The MCTC News Blog

MCTC In The News: Start of A Transition at FAIR Downtown

Posted on: November 2nd, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
FAIR School Downtown started its first school year since a change in management to Minneapolis Public Schools from the West Metro Education Program.

The FAIR School in downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Community and Technical College campus is located just blocks from FAIR School Downtown, a K-12 school in downtown Minneapolis. The proximity provides students an opportunity to look to MCTC as both a choice for PSEO as well as after graduation. “Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework,” said FAIR School principal Kevin Bennett. The original story, available at this link, is posted in its entirety below.

Start of a transition at FAIR Downtown

October 6, 2015

By: Dylan Thomas

DOWNTOWN WEST — More than a week after the start of the 2015–2016 school year brought most Minneapolis Public Schools buildings back to bustling life in August, the hallways at FAIR Downtown School were still relatively quiet, with no students in sight.

A post-Labor Day start remained on FAIR Downtown’s calendar even though management of the school was transferred this summer to Minneapolis from the West Metro Education Program. It was just one example of how the downtown site serving grades K–3 and 9–12 remains distinctive in its new home district.

Principal Kevin Bennett said, for him, the most noticeable change may be that his district headquarters is now two miles away in North Minneapolis instead of just down the hallway from his office. For students and their families, the message from Bennett and the district is one of consistency and stability for at least the next four to five years.

“I think we’re working to keep the experience for students the same,” Bennett, who is beginning his 12th year at the school, said. “I would hope if students say that something is different, it’s been that we’ve been able to access (Minneapolis district) programs and personalize their learning experience for the better.”

But there has been change, including significant turnover in FAIR Downtown’s K–3 teaching staff since last school year. And for some parents, the unusual path FAIR students once followed from downtown Minneapolis to a sister campus in Crystal and then back again is now looking too uncertain.

Meanwhile, officials with Robbinsdale Area Schools, the district now running FAIR Crystal, have publicly discussed a change in grade configuration at that 4–8 school as soon as 2017.

Staff turnover and that uncertainty where both factors Jim Ramlet, a former member of the two schools’ PTO, cited for enrolling his two boys at new schools outside of FAIR this fall. Ramlet, who lives in Robbinsdale, said his younger son would’ve been entering his senior of high school just as Minneapolis’ pledge of four years of stability expired.

“You don’t want to be looking for another high school when your son is starting his senior year,” he said.

WMEP’s changing role

The West Metro Education Program was founded in 1989 as a way for its 11 member districts, including Minneapolis, to collaboratively work on school integration issues. Although it no longer manages the two FAIR schools, WMEP plans to continue offering professional development for educators.

The school boards of the Minneapolis and Robbinsdale districts acted last winter to take over management of the FAIR Downtown and FAIR Crystal, respectively. At the time, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said the school’s K–3 classrooms “obviously” would be phased-out at some point, but pledged to “protect the program” at FAIR Downtown and transfer some of the lessons learned there to the district at large.

The shift in the schools’ management was formalized in June during a special legislative session.

Minneapolis district leaders plan to initiate a community engagement process around the future of FAIR Downtown this year, while at the same time continuing conversations with Robbinsdale about the future of the Crystal campus, Michael Thomas, chief of schools for the Minneapolis district, wrote in an email. For now, the schools continue to operate as an inter-district integration program, enrolling students from all 11 of the member districts.


Bennett, who this summer was one in a group of American educators invited on a five-city tour of China, said he’s interested in pursuing community partnership school status for FAIR Downtown. The designation gives Minneapolis schools greater freedom in setting their own budgets, staffing rules and curricula — even the lengths of the school day and school year — as long as they can show the changes are boosting student learning.

Bennett said the school already offers students unique learning opportunities through a “robust network of partners,” including downtown businesses like Target and arts institutions like the Hennepin Theater Trust. Some FAIR Downtown students take advantage of the campus’ proximity to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to complete college-level coursework.

Bennet said those partnerships, and the 500-student school’s relatively intimate size, continue to draw families. He estimated about half of the school’s students live in Minneapolis.

In 2014, the FAIR Downtown graduated more than 88 percent of its relatively small senior class, according to the latest figures available from the Minnesota Department of Education. The graduation rate for Minneapolis Public Schools that year was just less than 59 percent.

Not a seamless transition

Richard Spratt, the parent of both a current FAIR Downtown sophomore and a graduate of the school, mentioned that graduation rate when asked about the school. Spratt described the small campus as “a very caring community,” but said he wonders about the direction the school will go in now that it’s a part of the Minneapolis district.

“In a large system like that you lose control of a lot of things, and sometimes systems make decisions that have a negative impact on programs,” he said.

