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  • URBAN VIEWS: StarTribune Declares Open Season on Black Leaders by Jeffrey Hassan.

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Open Letter

Attacks on the Minneapolis Urban League don’t tell an accurate story or serve the people

Dear Community Members and Supporters:

I am outraged at the onslaught of mischaracterizations by the Star Tribune related to the work of the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL). We have not “double billed” or violated the terms of our contracts with either Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) or the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

Today, we called Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles and told him that if he chose to start an investigation based on Republican Senator Michelle Benson’s inquiry, in the spirit of transparency, we would welcome and fully cooperate with the review. Our organization is routinely audited by the various government agencies that we serve. We stand by the integrity of our work.

Just two months ago on February 12, 2015, our 13th Grade Program contract with the MDE was audited and was "clean"-in other words, the agency confirmed that it did not contain any findings of deficiency or concerns. Our MDE contract is a pay-for-performance, contract reimbursement agreement. This means that the MUL gets paid only after our reports are filed and approved by state officials.

Lost in the barrage of partisan accusations are true victims. These are the students and staff at the Urban League Academy and the program counselors and participants in the 13th Grade Program.

They are real people working to reach real goals in our school or through our programs, while facing unfounded attacks from some very mean spirited people.

Our School: The Urban League Academy is an alternative high school operated for 40 years as a partnership between the MUL and MPS. The Academy's mission is to give those students most marginalized in a traditional school setting another chance at graduation. We accomplish our mission with a modest per pupil allowance from MPS. Here are some key facts about the Urban League Academy:

  • Students are taught English, algebra, science, and other core courses by licensed teachers and obtain credits to graduate.
  • Our students have been failed by the traditional public schools and most have suffered trauma such as abuse or homelessness.
  • Our hard work enabled 67% of our seniors to graduate last year.
    • Read the story of one our graduates here.

      Scroll down to continue Open Letter...

      13th Grade Program: After witnessing so many disconnected youth walking our streets, we felt compelled to create a college and career pathways readiness program for young adults age 17-24. This non-credit program focuses on building the academic, technical, and “soft” skills of disconnected, unemployed or underemployed young adults not enrolled in a postsecondary institution. Some key facts:

      • Many come with diplomas or GEDs but do not yet have a life plan.
      • MDE, which is headed by Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, reviewed and approved our work plan, which included specific program goals and learning objectives, on September 25, 2013.
      • The MDE Program Manager responsible for monitoring the 13th Grade Program lauded our program model after meeting with our staff on April 11, 2014.
      • Our July 2014 Interim Progress Report, which is required by the MDE, confirmed that 100% of our 13th Grade participants passed the program's first phase requirements and that 75% are now employed. Our assigned MDE Program Manager approved our 13th Grade Interim Report and the Supplementary Outcome Data on August 6, 2014.
        • Read the story of one our program participants here.

          Every day at the Minneapolis Urban League young people come through our doors looking for an opportunity. Sadly, traditional schools, those lawmakers who refuse to invest in the future of the most disadvantaged, and the mainstream media who continually marginalize them—have all failed them.

          Fortunately, the committed staff I have the privilege to work with at the Minneapolis Urban League have a passion for these young people and focus on giving them another chance. We help them find educational opportunities, a career track and jobs. We refuse to stand by and let our society fail them.

          I am saddened at the efforts to derail and further stifle the ambitions of our African American youth. I hope the community will challenge these sensational accusations and continue to demand fairness, balance, and responsible, accurate reporting from the Star Tribune.

          As I transition from the Urban League, I am calling for an end to these baseless attacks and that our community rallies around our institutions and leaders to further the policies and innovation that will bring forth positive change to our most pressing problems.

          Yours in the Movement,

          Scott Gray

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