Archive for February, 2008

Cooper High Drop-Out Charged In North Minneapolis Murder

February 21, 2008

Update: The two Amstrong brothers arrested in connection with the murder have been released pending further investigation. A Cooper HS dropout has been formally charged with second-degree murder. All three boys were imported to District 281 with “The Choice Is Yours” program. From the MN Sun-Post February 21:

A 15-year-old Minneapolis boy, who was a student at Cooper High School in New Hope until he withdrew from classes last month, was charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County Juvenile Court Feb. 20, in connection with the death of 70-year-old Pirkko Gaultney.

Minneapolis Police found Gaultney’s body Feb. 13, at her home in the 3600 block of Fremont Avenue North.

The 15-year-old boy was charged with one count of second-degree murder during the commission of a burglary, and one count of second-degree murder during the commission of a robbery, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is seeking to have the boy certified as an adult, according to a spokesperson from that office.

Two Minneapolis brothers, ages 15 and 16, both students at Armstrong High School in Plymouth, were arrested at school Feb. 15 in connection with the case, but were released pending further investigation, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.

“It was a surprise to us when [the arrests] happened on Friday morning,” Robbinsdale District 281 Superintendent Stan Mack said. “When plain-clothes officers from the Minneapolis Police Department came to the school to arrest the students, they were appropriately in class. There was no disobedience involved.”

All three of the boys were open- enrolled in their respective District 281 high schools as ninth-graders as part of the Choice Is Yours program, Superintendent Stan Mack said.

The Choice is Yours program is the result of a Minneapolis School District lawsuit through which suburban districts are mandated to accept Minneapolis students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

“It was a surprise to us when [the arrests] happened, ” Mack responds. It’s not surprising to those used to problems some imported students bring to our schools… and now we have the unhappy distinction of having an accused murderer attending Cooper. It’s time concerned residents and suburban districts work together to end the Choice is Yours mandate.

Pirkko Gaultney

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Cooper Principal Apologizes For Endorsing Candidate In Newsletter

February 16, 2008

School newsletter prompts apology
Star Tribune

A principal in the Robbinsdale district is sending a letter of apology to parents this week after he wrote a column in a school newsletter highlighting DFL Senate candidate Mike Ciresi.

“My intent was not to endorse him through the  article,” Cooper High School Principal Mike Favor said Wednesday. “My intent was to tell  that I’m meeting with people about our issues.”

In the February newsletter, Favor wrote that Ciresi was a “great advocate for education” and “you may be familiar with Mike Ciresi … he is currently seeking the DFL nomination to run against Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in the 2008 Senate race.” A spokesperson for Ciresi’s Senate campaign said the candidate was not aware of the letter before it was published.

Robbinsdale School District Superintendent Stan Mack said the newsletter should not have been used to potentially give advantage or free advertising to any candidate. He said he heard from about a dozen parents who were upset with the newsletter.

“The reference to anything with  running for office … really is the issue,” Mack said.

Joann Knuth, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, said the letter was an unusual communication from a principal to a school community.

“In terms of their official role as a building leader, principals need to be nonpartisan,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean outside of their job they need to be nonpartisan.”

Favor, who said he counts Ciresi as a mentor, has talked with him and other community leaders about how the school will support areas like athletics and the arts after voters turned down a 10-year levy of $23 million a year in November.

The majority of Favor’s column in the newsletter focused on the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children, which Ciresi’s law firm started to give grants for education, public health and social justice programs.

“I’m just asking him for direction and advice on everything from the referendum not passing to the expectations of No Child Left Behind and meeting the diverse needs of a mobile student population,” Favor said. “I wanted to let  know I’m meeting with people in the community about the plight of education.”

Mack stressed that Favor’s work at the school supersedes any error in judgment he made. Favor is also paying for the cost of mailing the apology letter to all the parents who received the newsletter.

“I don’t want to lose focus on what is most important and that’s serving parents and children,” Mack said.

——

Will Mike Ciresi reimburse Mike Favor for that free advertisement?

Here’s an interesting detail from a MN SunPost article on the subject:

The superintendent’s office is supposed to review such documents prior to publication, Mack said, but in this case, an assistant principal designated to secure permission for the letter never made the telephone call.

“Mike delegated someone to send the message to ask, but they never got an affirmation from my office,” Mack said. “They should not have moved forward with it. Had the call been made, this never would have happened.”

Once again, the Superintendent’s office is involved.