When I was Mayor of Minneapolis I said I had the second toughest job in town. Nothing was harder than being the Superintendent of Schools. People care a lot about potholes but they care a whole lot more about their kids.
For the past several years we have been blessed with Superintendents in Minneapolis and Saint Paul who have been on the front lines for our kids, and they have stood strongly when the pressure built.
Supt. Valeria Silva will continue that role in Saint Paul but we are about to have a change in Minneapolis, where Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson announced yesterday she is resigning at the end of January.
I would like to thank Superintendent Johnson for her dedication to Minneapolis kids over the past 15 years and for her leadership during a difficult time facing our greatest challenge as a region.
Thankfully Michael Goar, now CEO of Minneapolis Schools, will be interim superintendent. He knows the district very well and has been working directly with the Superintendent for the past year. Mr. Goar has been an effective leader in Boston and Memphis, and developed a deep understanding of our region’s child development infrastructure while executive director of Generation Next. It is also very powerful to have someone who grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Washburn come back and run the school district. He knows how to make difficult decisions and he is tough enough to put those decisions into action. I am very confident he can be very successful.
As we, the community, work with him on the transition, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- We have a long way to go: When you have 42% of 3rd graders proficient in reading, 54% of students graduating high school in 4 years and only 61% of students who attend school at least 95% of the time, you have to accept that the status quo is not acceptable. Important changes have been made; far more are necessary.
- Continuity matters: The status quo is not good enough but we also don’t have time to waste on a long transition. Michael Goar, like Supt. Johnson before him, was part of the leadership team before taking the top job. This makes it possible for him to hit the ground running. Fresh perspectives and bold decisions are necessary but it is easier to move forward when there is a leader who knows how things work from Day One.
- The work Supt. Johnson laid out in her “Shift Initiative” is promising and should be given a chance to work. The district should implement its new strategic plan and initiatives such as the Partnership Schools.
The most significant part of the “Shift Initiative” was the Partnership Schools, a very promising concept that won support from both the Superintendent and teachers. This concept makes it possible to have more flexibility in underperforming schools, and creates a new compact in which the principals, teachers, students and community all take more responsibility for the success of children.
Superintendent Johnson, who has been a great partner and friend, will be missed. But she left a strong body of work, including putting in place a very skilled CEO and leadership team that can lead us in a smooth and successful transition so that we may keep our focus on the most important task, educating all children.