Report: Minneapolis school leadership is faulty

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 12, 2011 - 10:09 PM

Consultant concludes that Minneapolis district's leadership is dysfunctional and disconnected.

Some key Minneapolis school district administrators and principals are pointing fingers at a problem: themselves.

In a study commissioned by the district, administrators, principals and school board members assessed the district's leadership structure as dysfunctional, disconnected and in dire need of direction.

"It is perceived that there is no coherent plan or rationale for some education initiatives in the district," wrote Robert Schiller, the study's author. "Historically, there has not been a sense of teamwork, cooperation, openness, or engagement ... between [headquarters] and the schools."

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson expects to decide by the end of May which of Schiller's recommendations to adopt as she attempts to make her administrators more efficient and effective.

Schiller, a former Illinois education superintendent, recommended hiring a deputy superintendent to enforce Johnson's policies and adding a fourth associate superintendent to deal with the district's lowest-performing schools. He argued that Johnson is "spread too thinly across her leadership and managerial responsibilities."

Schiller also questioned the need for a full-time lobbyist and suggested the district take a hard look at its practice of both employing in-house lawyers and paying private-sector lawyers. Contracts for outside legal work have cost the district up to $75,000 each.

Schiller saved his strongest criticism for the human resources and finance departments, urging efficiency audits for each. Study participants pointed to those departments as the district's "chief problem areas."

The district paid Schiller $13,000 to do interviews and write an assessment. He did similar work for St. Paul's school district last year.

The report did not link the administrative issues to student performance, but it did say high turnover in the superintendent's office led to a lax culture that is resistant to change; Minneapolis has had at least five superintendents since 2003.

The Star Tribune could not reach School Board President Jill Davis for comment on the study.

Superintendent Johnson will, at the least, reconfigure the district's organizational chart, she said.

"It's important that people think about the urgency around the work," she said. "We have to be an improving organization. We're at a crossroads."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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