Bethune Community School

Turnaround Arts: MN had a first good year at Bethune Community School and this year is looking even better: almost of its teachers have returned, attendance is up and test scores are improving. The challenges continue to loom large, but optimism -- and art -- are filling the hallways and classrooms.

Bethune school exterior
Bethune Community School is in the heart of north Minneapolis, a community struggling with poverty, homelessness and violence. During the past 10 years the school has been a rotating door to students, teaching staff and administration.
Ninety-nine percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 20 percent are homeless or highly mobile. While more than 640 students passed through the building in the 2013-14 school year, the average daily enrollment was only 390. 
Despite receiving a School Improvement Grant in 2010, academics and attendance improved by only five percent over three years. The school remained one of the lowest performing programs in the state. Bethune was designated a Priority School in 2012 by the Minnesota Department of Education, and kept that status in 2014. 
Principal Cheryl Martin with Sarah Jessica Parker
Give up or start anew?
It was decided that the school should be revitalized, not closed or fresh-started. In 2014 a new principal, Cheryl Martin, was named, nearly 20 percent new staff hired, art teacher staffing increased and a clear mission and direction developed. The staff committed to the new arts-based vision. 
Principal Martin brings a drive for change and the experience of having led a successful arts-focused elementary school. She and her staff see Turnaround Arts as an opportunity to jump start the change that everyone has yearned for. Bethune is building strong arts classrooms, providing teaching artist residencies and has developed a building-wide arts plan that will guide the school to a community of joy, creativity, and academic success.
Doc Shaw, Cheryl Martin and Bethune students
Setting goals
The arts leadership team began in 2014 by conducting a strategic arts planning process to determine what methods would have the strongest impact on school improvement. The staff at Bethune adopted the following arts targets for its first year:
  • Increase student achievement through creating and implementing cross-curricular and multidisciplinary arts-integrated curriculum.
  • Increase students' sense of self-worth and respect for themselves, others and property through theater arts, artists in residence and school beautification. 
  • Increase presence of positive role models and positive relationships for students through visiting artists and artists in residence. 
  • Increase and stabilize student attendance through arts events and activities. 
  • Increase family involvement and confidence in the school through volunteers, showcase events and family/child art activities. 



Bethune Community School: Quick Facts

Bethune Community School, 919 Emerson Ave. North, Minneapolis, MN 55411


Principal: Cheryl Martin


Grades Pre-K – 5

Enrollment: 321


SIG Grant 2010

2012 MDE Designation: Priority

2014 MDE Designation: Priority

2016 MDE Designation: Priority


Student Population

84% Black

3%   Asian

7%   White

3%   Hispanic

3%   Native American

97% free/reduced lunch

23% special education

19% homeless and highly mobile




Bethune Turnaround Arts Mission Statement

Through their participation in high-quality, integrated arts education programing, every child college and career ready.