Star Tribune: Success spoiled by city’s idea to walk away from FAIR school

Steve Brandt writes in the Star Tribune: “Success spoiled by city’s idea to walk away from FAIR school.” He paints a glowing portrait of FAIR principal Kevin Bennett and notes the difficult position Minneapolis is putting WMEP in with its threat to pull out. Though he is principal of both FAIR schools, Bennett seems to be everywhere…

Although Bennett acknowledged that staff at each school might feel shorted by his dual gigs as principal, parent Laura Aulik of Edina said she’s amazed at how ubiquitous he seems at school events. “Mr. Bennett definitely does have a fire in him that I have not seen in principals,” she said. “His presence is always there.”

There’s also been a transformation in Bennett since his earlier years at FAIR. Although he’s still gray-suited some days, on others he can be found with plaid shirttails hanging out, often surrounded by laughing, excited students.

But Minneapolis still has concerns, some of which are baggage from earlier times…

The city’s issues with FAIR have two origins: the troubles of the original downtown school, and the lack of integration.

The downtown school struggled with a shaky opening year in 1998, frequent turnover of principals, and its kindergarten through 12th grade configuration.

Bennett changed that. He and WMEP Superintendent Dan Jett pared downtown’s 13 grades to a K-3 and senior high grades combo that wrapped around the Crystal school’s popular 4-8 grade span, and adopted the latter’s arts-infused curriculum.

Clearly, keeping these collaborative integration districts open and healthy is a difficult task no matter which side of the Twin Cities you are on.