The work continues, but St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard has earned high marks from his school board bosses for his performance in a trying year.
A closed-door evaluation last week credited Gothard for the human touch he brought to the “unprecedented and heartbreaking events” of 2019-20, according to a summary prepared for Tuesday night’s board meeting.
His annual job review came three months into a new three-year contract approved last November that boosted his pay from $232,000 to $240,000 annually.
Earlier this year, Gothard had to help end a teachers’ strike and then move immediately into preparing students and staff for distance learning amid a pandemic. Kids are not yet back in school, but he has sought to deliver an improved online experience through what he has dubbed “Distance Learning 2.0.”
The state’s second-largest district also had to work through the loss of board Chairwoman Marny Xiong, who died June 7 of COVID-19, and the tumultuous aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.
In a special nod to Gothard’s leadership in what it described as challenging times, the board said it was “grateful for his kind heart, good work and strength of purpose.”
The district still faces challenges as it relates to student achievement and enrollment. The $822.3 million spending plan approved for 2020-21 took into account a projected loss of 1,228 students, but that came before the district announced it was sticking with distance learning at the start of the school year and other schools offered in-person options.
On Tuesday, the district also unveiled its potential property-tax plans in what had been shaping up to be a good year for city homeowners in 2021.
The district is weighing a tax-levy increase of up to 5%, from $188 million to $197 million, with $5.5 million going to pension and other retiree/contractual obligations.
St. Paul’s other major taxing jurisdictions — the city and Ramsey County — are not planning to raise their tax levies.
Chris Samuel, the county’s auditor-treasurer, said last month that if the city, county and school district kept their proposed increases at zero that total taxes for the city’s $215,800 median-valued home would drop by $32, a 1.1% decrease. A district tax hike of 5% would boost its share of taxes on that home by $54.69, district projections show.