The executive director of the Perpich Center for Arts Education, which has been criticized for its management of a Woodbury arts and science magnet school, announced Friday that she will retire on Jan. 2.
Sue Mackert’s decision comes as the center awaits the results of a legislative audit inspired in part by concerns voiced by parents at Crosswinds School — and by state Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury.
Susan Mau Larson, board chairwoman at Perpich Center, said Friday that the audit was not a factor in Mackert’s decision. To the contrary, Mau Larson cited Mackert’s leadership in helping to save the school from possible closure in 2013 as a highlight of her six-year tenure atop the agency.
“Crosswinds brings a lot of value to our students and the state,” Mau Larson said.
In a statement, Mackert said that she was honored to serve the center and its students, and considered it a privilege to work with the faculty, administration and staff.
Peggy Rader, the center’s communications director, said Friday that she was not doing interviews.
The program audit is one of two — the other being a financial audit — involving the Perpich Center that are being conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
Earlier this year, Ward urged the auditor to look into the school’s programming after hearing concerns about the elimination of parent groups, cuts in art education experts and inconsistent direction to faculty members. She also questioned whether the board was ceding too much authority to Mackert.
Mau Larson said that the auditor’s office has yet to present its findings to Perpich Center.
Rader said she knew Mackert had been thinking about retirement. She is 66 and has her first grandchild on the way.
“I think she felt she accomplished many of the things she wanted to accomplish as director,” Rader said. “She thinks now is time to step down and take a deep breath.”
A transition team has been formed to continue program operations and to begin the search for a new executive director, the center said in a news release.