ADVERTISEMENT

Valeria Silva

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

St. Paul school board extends Silva's contract

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II
  • Star Tribune
  • March 21, 2012 - 6:52 AM

St. Paul's school board unexpectedly granted Superintendent Valeria Silva a new three-year contract Tuesday night.

Members voted unanimously to pay Silva $193,000 next year, an increase from her current salary of $187,309. For each year she completes, Silva will receive a 2 percent raise, a 1 percent performance bonus and an $11,000 so-called longevity bonus.

"This district needs stability and I believe you are the person to steer this ship in the right direction," said Board Member Mary Doran.

The board has previously expressed concern that the superintendent stay with the district to provide continuity and to make progress on such efforts as closing the achievement gap that dogs minority students.

Former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen left after three years to run the schools in Austin, Texas. "I'm hoping very much that you will stay with us and provide that stability that our students need," Board Member John Brodrick told Silva.

"It's been a very rewarding and difficult and at many times a very emotional journey for me. ... this is home for me," Silva said. "I hope three years from now, you will be approving a new contract for me."

Silva was hired in 2009 to lead the state's second-largest district, which has 39,000 students, 6,000 employees and a $600 million annual budget.

Silva started in the district 25 years ago as a Spanish immersion teacher. She quickly rose through the ranks, serving as a curriculum coordinator, assistant principal and principal. While she was director of the district's English language learner programs and later chief academic officer, St. Paul received national recognition for its ability to quickly raise standardized test scores.

As superintendent, Silva launched a "Strong Schools Strong Communities" vision plan last year that will transform several of the district's magnet schools into neighborhood schools to both try to close the achievement gap and to save the district money over the next four years.

The board praised Silva for her ability to gain large community support for the plan and raise the district's overall test scores in her first two years as superintendent.

But they expressed concern with the persistent achievement gap.

"It's been a wild ride in these two years," said Board Member Keith Hardy. "I'm comfortable with your commitment for the next three years to get St. Paul to be the one of the top school districts across the country. We need to have more attention on student achievement for all students. I'm looking forward to seeing that happen."

The district continues to face drastic budget cuts from the state. Silva and the board laid off 345 employees last summer as part of a $25 million budget cut.

Silva said in December that if St. Paul residents don't renew or increase the district's levy next fall, the schools will have to cut as much as $30 million by 2013.

"My biggest challenge will be trying to manage the lack of dollars to get better results," Silva said.

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

© 2014 Star Tribune