CP: You taught at Roosevelt. In the Minneapolis school hierarchy, that's not considered one of the fancier places.
ROSE: No, not like Washburn and Southwest. A lot of working-class parents. But I think every school is about the same in many ways. The great thing with kids is, they're not set in their ways yet. They don't hide their ignorance. If you throw things at them, they grab them, they really build on them.
CP: What I'm getting at is that it seems as if you can get two very different kinds of education in the Minneapolis system. If you know what you want and how to get it, there are some incredible opportunities. If you don't...
ROSE: You know, I looked at South because they've turned out an awful lot of good students. I think the reason why South is so unusual is that yes, they have a strong faculty and they have a magnet. But the key, and the thing that can happen in any school, is the music program. If you have 150, say 200 students in music, that means you have a minimum of 200 parents that are supportive. And they are the core of the school, they set the tempo, and everyone else follows. It's about how you build a community. Roosevelt had some of the best music programs around. Now the emphasis isn't there. And it's not that the kids aren't as musical anymore.
Last night I met with a firefighter, an ex-student. He said you know, Mr. Rose--you're always Mr. Rose to the students--a lot of these new firefighters are scared to live in the city because they don't have the money to send their kids to a nonpublic school. They look at the public schools and they're just shaking their head. I said, "You know, I think they can be turned around." But it means taking those resources, $571 million in the budget--$571,397,863--and focusing that on children. We've got to say, "As school board members, we represent the citizens who own the schools. And it's our job to see that these citizens who are the owners of the school are educated, empowered."