Downtown school gets to keep teachers longer

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March 17, 2003 // UPDATED 9:21 am - April 30, 2007
By: Caitlin Pine
Caitlin Pine

The group that runs the Interdistrict Downtown School, 10 S. 10th St., will be allowed to hire, promote and retain its own teachers, rather than losing them to local school districts after a couple of years.

Currently, the K-12 school borrows teachers from 10 area districts that comprise the West Metro Education Project (WMEP). Those teachers had to return to their home districts after approximately two years. In July, teachers can stay at the Downtown school and gain seniority.

Tenured teachers from other districts can still teach Downtown, but will have to take a leave of absence from their home district.

Marsha Gronseth, WMEP's executive director, predicts many new teachers will opt to sign contracts with the new district. "We think working at an Interdistrict magnet school in an integrated learning setting is an attractive option for teachers," Gronseth said.

Students -- who come from member districts in Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Edina, Hopkins, Minneapolis, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony/New Brighton, St. Louis Park and Wayzata -- will still able to transfer from the Downtown school to their home district if they wish.

Enrollment in the Downtown school is limited to students from those districts. Applicants are selected by lottery based on spaces allocated for their district.

The WMEP consortium was created in 1989 partly to integrate local schools by drawing non-minority suburban kids to Minneapolis, whose citywide student body is two-thirds minorities. In addition to Downtown, WMEP operates a school in Robbinsdale. Together, the schools serve 550 students.

In addition to the state per-pupil aid that funds all public schools, WMEP gets state desegregation dollars. Those funding sources stay the same despite the teacher-hiring change.