North Community High School
|North Community High School|
|1500 James Ave North
|School district||Minneapolis Public Schools|
|Principal||Dr. Shawn Harris-Berry|
|Color(s)||Royal Blue and White|
|Athletics||Minneapolis City Conference|
North Community High School, or simply Minneapolis North, is a public, four-year high school located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The school has existed for over 120 years in several buildings all located on the North Side of Minneapolis. North once had a predominately Jewish student body but by 1982, the school and the neighborhood it is located in had become mostly African-American. Desegregation efforts, such as magnet school programs, have attempted to attract students from throughout Minneapolis and nearby suburbs. The neighborhood that North is located in is known for high levels of poverty and crime.
In recent years, the school has been known for its highly successful boys' and girls' basketball programs. Both teams have had numerous state tournament appearances and state championship titles. North offers several college preparatory classes and operates, Minneapolis Public Schools' radio station, KBEM-FM. The school has often struggled academically in terms of graduation rate and state standardized tests. The school's low academic performance has led to the school being labeled a "dropout factory" and suggestions by a Minneapolis City Council member to burn the school down.
There have been four separate buildings in which North has operated. The first housed just three grades when North opened in 1888. Three years later the first class graduated in 1891. The building grew to be too small for the school and a new building was built, opening in 1896 at a new location. On June 18, 1913 a fire burned down most of the building, forcing a new building to be rebuilt. A new building was built over the destroyed one and was completed in 1914. Later additions were added in 1921, 1923 and 1939. In 1963 it was determined that for the building was "to be retained as a secondary educational facility over a long period of time by the Minneapolis Public School system, it needs extensive rehabilitation and modernization to meet present day health, safety and educational adequacy.". A new building was built on a new site and funded as part of a $18 million bond referendum in 1964, that funded improvements to North and several other Minneapolis public schools. The building was finished and opened in 1973. The building is described as "resembling a giant bunker with few windows, double doors that are often locked from outside during the day to keep out unwanted visitors and painted-over graffiti on outside walls." Another description calls it a "series of brick boxes arranged around a courtyard" that "doesn't allow it to connect well with the community". The building now also houses adult education classes, a school for teenage mothers and a separate charter school, Dunwoody Academy.
As the North Side neighborhood has changed, so has Minneapolis North. During the 1920s and 1930s the North Side was the center of Minneapolis' Jewish population. In 1936 almost half of the students were Jewish. The North Side has since transitioned into a diverse working-class neighborhood with the highest rate of housing foreclosures in Minneapolis. North used to be a very large school and was overcrowded with over 2800 students attending the school in 1931. Now, residents are able to choose which schools they attend, and as a result only about half of the North Side's students attend local schools such as North. Open enrollment has led to North's enrollment plummeting from 1,143 students in 2004-05 to 265 students today. On October 11, 2010 Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson recommend to the Board of Education the phasing out of North High Community High School beginning the 2011-12 school year. However, this decision resulted in backlash from the North Minneapolis community. It was decided that North Community High School would remain open, but change its curriculum standards to focus more on arts and communications. It is now called North Academy of Arts and Communications (NAAC).
In the 2006-2007 school year, 964 students attended North. North's minority enrollment has grown in the last twenty years despite attempts to keep it low. In 1987 North's minority enrollment was 46%. Minority enrollment continued to grow, becoming over 60% in 1991. Today, only three percent of students are white, with the majority of students, 69%, being black. Currently, 82% of students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, an indicator of poverty. 16% of the students had limited English proficiency and 22% of students qualified for special education.
When students enroll at North, they choose to join one of three Small Learning Communities (SLC). SLCs offer a variety of classes centered on a particular subject or interest area. Students remain in their SLC until graduation. Three SLCs are offered: Arts and Media, Information Technology, Engineering, Computers, and Construction and Summatech, a college preparatory program.
North offers two languages: French and Spanish. The school has an Advanced Placement program that offers eight different courses. North is working on developing an International Baccalaureate diploma program. North has scored low on state standardized tests in recent years. In the 2006-2007 school year only 29.3% were considered proficient in reading and 8.61% were proficient in mathematics. North's high school graduation rate has been low in comparison to other local schools. Using an Adequate Yearly Progress rate, 78.5% of students graduate high school while other measures, such as the formula approved by the National Governors Association, give graduation rates as low as 39.8%. North has a 48% graduation rate and many of the women that attend to the school have one or more children.
North's low academic results have led to criticism. In February 2007 Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels suggested burning North down. "My children will not darken the door of a Minneapolis public school in this city at this time under these conditions. I've said burn North High School down! I can't be paying as a taxpayer for the education of my neighbors and 72 percent of them are failing—meaning black boys. Something worse than vouchers could come along. If it works, if it sacrifices the entire school system, fine! Get rid of the damn thing! It hasn't worked!" His suggestion caused uproar in the community, and his remarks were heavily criticized. Samuels later apologized for the "extreme language" but stated that he did not regret making the comments.
North High School is home to KBEM-FM, a radio station owned by the Minneapolis Public Schools. The station signed on the air in October, 1970, and moved to North in 1983 when the Minneapolis Area Vocational Technical Institute, where the station had been located from its launch (as Vocational High School), closed and the building sold. Students are responsible for much of the station's operation, and 35 hours of airtime a week is devoted to student programming. Approximately 150 students are involved in the radio station's operation, with the majority attending North. Students typically enroll in the program as ninth-graders and are prepared for on-air duties by their junior or senior year.
The station broadcasts traffic reports for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area with data provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. From 1989 to 2005, the station was paid approximately $400,000 by the DOT for this service. MnDOT had planned to cancel the contract, but due to public demand the state continued the relationship.
North offers a variety of musical programs. A beginning band, concert band, Jazz ensemble and drum line are offered. Choir, varsity choir, vocal ensembles and a gospel choir are available. Other extracurricular activities include a variety of academic competitions, a chess club, culture-specific clubs including an award winning Asian Club, debate and mock trial teams, a school newspaper and yearbook, science club and student government. North's Math team competes in the Minnesota State High School Mathematics League. The school has a chapter of National Honor Society.
North is a member of the Minnesota State High School League. North offers eleven boys' and twelve girls' varsity sports. These include football (boys), wrestling (boys), tennis (boys and girls), basketball (boys and girls), baseball (boys), softball (girls), golf (boys and girls), soccer (boys and girls), volleyball (girls), swimming (boys and girls), gymnastics (girls), badminton (girls), ice hockey (boys and girls), cross country (boys and girls) and track and field (boys and girls). North has Adapted Bowling. Both boys' and girls' teams are called "Polars". All of the sports teams participate, like all public high schools in Minneapolis, in the Minneapolis City Conference. North has won the state title in Boys' Track and Field in 1943 and 1948.
The boys' basketball team was dominant in the 1980s. Coached by Tony Queen, the team won eight of ten Minneapolis City Conference championships and went to the state tournament eight times, winning in 1980 and placing second in 1984 and 1985. In 1988 Queen was suspended from coaching for one year following attempts to recruit basketball players, which is illegal under Minnesota State High School League rules. He lost a battle to be rehired in U.S. District court. Queen was fired in 1990 for having sex with a student in the early 1980s. In the mid-1990s the boys' team had a dominating resurgence. Led by Khalid El-Amin, North tied a state record with three state championships in a row, from 1995 to 1997. The boys' team won another championship in 2003.
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