St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva, who won a three-year contract extension last month, appears on a list of more than 70 people in the running for the top school district job in Palm Beach County, Fla. — the 11th-largest school district in the country.
Mike Murgio of the Palm Beach County school board said Monday night that Silva was still on the board's list of 72 candidates, and that he received her résumé and additional information in an e-mail two days ago.
It's possible, he said, that a candidate withdrawing from consideration may have notified the district's search firm rather than the board itself.
Silva couldn't be reached for comment Monday night. But St. Paul school board Chairwoman Mary Doran issued a statement saying, "It is not surprising that Superintendent Silva would be in demand by school districts across the country. She is a nationally recognized education leader. St. Paul schools are notably successful. We have been a model for other districts in many ways. That attracts attention and recruiters."
The firm overseeing the search — Ray and Associates — is expected to narrow the field to the "top flight candidates" by the board's meeting on Wednesday, Murgio said. The board expects to hire a superintendent for the 180,000-student school system by April 16, he said. The job would pay from $275,000 to $350,000 a year.
Candidates for the Palm Beach County job include at least 22 state and local superintendents. One hopeful, MaryEllen Elia, led an even larger school system in Hillsborough County, Fla., and was named recently as the 2015 Florida Superintendent of the Year.
Last month, the St. Paul school board, by a vote of 6-1, extended Silva's contract by three years, which included annual salary bumps that would bring her current pay from $204,833 to $223,849 by 2018. She also would be eligible for a 1 percent performance bonus worth $2,238.
She will continue to receive an additional $11,000 per year for her length of service with the district, which serves 39,000 students.
Silva's contract extension came at a time when her five-year leadership of the district has grown controversial, as some teachers and parents are resisting Silva-led changes that they say have the effect of increasing disciplinary issues. A group called Caucus for Change wants to unseat three school board members seeking re-election in November.
Silva's current contract doesn't end until Dec. 15, and some thought the action on extending it should be left to the board members who are elected in November.
But those supporting the extension said the decision rested with the current board members who want Silva to know they support her staying in St. Paul.
Mayor Chris Coleman said Silva told him that she had applied for the Palm Beach job but did so before the St. Paul school board renewed her contract.
"She's completely committed to the school district," Coleman said.
"She wants to see through the changes she made. The superintendent is making some really tough choices on how to close the racial achievement gap in this community."
Coleman said Silva is the first to admit that not all those decisions have been executed perfectly.
"The closing of the achievement gap has been … the number one focus for years and she's actually doing something about it," Coleman said.
"This is the toughest job in America right now, but she's tackling it, and it would be a huge loss for the city of St. Paul if she were to leave."
Staff writer Kevin Duchschere contributed to this report.