Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We now know what Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will do after his term is up. He is going to be the head of Generation Next.
It’s an education group that’s trying to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
According to its website, “We represent local schools and government, community organizations and programs, businesses, higher education and philanthropy – all dedicated to educational excellence and narrowing the achievement gap.”
Minneapolis, and Minnesota, have a reputation as a place where all the children are above average. But in fact, the achievement gap here is among the worst in the country. For his next act, Mayor Rybak wants to fix that.
Rybak was elected to office in 2001 and reelected in 2005 and 2009. He chose not to seek a fourth term in office.
His 12 years as mayor were marked by many successes, but shrinking the gap among low income and students of color was not one of them. He says it’s a catastrophe as serious as the 35W Bridge collapse; but Minnesota’s not responding the same way.
“People raced into the water and risked their lives to save other people’s lives and they broke down every possible barrier to rebuild that bridge as quickly as possible,” Rybak said.
Rybak takes the crisis mentality to the effort.
A recent study found Minnesota’s graduation rate among white students was 82 percent, but for black students, it’s 44 percent. Also, 61 percent of white students were college ready, compared to 16 percent of black students.
One success story: Kenny Community School in south Minneapolis. Principal Bill Gibbs charts math and reading progress in every class, every day. And rising scores for the 4th graders in Brent Mastel’s class are predictors of future success of students of different races and backgrounds.
“It’s hard to take the time out of a busy day to pat yourself on the back too long, [be]cause there’s a lot of work to be done. We just keep plugging away and we are grateful that what we are doing is working,” Mastel said.
Rybak says that’s his immediate future, too.
“I see this as the greatest crisis we have in our community, but I also see this as the greatest opportunity we have,” Rybak said.
Rybak will also teach a class at the Hunphrey Institute and the U of M School of Art and Design. He’s calling it: Mayor 101.
Rybak said he’s not out of politics just yet and that he won’t rule out a run for office in the future. However, right now, all of the higher offices he might be interested in are filled by fellow Democrats: Governor, and the US Senate.
Rybak was already serving on the board of Generation Next but will step into the executive director role once a new mayor is selected. Voters will pick the city’s next mayor on Tuesday.