Nova Classical Academy Breaks Ground for New School[IMAGE]

by JERRY ROTHSTEIN

Nova Classical Academy, a classical, K-12, public charter school in St. Paul, broke ground on a new three-story, 92,000-square-foot school on October 18 in Victoria Park. The new facility will house more than 900 students and 75 faculty members and will be one of the first of its kind in the Twin Cities. Nova Board members, students, and the school’s authorizer, Friends of Education, and Councilmember Dave Thune participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.

Nova Classical Academy Executive Director, Brian Bloomfield, said that the school is familiar with breaking new ground: “As one of a handful of K-12, public classical schools in the country, we are pleased to offer our students and families a single-site campus that emphasizes the integration of all three levels of the academic program in one building.” A classical education centers around a learning model called the Trivium, Latin for “three paths,” that has specific modes of teaching children at different developmental stages. He expressed the school’s appreciation for “the opportunity to establish permanent roots in St. Paul and keep Nova in the community that nurtured it in its early years.”

Bloomfield also explored the theme of change: “Change: as we stand on the site of our future as a school, I see two roads: things which are about to change and things which are not. Those that are about to change include better rooms, more space, greater safety and security; cleaner air to breathe; a larger gym to field our athletics teams and allow us to be not just guests, but hosts, as others use our resources; a larger stage to meet the needs of our drama program; more opportunities for cross-curricular programming where older students work with younger students to see the interconnectedness of all that we learn. What will not change is our commitment to a trivium-based classical education: the need for great teachers working with eager students; our track record of fiscal responsibility and future-thinking planning; the special partnership staff, parents, and students share in the community; our feeling of sanctuary in a community of like-minded people who gather together for one, common purpose: that of educating children better than anywhere in Minnesota.”

[IMAGE]For more than ten years, a highly involved group of Nova parents and administration has been searching for a permanent, single-site campus to house the school’s growing program and increasing enrollment. After opening in Highland Park in 2003 with 166 students in grades K-6, Nova today has a student body of nearly 700 students in K-11 on two sites. In the spring of 2013, Nova will celebrate its first class of graduating seniors during its inaugural year in their new facility. “It has been a long journey leading to this day,” said Damon Fraser, chair of the Nova Classical Academy Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to see our K-12 vision realized. Many people have come together from the school and the community to make this project possible.”

One of the key supporters of the new Nova facility is Councilmember Dave Thune of Ward Two. “The addition of this new Nova campus to the West Seventh neighborhood is an affirmation of our belief in the future of our community. A new school, and parents who want to bring children there to learn, is a very good thing for this neighborhood.”

Nova Classical Academy will be working with several Twin Cities firms on its new facility building project, including Rivera Architects, RJM Construction, and Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis. A municipal bond offering was issued early last week for $18.5 million. The bond was rated BBB — investment-grade, the highest possible rating for a school. Since charter schools cannot levy taxes, the school’s building company will pay for the new facility with bonds, fundraising, and enrollment.

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West End’s Study Guides Reach Around the World[IMAGE]

by Joe Landsberger


Often neighbors ask me about the progress of my educational work in developing and supporting the website Study Guides and Strategies (studygs.net) as a learner-centric educational public service. The website contains over 250 topics, from learning to learn to time management; from writing essays to transitional words and phrases; test preparation to solving math word problems. And in 29 languages, with translations by volunteers in their home countries and institutions.

Some topics have been developed as part of a logical sequence, some by chance encounters identifying a need, and even a few by request. Each webpage adheres to a bulleted style and format in a consistent design and navigation template, which is, of course, reversed for right-to-left text as in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian. Back in the early days of the Internet (only 1995!) the content was verbal without images, but as capabilities progressed more were illustrated. In 2003 Flash was deployed in order to facilitate students’ engaging with the content, and over 100 interactive exercises are now online as well.

Aside from developing these exercises, another effort toward enhancing the effectiveness of the resource has been made to group and sequence topics. Over 60,000 educational institutions link to the site worldwide, and traffic has continued to grow each of its 16 years, currently increasing at 16% in 2011 to well over ten million visitors. Topics are highly placed in Google searches: for example, “time management” is second of over 920 million Websites (September 19, 2011).

