Keep up the good work

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It’s the end of the year and almost the start of a new year. That means it’s the time of year when the Saint Paul Public School District’s Board of Education gives SPPS Superintendent Valeria Silva their full and unyielding support and signs the contract that keeps Silva in power for yet another year. District employees received the notice from the SPPS Board of Education today. Of course, why wouldn’t the Board of Education stamp their seal of approval for Saint Paul’s top administrator? Silva’s list of achievements include:

  1. With the original Strong Schools, Strong Communities plan going nowhere Silva rebranded her signature initiative as Strong Schools, Strong Communities 2.0. I’m not sure if the current release has passed quality control yet or not. Perhaps we’ll see Strong Schools, Strong Communities 3.0 or maybe even-can you hold in your excitement?-Strong Schools, Strong Communities 3.1 or possibly even 3.21!
  2. Superintendent Silva’s administration pushed for maintstreaming certain special education students into the regular classroom after two years this past spring and, like everything else that Silva has ever asked for Silva got. Putting students who can barely speak English and whose parents often can’t speak English at all into the regular classroom after just two short years? Sure-no problem, according to Silva and the top district leadership, anyway. How about students who have severe behavioral and emotional disorders and disrupt every class they’re in? Superintendent Silva believes they’ll shape up! Let’s pray a future school lockdown drill is in fact just a drill.
  3. Admittedly, Valeria Silva does have a heart. Three years ago the district’s educational television department was scrapped and its two long-time employees had received layoff notices. Just a few days before the layoffs were to go into effect somebody brought this dire news to the attention of the superintendent who intervened to keep the SPPS Educational Television Department around along with its two outstanding, tireless employees. Why was the department in danger of being axed? The answer:  Silva’s former Deputy Superintendent Michael Baumann, who was all about slashing budgets, including employees’ salaries. Who promoted Baumann into a role where he could make such important decisions? None other than Valeria Silva herself!
  4. State test results, grades, and graduation rates haven’t improved for minority students in SPPS during Silva’s entire six year tenure-what is dubbed the “achievement gap.” The district’s and, especially, Silva’s big push and well publicized policy on racial equity is nothing more than a distraction so the SPPS community and general public don’t realize the achievement gap hasn’t gotten any better in the last six years and that it has actually gotten worse. At least I get paid to attend the racial equity classes. It would be nice if it helped bring up test scores of minority students but every year the data compiled by the state says otherwise.
  5. The one possible bright spot under Silva’s leadership is in the area of information technology, or “technology services” as a high paid consultant rebranded the department last spring. Making the bold and spontaneous decision to put an iPad into the hands of all 39,000 SPPS students is not only an equitable decision but a progressive decision as well. One might even argue it’s a radical decision, in the same vein as 1960s civil rights activists and 1860s radical Republican abolotionists. The problem is the current network infrastructure can’t support so many devices utilizing it’s resources at the same time. Time will tell if the district’s future network infrastructure will be able to support so many new devices but if this problem is resolved then Superintendent Silva will forever be remembered as the superintendent who truly delivered personalized learning through technology to the large student body that she oversees. If this can happen maybe Silva’s legacy will be a positive one in the end. It’s amazing how one key achievement can blot out all of the dismal failures, isn’t it? But it could…

Superintendent Dr. Bernadeia Johnson from Minneapolis Public Schools announced her resignation yesterday. I can’t help but wonder if part of Dr. Johnson’s decision to resign is that she feels responsible for some of the poor leadership appointments that she made during her tenure, such as hiring Rich Valerga who recently “stepped down” as the district’s rather unpopular chief information officer. Superintendent Silva has made her fair share of poor leadership appointments during her time as SPPS Superintendent as well. But, thanks to the SPPS Board of Education, Silva will be able to continue to make such wonderful decisions at the expense of Saint Paul taxpayers in the coming new year. SPPS, unlike MPS, will be business as usual. Maybe this year that achievement gap will finally start to get narrower! I guess I wouldn’t place any bets in Vegas that next year’s state report on test results will be any brighter than they’ve been for the past six years. It’s a bonus and good karma if they are.

Happy Holidays!