St. Paul superintendent search proceeds — slowly


The entire superintendent search process remains largely under wraps, but June 15 saw one small step forward: the posting of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a superintendent search consultant. Although this represents movement, it’s difficult to see how a process off to such a slow start can meet the stated goal of filling the position by fall 2009.

Here’s the timeline to date:

• February 26 – Superintendent Carstarphen announces that she will leave St. Paul June 30 to become superintendent of Austin, Texas schools.

• March 24 – The board posts a statement on its “Superintendent Search” page on the web, saying that the search will be regional and local rather than national, and that the “process will incorporate inclusive community involvement.” The March 24 statement also said that, “Within 10 days to 2 weeks the Board will have a basic job description prepared.”

• March 24 – Board announces appointment of Suzanne Kelly as interim superintendent to “work closely with the current leadership team to ensure a smooth transition as the District works through Large-Scale System Changes and addresses an operating budget deficit and as the Board continues its search for the best candidate to serve as the District’s next permanent superintendent.” (See St. Paul Schools’ interim superintendent appointment: Illegal?)

• Late May – Board updates the Superintendent Search website to say that it has drafted a candidate profile (but is not ready to release it), that “all information and updates regarding the search will be posted to the Board’s web page,” and that it “remains committed to a public engagement process,” and that it will be hiring a consultant to help in the search process.

• June 15 – Three and one-half months after the superintendent’s resignation, the Board issues an RFP for a consultant. The RFP includes what looks like a candidate profile on pages 4-5.

• June 30 – RFP proposals are due.

• July ?? – Presumably, a consultant will be selected at some time in July. After that, the job description must be finalized, and a search process designed and approved. After that, the search begins.

Your turn

Do you have any other information about the superintendent search process?

Is there anything you would like to tell the district or the school board about it?

The TC Daily Planet welcomes your input – information, opinions and concerns. Just hit the comment button at the bottom of the page and write. You can also post a longer article or send questions or information to

You can also contact the St. Paul Board of Education:

Kazoua Kong-Thao, Chair
Elona Street-Stewart, Vice-Chair
Tom Conlon, Clerk
Tom Goldstein, Treasurer
Anne Carroll, Director
John Brodrick, Director
Keith Hardy, Director

Board members have maintained strict message discipline, steadfastly referring all inquiries to board chair Kazoua Kong-Thao. Kong-Thao said that the goal is to have a superintendent in place curing the 2009-10 school year, and that the board wants a process that is “thoughtful and transparent and upfront.”

As for the community involvement, Kong-Thao said that they are “still trying to figure out how to engage the community” and that community input “is useful when we get down to the finalists” and in welcoming a new superintendent.

The RFP specifies that part of the search will be to “advertise broadly in Minnesota and nationally through a variety of means.” When asked what area would be covered in a local/regional search, Kong-Thao responded that, “We don’t quite have a definition other than to say we are going to make it as available as possible, but our focus is on community around St. Paul … National candidates could apply.”

It’s hard to see how a superintendent could be in place in the fall. After the consultant is selected and hired, substantial time is still needed for advertising and recruiting, collecting applications, evaluating applications, interviewing finalists and visiting their home districts, and — at the end point — providing some sort of opportunity for public input.

An internal candidate offers the best chance of having a superintendent in place by the end of 2009. SPPS already employs 22 people with superintendent licensure. Of the these, four serve in high-ranking positions in the district office, and another 15 serve as principals or assistant principals (or did during 2008-09.) The four who serve in the district office are:

CORRECTION: According to SPPS spokesperson Brett Johnson, Connie Feil retired in 2008. As of June 15, she was listed on the SPPS website as Director of Educational Technology, so this article originally listed her as one of the SPPS district office employees with superintendent licensure. Thanks to Brett for the correction.

• Barbara DeMaster (Executive Director, Elementary Education),
• Denise Quinlan (Executive Director, Middle Grades Education),
• Valeria Silva (Chief Academic Officer), and
• Nancy Stachel (Chief of Schools).

After Carstarphen’s relatively short three-year tenure, SPPS may be looking for someone local who could be more likely to stay for the long term.

Mary Turck is the editor of the TC Daily Planet. Email