For the past 16 years, I have researched and authored all the content, as well as developed and financially supported the site. This stemmed from my professional and educational background in assisting learners and developing training modules in a university setting, as well as discovering the educational potential of the Internet back in the early 1990s. In a chance encounter with an academic support professional at a conference, I discovered that a website should be a useful tool delivering study strategies in a learning center environment. With publication of those first pages in a website, I immediately began to receive appreciation from developing countries.

There is no institutional affiliation, which impedes research into determining effectiveness or in terms of outcomes, and also limits my opportunities for funding (while a public service, the organization is not nonprofit, just without profit!).

Due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, it has been difficult to gauge characteristics of visitors, whether student, teacher, support professional or parent. Alexa.com, however, presented this profile (December 2010): “Compared with internet averages the site’s audience tends to be aged under 25 and 55-65; they are also disproportionately low-income, moderately educated, childless women browsing from school and home.” English accounts for about 80% of pages accessed. Interestingly, only about 5% of visitors use handheld/mobile devices. Approximately 51% of traffic originates in the U.S., 6% in the Philippines, 4% Canada, 3.6% Mexico, 3.5% India. Over the years the international traffic has increased as more guides are translated.

One curious source of traffic originated in a developing country. When I asked a researcher the reason, he stated that the guides were research-based, freely accessible, and that his country did not have the resources either to develop them or provide academic support in school settings.

Aside from adding topics, translations, and exercises, future projects will respond to advances in technology. Recognizing the limitations of Flash and evolving SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) standards and specifications for web-based e-learning, I eagerly await HTML5, as well as other applications and developments in promoting interactivity for the topics and content of the website. Currently all 1500 pages of content are being migrated into CSS (Content Style Sheet) template, with 20 of 39 languages completed. This effort has magnified my limitations as developer. Early this year, I dedicated several months of time not only to assess the next iteration, but also to teach myself new developments and implementation of CSS. It seems that each year I conduct a line-by-line review not only of code, but also of the content itself — millions of lines. Foreign languages presented a unique challenge that is remedied by machine translators and Internet searches to verify and optimize text. However, I practice what I preach, and learn online also!

In the months ahead, I hope to provide my local West End educational community articles on topics of the website. If you have a particular interest, contact me through the website: www.studygs.net.

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Donut as Art[IMAGE]

by CHRISTOPHER G. BREMICKER

That is the motto of Mojo Monkey, the new donut shop, at 1169 West Seventh. Mojo Monkey is a rich mixture of handcrafted donuts, organic coffee, current music, friendly employees and bright atmosphere. The name of the shop comes from a character in a favorite television show of owner Lisa Clark’s daughters.

Lisa worked at Breadsmith for five years. She learned the pleasure of giving someone something she had made there. On a trip to Seattle to visit her sister, a graphic artist who designed Lisa’s logo, she noticed the many donut shops there. She realized there were few donut shops in the Twin Cities. Lisa looked for a year for a suitable location before she decided to start Mojo Monkey on West Seventh Street. She said she loves the neighborhood and the sense of community here.

Families come into Mojo Monkey and children leap with joy as they look into the glass cases containing the donuts. They select donuts from a large assortment, such as cake and raised donuts, peanut butter-and-jelly Bismarcks, maple Long Johns with a strip of bacon on top, red velvet donuts with chocolate ganache, and donuts with cream cheese frosting, organic coconut, or pecans. Often, customers buy boxes of a dozen or more.

On weekends, Mojo Monkey makes, to order, beignets, French donuts that are popular in the south. Beignets are quick-fried and covered with powdered sugar. They should be eaten immediately and dipped in hot chocolate or coffee, Lisa said.

The organic coffee at Mojo Monkey is made from beans bought from farms that support the Fair Trade Agreement. This agreement requires growers to pay its employees fairly and provide fair working conditions.

