Public Education’s Golden Parachute

June 22, 2016 at 7:58 am Leave a comment


By Andrew Richter

You have to just love public education. The incompetent St. Paul school district is at it again with their “buyout” of their superintendent at the “reasonable” price of $787,500!!!!

The St. Paul school board fired Superintendent Valeria Silva without cause Tuesday night after butting heads for five months over budgets, student discipline and declining enrollment. Out on July 15, Silva will serve as a consultant through Sept. 30, 2017. She’ll get a separation agreement worth $787,500 in salary and benefits, including pension payments through Oct. 1, 2019, which will enable her to earn a full pension in retirement. Board member Steve Marchese called removing the district’s leader a difficult and expensive decision.

So you are firing her, but she remains employed for another year and change, then she gets payments to give her a full pension! Would this happen to you if you got fired from your job?

“But I do believe it is the right thing as a board member to be thinking about the long-term interest of the school district,” he said. Two of the seven board members, Jean O’Connell and Chue Vue, voted against the buyout. 

O’Connell then immediately resigned her school board position, blasting Marchese and board chair Jon Schumacher for aggressively challenging Silva and her staff soon after they took office in January. She said the two worked in secret to buy Silva out. “Not only is this questionable governance, it is terrible leadership,” she said. 

A board member since 2010, O’Connell said St. Paul is “a high-performing urban school district (that) does not have a high-performing school board.” “The environment at this table has become so disrespectful, destructive and cynical that I can no longer be a part of it,” she said.

Just chaos!

Silva, who was at work earlier Tuesday, did not attend the 5:30 p.m. board meeting and declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

John Thein, who retired last year as Roseville’s superintendent, will be St. Paul’s interim superintendent. He’ll get a salary of $202,500.Schumacher had no details on the search for a permanent replacement.

Exactly what Silva will do for 15 months hasn’t been settled. Schumacher said she likely will not have an office at the district’s administrative building, and her only defined role is to help in the transition. “The superintendent is very interested in helping with the transition and making sure the district is taken care of,” Schumacher said

So you’re going to pay her all this money to do nothing! Next, of course, comes the liberal “racial equality” praise;

Silva, 54, a native of Chile who joined the district in 1987 as a Spanish immersion teacher, has been superintendent since December 2009. She quickly closed several low-interest magnet schools and moved St. Paul to an enrollment model that encouraged students to stay closer to home, with mixed results. The district has lost a growing share of the city’s students to charters and suburban school districts, exacerbating budget problems each of the last two years. The district enacted a policy on racial equity but failed to meet high goals for closing achievement gaps, although improved graduation rates are a bright spot. O’Connell credited her with boosting preschool enrollment, training parents of color to get involved in their children’s education, and putting iPads in the hands of every student.

So we have to “train” parents of color? An iPad in the hand of every student? Yet, as always, that didn’t lead to meeting any education goals, but she should get credit “for trying.”

Critics and fans alike on Tuesday lauded Silva for focusing the district’s attention on racial equity. Marchese said he has great respect for Silva’s equity focus, and that the board will carry that work forward. “She should be very proud of that and we as a community should be very proud of what has been done on that,” he said.

So if kids don’t learn anything, at least they do so equally….

But the way Silva has executed her racial equity agenda has sparked controversy. Teachers and parents have complained that softer penalties for student misbehavior and the rushed mainstreaming of special education students have made schools less orderly and safe, causing families to enroll at schools outside the district.

The teachers union considered striking amid disagreements with Silva over how to address violence against teachers. That discontent largely is why four new board members were elected last November.

“It’s just critical that we understand what the challenges are and we address them,” Schumacher said.

By doing what?

Silva has two and a half years left on her contract, thanks to a three-year extension the previous school board approved on a 6-1 vote in March 2015. Louise Seeba said both she and John Brodrick would have preferred a shorter deal. Momentum had been building for the four new candidates who would win the city DFL Party’s endorsement a month later and then the election in November.

Memo to St. Paul voters; stop electing the DFL!

Seeba and Brodrick wanted to give the new board the freedom to hire a new superintendent, but “there just wasn’t the appetite for that” among the other board members, Seeba said.

Seeba, who did not seek re-election, said she counseled Silva to change her attitude and work with the new board to execute their agenda. “She clearly didn’t do that,” she said.

Keith Hardy, the lone incumbent to run for re-election without the DFL endorsement, said the blame for the six-figure buyout should fall on the new board.

“It’s a poor financial decision of the board to take this action. You had a superintendent who said at the end of this contract she was going to step down. Boards don’t get that luxury very often. They had time to set up a smooth search process,” he said.

Silva said in February that she would leave the district once her contract expired in December 2018. The new board couldn’t wait that long.

As always, everyone passes the buck.

Silva’s separation agreement effectively pays her half the salary should would have earned — $269,478 — over the final 30 months of her contract. There’s also $25,750 in longevity and deferred compensation she was already set to receive, and a $75,712 for 91 days of vacation.

The board added a $100,000 severance, along with $103,350 in pension payments and insurance benefits worth an estimated $213,210. Schumacher said the agreement took more than a month to negotiate.

Under terms of the deal, Silva may leave her consultant job early with 30 days’ notice and the district would not have to pay her the remainder of her salary and benefits.

This is disgusting. How many teachers and program could $787,500 pay for? St. Paul should be ashamed but they won’t be. Nothing will change. Nothing will get better. They are just getting one dummy out and bringing another dummy in.

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Entry filed under: Community, Education, School Board, Taxation. Tags: , .

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