By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — North High School’s basketball team has gone from worst to first — winning the City Conference Championship Tuesday night.

The win is just one of the school’s latest successes. Enrollment and parental involvement has North High rising from the ashes.

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Coach Larry McKenzie took a winless team and turned them into winners not only on the hardwood but also in the classroom.

“With the guys and the families that we had coming in, we thought it was an opportunity to really assist with a culture change,” McKenzie said.

It was a change he knew would boost academics.

“I tell my kids and I tell my parents, I don’t want to coach a kid that I can’t send to college,” McKenzie said.

Nine of the 10 kids in his program are on the A or B honor roll, and it’s contagious.

“With Larry McKenzie coming to North it also brought in more parent participation,” said Dr. Shawn Harris-Berry, the school’s principal. “When parents are more involved, the quality of academics increases.”

Berry says her opened door policy allows parents to take an active role in the education of their children.

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“Dr. Berry and the staff out here at North are bringing back the safety and the educational piece here at North High School,” said Brenda Hunter, whose son is a freshman.

“You can’t wait until things have spiraled out of control before to come to the school to try and fix it,” she added. “It’s you be involved, be engaged, build relationships with your child’s teachers.”

And the numbers prove North is on the right track.

When Berry started two years ago, there were three students signed up for North’s academic and arts academy.

She now has 157 students.

Students are excelling academically thanks to dedicated teachers like Tom Lachermier, the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies 2014 teacher of the year.

Parents who have become partners with educators are the biggest supporters of North High, and they are spreading the word.

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Berry hopes to add 100 students every year for the next six years. She says beginning next year, students can take advantage of AP classes – that’s another sign North is academically on the rise.

Reg Chapman