A year after taking charge of the state’s second-largest district, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard scored positive marks in the first public job review by his school board bosses.
He won praise for helping avert a teachers’ strike and for being a strong advocate for the district at the State Capitol.
“Overall, the board is pleased with the work of the superintendent and has confidence in his leadership,” Chairwoman Zuki Ellis said Tuesday night in summarizing an Aug. 1 closed-door evaluation of the former south suburban schools chief.
Gothard chose not to seek a raise as part of the process.
The district has faced budget woes, and he preferred to focus on its new strategic plan, Board Member Jon Schumacher said Tuesday.
“It is certainly not reflective of the job he’s done,” Schumacher said of opting not to boost his current $232,000 salary.
Gothard took over in July 2017 — a year after the board ousted Superintendent Valeria Silva — and spent much of his first six months visiting schools and building relationships before setting about developing the new strategic plan. It includes calls to improve the middle schools and expand the use of positive approaches to student behavior.
Last month, he also persuaded the board to ask voters in November to approve $18.6 million a year in new funding in hopes of halting the recent string of budget shortfalls while funding strategic-plan initiatives.
Schumacher acknowledged that some school board and community members have been impatient with the pace of the planning process. But Schumacher added that he believed it required a good foundation.
Gothard came to St. Paul from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District and has begun assembling a leadership team bearing more of his imprint — as opposed to being a holdover of the Silva era.
Earlier this month, he outlined organizational changes that include two new administrative positions: a chief of schools who will oversee leadership development plus the assistant superintendents who guide K-12 operations, and an equal opportunity officer whose duties will include investigating allegations of sexual harassment and racial bias.
The moves come after Galtier Community School parents slammed the district for transferring a teacher who had been accused of sexual harassment to their school. The district also was taken to task in a court document last month for allegedly not doing more to help authorities investigating the stalking of a 10-year-old student at Wellstone Elementary.
A district janitor has been charged and is accused of leaving crude, sexually charged notes and a pair of underwear in the girl’s desk.
Toya Stewart Downey, a district spokeswoman, said written descriptions for the chief of schools and equal opportunity officer positions haven’t been finalized nor have the salary levels been set.
Though the jobs have yet to be posted, advocates for the Asian community — the district’s largest ethnic constituency — were vocal recently about the desire to be represented at the highest levels of district decisionmaking.