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Minneapolis Public Schools doubles associate superintendent ranks

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • May 23, 2014 - 6:27 PM

The Minneapolis school district Friday boosted its associate superintendent ranks from four to seven people and created an eighth position to supervise them in a reorganization that's intended to give more attention to each school.

The plan announced by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson takes effect July 1. It means each associate leader will pay attention to a smaller number of schools, dividing the supervision of schools more by type than the current geographic split of the district into thirds.

The revision is likely to draw criticism from the field, where teachers already often regard the district headquarters as bloated with administrators.  The district said in an announcement that the reshuffling will be cost-neutral. Spokesman Stan Alleyne said that a reduction of 16 school improvement specialists and subject content leader positions, and positions eliminated in a reorganization of the district's Teaching and Learning Department will help offset the increased administrative salaries. He said those will mean layoffs but some affected will have the right to return to classrooms.

The changes will allow the district to hold onto some of its principals who are earning their superintendent licenses. Each associate will be responsible for 10 to 12 schools, Alleyne said.

The new associate superintendents are Laura Cavender, Jackie Hanson, Lucilla Yira and Ron Wagner. Cavender, the principal of Pillsbury elementary, will oversee what the district calls high-priority schools, those with the lowest test scores.  Hanson is principal of Anthony Middle School and will be responsible for middle schools. Yira, the principal at Windom dual immersion school, will deal with magnets.  Ron Wagner, Sullivan’s principal, will be responsible for K-5 and K-8 schools in the western portion of the city.

Yira and Wagner were assigned by Johnson earlier this year to work with principals on short-term strategies intended to boost student progress in advance of state-required proficiency tests. Yira holds a superintendent license, while Cavender, Wagner and Yira are pursuing theirs.

Among the current associates, Stephen Flisk will be responsible for eastern K-5 and K-8 schools, Sara Paul will oversee alternative and charter schools, and Cecilia Saddler, will be responsible for high schools.

“We need associate superintendents to spend significantly more time in the schools, overseeing principal performance and helping develop their instructional leadership capacity,” Johnson said in a district statement.

The biggest overall winner in the reshuffling appears to be Michael Thomas, the fourth current associate superintendent. He’ll be chief of schools, a position that supervises the associates and is responsible for putting academic strategies to work.

Thomas had been responsible for supervising principals in north and northeast Minneapolis, while Flisk and Saddler split South Side schools.

The district has used a variety of divisions of responsibility for schools over the years, sometimes dividing them by elementary, middle and high schools, while also dividing them geographically, as it has under Johnson.

The announcement comes as the district still hasn't released its annual list of principal shifts, something that typically appears well before Memorial Day. Alleyne said that's because there's been more parental involvement in selecting principals, and because the creation of four new associates created principal openings.  But news of some vacancies has leaked out. For example. Patrick Duffy is leaving Barton Open School to take an administrative job with St. Paul schools. Johnson Principal Leadriane Roby is going to Richfield as chief of staff.

The district filled a key principal opening this month when it named Rhonda Dean to be principal at Washburn High School, but it has twice pushed back its timetable for filling the top job at the district's largest school, South High School. At least four applicants have been interviewed and the district said an appointment is now expected in early June.

© 2014 Star Tribune