by members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union, reports StarTribune.com.
The previous incarnation of Cityview School was known for failing its neediest students, so its reappearance should raise a few eyebrows for local citizens.
But here’s the good news for families and taxpayers: In exchange for returning the building to a traditional public school, the union has agreed to longer work days and school years for Cityview teachers, as well as more professional training, reports StarTribune.com.
The hope is that Cityview School will operate much like the charter it is replacing.
Cityview teachers will receive a higher salary for the extra work and greater flexibility in how they do their jobs, but they will also be held accountable for students’ academic performance.
The agreement “could pave the way for (Minneapolis) Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s plans to create more schools that are freed up from traditional rules but judged on performance,” the news site reports.
MFT President Lynn Nordgren cautioned that the Cityview School agreement is unique, in that the district is making most of the decision about how it will operate.
Any potential “partnership schools” – like the type Superintendent Johnson wants – would give teachers more say over what changes are made, Nordgren said.
Joe Nathan, a longtime school reformer in Minneapolis, praised union and district officials for the approach they’re taking with Cityview, but offered a caveat.
“The critical factor will be who the faculty are and who the principal is,” Nathan told StarTribune.com.