St. Paul Schools’ interim superintendent appointment: Illegal?

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The St. Paul Public Schools appointment of Suzanne Kelly as interim superintendent is “in violation of state statutes,” according to the Minnesota Board of School Administration (MBSA). The school board appointed Chief of Staff Suzanne Kelly as interim superintendent on March 24, following the February resignation of St. Paul Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen. Kelly continues to serve in that capacity, despite a May 6 MBSA decision denying SPPS permission to have an unlicensed interim superintendent.

See St. Paul superintendent search proceeds—slowly for information on the search for permanent superintendent.


Since Kelly is not licensed as a superintendent, SPPS had asked the MBSA for a variance to allow her to serve as interim superintendent. The MBSA letter to SPPS gave three reasons for denying the variance:

• the district did not post the position before hiring,
• Kelly had not enrolled in an approved university education leadership program that would lead to a superintendent’s license; and
• Kelly does not have a master’s degree.

The denial apparently didn’t make much difference to SPPS district administration, which confirmed Friday (via a phone call to the communications office) that Suzanne Kelly is the interim superintendent. On Monday, at Board of Education meetings, Kelly was repeatedly addressed as “Superintendent Kelly.” The Board of Education website refers to Kelly as the interim superintendent and their June 12 weekly communication said, “As part of the transition planning for the District, items listed in the “Superintendent’s Schedule for the Week” sections will be handled in part by the interim superintendent.”

When asked about this, Dr. Judith Eaton Lamp, director of the Minnesota Board of School Administrators (MBSA). said, “They are in violation of Minnesota state statute.” Lamp said that an interim superintendent, like a permanent superintendent, must either have the legally required license or be granted a variance by MBSA.

Both SPPS community relations personnel and board members insisted that, since Dr. Carstarphen is still officially employed by the district until June 30, it doesn’t matter that Kelly is the interim superintendent.

Moreover, said Board of Education Chair Kazoua Kong-Thao on June 15, “Suzanne is in a leadership program now.” Kong-Thao said she was not sure that this was a program leading to a superintendent’s license. Kong-Thao also said that the second and third reasons do not apply, because this is an interim position.

When she was appointed in April, Kelly said she did not intend to apply for the superintendent’s position on a permanent basis.

Kong-Thao said Monday that the board has been in touch with MBSA, and was “working with legal counsel to make sure we can get a variance.” As of Friday, Dr. Judith Eaton Lamp said that SPPS had not contacted MBSA about Suzanne Kelly remaining in the position.

Mary Turck is the editor of the TC Daily Planet.