Monday was the day for Portland’s deputy superintendent Charles Hopson to meet and talk with St. Paul stakeholders, the public, the press, and the Board of Education. Throughout the long day, Hopson’s key word was systemic: systemic equity, systemic leadership, systemic expertise, systemic barriers to achievement, systemic nurturing of community partnerships.
Answering questions at a press conference in the afternoon, Hopson emphasized his leadership as a principal in increasing student achievement, but acknowledged that achievement went up and down during his tenure as principal at Tubman Middle School in Portland.
2008 Portland St. Paul
Students 42,996 37,835
African American 15% 30%
Asian/Pacific 11% 30%
Hispanic 14% 14%
Native American 2% 2%
White 55% 25%
English Language 10% 41%
Special ed 15% 16%
Answering questions from the board in an evening session, Hopson said that “one of the frustrations that I had [at Franklin High School] was that every subgroup made significant gains except those of African American descent.” Still, he added, the key is systemic equity: “What is good for students who are performing the lowest is equally good for those who are performing well.”
St. Paul Public Schools select a superintendent: The semi-finalist round (TC Daily Planet)
Three finalists named for St. Paul Schools superintendent post (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
One of the strategies that Hopson emphasized for increasing student achievement is the mainstreaming of students who are English Language Learners and special education students. He talked about mainstreaming Russian, Chinese and Spanish-speaking students.
“I made it a point to hire teachers who were proficient in the first languages of the major language groups in our school,” he said, “because I felt it was critical for a teacher to be able to make sure that the content was first and foremost presented to the students in a way that enhanced the cognitive potential that was already there.”
Notes from the public forum
The public forum was packed. Hopson told the group that the racial alchievement gap – the idea that we canbe comfortable and complacent with one group of students significantly outperforming another group of students is a “civil rights violation of the worst kind.” He asked: “If the group that is highest performing was the lowest performing, would there be the same sense of urgency?”
He emphasized the importance of the “Courageous Conversations About Race” program, and said that if he were to come to SPPS, “I would want to have a cultural proficiency audit.”
Asked about stopping the flow of students leaving district schools, he advised, “Look at what the charters are offering and offer that here.”
One of the board questions focused on the need for budget cuts in the year ahead, and the possibility of using zero-based budgeting as a strategy. Hopson responded that the process he would follow is to look at three categories of programs:
“If something is working very well and it’s highly aligned, you don’t touch it. … That’s category one.
“The second category was high impact but not highly aligned. … [The third category] is not high impact and highly aligned, in other words, popular but not working.”
Hopson emphasized minimizing impact to student achievement in the budget cutting process.
Valeria Silva, chief academic officer in SPPS; Charles Hopson, deputy superintendent in the Portland, Oregon public schools; and Deb Henton, superintendent in North Branch were named Saturday afternoon as the three finalists for superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS). Final interviews begin Monday, November 16, and a decision by the board is scheduled for Monday, November 23.
To offer feedback to the board, fill out a feedback form at the afternoon public candidate forums or at the SPPS website. Candidate meeting days and the schedule for each day are:
Monday, November 16 – Charles Hopson
Wednesday, November 18 – Valeria Silva
Thursday, November 19 – Deb Henton
Each day’s schedule will be:
2-2:30 p.m. – press conference
5-6:15 p.m. – public reception, including candidate presentation and Q&A
6:30-8 p.m. – finalist interview by Board of Education