Pressure builds to restart Mpls. school boss search

The biggest question in Minneapolis politics these days is, “What didn’t the Minneapolis School Board know and when didn’t it know it?”

It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous outcome to the search for a school superintendent than the one that was — or wasn’t — conducted before the board selected Sergio Paez as the new school chief, bypassing the interim superintendent Michael Goar.

The search took 10 months, and in that time nobody, apparently, learned anything about allegations that special needs students in Holyoke, Mass. — Paez’s old district — had been illegally restrained and thrown into walls and onto floors.

In announcing that the Minneapolis school board would investigate the allegations it should have uncovered earlier, the department issued a news release headlined, “Minneapolis Board of Education continues due diligence,” a classic public-relations attempt to put lipstick on a pig.

It was only after Paez was selected that two members of the board intended to go to his former district and learn more about him. That nugget raised plenty of eyebrows about the selection process, as well it should have.

In its editorial today calling for the district to start over again, the Star Tribune describes a tainted search for an important position.

That series of events casts a shadow on Minneapolis school leaders, because they announced Paez as their pick and then said they’d do a site visit in Holyoke before finalizing his contract. Last week, the Star Tribune Editorial Board asked why that visit wasn’t done before the announcement.

“I am just thankful that we are doing our due diligence and doing a site visit,” said Carla Bates, one of three school board members who did not vote for Paez. Six members supported his hiring. Contract talks have been suspended until two board members return from their site visit to Holyoke and report back to the full board on Jan. 12.

No one should prejudge the outcome of the criminal investigation. It’s possible that nothing will come of the probe or the review by Massachusetts education officials. Nonetheless, the process that led to the selection of Paez is tainted. It’s especially troubling that neither Paez nor the search firm hired by the district — Hazard, Young Attea and Associates — informed Minneapolis officials about the abuse allegations.

The Minneapolis School District is struggling to address the achievement gap and enrollment challenges. It needs a strong and credible leader who can rally students, parents, teachers and administrators as well as rebuild faith in the city’s critically important public schools. And that leader must emerge from a hiring process that is above reproach.

Last week, pressure to restart the process intensified after a petition was circulated questioning the process, and declaring that all of the finalists were poor choices.

All of this comes even though HYA, the executive search firm hired to find the school chief, assured authorities that all of the candidates had been rigorously vetted.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe, which has spearheaded the story, says Paez struggled to explain inconsistencies in his story, while members of the school board refused to talk to the paper to explain what they didn’t see and why they didn’t see it.

  • Gary F

    A simple Google search either by the highly paid search committee or the Mpls School board would give enough information to start asking more questions. At some point I’m glad I don’t live in that city anymore and don’t feel sorry anymore for the people who live there because they voted for these idiots.

  • MrE85

    It’s about time we treat school bosses as administrators and not rock stars. If we have someone local with the skills, why bring in a stranger?

    • Sometimes I think the most political bodies in the world are school boards and administrators.

      • MrE85


  • Rob

    Nice blend of hubris and lack of honesty on the candidate’s part and incompetence on the board’s part. Scary to think this blend came so close to succeeding.

  • raflw

    It would seem that not only is our superintendent selection process a disaster, but based on current results it sure seems that our school board candidacy/election process is a mess.

  • L. Foonimin

    can hardly wait to see Old Souch’s take on this …

  • Sue

    Honestly I don’t see who would want the job. If you look at the tenure of the people who have been in that position over the last twenty years – it is not good. It is a thank less job and nothing is good enough for students, parents and teachers.

    The reality is that one person – especially in two years or less, is not going to be able to bring that school district’s test scores up. It is going to take years (perhaps generations) to make any real change in our struggling school districts.

    So unless Goar is a individual devoid of integrity and compassion with a lack of desire to make a difference, I do not see why Mpls Public Schools insisted on conducting a nation wide search. It is a waste of money and time and the reality is that bringing somebody new is only wastes both time and money. More time and money gets wasted while a new person works to get up to speed.

  • Glory Oljace

    As a Minneapolis teacher, I agree that under no circumstances should Dr. Paez be hired. Even if any of the allegations are true, we cannot have him lead our district. Stability is needed in order to continue the work that’s begun. Interim Superintendent Goar should be asked if he’d be willing to continue serving, while the search begins anew. (I believe Michael Goar is the best candidate to lead MPS, but let the community decide.)

    Cut all ties with Sergio Paez!

    • He’s pretty well mortally wounded now. They can’t hire him. He has zero political capital to spend. The system has no choice but to start over. My guess is the press release announcing that will come next Wednesday around 4:59 p.m.

  • Rixware

    Until I read about Paez’s previous district I didn’t even realize that states could take over dysfunctional school districts. So . . . given the grand dysfunction in the culture of the Minneapolis School Board . . . and the ongoing mess at the Davis Center . . . maybe the MN Dept. of Education should . . . I mean . . . I’m just saying . . .

    Barring anything so radical, Goar has been so much better than his predecessor that there really should be no reason not to make his temporary appointment permanent — that is, if he still wants the job after being publicly rejected by a board that appears increasingly incapable of making sound decisions. (Being a Minneapolis School Board member is certainly a thankless job, and darn near impossible, but speaking as a parent of two elementary-age students, this level of incompetence is pretty disheartening…)