The Minneapolis Public Schools school board met at the Davis Center for a special superintendent search meeting on May 16 to discuss details about the timeline for hiring a permanent superintendent, the desired profile of the new hire, and community engagement around  hiring the superintendent. The meeting was in preparation for the June 6 superintendent search meeting with BWP & Associates, the consulting group that will find candidates for the position. School board chair Sharon El-Amin said BWP & Associates  would be watching the May 16 meeting.

Rochelle Cox is the interim superintendent. She started the job in July of 2022 after Ed Graff resigned from the job. Graff was superintendent from 2016 until his resignation in 2022.

The board voted in January to delay the search firm’s work in finding the new superintendent until September. The board has already held several community listening sessions and distributed a survey asking community members what they value in a new superintendent. The listening sessions and survey gathered nearly 4,000 responses. There are about 30,000 students at MPS. 

Every board member besides Adriana Cerrillo attended the May 16 meeting. Student representative Halimah Abdullah attended as well. 

The meeting began with a condemnation of gun violence in our communities, because teenagers had shot bullets through a window at the Davis Center the day prior. 

Timeline of the search 

The directors generally agreed that they should hire a superintendent by January 2024, though Director Lori Norvell pointed out that the hiring date should depend on the candidate because some candidates could finish out the school year at a current school. 

Director Joyner Emerick liked the idea of hiring around the holiday season and onboarding the new hire for the rest of the school year, shadowing Cox.

Director Abdul Abdi agreed with the hiring timeline but requested that board members have a standardized profile of what they’re looking for in a superintendent well before this hiring date and during the community engagement portion of the process, and he wants this profile to be well-communicated to stakeholders.

Superintendent candidate profilesDirectors had three examples of profiles with qualities that other districts wanted in candidates for superintendents. Director Ira Jourdain said that the example profiles looked thorough and that he didn’t want to get too in the weeds around the wording of the profiles, since the consulting firm is the expert in that area.

Emerick said that the profiles in front of them were very generic, and that they wanted a profile that is specific to MPS. To do so, Emerick suggested talking with other superintendents who have worked in multiple districts to determine the differences in approaching topics like relationship building and communication.

“Does any district in the country say ‘relationship building– not a priority to us. Good communication skills– not a priority to us?’” Emerick said. “Some of this stuff goes without saying because it’s the job.”

The important piece to Norvell is that the profile highlights that the candidate should believe in the district’s strategic plan and be prepared to enact it. 

El-Amin said that directors should input their ideas for the profile before the meeting on June 6, and ideally not the day before, so that they can present BWP & Associates with a profile including all the directors’ input. The board could then rework the profile with BWP & Associates’ advice. 

Community engagement around the search 

Directors had varying opinions when it came to the community engagement piece of the superintendent search. Student representative Abdullah suggested a question and answer format for community engagement because the public comment format for board meetings doesn’t allow for school board directors to respond. She also said that translation services and accessibility for marginalized communities is important to her.

Director Kim Ellison wondered what the goals and content for the community engagement would be, since the first round of community engagement in the winter was to create the profile for the candidate. The profile should be finalized at the June 6 meeting and the community engagement will begin afterwards. El-Amin said that the community engagement would guide directors on how to proceed with the search.

Jourdain and Emerick said they wanted engagement to happen organically. Jourdain said that he attends neighborhood organization meetings to start conversations with community members about what’s going on at the schools. Similarly, Emerick said they want directors to meet community members where they already are instead of inviting them to a meeting. They said that directors should start conversations about the next superintendent at parks, beaches and community events like Open Streets. Jourdain asked for standardized questions for these conversations.

Norvell said that clear and consistent communication between directors and community members is a key part of the community engagement process. She suggested robocalls, emails and flyers in coffee shops as ways to reach families about the search, and said that creating a superintendent search committee would be a way to create standardized information to distribute to community members.

“It’s no secret that our growing edge, our area of growth at MPS is communication,” Norvell said.

The next special superintendent search board meeting, which will include BWP & Associates, will be on June 6 at the Davis Center and livestreamed online.