Goodbyes go beyond graduates

Journalism Spring '22

Seniors in black robes toss their tassled hats into their air on the floor of a stadium.
Wednesday afternoon the Lakers tossed their caps into the air in Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, ending the two hour ceremony celebrating the Southwest High School graduates of 2022. (Addison Neveau)

The Minneapolis School Board met Tuesday, June 14, approving millions in contracts (School Board Agenda 6/14/22) and bidding farewell to exiting Superintendent Ed Graff and Associate Superintendent Ronald Wagner.

This year’s graduates aren’t the only ones heading out the door this spring. Some by choice, like Minneapolis Public School Superintendent Ed Graff who resigned effective June 30 at the end of his contract. This is following the most recent teacher strike that lasted almost three weeks starting March 8 and ending Friday, March 25. Wagner accepted a position at Albert Lea Area Schools. Others, like some teachers and staff at SW, were cut with the budget process and no longer have a position at school.

Max Resnik ‘24, expressed an optimistic view on the situation: “I think Graff’s retirement is a triumph for the MPS system.” 

The celebrated retirements and planned resignations are joined this year by staff leaving Southwest for reasons beyond their control. Eliminated positions and transfers to other schools as the result of reduced budgets and the Comprehensive District Design (CDD) will change the community for the coming school year. 

“There are a lot of really helpful programs that are being cut that could hurt student relationships, Joel Novak ‘23 said. 

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Ayan Fetin ‘23 said. 

Departing teachers are invited to complete the form at the end of this article to share this news and a memory of their time as a Laker with the community. 

The class of 2022 graduated Wednesday, June 8, at 2:00 in the afternoon. The lack of preparation for the decision to extend the school day and year was unreasonably scarce. 

The Metro Transit bus passes—”Go-To” Cards—were automatically shut off before the new end of the school year with the modified schedule which has students reporting to buildings through June 24 in temperatures forecasted beyond 100º. 

“[The Go-To Card] beeps and says that you need to pay. It slows down the whole process. They’ll usually let you ride,” Lou Levy ‘23 said. 

“It’s a little hard because the bus driver, they’ll either ask you to pay or ask you where you’re going. You have to show proof you’re a student and after school hours get questioned about what you’re up to,” Brian Guzman-Diaz ‘23 said. 

Graff, along with the Minneapolis Board of Education, had decided that the week following spring break 42 minutes would be added to the end of the school days and two weeks would be added on to the school year. This news upset many staff and students leading to him and others in the district getting hundreds of emails, calls, and messages trying to get him to annul his decision.

A freshman at Southwest expressed concern regarding the 42 added minutes to the school day “…there are countless reasons why this decision will be ineffective and create more issues than it will solve,” they stated. “…No extra minutes should be added, if anything, just an extra week,” Julia Lynch ‘25 said.

Regarding the time added to the school year, social studies teacher Valerie Rittler said, “This is not a constructive solution. It is just another sign that this school board does not listen to its stakeholders, this is why families are leaving in droves.” 

The additional 42 min reportedly “won’t be adding any quality time to increase students’ learning ability,” Caroline Hooper, social studies teacher at Southwest, said. 

 

The strike, the reaction to it, and repercussions from it have prompted interesting opinions and debates on all sides.

“I had a friend who was out for covid and with the rush at the end of the year didn’t hear back from some teachers via email; with the extra two weeks of time added, now that she is recovered she is able to come back to school and connect with those teachers and get caught up from her time out,” Charlie Morris ‘23 said. 

“I appreciate having the chance to make up work; I just wish I wasn’t here,” Jack Dewey ‘23 said. 

Between decisions made in isolation from staff working within the MPS school buildings, additional expenses both emotionally and financially as well as impulsive decisions have been proven costly. This decision takes away time from summer jobs, disrupt students’ sports, family lives, and after school jobs. 

“…I believe that if Ed Graff had intentions on staying with MPS, he would have taken more swift action on Eric Moore and the quid pro quo he insinuated with our union president, [a situation which still seems to be shrouded in mystery],” French teacher Kim Kolstad said. 

Transportation that is school-provided is not only an issue for the budget but also the scheduling. Most Yellow Bus companies are privately owned and do not solely support Minneapolis Public Schools. A bus may have routes in Richfield, Minneapolis, and Hopkins all in a matter of hours. By pushing back the school day, you upset the availability and schedules of the 70+ MPS buses.

The MPS Teacher Union is not the only union working within the public school system. There are over 20 bargaining units including Food Service, Health Clinics, Engineering, and Clerical Unions just to name a few. The extra school days added to require the district office to employ food service workers for the extra two weeks, which includes 200+ hourly employees requiring additional pay in addition to the additional meals they must provide to students. 

Principals were also not involved in the strike or decisions that followed. They are now forced to work even later in the year so while others employed by MPS may have 2-3 months off in the summer to pursue part-time or summer jobs, principals will only receive July off. Engineers work year-round and throughout the strike; however, with the school day extended, they may be working modified shifts. 

Hooper described the actions made by the district as “punitive, expensive, headache, and unrealistic.”

Departing Staff Spring '22

If you are leaving SW, consider taking a minute to leave a note about a memory from your time as a Laker.
Name
Within SW, what department (or departments) did you work with?
How long did you work at SW?
Free form field: leave it blank; shout-out any folks that are holding the torch you've passed on; you can include a scavenger hunt, riddle, or a cryptic message--really endless opportunities.