Minneapolis school board: Goals for superintendent


Question #4 – The School Board is charged with hiring the superintendent of the district.  What are 3-5 key goals for the superintendent that you will use to assess her performance and that of the district, and how will that be communicated to the public?

The MPS Parents Forum has posed a number of questions to all school board candidates and then published their responses on the forum. Thanks to the MPS Parents Forum for agreeing that the TC Daily Planet may republish these responses.

At Large, City-Wide (2 seats open)

Chanda Baker

 Minneapolis Public Schools with the guidance of Mckinsey and company, Inc began a process in 2006 that resulted in a strategic plan.  The vision to Make Every Child College Ready is ambitious – however it is exactly we should be envisioning. This plan lays out the path to achieve two goals by 2012: raise every student’s achievement, and close the racial and income achievement gaps.     The strategic plan has four stated measurable outcomes by 2012, they are

  • 80 percent 0f all MPS students will score “proficient” or higher on the MCA-II math and reading test,
  • 80 percent of all MPS students will achieve scores on a college entrance exam that predicts success in college,
  • Race and income achievement gaps will be reduced by 75 percent and;
  • English Language Learning students will have achieved academic English language proficiency within seven years

As a board member, I would move forward in support of the work that current board and administration has done. The strategic plan is underway and it makes sense to stay the course and move aggressively towards the vision to Make Every Child College Ready. Within the plan there are nine recommendations with indicators of success.  I would use this work to assess the performance of the superintendent and the school board.  The school board should report out to the public its core goals and yearly targets as indicators by the district score card; performance reviews; and stakeholder satisfaction surveys.  I would recommend that information be disseminated in several ways, including the district website, a summary sent home with students, community meetings, and local media.

Chanda Smith Baker
 At Large Candidate MPS

David DeGrio

 David DeGrio

Rebecca Gagnon

1. In the Superintendent’s duty of overseeing the district’s business functions, I would expect to see an updated organizational chart, duties and expectations of each department, and how departmental progress will be evaluated.

2. Fiscal stability – the Board of Education must work closely with the Superintendent to find creative approaches to balance our budget in a way that does not affect student achievement.

3. The largest task at hand is academic achievement for all students. Layout the plan to close the achievement gap, provide an outline of the steps necessary to implement the plan, create a timeline for completion of each step, and include a method of measuring success.

4. Parental involvement – what is the plan to achieve greater parental involvement:

        a. At the District Level w/ parent advisory councils

        b. At the school level with both parent groups and Site Councils in ALL schools

5. Communication between the District and the MPS community – how will the Superintendent’s team continue to improve communications with the families of MPS, via e-mail, website, phone calls, community meetings, mailings, etc.  Improved communications will allow not only the District but the Board of Education to reach out within the community to share information and receive feedback. Increased parental involvement will give us greater access to families, creating opportunities for increased communications throughout the District.

Rebecca Gagnon
 At-Large School Board Candidate, 2010
 “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” ~ Erma Bombeck

Richard Mammen

 First, I’d like to recognize the stellar work of the current board, staff and community volunteers in shaping and adopting the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan. The comprehensive vision, values, recommended strategies and action steps contained in this plan frames the work of the organization, identifies accountabilities and provides measurable benchmarks. It should be the basis for the substantial assessment of the superintendent’s leadership and progress of the district. It’s a good plan and we must all stay focused on getting the results that have been identified in a progressive and timely fashion.

Communication of results and progress should be ritualized. Minimally, a quarterly assessment of the plan and our successes, challenges and tactical redirection should be occur and open to the public so that our students, parents, staff, investors and other stakeholders know where we stand and what WE can do about it. Board meetings, web postings, printed literature and other transparent communications resources can be deployed proactively to ensure the availability of information. If we expect progress and change we need to openly demonstrate it.

Lastly, while the superintendent is responsible for the overall leadership, health and results of the district – he or she is also an employee of the board of directors. We need to ensure that that relationship is built on trust, candor and mutuality. Its been my experience that style tends to be a concern that sometimes overshadows substance when it comes to public service leadership. A formal performance assessment of the superintendent – and the board as well – should occur annually in executive session with a summary of results being made public by the board chair.  

Richard Mammen
 Candidate for Minneapolis School Board At-large

Doug Mann

 -Doug Mann, Minneapolis School Board candidate

Mohamud Noor

 A major responsibility for the School Board is the annual evaluation of the superintendent’s performance. The superintendent is charged with leading and administering the district according to the policies of the School board. The following are the key goals that I will use to assess superintendent’s performance:

  • District goals and objectives
  • Superintendent- School Board relations
  • Leadership – staff and personnel relations
  • Effective educational programs
  • Financial and business management

The purpose of the evaluation is to provide oversight and public assurance that the policies are being effectively implemented.  I think the summary of the evaluation should be available to the public via the district’s website if the law permits.  

