The 2019-20 school year for Brooklyn Center Community Schools ended this past week.

It was a year of change and positioning for even greater change in the future. As students prepare for summer fun, summer jobs, vacations, college, vocational school, the armed services, permanent work and the next school year, here are some of the highlights from 2018-19.

Building for the future

The most visible change is seen at 6500 Humboldt Ave. N. where construction continues and modifying Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM. When completed by fall 2020, improvements will include updated classrooms, Project Lead the Way and science labs, lighting and electrical throughout the building, new furniture and a new secure entrance to welcome students, families and visitors.

This activity is the result of the bond issue approved by BCCS voters almost two years ago. Voters went to the polls in November 2017 and approved two questions, one for an operating referendum and the other for a bond issue calling for two key building projects — one at the middle and high school, the other at the elementary school. Additional benefits will be seen in improved instruction for all students in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM); expanded teacher training to improve academic achievement; increased academic opportunities for all students; the replacement of aging buses to ensure safe and reliable student transportation; and addressing deferred maintenance issues. In the meantime, most high school students are attending classes at the south campus temporary facility, in the former Brown College space.

Starting (times) for the future

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, start and end times will change throughout BCCS. The student school day for grades 6-12 students at Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM will begin at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. at south campus and 3:35 p.m. at north campus. Students will begin the day at Earle Brown Elementary STEAM at 7:45 a.m. and end their day at 2 p.m. These changes were necessary so the district can best meet the needs of BCC students and because research reveals best practices for school day lengths and start times.

Also, while creating the new schedule, it was important that the district maintain the two-tier bus system, meaning elementary students are not on the same routes as our middle and high school students. It was important that changes be made at both sites so elementary students have a shortened school day; and middle and high school students start school later than the current schedule.

Setting grad rate standards

The Minnesota Department of Education released graduation data for the class of 2018 on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. BCHS saw increases in graduation rates in all programs and Brooklyn Center High School STEAM remains above the state average. Class of 2018 Statewide: 83.2% Brooklyn Center High School STEAM: 85.7% Early College Academy: 62.1% Insight Online School: 36.0% BCHS has exceeded the state graduation rate for six years and is up 1.5% from 2017. The Early College Academy has made large gains in its graduation rate, including a 32.7% increase in two years. Insight Online School increased its rate from 2017 by 12.9% to its highest-ever graduation rate of 36%.

Addressing disproportionate discipline

Earlier in the year, BCCS began addressing the disproportionality of African-American students who are suspended or disciplined, compared to their white peers.

“When we look at our data and statistics, it shows us that predominantly, far and away, that our African-American students make up about 45 percent of our population and yet they account for upwards of 85 percent of both our classroom referrals, as well as our out-of-school suspensions,” said Dr. Carly Baker, Superintendent.

Leadership change at EBE STEAM

Randy Koch retired from his position as principal of Earle Brown Elementary STEAM. His last day as principal was Jan. 1, 2019. Jeff Wilson, assistant principal of Earle Brown Elementary STEAM, was later named his replacement.

“Randy has laid a lot of excellent groundwork to help improve the culture at Earle Brown,” Baker said. “He has turned the ship, and I thank him for all of the work he has done to make Earle Brown a place staff and students want to come to every day.”

Wilson was a principal in the Hinckley School District for six years. He has also served as an administrator in Renville County West Schools and Anoka Hennepin Schools. Wilson started his career at Dayton’s Bluff Elementary in St. Paul Public Schools.

BCCS named Magnet School Assistance Grant recipient

The U.S. Department of Education announced a new cohort of four Magnet School Assistance Grant awardees, and the Northwest Suburban Integration School District was named a recipient. BCCS applied for the grant in partnership with the integration, along with several other schools in this district.

“Being awarded this grant at the infancy of our STEAM implementation is truly something for our whole community to celebrate,” Baker said. “The grant will provide resources for staff and students to help further STEAM learning in every BC classroom.”

BCCS began implementation of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) in fall 2017. Starting in kindergarten, students learn how to code. High school students have experiences in the biomedical field, including how to analyze a crime scene, build a medical device and learn how the human body works. STEAM education incorporates the “A” for the arts – recognizing that to be successful in technical fields, individuals must also be creative and use critical thinking skills which are best developed through exposure to the arts.

Noteworthy events

Four snow days delayed the February Black History Month celebration, “Be the Change,” rescheduled for early March. In the later spring, “Spring Into Arts” and a joint Health Promotional Initiative with the city of Brooklyn Center were highlights that were well attended.

The Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA paid a visit to Earle Brown Elementary STEAM on March 7, thrilling students and teachers. Players, like superstar Karl Anthony Towns, staff members, Interim (since promoted to “permanent”) Head Coach Ryan Saunders, Crunch (the Mascot) and dance line performers took time out of their busy schedules to read to students to celebrate International Women’s Day. The book read to students, “This Little Trailblazer,” was about influential women throughout history. The Timberwolves also donated Bullseye plush animals and the book “Luis Paints the World.”

Copyright © 2018 at Sun Newspapers/ APG Media of East Central Minnesota. Digital dissemination of this content without prior written consent is a violation of federal law and may be subject to legal action.

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