School & District Management

St. Paul, Minn., Superintendent Ousted by School Board

By Denisa R. Superville — June 23, 2016 2 min read
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St. Paul, Minn., Superintendent Valeria Silva will leave her job on July 15, but will stick around for another 15 months as a consultant to the district, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The school board voted on Tuesday to fire Silva, who still had two and a half years left on her current contract, according to local media reports.

Silva will receive an overall severance package worth about $787,500, as part of a deal that keeps her on the district’s payroll as a consultant through September 2017, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

The sum includes salary and benefits, the station reported.

Silva’s duties as a consultant to the district are not yet defined, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

Silva has led the state’s second-largest school district since December 2009.

Minnesota Public Radio News reported that the audience was divided at Tuesday’s board meeting, with some holding up signs that said “You’re Fired.” But the station also quoted a principal voicing support for Silva.

Silva, who is originally from Chile, had been praised for focusing efforts on English-language learners and racial equity.

(She was profiled as one of Education Week’s Leaders To Learn From for her work on English-learner education in 2013.)

But in recent months, she has had to face questions about school safety and the district’s declining enrollment as more students moved to charter schools and suburban districts.

In one incident last December, a science teacher who was trying to break up a fight was allegedly attacked by a student, slammed into a wall, and choked, according to Minnesota Public Radio News. That teacher has since sued the district. A petition was launched calling for Silva’s resignation. And the teachers’ union contemplated going on strike over the district’s response to violence against teachers, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.

Silva started in St. Paul in 1987 as a Spanish immersion teacher. Earlier this year, she announced that she planned to leave when her current contract expired in December 2018.

Silva’s tenure at the helm of a big-city school district exceeded the average stay for such superintendents. According to a 2014 report by the Council of the Great City Schools, the average urban superintendent tenure in the 2013-14 school year was 3.2 years.

One school board member, Jean O’Connell, who voted against the severance package, said she was resigning after the vote, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.

John Thein, a former superintendent in Roseville, which is about 10 miles away, will serve as the district’s interim superintendent. He will be paid $202,500.

Valeria Silva, superintendent of Saint Paul Public Schools, stands for a portrait at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., in 2012.

--Jenn Ackerman for Education Week-File

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