Northside Elementary School

Northside Elementary School, in the St. James School District, entered its first year in Turnaround Arts: Minnesota with wide and enthusiastic support. Even though the principal for that year, Karla Beck, has moved on, new principal Doug Storbeck is continuing and expanding during the second year of the project.

Northside students hold up sign about friends
Northside Elementary School is located in the southern Minnesota town of St. James. This small town of around 4,500 residents has experienced a shift in demographics, in large part because of a meat-packing plant in the community that has been a significant source of employment for Latino/a families new to Minnesota.
Nearly half of the school’s students are Hispanic, and almost 20 percent are English language learners. In addition, 61 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches. Located nearly 40 miles from the nearest mid-sized city of Mankato, St. James is in a geographic area with few arts opportunities outside of the school. 
door with art at Northside
Digging in and turning around
Northside was designated a Priority school in 2012 by the Minnesota Department of Education but turned that into an opportunity to research and infuse best practices for student learning into the school. They made gains and as a result the school is currently designated Continuous Improvement, which means they are in the lowest 25 percent in the state rather than the lowest five percent.
Karla Beck, principal during the first year of Turnaround Arts at Northside, taught music for many years and fought to keep music and art a part of students’ learning She is now at the high school but still sees integrating the arts into turnaround efforts as a natural and energizing next step for the students and all segments of their community. She has passed that conviction on to her successor at Northside, Doug Storbeck.
Doc Shaw teaches acting at Northside
Setting Goals
Northside’s arts leadership team conducted a strategic arts planning process and staff adopted the following arts targets for 2014-2015:
  • 100 percent of teachers will collaborate to develop a standards-based arts integration project. 
  • All teachers will learn theater skills well-matched to teaching literacy. Arts leadership team members will share arts integration strategies. 
  • Every student will have at least one artist-in-residency experience and one professional arts experience during the school year. 
  • The school will produce an after-school musical and other performances to connect with all families in the district. 
  • Through drama experiences the school will include new families in new ways, increase student engagement and create a positive school environment. 
Northside Elementary School: Quick Facts

Northside Elementary School, 1273 10th Ave. N., St. James MN 56081


Principal: Doug Storbeck

Grades 1-5

Enrollment: 351


SIG Grant 2013

2012 MDE Designation: Priority

2014 MDE Designation: Continuous improvement


Student population

48%    White

49%    Hispanic

.06%   American Indian

1%      African American

56%    Free and reduced fee lunch

20%    English language learners

13%    Special education

2%      Homeless

Northside Turnaround Arts Vision Statement

Northside Elementary, as a Turnaround Arts school, will use high expectations to achieve real results that empower all students to learn in the arts, creatively use arts experiences to connect to other content, and extend learning. Transforming the learning approach by infusing and engaging with the arts will include an invitation to families and the community to participate as we work to close the achievement gap. Excellence in education and a vibrant learning environment will be evident.