St. Paul Public Schools’ Strategic Plan Announced | 2.11 [IMAGE]
Challenges to West End Schools Draw Strong Responses

St. Paul Public Schools has announced a significant change in direction in its 2011-2014 Strategic Plan. Under the general rubric “Strong Schools, Strong Communities,” Superintendant Valeria Silva and her staff promise to address achievement, alignment and sustainability and place schools “at the heart of the community.”

Outstanding education for some students is not satisfactory — the goal is an outstanding education for all students.

Present available choices do not do enough to address the achievement gap. Aiming to provide students with quality choices “in their own community,” the plan promises that all schools will have academic specialists, nurses, libraries, classroom technology, family and mental health supports. Expensive busing across the system will be replaced with streamlined, regional transportation to access community and magnet options.

The present financial challenges—a $20 million budget shortfall—need to be tackled by choosing ways to assure core function success and positive results for students. Sustainability also depends on nurturing partnerships and shared accountability involving principals, teachers, students, families and community organizations.

West End schools are seriously affected by the plan.
  • Two elementary programs would close after this year: Four Seasons A+ Elementary and the K-6 portion of Open World Learning Community.
  • Grades 7-12 at OWLC move to the new Downtown Secondary School (formerly Wellstone Elementary), along with Creative Arts High School 9-12. By 2013 the Open 7-12 phases to 9-12.
  • In 2012 the French Immersion school L’Etoile du Nord moves into the OWLC building.
  • Bridge View Special Education School would move into the Four Seasons space and expand its capacity.
  • Adams Spanish Immersion would lose grade 6 (relocated to Highland Park Middle School) but would continue to be a citywide magnet.
Responses and reactions to this scale of change are always significant, especially when the news is announced “cold,” with little prior community consultation. Information sessions have been scheduled, to be sure.

A significant number of parents have responded urgently. Jo Heinz reports of the attendance of large numbers of Four Seasons A+ parents and students at the January 18 School Board meeting, and one of those parents provides her own perspective in a “Neighbors Speak Out” essay. Other related activities include action from parents of L’Etoile du Nord protesting the relocation of their school. As we go to press, some activity around Open World Learning Community is also scheduled.

open world learning community

Community service has been a watchword for Open World Learning Community. lou “the photo guy” michaels

Creative work at Four Seasons

Great River Park Task Force Update | 1.11 [IMAGE]

by John H. Yust

On December 14, 2010, there was another Great River Park (GRP) Task Force meeting at the Wellstone Community Center. The purpose of the meeting was to:
  • Review the schedule of future meetings and the results of past planning workshops.
  • Present concepts prepared in the workshops and review alternatives.
  • Encourage discussion and comment by Task Force members and their constituencies.
For more information refer to the GRP web site:

I want to acknowledge that there is an enormous amount of information to digest, that this is a very complex plan to articulate, and that there are many concerned parties who at times have competing interests. I am pleased to see the progress of the plan, which includes many ideas and concerns (but not all) relevant to the West Seventh community and the City of St. Paul.

From my perspective, here are some of the challenges. These ideas have been proposed by community members during the GRP process, but as yet do not appear in the draft conceptual plan. They need to be included.
  • Obtain a research legacy grant on Dred Scott and his St. Paul home site (currently, little attention is given to minority issues).
  • Offer Victoria Park soccer field alternatives (need a West Seventh Federation study for Victoria Park’s highest, best land use).
  • Obtain a research legacy grant for Fountain Cave, so its historical importance and potential can be properly acknowledged.
  • Develop Randolph Avenue, the community’s “Gateway to the River,” with a tree-lined green Parkway from West Seventh to Shepard Road, ending at Island Station and the river.
  •  Explore the Xcel site under the High Bridge and its potential for visible future experimental and cutting-edge energy research.
  • Replace the High Bridge stairway, which was removed with the old bridge.
  • Ensure Walnut Street becomes a pedestrian and bike bridge connection from Irvine Park to Head House at Upper Landing.
  • Create new riverfront commercial space at Upper Landing.
  • Rethink Shepard Road to accommodate river park connections: speed, landscaping, and parking.
  • Plan for the repurposing our sandstone caves (an existing asset). They should be made easy for use (primarily for private use) in the future.
  • Establish “event barges” for St. Paul (check out architect Louis Kahn’s design for the Concert Barge) that might include restaurants, dancing, swimming, etc.
  • Continue to encourage restaurants in St. Paul that are either on or have views of the Mississippi River.
In an era of dwindling resources, creative community grassroots stakeholders, together with institutions and government, have to figure out better and more effective ways to implement the plan.

