Admit it. Many of us who reside in Minneapolis feel that the Minneapolis Public School District (MPSD) has been in disarray for years. With over 35,000 students in 76 schools, MPSD is the third largest in the state. It is a decentralized juggernaut that appears to lack consistency from school to school. As one Minneapolis teacher once told me, “They (administrators) can tell us what to do, but once the classroom door is closed, we are free to do as we wish.” That attitude is reinforced by a powerful teachers’ union whose primary consideration appears to be its teacher members, not its students. Unions like this hold great power and can ensure mediocrity instead of excellence.
In the four short months of the current school year, there have been at least two significant controversies involving the district. I wrote about the first, “Lazy Lucy,” in this blog a few months ago.
The optics of the second controversy, the school board’s selection of a new district superintendent, is no better. On December 7 with the school board’s 6 to 3 vote, Dr. Sergio Paez was chosen over two other candidates, including Michael Goar, the interim superintendent who garnered the other three votes.
Paez was the superintendent of the Holyoke School District in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The Holyoke School District is approximately a seventh the size of Minneapolis and reportedly has a three million dollar deficit and a similarly poor graduation rate (60%). In addition, the state has taken over the district and Paez no longer serves as the superintendent but is employed as a consultant.
In some people’s minds, these were reasons enough not to offer Paez a contract, but there is more. There was an allegation of student abuse by teacher(s) in one of the Holyoke schools. Reportedly, Paez looked into the allegation and didn’t find any evidence to dismiss anyone or change the people that were contracting the services for that particular program. The allegation is now being investigated by the Hampden County District Attorney. In conducting an internet search, I quickly found the complaint which was dated April 15, 2015. It’s difficult to fathom why the school board or the search committee couldn’t do the same.
Although contract negotiations with Paez have stopped pending further investigation into the allegations, the district’s decision-making process is again called into question. For critical decisions–like choosing a superintendent or books for young readers (Lazy Lucy), it would be a benefit to all to make the correct decision the first time.
If this hiring decision by the MPSD school board concerns you as it does me, you may contact the district at www.mpls.k12.mn.us/provide_feedback.html or call 612.668.0000.
John Alexander, Head of School