School & District Management

Public Gets to Vet Superintendent

By Jeff Archer — January 30, 2007 1 min read
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Minneapolis board asks if search is necessary.

Faced with deciding whether to keep its district chief or search for a new one, the Minneapolis school board is asking the public to weigh in.

In a series of meetings, community members are being asked what they think of Bill Green, who has been the interim superintendent of the 36,000-student Minneapolis district for the past year.

Bill Green

Pam Costain, who chairs the school board, said that depending on what its members hear, the panel either will hire Mr. Green for the permanent job or hold a national search, in which he could be a candidate.

“We would not have undertaken this if we were not sincerely interested in hearing what people think, and having that be part of our final decision,” she said of the effort to involve the public.

Many boards hold public meetings with finalists in a superintendent search, but such pulse-taking on the question of whether a search is even necessary is unusual.

Ms. Costain said the seven-person board, which gained four new members this month, had planned a national search to determine whether Mr. Green or someone else should be superintendent. But, she added, it opted to seek public input first after hearing unsolicited comments of support for the interim leader. He took over after the resignation of Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles, who had been in the job for 18 months. (“In Minneapolis, School Chief’s Tenure Debated,” Feb. 8, 2006.)

A history professor and former Minneapolis school board chairman, Mr. Green often is called a relationship-builder, and he has hired some key leaders in the district.

A dozen of what are being called “listening sessions” on Mr. Green have been scheduled, each targeted at a different constituency. Community members also can e-mail and phone in their views.

The input-gathering is to culminate on Feb. 6 with a meeting at which members of the public will be able to ask Mr. Green questions directly.

Mr. Green and others note that three years ago, the Minneapolis board moved to appoint its then-interim district chief, David Jennings, as superintendent without involving the public. That move stirred such criticism that he withdrew from consideration.

“[The public] didn’t have anything to say with me being brought in as interim,” Mr. Green said. “And it doesn’t pay when the public has no say in their superintendent.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2007 edition of Education Week

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