Mojo Monkey’s music is selected by a programmer who spends hours at the library researching music from local artists. Lisa calls the music jazz, blues, urban, and independent. The music fills the shop as customers sit at the tables and enjoy a cup of coffee and a banana fritter, for example, and the employees arrange the cases with freshly fried and frosted donuts kept in a rack behind the counter.
[IMAGE]
Lisa believes in treating her staff well and working them hard. Lisa starts frying the donuts at nine o’clock at night. Her finishers, her mother, Laura, and friend, Julia, start work at four in the morning. Ivy, Rose, Dria, and Julia’s sister, Laura, who work the counter, arrive later. Lisa’s sister, Helena, and her daughters, Bella and Hannah, help customers from behind the counter too. Lisa considers herself a mom providing work for her family.

On the big window above the door are stenciled the words, Delight, Indulge, Handcrafted, Sweet, Fresh, and Bliss. A window to the small kitchen in back shows employees working at the fryer, the oven, for making Danish, which are expected soon, the mixing table and the finishing table. Big bags of flour and sugar are stacked on the floor. There are containers of pistachios, Oreos, M&Ms, toffee, peanuts, black walnuts, blue and red sprinkles, pecans, and organic coconut.

Mojo Monkey is located in the same retail space once occupied by Rudies Coffee House. Lisa kept Rudies’ black-and-white-checked tile floor and replaced the red-and-black color of its walls with a bright robin’s egg blue. She added a window in back by the kitchen and new tables and chairs. Alcoves of tables and chairs look out on West Seventh. Fresh flowers are on each table. Mojo Monkey has Wi-Fi.

Mojo Monkey’s hours are 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. They are closed on Monday.

Owner Lisa Clark hand-making donuts in the back baking room.

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Twin Cities METRO | September 2011 [IMAGE]
From the print edition

What makes one neighborhood more desirable than another?
Toward the end of our last interminable winter, METRO’s senior edit staff trudged over to the U of M’s West Bank to meet with scholars Will Craig and Jeff Matson from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) — data assemblers and policy wonks who, we hoped, would assist us in the task of compiling detailed information on Twin Cities neighborhoods to produce numerical rankings.

This was no easy task, and in the months to come there were a few loaded pauses in which us journalists requested that information be phrased in terms that we could more easily understand (“Uh, can you repeat the part about the stuff?”). We felt the heavy lifting was worth the effort, though. When we looked over other magazines’ “best neighborhoods” issues, we saw that the prevailing trend was to punt: throw a few shouts out to trendy shopping districts, notable parks and architecture, dress it up with pretty pictures and declare the job done. A nice diversion, to be sure, but dodging the essential question of what makes one city neighborhood superior to another — and how to arrive at numbers to back it up.

Going in, we knew these rankings would stir up controversy. Whether we live in Uptown, Powderhorn or the North Side, we all tend to be boosters and proponents of the place where we hang our hat. Our purpose isn’t to suggest that your beloved district isn’t the right place for you. Instead we’ve tried to provide a transparent, numerical value that balances all of the various considerations that go into deciding where to live.

Over the course of the next several months we rolled up our sleeves with CURA, examined the raw data and made some tough decisions about what makes an appealing neighborhood — and how to express that quality with a bit of applied science. We had plenty of factors to consider, including housing cost, access to transportation, shopping and restaurants, diversity, schools and safety. CURA compiled the numbers and, with a bit of statistical magic, plugged that information into Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhood maps as drawn up by each respective city.

These very maps kicked up our first challenge. If you think comparing M-town to the capital is apples to oranges, you aren’t alone: as defined by the cities themselves, Minneapolis has 85 neighborhoods while St. Paul contains 17. Soldiering on in the face of this numerical disparity, we decided that the crucial issue would be our identification of what makes a great neighborhood, not how many there are — although because of their differing sizes we separated the cities in our rankings.