To position these plans in such a way that visionary entrepreneurs (Sea Salt owners in Minnehaha Park, Mpls), with institutions and government, can participate in accomplishing both major and minor successes in the Great River Park. Some constraints (perhaps the new critical area zoning designations) may limit and/or negate some of the great possibilities of the plan from becoming reality. We underestimate the powerful effect of small projects. An example would be the old barge, No-Wake-Café, a modest place that should have been retained. Ordway architect Ben Thompson referred to the old No-Wake-Café as “Pennies from Heaven.”

I want to thank the Great River Park Task Force, the St. Paul City Council, the St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation, the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development, the St. Paul Department of Public Works, the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation, and all the amazing consultants for their interest and understanding of the issues in the preparation of the St. Paul Great River Park Master Plan.

RiverCentre, District Energy Begin Largest Solar Thermal Project in Midwest | 1.11

by Jerry Rothstein[IMAGE]

Installation has begun at the St. Paul RiverCentre of 144 commercial-grade solar thermal panels, covering roughly half the size of a football field, on top of the 30,000 square feet roof of the convention center.

These panels are equipped with the highest efficiency technology available, enabling them to generate one megawatt of energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 pounds annually, the equivalent to eliminating 90 vehicles per year.

Solar energy collected is used to heat water, not produce electricity. The panels convert up to 80 percent of absorbed sunlight into usable thermal energy, compared to 15 percent efficiency in solar electric panels. The heated water is then used by St. Paul RiverCentre and the downtown St. Paul area for space heating and hot water needs.

The project is made possible by a $1 million grant administered through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with matching funds from District Energy St. Paul.

“Renewable energy and sustainability are not just catch phrases around our convention complex,” said Karolyn Kirchgesler, President and CEO of Visit Saint Paul. “They are a way of life here, and this solar thermal project is the next major step in our commitment to the environment. The solar project does have an impact on our carbon footprint, but it is largely part of our overall aim to become a regional leader in sustainability.”

District Energy St. Paul currently provides heating to the RiverCentre through a combined heat and power plant that utilizes renewable, urban wood residues. It will install and operate the solar thermal array. The installation is expected to be complete and operational early this year, after some disruptions caused by our extreme December weather.

St. Paul and Minneapolis are among 26 major U.S. cities working to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies for a cleaner, more secure energy future through the Department of Energy’s “Solar America Cities” partnership. This solar thermal installation is one of 40 projects that were selected nationwide and is one of the first to be completed.

This project is the first of many in St. Paul. The City has secured an additional $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security to install solar on approximately ten City facilities along the Central Corridor, including the Western District Police Station, St. Anthony Park Recreation Center and Rondo Library.

Community Visioning Meeting on the Calendar | 1.11[IMAGE]

Since last March, the Community Reporter has received a range of comments on John Yust’s article “Clear Vision for West Seventh Community,” thoughts which arose out of our first community visioning meeting.

Exploring the question, “In 2020, what kind of community do you want to live in?” remains a continuing challenge, and we look toward planning the second community visioning meeting for March 9, 2011, 6:30 p.m. at the West Seventh Community Center. A planning group is being formed and all West End residents or workers are welcome. Call Jerry Rothstein at 651-587-8859 for further information, or write your thoughts and send them by mail or drop off to Community Reporter, 265 Oneida St. 55102, or by e-mail to

-- Jerry Rothstein

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