Former School Board member takes over District head

Bill Green will serve as superintendent until a permanent replacement is named

A person Minneapolis Public Schools has called on before during times of crisis has stepped up to become interim superintendent following Thandiwe Peebles' resignation.

Former School Boardmember Bill Green, an associate professor of history at Augsburg College, will serve in the post until a replacement is found. It's expected he'll remain in the job for at least a year.

The 55-year-old served on the Board from 1993 to 2001, serving as chair from 1996 to 1998. In his first year on the Board, he and other members led the district for months after Robert Ferrera was fired as superintendent. Green is credited with recruiting Ferrera's replacement, the widely popular Carol Johnson who served as superintendent for six years before leaving in 2003 to oversee the Memphis school district. Green also is an experienced mediator who has volunteered on numerous panels considering education issues, public school funding and desegregation.

&#8220We desperately need the functionality that comes with integrity and honesty,” said School Board Chair Joseph Erickson. &#8220He does a good job building relationships. That'll be the hallmark of Bill's administration.”

Who is Bill Green?

Green grew up in New Orleans in a family of educators. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1972 and four years later earned a master's degree in educational psychology and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Minnesota. In 1989, he received his law degree from the U.

His involvement with the district began as a parent volunteer in his son's Montessori classroom at Elizabeth Hall Elementary, 1601 Aldrich Ave. N., in which he provided weekly lessons in such subjects as reading to small groups of students.

The district has undergone major change in the years since Green served on the School Board.

Deep budget cuts, increasing numbers of charter schools, overcrowded classrooms and a growing population of students for whom English is a secondary language all will be challenges in the coming year.

Fulton resident Catherine Shreves, who served on the Board alongside Green, said he's up to the task.

&#8220He brings stability, continuity and understanding of the district that was missing in the previous superintendent,” she said.

Green has a history of dealing with tough issues. He helped negotiate a compromise in 1995 between the state and the NAACP over inadequate resources for African-American students. His intervention kept the issue from going to court and led to the Choice Is Yours program that allows for open enrollment. Green also helped draft a districtwide position paper on urban areas closing the racial achievement gap.

&#8220However long he's here, I think it's going to give us time to get the focus back on education and the issues,” said Bill Smith, principal of Southwest High School. &#8220I'm looking forward to it.”

Green was a member of the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority, chaired the Quality School Council and worked with neighbors to resolve a power line dispute in the 1970s. He was selected to serve on the task force convened in 2003 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to examine funding for Minnesota schools. The committee found that schools statewide were under-funded, but the panel's work never formed the basis for legislative action.

&#8220He's smart, experienced and understands the political issues facing Minneapolis schools and kids across the board,” said Linden Hills resident Dennis Shapiro, who preceded Green on the School Board. &#8220He enjoys working with people in the political system and coming up with good, workable solutions to issues.”

Southwest social studies teacher Greg Denysenko agrees. &#8220We need to have someone in charge whom we can trust,” he said. &#8220I think he'll work with the community, but he won't be afraid to go against public opinion, like he did when he came out in support of neighborhood schools in the 1990s.”

Green said that he hopes to raise academic achievement districtwide in the coming year.

&#8220I can't deliver a prescription [for success],” he said. &#8220I start with the assumption that people agree on the final goal here.”

Peebles' departure

Green replaces Thandiwe Peebles, who resigned on Jan. 26, one day before the School Board had indicated that it would dismiss her. Peebles had been under investigation after an anonymous letter surfaced alleging that she used district employees to perform personal tasks.

Because Peebles resigned, investigation findings won't be made public.

Peebles had support from some community groups, including the Coalition of Black Churches, who charged that her ouster was contrived and improper.

&#8220People in the community need to trust that we're smart enough not to fall into such things,” said School Board Chair Joseph Erickson. &#8220The most important thing is that we need to keep doing our work.”

Peebles, who arrived from the Cleveland Public School District, was midway through a three-year contract. She has 40 years of education experience but was in her first job as superintendent.

She was credited with raising math and reading test score but also has been widely criticized for her leadership style.

The two sides signed a settlement agreement that gave Peebles $179,500 in compensation and limits what persons involved can say of the deal. Peebles and the School Board both have said that &#8220different visions” led to the split.

&#8220We all want to raise achievement and close the achievement gap. That's always been the point. We just had different ways of getting there,” Erickson said.