School Board designs new superintendent search process

Board aiming to name new superintendent by end of June

Fourth- and fifth-grade students in band and orchestra walked about a mile from Lyndale Community School to Walker Methodist, where they performed for an audience of several dozen residents of the senior living facility March 8. City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who volunteers at the school, accompanied the orchestra on violin. Photo by Dylan Thomas

It didn’t turn out quite like they expected, but the Board of Education’s design for a revamped superintendent search process took shape in March.

The board aims to name a new superintendent by the end of June, and it hired executive search firm DHR International to recruit candidates and manage the process. EPU Consultants won a contract to lead community engagement efforts around the search, which the board relaunched after a previous search failed in January.

The board also settled on the design of the Superintendent Selection Committee, electing Board Member Nelson Inz as its chair. The committee is tasked with reviewing all the candidates and forwarding the names of up to three finalists to the board.

The 11-member selection committee will include just three board members — Inz and two others to be named — the board’s student representative, six community members and EPU Consultants CEO Radious Guess, whose role on the committee will be to relay the opinions gathered during community engagement sessions. The board reserved one of the community member seats for a student, meaning the committee will have two teenaged members with full voting rights.

The board is scheduled to discuss the selection committee process at its March 22 meeting.

From the size of the Superintendent Selection Committee to the role of the search firm, the new search came together speedily but in a way that surprised even board members.

Their disappointment with the first attempt to replace former Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who left the district over a year ago, prompted board members to take a much more active role in the process. In February, they agreed to recruit candidates themselves and hire a search firm for a role limited to processing applications and checking references.

But of the five firms that responded to the district’s call, only one agreed to that limited scope of services.

“Every other firm said: That’s not what we do as search firms, we do the full scope,” said Amy Moore, the district’s general counsel. Moore and board liaison Jesse Winkler, who spoke with 16 search firms in total, made the recommendation to go with DHR.

That news caught some board members off guard on March 8, the first of two marathon meetings in March where the discussion largely focused on the superintendent search.

“I wasn’t expecting to completely be changing what we talked about,” Board Member Rebecca Gagnon said.

Board Member Nelson Inz said he approved of a larger role for the search firm as long as the selection committee was “still the crux of the process.”

“I feel confident that we’re still going to be able to engage in the spirit of our revised search with this firm,” Inz said.

The three Board of Education members on the selection committee are short of a quorum for the board, meaning the committee’s deliberations will remain private. Only after the committee interviews candidates, reviews the background and reference checks of the semifinalists and participates in site visits with the top candidates will the names of one to three finalists be made public.

The selection committee is scheduled to present its finalists to the board May 31. The board intends to vote on its preferred candidate June 28.

Board approves teacher contract

The Board of Education approved a new contract with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers on March 8.

The 2015–2017 contract gives teachers a 2.5-percent pay increase retroactive to January 1 and another 2-percent pay hike July 1. The contract commits the district to taking action if class sizes exceed a target of 18 to 24 students at high-priority schools and gives teachers at all schools more time to prepare for class and collaborate with peers.

The contract runs through June 30, 2017, and will cost the district $7.4 million over two years, a roughly 2.5-percent increase over the previous contract. Eighty-seven percent of teachers union members voted to ratify the contract before it went to the board.

The district and teachers union first reached a tentative agreement in December after six months of talks.