Now that the Minneapolis school board has wisely bailed on its first choice for superintendent, embattled directors must rebuild the public’s trust in their judgment. That won’t be easy, but step one is establishing an efficient, well-informed process to select a new leader for the district.
On Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to reverse its decision to hire Sergio Paez, a former superintendent of the Holyoke, Mass., district. They decided against continuing contract negotiations with Paez, citing concern over allegations of abuse at his previous school district.
Since the board selected Paez in early December, their search methods have been rightly scrutinized and questioned. The situation devolved into a major mess that damaged public confidence in the board and the district. The board picked Paez and then announced that two members would take a site visit to Holyoke before finalizing a contract. That odd process might have worked, but within days an advocacy group released a report alleging mistreatment of special education students at a Holyoke school while Paez was superintendent. That led the district attorney in Holyoke to launch an investigation and, although that process is ongoing, the Minneapolis board suspended contract talks.
After voting to part ways with Paez on Tuesday, board members were poised to offer the position to interim superintendent Michael Goar, who had been one of three finalists the board considered following a 10-month national search. But a group of protesters blocked that action by disrupting the meeting, chanting and urging the board to reopen the search. The protest lasted about 15 minutes before board members put the meeting — and the superintendent decision — on hold.
It’s unacceptable that a few protesters could shut down a meeting of elected public officials, adding another chapter to this story of dysfunction in public education. However, the board should make the most of the opportunity created by the delay.
The board’s initial timetable for having a new superintendent in place included a July 1 start date. After the nearly yearlong search process, a lot of pieces should be in place to consider the appropriate next steps and, hopefully, meet the July goal. If he still wants the job, the board could return to Goar after careful deliberation. It could also come up with a new list of candidates from its first search or it could restart the process. More thorough vetting is essential.
There has been plenty of public input into what the district needs in its next superintendent. Now it’s time for the elected school board to get control of the process, show leadership and make the best possible hire.
Like many urban districts, Minneapolis faces a multitude of challenges — including improving achievement among all students, reversing declining enrollment and addressing disruptive student behavior. Minnesota’s third-largest district needs a superintendent who can propose effective strategies, then rally and inspire school staff and the community to make needed changes.