Six semi-finalists for the superintendent’s job were presented to the St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education Wednesday night and five are Minnesotans. Commitment to the city and school system were high on the wish list for a new superintendent, so it’s no surprise that three of the semi-finalists work for or have worked for the district.
The board will interview the six candidates on Friday and Saturday and announce up to three finalists Saturday afternoon. The interviews will be open to the public. (See sidebar for schedule.)
The six candidates are:
How you can be involved
You can meet the three finalist candidates, hear their presentations and ask questions at receptoins preceding their formal interviews. All interviews are open to the public, though only Board of Education members will interact with candidates at the interviews. The Board of Education says that feedback forms will be available on paper and online.
All interviews take place at district headquarters, 360 Colborne Avenue. If you can’t get to the interviews, you can watch them online or on television. The finalist interviews (November 16, 18, 19) will be televised – live streamed on the SPPS Web site and rebroadcast on November 20 at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on St. Paul Cable Channel 16.
Translators (Hmong, Somali, Spanish and American Sign Language) will be available for the reception and interviews. Childcare will also be available, but should be reserved in advance:
Saturday, November 14
Finalist receptions and interviews
Each day’s schedule will be:
• Deborah Henton, the current superintendent at North Branch Area Public Schools. Before joining North Branch she worked for St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) as chief of staff, executive director of alternative learning programs and principal and assistant principal of Harding High School. She has also worked in Stillwater and South Washington County.
• Valeria Silva is the chief academic officer in SPPS. Before that she was the director of the English Language Learner (ELL) programs, principal at Dayton’s Bluff Elementary and Adams Spanish Immersion schools and coordinator of the district’s Spanish Immersion Program/Curriculum. She also worked as a specialist for standards and accommodation in the Minnesota Department of Education. She began her career as a teacher with SPPS.
• Nancy Stachel is the chief of schools for SPPS. Prior to that she served as deputy chief academic officer, executive director of elementary education, principal of Como Park Elementary School and Como Special/Hartzell, assistant principal of Capitol Hill Magnet School and a special education teacher at Arlington Senior High and Ramsey Junior High. She began her career as a teacher at the Red House American Indian Culture-Based School in St. Paul.
• Mark Bezek is the superintendent of Elk River Area School District. He also served as superintendent in Fergus Falls and was principal at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School at Robbinsdale Area Schools and in the New Prague, Hawley and the Cromwell/Wright public schools, all in Minnesota. Bezek began his career as a teacher in Pine City.
• Stan Mack recently retired after eight years as superintendent of Robbinsdale Area Schools. Before joining Robbinsdale he worked as assistant superintendent of schools in the Osseo and Burnsville, Eagan, Savage school districts. He also served as superintendent of Northfield Public Schools and Eveleth-Gilbert Public Schools and Eveleth Technical College. He began his career with the South St. Paul Public Schools.
• Charles Hopson is the only non-Minnesotan in the semi-finalist pool. He is the deputy superintendent of schools for Portland (Oregon) Public Schools. Before that he served as the district’s high school area director/superintendent, high school principal, middle school principal, and high school vice principal. He also served as an elementary school principal in the Helena West (Arkansas) Public Schools. He began his career as a teacher in Arkansas.
SPPS board chair Kazoua Kong-Thao says the special meeting was the first time board members had seen the list. The board made a decision in July to hand over the superintendent search to the consulting firm Hazard, Young and Attea (HYA), and members chose to wait to see the semi-finalist list at a board meeting.
It’s not exactly a coincidence that most of the candidates are from Minnesota. The district listed the ability to “understand and appreciate the cultural and political nuances of Minnesota and in particular St. Paul” and the “willingness to become a genuine and committed member of the Saint Paul community” as part of the district’s criteria for superintendent candidates.
HYA spokesperson Ted Blaesing said Hopson’s application “bubbled to the top” because he has worked for more than 20 years in the same school district and commitment is one of the criteria the search firm was looking for.
Two new members were appointed to the board at the end of the Wednesday night meeting: Jean O’Connell and Vallay Varro. Varro was elected to fill the seat left open when Tom Conlon resigned. O’Connell defeated incumbent Tom Goldstein in last week’s election. Goldstein announced Tuesday that he would step down before his term ended in December to allow O’Connell to work with the board during the process of interviewing the superintendent candidates.