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An Integration Plan Leads a Student to a New School: ‘His Whole Life Changed’

One thing I was struck by in Sarah’s article is that a lot of parents opted out and chose to drive their kids to the suburban schools, which is allowed under state rules. Why did you not go that route?

My kids’ mom approached me in the middle of the summer and said, “I’d like to enroll Charles in some suburban high school so that he can get the best education.” I talked him about it and he said, sort of, “I don’t care where I go.”

So I thought, “Well, what’s going to happen? The school has a history of poor performance according to certain standards of academic testing. But that history is no longer relevant, because, now, it’s an entirely different school body that’s coming into the program.”

But in fact, the whole of south Minneapolis took their kids and put them somewhere else instead.

So the student body itself didn’t change, which I found out the first week in. I picked him up from school for the first time and I see all these kids coming out, and finally he comes out, and I say, “Hey, are there any other white kids in your school?”

He says, “I’m the only white kid in a couple of my classes.” And I said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And then when I read the Times article, I found out there are only 13 white freshmen.

What was attractive to you about North High? Or, I guess on the flip side, were you nervous?

I was in the summer, but now, I’m very enthusiastic. His whole life changed. He comes home every day and he’s happy and he’s engaging and he tells me all about all of the things that are going on. He loves every single one of his teachers. He’s excelling. It’s a whole different human being coming through the door after school every day.

I was terrified that it was just going to be another miserable year. And academics is just one component. The social and emotional learning component is just as important — or more important — than academics. I feel like you get a lot more of that when there are different people around you, who can teach you about different ways and thoughts.

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