Below are the remarks that I shared last night with the nine-member Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Directors, which is expected to name its preferred candidate for the district's new superintendent next Monday, Dec. 7. Read more about yesterday’s public hearing and comments here.
I am a proud graduate of Minneapolis South High School (Go Tigers!), live in South Minneapolis and have two children who will attend Hale Elementary School, which is where I went more than 20 years ago. Given my personal background, and my professional role as MinnCAN’s executive director, I’d like to share the following thoughts on your search for a new superintendent for Minneapolis Public Schools.
First, I applaud the Board on an open and transparent hiring process for the district’s next superintendent. You’ve given ample opportunities for public and community engagement and you’ve broadcast the application materials and interviews on multiple media. Thank you for this.
Second, and far more important: Once you choose the next superintendent for the district, let them do their job. Yes, this decision is one of the biggest you’ll make as a board. And yes, no matter what you decide there will be people who are upset, who disagree with you and who are vocal about it. You’re elected officials—this comes with the territory. Please do not let those detractors affect the new superintendent’s tenure.
Former Superintendent Johnson once told me she had to spend more than half of her time each week simply responding to Board requests. That is unacceptable. When a leader is micromanaged, it inhibits success. It clouds the vision. So, pick the person and allow them to lead. Because that’s what you’re hiring them to do.
Third, it’s time to get the focus of the district back on student achievement. You are the Board of Directors. It is within your power to ensure that you spend your time discussing matters directly related to academic success of students. Stop allowing so many distractions to shift your focus away from where it matters most—the achievement of the district’s learners.
And finally, as a white father, I am calling on you to prioritize racial equity in the district. I want students of color to read on grade level and graduate on time. I want more of my tax dollars to go to meeting the needs of students of color. I want students of color to have the best teachers. I want students of color to have the nicest facilities and the most resources and the greatest opportunities. I want students of color to have more of this stuff than is afforded to my own son and daughter. They will be just fine, no matter what.
What I really want is for this district and this board and the new superintendent to stop celebrating 1-percent gains and to stop making excuses about why students of color aren’t succeeding or can’t succeed and start doing whatever it takes to ensure that they do.
I have an almost infinite belief in every student’s capacity to learn and grow, and it’s time the MPS board and superintendent operate in the same spirit.