School & District Management

Minneapolis Superintendent Abruptly Resigns

By Corey Mitchell — December 17, 2014 2 min read
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Citing family obligations, Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson will step down early next year after more than four years at the helm of Minnesota’s most scrutinized school district.

The school board approved Johnson’s resignation late Tuesday, paving the way for her to leave the 34,000-student district at the end of January.

The school board appointed Johnson as superintendent in 2010. Before taking the top job, she worked four years as the district’s chief academic officer.

“In order for MPS and our schools to continue making progress, they need a leader with a level of intensity and focus which I am unable to give at this time,” Johnson wrote in a letter the district will send home to parents today.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that:

“Johnson’s resignation comes midway through an already challenging school year. The district is facing one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps, dramatically disproportionate suspension rates for students of color and a growing number of parents pulling their students from city schools. Johnson’s departure comes less than a month after the school board gave her low marks for boosting student achievement and as she has faced mounting criticism from school advocates.”

The school board had also recently approved a new policy that requires every suspension of a minority student in the district to be reviewed by the superintendent’s leadership team.

The district’s chief executive, Michael Goar, will serve as interim superintendent effective Feb. 1 while the district searches for Johnson’s successor.

School board members told the Star Tribune that they didn’t ask for Johnson’s resignation. The resolution approving Johnson’s resignation revealed that she will enter into a consulting contract for $12,000 with the district until the end of June. Under the agreement, she is also entitled to a principal position in the district.

In November, the board expressed concern about the “lack of academic progress, particularly among low-income students of color who are the majority of Minneapolis public schools.”

In her statement, Johnson said she is not running from the challenge, but accepting the reality that caring for aging relatives would require more of her time.

“My commitments to family—specifically, the care of elderly grandparents—are increasingly in competition with the extraordinary demands of this position,” Johnson said in the statement. “Without question, the work of educating our children must move forward, and at this time, I must put my family first.”

Photo: Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson addresses a community forum in 2010. -Carlos Gonzalez/The Star Tribune/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.