North Community High School

North Community High School
North Community High School
Aerial view of the school
1500 James Ave N
Minneapolis, Minnesota,  United States
Type High School
Established 1888
School district Minneapolis Public Schools
Principal Birch Jones
Faculty 103
Teaching staff 58
Enrollment 560
Campus Urban
Color(s) Blue and white
Mascot Polars
Nickname Polars
Newspaper Polaris
Yearbook Polaris

North Community High School, or simply Minneapolis North, is a public, four-year high school located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The school has existed for over 120 years in several buildings all located on the North Side of Minneapolis. North once had a predominately Jewish student body but by 1982, the school and the neighborhood it is located in had become mostly African-American.[1] Desegregation efforts, such as magnet school programs, have attempted to attract students from throughout Minneapolis and nearby suburbs.[1] The neighborhood that North is located in is known for high levels of poverty and crime.[2][3]

In recent years, the school has been known for its highly successful boys' and girls' basketball programs. Both teams have had numerous state tournament appearances and state championship titles. North offers several college preparatory classes and operates, Minneapolis Public Schools' radio station, KBEM-FM.[4] The school has often struggled academically in terms of graduation rate and state standardized tests.[5] The school's low academic performance has led to the school being labeled a "dropout factory"[6] and suggestions by a Minneapolis City Council member to burn the school down.[7]



There have been four separate buildings in which North has operated. The first housed just three grades when North opened in 1888. Three years later the first class graduated in 1891.[8] The building grew to be too small for the school and a new building was built, opening in 1896 at a new location. On June 18, 1913 a fire burned down most of the building, forcing a new building to be rebuilt. A new building was built over the destroyed one and was completed in 1914.[9] Later additions were added in 1921, 1923 and 1939.[10] In 1963 it was determined that for the building was "to be retained as a secondary educational facility over a long period of time by the Minneapolis Public School system, it needs extensive rehabilitation and modernization to meet present day health, safety and educational adequacy." It is filled with culture and for many alumni the memories that came from attending North High make most feel like it will always be home, and many found their lives transforming to the better due to North. Many loved and many lost.[10] A new building was built on a new site and funded as part of a $18 million bond referendum in 1964, that funded improvements to North and several other Minneapolis public schools. The building was finished and opened in 1973.[11][12] The building is described as "resembling a giant bunker with few windows, double doors that are often locked from outside during the day to keep out unwanted visitors and painted-over graffiti on outside walls."[13] Another description calls it a "series of brick boxes arranged around a courtyard" that "doesn't allow it to connect well with the community".[14] The building now also houses adult education classes, a school for teenage mothers and a separate charter school, Dunwoody Academy[15][16]

The second building (1896-1913) to house North
The third building (1914-1973) which was built over the previous structure.

As the North Side neighborhood has changed, so has Minneapolis North. During the 1920s and 1930s the North Side was the center of Minneapolis' Jewish population.[17] In 1936 almost half of the students were Jewish.[18] The North Side has since transitioned into a diverse working class neighborhood with the highest rate of housing foreclosures in Minneapolis.[19] North used to be a very large school and was overcrowded with over 2800 students attending the school in 1931.[20] Now, residents are able to choose which schools they attend, and as a result only about half of the North Side's students attend local schools such as North.[21] Open enrollment has led to North's enrollment plummeting from 1,143 students in 2004-05 to 265 students today. On Monday, October 11, 2010 Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson recommend to the Board of Education the phasing out of North High Community High School beginning the 2011-12 school year.[22][23]


When students enroll at North, they choose to join one of three Small Learning Communities (SLC). SLCs offer a variety of classes centered on a particular subject or interest area. Students remain in their SLC until graduation.[24] Three SLCs are offered: Arts and Media, Information Technology, Engineering, Computers, and Construction and Summatech, a college preparatory program.[25]

North offers two languages: French and Spanish. The school has an Advanced Placement program that offers eight different courses.[26] North is working on developing an International Baccalaureate diploma program.[27] North has scored low on state standardized tests in recent years. In the 2006-2007 school year only 29.3% were considered proficient in reading and 8.61% were proficient in mathematics.[5] North's high school graduation rate has been low in comparison to other local schools. Using an Adequate Yearly Progress rate, 78.5% of students graduate high school while other measures, such as the formula approved by the National Governors Association, give graduation rates as low as 39.8%.[5] North as a 48% graduation rate and many of the women that attend to the school have one or more children.[6]

North's low academic results have led to criticism. In February 2007 Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels suggested burning North down. "My children will not darken the door of a Minneapolis public school in this city at this time under these conditions. I've said burn North High School down! I can't be paying as a taxpayer for the education of my neighbors and 72 percent of them are failing—meaning black boys. Something worse than vouchers could come along. If it works, if it sacrifices the entire school system, fine! Get rid of the damn thing! It hasn't worked!"[28] His suggestion caused uproar in the community, and his remarks were heavily criticized.[29][30][31] Samuels later apologized for the "extreme language" but stated that he did not regret making the comments.[7]