Kari D’Averill, whose son, Levi, is a grade 2 student at FAIR Downtown, said the transition has not been as “seamless” as the Minneapolis district promised. By D’Averill’s count, there was only one teacher on the school’s K–3 staff this fall who’d been there the previous school year.

Drawn to FAIR in large part by the relatively small size, D’Averill said she’d already experienced additional layers of district bureaucracy since the transition to Minneapolis. But as long as the leadership and office staff at FAIR remains in place, she added, “I still have great hope that the FAIR that was will emerge.”

“We’re committed to seeing it through until it doesn’t work,” she said.

MnSCU Offers an Alternative to High Tuition

Posted on: October 27th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments


This article originally appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015 edition of the Star Tribune

An Oct. 18 article (“Private colleges try to soften $50-60K ‘sticker shock’  ”) reports that the most expensive college in the state now tops $60,000 per year and that four other private colleges are close behind.

Even if financial aid reduced the cost by 50 percent — as many private colleges say is possible — we’re still talking about an undergraduate degree that costs $100,000 or more.

What the article doesn’t mention is that there is a much more affordable way to get an exceptional education in just about any area of study — 555 different programs, to be exact — in a wide range of liberal arts and technical fields.

As its name implies, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is a system of seven universities and 24 community and technical colleges throughout the state. The average cost of tuition is $5,399 per year at the colleges and $7,999 per year at the universities — and that is before financial aid is applied. Students who come from families with less than $20,000 in annual income pay only $525 in tuition per year at our colleges and $841 per year at our universities, while families with annual income of less than $40,000 pay $1,097 per year at our colleges and $1,409 at our universities. At these rates, a quality education is accessible to anyone who has a dream of a better future.

Outstanding higher education doesn’t have to cost $60,000 a year. We encourage students and their families to explore all their higher-education options, including the high-quality, more-affordable options available on the campuses of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Devinder Malhotra, president of Metropolitan State University and Avelino Mill-Novoa, president of Minneapolis Community and Technical College


MCTC Global Studies Department Presents a Discussion Forum on Syria Oct. 29

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

The MCTC Global Studies department, in support of the Muslim Student Association student club, is sponsoring a forum on Syria on Thursday, Oct. 29 from noon–1:30 p.m. in L.3100. This forum is a safe place for interested individuals to hear from Syrian students or people who have lived in or have some expertise in the region. The forum will include faculty and student speakers and plenty of time for questions and answers from the audience.

For more information, contact MCTC Philosophy Instructor Matthew Palombo at

Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Pearl-Christenson-200Pearl Christenson was the child of Norwegian immigrants and lived the American dream of opportunity. Together with her husband Jerry, she raised a family of six children with the fundamental belief that access to education is the key to success for all who call America home, including immigrants.

Pearl was an early and consistent supporter of Power of YOU, a program which covers the cost of attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) or St. Paul College for two years for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and inner suburban high school graduates. She also understood the critical challenges facing our new immigrants, knowing that 24% of students now in Minneapolis public schools are immigrants and refugees. She was amazed to learn that 60% of the 2015 nursing graduates from MCTC were born outside the U.S. Additionally, she cared deeply for students who have come to the U.S. as children but have “undocumented” status, which poses great barriers to pursuing college and the American dream. She was fascinated with MCTC’s effort to provide special scholarships for these undocumented DREAMers.

This year, MCTC is piloting scholarship support for a special cohort of seventeen Power of YOU students who are otherwise ineligible for governmental aid because of their undocumented status. The Christenson family can think of no greater way to honor Pearl and her life of commitment to education and opportunity. You can learn how to contribute your support to the Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund by clicking All of us who love Pearl thank you.

See Pearl’s obituary here. She passed away in October, 2015.

Theater Arts Instructor Michael Kissin Slows his Role…but Not by Much

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments
MCTC Theater Arts Instructor, Michael Kissin Photo Courtesy of Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

MCTC Theater Arts Instructor Michael Kissin
Photo Courtesy of Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) Theater Arts Instructor Michael Kissin was featured in a recent article in the Star Tribune for his role in the play The Twenty-Seventh Man currently running at the Minnesota Jewish Theater Company. Michael Kissin is an actor, director and musician in addition to his teaching role at MCTC, and has been a company member at the Mixed Blood Theatre for over 20 years. Michael has directed plays including Talley’s Folly, Goats, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding and Stars of David, and starred in the one-man show Boychik.

The original story is posted below.

Michael Kissin feels connection to MJTC’s ‘The Twenty-Seventh Man’

Twin Cities stage vet Michael Kissin honors his Jewish roots in a play about Stalin’s purge of Yiddish writers.