Our results are compelling and, in some cases, counterintuitive. Minneapolis’s Kenwood, by just about any standard a very nice neighborhood, stalls out at the middle of the list. The same with St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland. In both cases, high housing costs dragged down their ranking (higher home costs lowered rankings, although holding housing value since 2008 raised them). We also learned quite a bit about how shifting the weight of various categories affected our outcomes — in one early version, Kenwood and Linden Hills’ high housing values left them nearly dead last in the list (rather than more or less in the middle of the pack, where they are now).

Conversely, neighborhoods with more affordable housing costs could see their overall score plummet if they lacked goods and services, or if their public school test scores lagged behind. With all variables ranked, we were able to identify up-and-comers such as Victory and Near North, where affordable housing stock and rising amenities mark them as very nice places to be in the near future as trends shift and home buyers look for value.

Here are the values we settled upon, with the totals adding up to a potential score of 100. Our factors included housing cost (15%); transit (13%: proximity to public transportation); recreation (13%: tallied from total green space); safety (12%: based on city crime statistics); arts and culture (10%); schools (10%: measured by standardized test scores); and diversity (8%: drawn from census data). For restaurants (6%), retail outlets (5%), food and gas (4%) and bars (4%), we relied on public data and ranked by sheer numbers (initially, we considered qualifying for quality, but soon discovered this would entail very subjective weighting).
We understand that these values won’t be the same for everyone. If you don’t have kids, you’re not as interested in schools, and housing cost — again, measured by affordability and home value retention — isn’t as great a factor if you happen to be wealthy. But we balanced things out as equitably as we could from our vantage on what we love about the Twin Cities: transit, green space, diversity and a plethora of shops, culture and eateries. Here’s hoping you see things more or less the same way.

So after a good deal of legwork and a huge assist from the urban-data experts, we’ve arrived at a detailed, statistics-based analysis that paints a vivid and intensely detailed portrait of the Twin Cities. Let the discussion (and fervent agreement, and equally contentious disagreement) begin.

West Seventh
One word captures the essence of the West Seventh neighborhood: convenience. No need to look further than its eponymous main drag for dining, groceries, and pretty much anything else, including independent coffee shops, antique stores, salons, healthcare facilities and even a brewery). Quiet is another encapsulating term, which describes the tree-lined residential areas tucked behind the busy main streets.

West Seventh rankings (lower number means higher ranking) totaling 86 of 100 points were: Housing Cost: 2; Transit: 15; Recreation: 5; Safety: 15; Schools: 10; Arts and Culture: 3; Diversity: 4; Restaurants: 5; Retail outlets: 11; Food/gas: 12; Bars: 4.

A simple photo shows several strengths of the West End — commercial, natural and accessible.

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Sophie Joe’s Emporium Partners with Second Harvest Heartland

SophieJoe’s Emporium is joining with Second Harvest Heartland in a holiday food and needed items drive starting November 1 and running through December 31. Last year, one in 10 Minnesotans was at risk of not having enough to eat and hungry Minnesotans missed 125 million meals. Hunger in our region has doubled over the past five years. Second Harvest Heartland is the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger relief organization. Its goal is not only to help hungry people today, but also to provide the means for everyone to be fed tomorrow. In 2010 it collected, warehoused and distributed nearly 60 million pounds of food.
SophieJoe’s Emporium is a locally owned shopping emporium with more than 40 different artisans and vendors, each dealer showcasing their individual vision of fashion, décor and collectibles: 453 West Seventh Street, 651-457-9934 or sophiejoesemporium.com.

Anyone who brings in five items from Second Harvest Heartland’s “most needed items” list receives a 5% discount card for SophieJoe’s merchandise. Donations by Visa or MasterCard or in cash also receive the 5% discount card for every $100 donated.
Most needed items include meats, fish and protein products; canned tuna, ham or chicken, beef stew, chili, peanut butter, canned/dried beans, fruits and vegetables, 100% fruit juice, canned fruits and vegetables, instant potatoes, fruit preserves; complete meals such as pasta & sauce, boxed meals, hearty soups; grains, cereal, rice; hygiene products including shampoo, deodorant, soap, diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene, toothpaste; cleaning supplies such as laundry detergent, paper towels, kitchen and bathroom cleaners.

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