Sergio Paez may still become the next superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, despite allegations of abuse at a school in his former school district.
Contract negotiations are suspended until two board members return from a fact-finding trip to Holyoke, Mass., later this week and report back to the entire board on Jan. 12.
The district’s attorney will continue her investigation, but the board did not reverse its approval of Paez’s bid for superintendent.
The decision comes after a watchdog organization in Massachusetts alleged abuse at a school in Holyoke, where Paez served as superintendent, leading to outrage in Massachusetts and Minneapolis.
A report by the Disability Law Center, a private nonprofit advocacy group, alleged that students in a special-education program at the Peck School in Holyoke were restrained more than 50 times.
In other situations, students were “thrown to the floor and slapped,” the group alleged. Other students were pulled out of chairs for refusing to get up.
Minneapolis Board Member Carla Bates said last week that the report made her “sick to my stomach.”
The abuse allegations were made public just 48 hours after Paez was selected as Minneapolis superintendent. Massachusetts education officials vowed to investigate, and Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni launched a criminal probe.
Paez said last week that he was aware of the allegations and that he had investigated them internally but found no evidence of abuse.
Last week, after a 10-month national search, the Minneapolis school board voted 6-3 to hire Paez as the next superintendent. District officials said that neither the Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates search firm nor Paez told them about the alleged abuse in Holyoke.
Two board members, Tracine Asberry and Josh Reimnitz, are scheduled to visit the Holyoke district on Friday.
Amy Moore, the school district’s attorney, said that because a criminal investigation is underway, Holyoke officials have become tight-lipped about what transpired there during Paez’s tenure as superintendent.
As of Tuesday night, Asberry and Reimnitz have been able to schedule only one meeting.
Asberry said the trip may not be “as fruitful” as the board had hoped.