 Mohamud Noor

Marika Pfefferkorn

 The MPS School board is in a strategic position with the recent hire of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson; she knows Minneapolis Public Schools and was instrumental in informing the MPS strategic vision. The continuity of leadership that this decision provides will position the school district for greater success.

Initially it is important for the board to develop a respectful, reciprocal, supportive and trusting relationship with the Superintendent this should be shared and communicated with everyone from community members to staff and administration. The school board and superintendent must work in collaboration and cooperation.

It is also important to communicate and distinguish the role of the school board and that of the superintendent so that responsibility and accountability is clear and consistent. From the beginning the school board should have in place a performance plan that aligns with the strategic plan and is articulated in the superintendent’s plan of work. While quarterly bench marks will provide the opportunity to assess progress, an observation and feedback loop should be in place so there are no surprises during performance reviews. No Superintendent is perfect or has strengths in every area of their responsibility, therefore it is important to identify performance gaps early on and provide supports for professional development and coaching.

Based on the MPS Strategic Plan it is expected that the new leader address the priorities in the MPS Strategic plan, starting with; raising expectations, academic rigor and performance for all students, aligning pre-k programs to college readiness goal, Indentify and correct practices and policies that perpetuate racial inequality and the achievement gap; Develop highly effective principal corps and ensure that they have the capacity to establish and lead outstanding instructional teams. When these areas are addressed we can expect all students to succeed, the strategies and practices used in eliminating the achievement gap raise outcomes for all students!

Marika Pfefferkorn
 Citywide Candidate for School Board

Dick Velner

 First I would like to thank Kate Towle and her group of moderators for their efforts in creating this opportunity.  It has given me added material for reflection as I pursue a seat on the Board.  To honor her request, I will attempt to limit my reply but this is an extremely important question.

Ah, yes; Leadership!  It is an attribute of special people that is many times hidden in the psyche of the human mystery of accomplishment.

1.    A people person.  An effective leader really doesn’t do anything except to rally her team, obtaining results through delegation, through their efforts.  But if she is good on this point, much progress can be made.

2.   Plan, Organize, Control and Motivate.  Four insightful words; having a starting point and being able to cycle through to the ultimate word – performance

3.   Having a discipline, a methodology.  One of the great contributions in the last 20 years is the publication or work by Stephen Covey – “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  Covey’s work certainly should not be overlooked, he provides a roadmap.

Last but not least is for the Board not to try and micromanage her job!

Dick Velner – Parent, Teacher, Curriculum Principal and School Board Candidate

T Williams

 Goal setting for the superintendent is not solely a school board’s responsibility. It is done jointly with the superintendent.

First, I would focus on building and implementing a strong k-12 academic program with a focus on data- driven results and equity. I would make sure that the academic program is aligned with the strategic plan and that measurable outcomes are established for all academic areas. I would look to identify the actions the superintendent has taken to improve academic outcomes for all students, particularly the historically lower performing students.  I will look for and measure changes in both individual and group student performances.

Second, I would expect the superintendent to establish and maintain excellent communications within the organization and with a diverse community.  

The superintendent and the board would establish criteria that determine what excellent internal and external communications look like. Internally it means that there is clarity about how decisions are made and shared with others internal and external to the organization?

Third, I would rate the superintendent on overall management effectiveness. How well does the superintendent run the organization? Has the superintendent built a strong leadership team, which reflects the diversity and the complexity of the organization? To what extent can the superintendent delegate authority and responsibilities enabling her to make the tough decisions?

Fourth, it is imperative that the superintendent build and maintain strong collaborative community relationships and partnerships with a broad, diverse community. This means the superintendent needs to spend time in the community interacting with community and institutional leader and interpreting the mission and the vision of the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Finally, I believe that it is important that the school board establish goals that are consistent and compatible with those of the superintendent and that the school board communicate to the public the progress made toward achieving its goals along with the outcomes of the superintendents goals.

The superintendent and the board function as a team. They make progress together.  

