School Board approves two-week suspension of Burroughs principal

Cadotte to challenge suspension, attorney says

LYNNHURST — The Burroughs Community School principal whose school year ended in headline-grabbing controversy planned to challenge a 10-day suspension approved in June by the Minneapolis School Board, his attorney said.

The recommendation to suspend Principal Tim Cadotte cited “conduct unbecoming a principal, insubordination, and inefficiency in the performance of duties as principal.”

The suspension apparently did not directly stem from a confrontation between Cadotte and School Board Member Chris Stewart at Burroughs in April. Cadotte was placed on administrative leave for two weeks following the incident, which was described in second-hand accounts as a heated verbal exchange.

The recommendation did not identify the suspended principal by name, and Minneapolis Public Schools Director of Communications Stan Alleyne said he could not reveal the identity of the principal.

Cadotte’s attorney, Roger Aronson, confirmed his client was the unnamed principal.

Aronson said he planned to file a grievance and bring the suspension before an arbitrator. He described the charges against Cadotte as relatively minor, and said they did not warrant a 10-day suspension.

“To the extent that you only have one signature line on your activity fund checks instead of two, I mean, that’s not insubordination or conduct unbecoming a principal,” he said. “It’s non-compliance with a district policy. [It] happens, you know?”

Aronson said another question being considered was: “How successfully was the new math curriculum being implemented?”

A third factor in the suspension was, as Aronson described it, related to Cadotte’s dealings with the media following his return to Burroughs in May.

“There’s some quarreling about: Did he violate the media policy when he talked to the press after he was reinstated?” he said.

District policy states schools “must refer” reporters’ requests to visit a school to the district communications office. The intent is that the communications office is informed prior to a visit, although, in practice, principals sometimes set up interviews first and inform the office afterward, Alleyne said.

The day of Cadotte’s return to Burroughs, a Star Tribune reporter and photographer were at the school. Cadotte, two Burroughs students and a parent on the school’s site council were quoted in the May 5 story, and at least two students appeared in photographs.

Said Aronson: “We think with Tim — and this will be the subject of some discussion — before Tim went back [to Burroughs], we had meetings with the district office and we said, ‘Hey, if the media calls or if anyone calls, here’s what the message is going to be: “I’m very happy to be back.” And he’s not going to say anything else.’”

Cadotte was quoted in the story as saying: “It’s been a big love fest. The beauty [of Burroughs] is this is a happy place.”

Aronson said he usually would not discuss a case like Cadotte’s publicly, but was concerned in this case that the strong language of the School Board’s recommendation might be misinterpreted.

“That language applies to some pretty significant character issues of people, and that just is not the case here with Tim,” he said.

Kip Wennerlund, a Burroughs parent who last school year served as co-chair of the school’s site council, said the suspension “smacks of retaliation” for the Stewart incident.

Wennerlund was asked if he thought Cadotte’s ability to effectively lead Burroughs was impacted by the continued fallout.

“It doesn’t help,” he said. “It compromises his ability to lead, no matter how good of a leader he is.”