Duluth school district vows help for struggling minoritiesDULUTH - A dozen integration specialists, hired with money pulled from Duluth’s discontinued magnet school programs, told School Board members Tuesday how they hope to close the district’s achievement gap.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
DULUTH - A dozen integration specialists, hired with money pulled from Duluth’s discontinued magnet school programs, told School Board members Tuesday how they hope to close the district’s achievement gap.
The 12 newly hired integration specialists were introduced to the board by Ron Hagland, the district’s director of education equity. The specialists, 11 of whom are people of color, are part of the district’s effort to resolve the disparity between white students and students of color in test scores and graduation rates. Paying for the positions and training meant redirecting $1 million in desegregation money and ending magnet school programs.
The specialists include licensed teachers, a librarian and people who have worked with at-risk kids in residential settings.
“They are 100 percent committed to providing this service,” Hagland said. “When these individuals work with families, students, teachers and administrators, the question is, ‘How can I help you?’ ”
The specialists will act as liaisons between students and their families and teachers. About 500 students have been placed with specialists so far, with 45 assigned to each. First-graders and transfer students have yet to be assigned.
Because of the poverty in the district that often leads to family relocation, specialists will follow their students to whichever school they attend. They’ve spent their first few days going to schools and meeting students and teachers and explaining their work.
“I’ve had great connections with kids and wonderful dialogues with teachers,” said Jes-wa Harris, a specialist. “This is a wonderful team. We want to make a difference and we have started to make a difference.”
Hagland said the idea of the specialists has not been met with “100 percent open arms.”
“Some folks are smarting because they wanted revenues directed in another manner,” he said, noting he hopes that feeling will change once staff and teachers get to know the specialists and see what they do.
Board member Mary Cameron told the group it had the board’s support, and said she expects a shift in thinking within the district about it being part of the larger team.
“This hiring goes down in history in District 709 for hiring people of color,” she said.
Member Ann Wasson said she expects some of the students who graduate in the future will do so because of the specialists.
“If we can lead our city … and be a program that people say, ‘Look at Duluth, Minnesota, and see how they changed things,’ it will be powerful,” she said.
Principal says merger off to smooth start
Central High School Principal Lisa Mitchell-Krocak updated the board on the first few days of school with both Denfeld and Central students in the same building.
She said parking was under control, with every senior and junior wanting a pass getting one. The second road leading to Central was opened, with students on the east side of the lot directed down one road, and on the west side directed down the other.
Mitchell-Krocak said Roger Waller, the former Duluth police chief who was hired for the months of August and September, had done a good job organizing parking.
He was hired, she said, not because he was a former police officer, but because “he’s a good mediator and relationship builder,” noting he’s also worked on security cameras, providing more adult visibility in the school and training Americorps staff in the tutoring center.
She also said there would be both Denfeld and Central sets of king and queen for fall homecoming because students won’t know each other well enough to vote schoolwide.