T. Williams
 At-Large Candidate  

District 1 (1 seat open)

 Jenny Arneson

 The achievement gap is the most pressing issue facing MPS and most agree that it needs to be addressed. There are ways to overcome the achievement gap, and our new superintendent can address the issue in with the following goals and performance benchmarks:

a.  Supervise academic achievement – The superintendent should expect that district employees are using  best practices through benchmarking other urban districts’ methods of addressing the achievement gap without the use of vouchers, charter schools or corporate takeovers.   

b. Increase community engagement and parent involvement – The superintendent is ultimately responsible for driving a school culture that includes parents and community at all levels – from individual schools to the administration. For example, the District Parent Advisory Council is one tool to involve families in a collaborative way, but I hope to see the superintendent use her role to take concrete steps toward diversifying DPACs membership by using the superintendent’s appointee positions to include key stakeholders in underrepresented communities.  

c. Work toward better employee relations -The superintendent is responsible for ensuring that a contract is in place for all MPS employees and that crucial functions are not outsourced. The board is responsible for holding the superintendent accountable for this responsibility. To ensure the best relationship with employees, I expect the superintendent have personal, face-to-face encounters with teachers, engineers, and all support staff in contract negotiations which will improve the morale of MPS employees.   

d. Maintain legislative awareness – The superintendent should advocate for MPS in St. Paul and even nation-wide, and use her communication resources to make unions, employees, parents and other stakeholders aware of crucial legislative decisions that will affect K-12 education.

I have been impressed with new efforts from the district communication’s office recently, and expect continual improvements from the office of communications. It is the superintendent’s responsibility to inform the public in a timely manner about matters that will affect their child’s education.  

Jenny Arneson, Candidate for District 1
 Cell: 612-201-2685

Marcia Thomas

 Goals must be in line with the district’s vision and strategic plan. It is important that goal setting is done with the participation of the superintendent. In addition to agreed upon goals, specific objectives must be determined that clearly show when goals are met. In general, I would like to see a focus on the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the curriculum audit. Removing barriers that prevent equitable access to programs and services (such as academically challenging classes, arts, music and athletic programming) that can help move toward closing the achievement gap and increase graduation rates should be a primary goal.  The establishment of measures of accountability for administrative staff such as job descriptions and performance plans is important to ensure high expectations and quality throughout the district. Transparent financial planning that supports program priorities is needed to support the overall district goals. Finally, I would include the creation of a data base for student assessment and program evaluation. This data base will provide important information necessary to guide decision around future programming and instruction. The goals of the superintendent will be communicated to the public on the district web site. In addition, community listening sessions will include regular updates on the progress being made toward reaching the goals. Regular updates will also occur through district communication channels such as email or community/parent newsletters.  

Marcia Thomas
 Candidate for Minneapolis School Board, District 1

District 3 (1 seat open)

Hussein Samatar

 The superintendent is responsible for the over-all operation of the district and it may be limiting to define the job in terms of 3-5 key goals.

It is also true that the crucial work of improving student learning is truly the work of the teachers and the principals, and the superintendent has limited command and control over them.

Given that, here are some examples of goals I might put on a superintendent evaluation:

Working collaboratively with the board Following and building upon the Changing School Options plan Developing techniques that promise to improve ELL instruction Developing stronger data reporting systems — academic and business Building strong, honest relationships with stakeholders Monitoring and improving learning (not just test scores) of students of color.  

 Hussein Samatar
 MPS Board Candidate – District 3
 web: www.samatarforschoolboard.org

District 5 (1 seat open)

Alberto Monserrate

 It’s very important that we set clear goals for the Superintendent and that we evaluate those goals at least twice a year and if possible quarterly. If we are going to ask our employees for accountability, we need to make sure our leaders are accountable too. That includes the School Board. The Board should also set clear yearly goals and review on a quarterly basis on how we’re doing against those goals. I’m not sure what evaluation system is currently being used to evaluate the superintendent. The first thing I would do as a new board member would be to review the current process. There may already be a good process. If it is, I’d suggest we review on a quarterly basis against those goals. If not I’d make suggestions for changes, and try to reach board consensus in consultation with the superintendent and staff that reports to her.  

There are four things ideally I would look for:  

1) Student achievement: What are our student achievement goals for the district and how are we doing. Ideally I’d like to see results in student learning that go beyond test scores. I’d like to hear directly from teachers and see if we can come up with ways to measure how are students are learning long term critical thinking skills, not just learning to remember things short term for tests.

2) Enrollment: I’d like to see realistic goals to increase enrollment in Minneapolis district schools. This is critical to the financial health of our district and in the end the well being of our students. Then measure against those enrollment goals.  

3) I’d like to make sure the superintendent is being measured against our revenue and expense financial goals and on how well the districts finances are being managed.  

4) Id like student, parent, staff and community satisfaction measured. This is the best way to avoid enrollment and labor dispute surprises later, and will help a lot in our implementation of district goals.  

Ideally I’d like to report on a yearly basis to the general public how the Superintendent and the board are doing against goals. Would make sure that traditional and non traditional ways of communicating to the public are used, and make sure that underrepresented communities are being communicated effectively.

Alberto Monserrate
 Candidate for Minneapolis School Board
 District 5
 Facebook: www.facebook.com/albertomonserrateschool
 Twitter: http://twitter.com/albertolcnmedia