It’s not official yet, but insiders say it’s a done deal that Patrick Exner will be Washburn High School’s new principal this fall.
Exner, 45, of Brooklyn Park, comes to Washburn from Ubah Medical Academy in Hopkins, a charter school. He’s the second principal in a row to be hired to run Washburn from outside the district, after Carol Markham-Cousins, whom he follows.
Exner is making the jump form associate director of a 320-student charter high school that mainly enrolls East African students to the more racially diverse 1,200-student Washburn. A formal announcement could come as soon as Friday.
“He helped a lot with the kids here,” said Ubah Director Musa M. Farah. Exner was at Ubah three years, and previously was director of teaching and learning for the West Metro Education Program, which holds more than 1,000 students in two schools. Most of his teaching career was spent at Cooper High School in the Robbinsdale district, where he taught writing and literature.
“Bernadeia’s very high on him,” said school board member Richard Mammen, referring to Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson.
Exner will face a difficult job at Washburn, a school where both faculty and students were riven by a well-publicized dispute over the replacement of Athletic Director Dan Pratt last spring that led to a walkout and a sit-in before Markham-Cousins was reassigned. Some parents also pushed for increased academic rigor at the school as a new attendance boundary roped in more middle-class students from families with high academic expectations. Markham-Cousins argued that teachers should be able to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of a wide range of students in the same class.
Three of the six people named by Johnson to fill principal vacancies in the coming school have come from outside the district, although one later decided not to come and was replaced by a district assistant principal.
“It’s really Bernadeia’s willingness to get the best possible person,” Mammen said. “Sometimes it comes from the system. Other times it comes from elsewhere.”
Markham-Cousins was hired at Washburn in 2007-2008 from St. Paul schools, where she had been an elementary principal. She had also served in secondary administration at Centennial High School in Circle Pines. She has been reassigned to head the school the district runs in the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center.