St. Paul schools will spend more than $700,000 to change superintendents early


Six months into her three-year contract, St. Paul's school superintendent is on the way out.

The school board approved a separation agreement with Superintendent Valeria Silva on a 5-2 vote Tuesday night.

Board Chair Jon Schumacher said in a statement: "...transitioning to new leadership now rather than in 2018 will ensure the ever-changing needs of our students are met."

Silva's last day as superintendent is July 18. She will stay on as an adviser to the district through Sep. 30, 2017, and will help interim superintendent John Thein through a transition period. Thein recently retired as superintendent of the Roseville area schools.

The change in leadership comes at a price. As the Pioneer Press reports, Silva's salary and benefits bring the cost of the separation agreement to $787,500 through Oct. 1, 2019.


Why the breakup?

MinnPost wrote last summer that the November school board election may well be a referendum on Silva's leadership, and that seems to have proved true.

During the month before that election, board members approved Silva's new three-year contract in a 6-1 vote. Four of the six who backed Silva were up for re-election.

A group called "Caucus for Change" – supported by the political education committee of the St. Paul teacher's union – campaigned for a slate of four challengers. One of their criticisms was that discipline had become a problem, especially since the district made changes to reduce student suspensions.

All four incumbents were defeated by the challengers in November and tension between Silva and the new majority on the board was evident from their first meeting together.

The just-ended school year also saw a surge in student violence against teachers and the threat of a strike unless the district did more to ensure teacher safety.

Board member resigns

After the separation agreement with Silva was approved, one of the school board members resigned. Jean O'Connell (right) cited a disrespectful environment on the board, the Star Tribune reports, and accused Schumacher of "questionable leadership," charging that he worked in secret to arrange Silva's ouster.

As soon as her departure was approved, the district posted a page highlighting Silva's 6 1/2 years as superintendent.

Tackling the gap in educational achievement between white and minority students was a priority of Silva's and her work on that issue was recognized by the board and in public comments during Tuesday night's meeting, the Pioneer Press says.

Silva spent 25 years in the St. Paul district before she became superintendent.

According to a profile in St. Cloud State University's alumni magazine, Silva spoke little English when she arrived in Minnesota from her native Chile. The university presented her with a distinguished alumni award in 2011.

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