The new principal for the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Compass Programs has a history in special education and wants to close the disciplinary disparity between student groups.
Ray Brodeur, formerly a Roosevelt Middle School assistant principal, took over the Compass Programs job from Greg Cole July 1. Cole was tapped to become the district’s chief operations officer.
“I’m excited to oversee this program and see where we can go with it and provide an overall district lens around safe and welcoming schools,” Brodeur said.
Compass Programs offers education to students who are transitioning through a change or crisis in their lives.
“Compass Programs is an alternative learning setting for students to meet their needs in an unique and special way,” Brodeur said.
Brodeur, who lives in Columbus, grew up in Forest Lake after spending his first decade moving around because his father was in the Navy.
Brodeur’s teaching career began as a social studies teacher at Andover High School. After that he went to Anoka High School, where he was hired to be a special education teacher for seven years. He has also served as an administrative intern at Anoka Middle School for the Arts and was an assistant principal to the Compass Programs in charge of discipline and student conduct for elementary schools in the district.
Brodeur said he’s interested in working to provide alternatives to suspension and reducing the disciplinary gap between students.
“This is what my role amongst the district is, working with all of our schools to develop strategies and policies and practices that can really close that disparity gap with our students of color, students with low socio-economic background, students who are on special education services, and how we can make sure we’re keeping those kids in our school longer,” Brodeur said.
Last year the district faced scrutiny when it and 42 other districts were named by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights as part of a list that disproportionately suspended and expelled students of color and students with disabilities.
Anoka-Hennepin refused to sign onto a corrective action strategy, a document School Board Chair Tom Heidemann said would have been the equivalent of saying staff had failed at their jobs. Instead the district agreed to work with the department to decrease disparities in suspensions and expulsions.
Brodeur said moving to a special education setting and learning how relationships are important for those student impacted how he works in education. He called the move to Compass Programs a natural fit.
He said connecting kids with school in a unique way is something he has a passion for. He said it’s important to understand “that kids are trying to meet different needs and that could be maybe they have a need for belonging, maybe they have a need for some freedom, maybe they have a need for some fun at school.”
Compass offers lessons at the Bell Center in Coon Rapids and the Education Service Center in Anoka.
Programs are a temporary placements for students to receive support for maintaining their academic progress before integrating back into their local school. Most attendees are in the middle-level program for seventh- through ninth-grade students. The program provides smaller environments along with social-emotional learning, Brodeur said.
More information can be found at ahschools.us/compass.