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East Metro Integration District rushes to find new leader

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II
  • Star Tribune
  • March 4, 2012 - 9:44 PM

The East Metro Integration District's school board is on a fast track to find a new superintendent by the end of this month.

Interim Superintendent Jerry Robicheau submitted his resignation letter Feb. 15, notifying the board that his last day will be March 17 or as soon as they find a replacement.

"This district needs consistency," said Robicheau, who has been with the district since February of last year. "There are a lot of things that are going on right now and they need someone who will carry them through implementing this strategic plan."

The board will meet March 21 to interview candidates and make plans to choose a new superintendent.

EMID is a multi-district collaboration involving St. Paul and nine surrounding school districts. Its original goal was to provide a multicultural learning space for students and integration development for staff from participating districts. In recent years, legislators have also asked the district to come up with ways to close the achievement gap between minority and white students.

In January 2011, after Superintendent Brenda Cassellius was appointed as the state's education commissioner, the board decided to hold off on hiring a new superintendent until the Legislature had resolved the question of the future of funds used for integration.

The funds were under intense political scrutiny, in part because the programs that the money was used for had failed to help close the state's achievement gap.

Last month, a statewide task force appointed by lawmakers recommended that the state's Department of Education have the power to withhold integration funds if a school can't show it's making progress in student achievement, among other things.

It also recommended that the state have one integration district rather than three.

EMID has undergone several changes under Robicheau.

In October, the board faced hundreds of irate parents after it considered closing Harambee Elementary and Crosswinds Arts and Science schools. Instead of closing the schools, the board agreed to revise the way it distributes integration dollars to its member districts.

In January, the board approved not using integration dollars to fund the schools. Starting next school year, the schools will depend on "backpack" funds, or per-pupil dollars from the state that follow students.

"This formula is not going to be sustainable indefinitely," Robicheau said. "The school's enrollment will now drive how much money they'll get."

The board also has decided to explore other funding sources, including grants and a portion of member districts' levy dollars.

Robicheau, the board and several parents have spent the last month revising the district's strategic goals.

"I believe the whole concept of integration is critically important and [EMID] schools have a function in that capacity," Robicheau said. "They should continue to be a choice for parents."

Daarel Burnette II • 651-925-5032 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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