Radio station

North High School is home to KBEM-FM, a radio station controlled by Minneapolis Public Schools. The station was created in the 1960s but moved to North in 1983 as part of Minneapolis Public Schools' desegregation initiative. Students are responsible for the operation of the radio station and 35 hours of airtime a week is devoted to student programming. Approximately 150 students are involved in the radio station's operation, with the majority attending North.[4] Students typically enroll into the program as ninth-graders and are prepared for on-air time by 11th or 12th grade.[32]

The station broadcasts up to the minute traffic reports for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. The reports are provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. From 1989 to 2005 the station was paid around $400,000 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to do so.[33] MnDOT had planned to cancel the contract, but due to public demand, the state continued the contract.[34][35]

Extracurricular activities

North offers a variety of musical programs. A beginning band, concert band, Jazz ensemble and drum line are offered. Choir, varsity choir, vocal ensembles and a gospel choir are available.[26] Other extracurricular activities include a variety of academic competitions, a chess club, culture-specific clubs including an award winning Asian Club,[36] debate and mock trial teams, a school newspaper and yearbook, science club and student government. North's Math team competes in the Minnesota State High School Mathematics League. The school has a chapter of National Honor Society.[26]


North is a member of the Minnesota State High School League.[37] North offers eleven boys' and twelve girls' varsity sports.[38] These include football (boys), wrestling (boys), tennis (boys and girls), basketball (boys and girls), baseball (boys), softball (girls), golf (boys and girls), soccer (boys and girls), volleyball (girls), swimming (boys and girls), gymnastics (girls), badminton (girls), ice hockey (boys and girls), cross country (boys and girls) and track and field (boys and girls). North has Adapted Bowling.[39] Both boys' and girls' teams are called "Polars". All of the sports teams participate, like all public high schools in Minneapolis, in the Minneapolis City Conference. North has won the state title in Boys' Track and Field in 1943 and 1948.


The boys' basketball team was dominant in the 1980s. Coached by Tony Queen, the team won eight of ten Minneapolis City Conference championships and went to the state tournament eight times, winning in 1980 and placing second in 1984 and 1985.[40] In 1988 Queen was suspended from coaching for one year following attempts to recruit basketball players, which is illegal under Minnesota State High School League rules.[41][42] He lost a battle to be rehired in U.S. District court.[43] Queen was fired in 1990 for having sex with a student in the early 1980s.[44][45] In the mid-1990s the boys' team had a dominating resurgence. Led by Khalid El-Amin, North tied a state record with three state championships in a row, from 1995 to 1997.[46] The boys' team won another championship in 2003.

