Minneapolis school board members appear to be giving up on Sergio Paez as their next superintendent.
In interviews with the Star Tribune over the weekend, six sources who are close to the debate but asked not be named, said that Paez appears to be lacking majority support going into a vote on Tuesday.
As support for Paez wanes, some sources indicated that the board could shift its focus instead to interim superintendent Michael Goar.
In early December, six board members voted to offer the job to Sergio Paez, while three voted for Goar. Two days after Paez was selected, allegations surfaced that staff at a school in his former school district in Massachusetts hit and physically abused special education students.
Sources, some on the board or close to the board, said the majority of board members believe allegations in Holyoke, Mass., have tarnished Paez’s chances to propel the district to success because the community will not be able to look past them.
Sources also said the district is entering a crucial period that will require it to approve school budgets and begin marketing and selling a referendum to residents come November.
While some board members will ask for a complete reboot of the superintendent search, sources said, others favor offering the job to Goar.
Asked to comment Sunday, Paez said, “Regardless of what the board decides to do, me or any other leader will need the full support of the board. The challenges in front of the district are very serious and require everyone, board and community, to move in the same direction.”
Board chair Jenny Arneson said Sunday that it was “not appropriate” for her to speculate on the possible outcome of Tuesday’s vote, adding, “I know that each board member takes their duty seriously and is thinking carefully about how their decision can best serve the students of Minneapolis Public Schools.” Tuesday’s decision is the first item on the board’s annual meeting agenda. There will be no public comment beforehand.
Paez defends record
The board put Paez’s selection on hold after the abuse allegations in Holyoke surfaced. Since then, a criminal investigation has begun and Paez has been on the defensive, asserting he instructed his staff to investigate every allegation and train staff and teachers.
Two board members went to Holyoke in December for a district site visit. In their report to the board, board members Josh Reimnitz and Tracine Asberry said that Paez was able to change the “educational climate” in Holyoke, but struggles with managing political aspects of the job.
“[Paez] can be focused on an idea or initiative and struggle with the politics that surround such decisions,” the board members said in their report, released Friday.
Last week Paez was in Minneapolis for a three-day offensive, trying to win support of community members and leaders. He organized several open meetings at coffee shops to talk to parents and anyone who had questions about his leadership. He also met with top administrators at the district and local community leaders.
If not Paez, who?
If the board votes against Paez, attention will naturally turn to Goar, who came in second in the original search. Goar has been the district’s interim since former superintendent Bernadeia Johnson resigned in late 2014.
During his tenure, Goar fired hundreds of central office staff members to move more resources to schools. In October, he and the board came under fire after purchasing a literacy curriculum that teachers found included racial and cultural stereotypes. Goar said not enough staff members had vetted the books.
During his interview for the district’s top job, Goar said he believed that his experience — in addition to being a Minneapolis graduate himself — gave him an edge over the others. He said he worked on such issues as school integration, financial gaps and corporal punishment in other districts, and now has spent most of this year at the helm in Minneapolis.
Before his interim position began in February, Goar was the district’s CEO, leading the development of a plan to eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students. Before his work in Minneapolis, he held administrative roles in Boston and Memphis public schools.
Goar did not respond to a request for comment.