“This is a rebuilding year,” announced Principal Yusuf Abdullah, in his fourth year as principal, from his new office located in a suite of new offices overlooking the new front entrance at Henry High School. “We’re rebuilding staff, programs and of course our building.” The multi-million dollar restructuring of the physical structure of the school originally built in 1926, includes significant mechanical, plumbing, electrical, security, fire alarm, clocks, public address and architectural requirements, front entrance addition and auditorium renovation.
The project schedule started with a ground breaking ceremony on March 29, 2018, and will be completed in August of 2019 – there’s still much work to be done. Approximately 30 percent of classrooms will be air conditioned this school year. The entire classroom spaces will be air conditioned by the summer of 2019. Work also continues in the auditorium which should be completed this October with new seats, flooring and painting.
The spacious disability accessible front entrance is the perfect embodiment of Principal Abdullah’s strategic plan featuring a core belief of equity, and a vision where “all stakeholders work to ensure scholars are college, career and life ready.” Doors open wide to an environment captured in the school’s mission with “opportunities to bring intercultural understanding to our scholars, our educators, our neighbors and our world.”
One key opportunity to bring that intercultural understanding to students is the cutting-edge Community Connected Academy. This school within a school features community internships that will begin during the second semester. It is the result of a grant proposal developed by the program’s science teacher Arielle Rocca and counselor/coordinator, Alex Leonard. The program offers learners a strong social emotional foundation and restorative circles that promote innovative ways to ensure justice. The Phillips Foundation awarded startup funding of $1.1 million over three years beginning with 60 current 11th grade students. These students will continue as 12th graders. Subsequent grades will be added each year.
Principal Abdullah also highlighted the following changes or developments of staff:
Tyrell Sledge: Though his job description speaks to hallway and classroom support, Sledge was asked to speak directly to students in formal presentations this year, to tell the story of his life’s challenges as he journeyed through his years and graduation from Henry. Principal Abdullah sees Sledge as the personification of the school’s drive to use the ancient technique of storytelling to help students answer their own questions of journey: Who were you? Who are you now? Who do you want to be?
Leonard Jones: Hired as an Academic Dean, Jones is arguably Henry’s most accomplished graduate. The NCAA Track Hall of Famer is one of the most successful track athletes in history. He is the all-time Division III men’s leader with seven NCAA indoor track national titles, including at least one championship in each of his four years of competition with the University of St. Thomas. A 1990 graduate of Henry, Jones earned the nicknames “Leapin’ Leonard” and “Legend” when he jumped up and over an opposing basketball player and dunked on him. In his senior year at Henry, Jones and teammate, the late Martez Williams, won a Minnesota State Track Team title against other teams of 30 to 100 plus athletes. Jones has the rare ability to create similar hall of famers in every interaction he has with staff, students, and in the community. Jones is also a member of the St. Thomas and Henry High School Halls of Fame.
Aron Kosicky: Like Leonard Jones and Tyrell Sledge, Kosicky is a proud Patriot who has returned to better his alma mater. Kosicky is an enthusiastic and popular math teacher in his second year.
Jamil Jackson: In his second year as Men’s Basketball Varsity Coach, Jackson is now an instructor in the Office of Black Male Student Achievement at Henry. The regular daily presence of Coach Jackson in the building and his impact on students, particularly basketball players, of whom he demands a high standard of leadership, is immeasurable.
Paul Compton: This beloved English teacher was a victim of staffing cuts last spring. Shortly before the school year he was brought back as a teacher in the Advancement Via Individual Determination Program (AVID). Compton has been lauded for his years of service as the coordinator of the Asian Culture Club.
Chingla Thao: This licensed School Counselor who is Hmong, will be an integral element in serving Henry’s substantial Hmong population.
This year’s Homecoming theme is “There’s No Place Like HOMEcoming.” Principal Abdullah invites everyone to come out and support Henry at one or both of the Homecoming events on Friday, October 12: Parade begins at 5:30 p.m. starting at Loring School, and the Men’s Varsity Football Game vs. St. Paul Central begins at 7 p.m. at Don Swanson Field.
This article was written by Tom Murray and Susan Breedlove