The girls' team went to the state title game every year except for one from 1997 to 2005. They won in 1998, 1999, and had three straight wins in 2003, 2004 and 2005.[47][48]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ a b c Tomson, Ellen (September 25, 1988), "PRINCIPAL WENT TO SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS//HERITAGE IS STRENGTH", Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  2. ^ Williams, Brandt (April 23, 2007) A visit to Minneapolis North High School Minnesota Public Radio
  3. ^ Brandt, Steve (November 12, 2007, Serious crime in north Minneapolis falls 15% Mounting a challenge to the area's bad reputation, north Minneapolis leaders are pointing to the parks, the businesses, the neighborhood groups – the good.", Star Tribune
  4. ^ a b Mission Statement KBEM-FM.
  5. ^ a b c Report Card Information North Senor High Minnesota Department of Education
  6. ^ a b Dropout Factories: Take a Closer Look at failing Schools Across the Country Associated Press
  7. ^ a b Collins, Terry (February 3, 2007) “Samuels refuses to back down on North - The City Council member, who has said the high school should be burned, apologized for the language but not for his critique of the school's performance.” Star Tribune
  8. ^ Alexander. Dave (February 25, 1988) "Younger North High graduates keep alumni group on move" Star Tribune
  9. ^ Historic images of North High School Minnesota Historical Society
  10. ^ a b North Senior High School: Planning for the Future August 1, 1963 History of Minneapolis Public Schools
  11. ^ Smetanka, Mary Jane (February 25, 1987) “Green says city may need more schools” 7B Star Tribune
  12. ^ Building History Minneapolis North High Alumni
  13. ^ Lewin, Rhoda (2001) The Jewish Community of North Minneapolis Arcadia Publishing pg. 121 ISBN 0-7385-0817-9
  14. ^ Millett, Larry (2007). AIA Guide to the Twin Cities: The Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minnesota Historical Society Press. pp. 298. ISBN 0-87351-540-4. 
  15. ^ Releford, Patrice (December 2, 2008), "school to share Minneapolis public school space " Star Tribune
  16. ^ Shah Allie (October 11, 2010) "Angry, sad over North High's decline Star Tribune
  17. ^ Grossman, Max From Washington Avenue to Plymouth Avenue Accessed: February 1, 2008
  18. ^ Lewin, Rhoda (2001) The Jewish Community of North Minneapolis Arcadia Publishing pg. 18 ISBN 0-7385-0817-9
  19. ^ Horsley, Scott (May 23, 2007) Foreclosures Hit Hard in Minneapolis Neighborhood National Public Radio
  20. ^ Fire Protection Engineering Report March 1 1931 History of MPS Facilities
  21. ^ Hawkins, Beth (November 16, 2007) North Minneapolis schools face crisis of confidence
  22. ^ Unknown(October 11, 2010) Superintendent Johnson to recommend phasing out of North Community High School MPS
  23. ^ Denko, Paul (June 20, 2007) The Outsiders City Pages
  24. ^ Small Learning Communities North Community High School
  25. ^ Summatech Minneapolis High Schools' Choice Center
  26. ^ a b c School Choice Data Minneapolis Public School
  27. ^ Prospective International Baccalaureate @ North Minneapolis High Schools' Choice Center
  28. ^ The Great Black Hope? Mpls St. Paul Magazine
  29. ^ Tan, Mary (February 7, 2007) Activists Speak Out Against City Leader's Comments WCCO-TV
  30. ^ (February 15, 2007) Samuels Under Fire at North High KMSP-TV
  31. ^ Volpe, Trisha (February 2, 2007) Group calls for resignation of Minneapolis city councilman KARE-11 News
  32. ^ Blake, Laurie (April 13, 1989) “Minneapolis students will broadcast traffic reports” 3B Star Tribune
  33. ^ Rybak, Deborah Caulfield (March 9, 2005) “KBEM reaches an agreement with MnDOT” 3B Star Tribune
    Gutknecht, Kevin (January 5, 2005) "Mn/DOT ends KBEM contract, traffic reporting" Minnesota Department of Education
  34. ^ "KBEM continues partnership with Department of Transportation". July 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-31. [dead link]
  35. ^ "Minnesota Department of Transportation - Office of Maintenance - Partnerships". Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  36. ^ McNiff, Tim (January 14, 2008) To Kochul Thao, education and community are a priority KARE-11
  37. ^ Minneapolis North Community H.S. Minnesota State High School League
  38. ^ Athletics North Community High School
  39. ^ History of Adapted Bowling at North North Community High School
  40. ^ Pate, Eric T. (March 12, 1992) "Glory of `80s is long gone for North - Polars yearn for return to top echelon" 9C Star Tribune
  41. ^ Augustoviz, Roman (May 13, 1988) "Queen loses North basketball job" 1C Star Tribune
  42. ^ Fermoyle, Mike (May 13, 1988) "NORTH SUSPENDS QUEEN FOR PLAYER RECRUITMENT" Sports 5D Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  43. ^ Dalglish, Lucy (July 28, 1988) "NORTH HIGH COACH LOSES BID FOR REINSTATEMENT" Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  44. ^ Gendler, Neal (February 14, 1990) "Ex-coach fired on ground that he had had sex with a student" 1B Star Tribune
  45. ^ (February 15, 1990) "ACCUSED MINNEAPOLIS TEACHER IS FIRED AFTER YEAR'S SUSPENSION" Metro 2D Saint Paul Pioneer Press
  46. ^ Taylor, Kimberly Hayes (March 24, 1997) "Emotion replaces pressure as North celebrates another basketball crown" 1B Star Tribune
  47. ^ Schmid, Pam (March 13, 2005), "GIRLS' BASKETBALL 3A CHAMPIONSHIP - Polars persevere - North girls claim third consecutive state title", Star Tribune
  48. ^ Lissimore, Lisa (March 6, 2005), "State Girls' Basketball Tournament Minneapolis North Community, Hopkins return to defend 2004 titles; Seven teams making first appearances", Minnesota State High School League
  49. ^ GALLAGHER, William James, (1875 - 1946) Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  50. ^ WIER, Roy William, (1888 - 1963) Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  51. ^ Furst, Randy (August 18, 1986) "Floyd B. Olson / Governor died 50 years ago" 15A Star Tribune
  52. ^ Mitchell, Corey (October 9, 2010). "End of an era in north Minneapolis?". Star Tribune. Retrieved October 10, 2010. 
  53. ^ Polar Alumni G Minneapolis North High Alumni
  54. ^ Polar Alumni A-C Minneapolis North High Alumni
  55. ^ Polar Alumni H to Hol Minneapolis North High Alumni
  56. ^ D-F Minneapolis North High Alumni
  57. ^ Shefchik, Rick (May 15, 1988) "MORNING GLORY \ KQ'S TOM BARNARD HITS THE BIG TIME" 1D St. Paul Pioneer Press
  58. ^ Riemenschneider, Chris (January 27, 2006) "Rock 'n' Roll High Schools" Star Tribune

External links

Coordinates: 44°59′39″N 93°18′02″W / 44.994176°N -93.300677°E / 44.994176; -93.300677

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