The Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education met at the Davis Center on June 6 with consulting firm BWP & Associates to decide on a timeline for the selection process and hiring of the next superintendent. They also discussed further community engagement steps to take, how to attract a diverse pool of candidates for the position in a nation-wide search and when to make public the names of candidates.
Directors Adriana Cerrillo, Fathia Feerayarre, Sharon El-Amin, Collin Beachy, Joyner Emerick, Abdul Abdi, Lori Norvell and student representative Abdihafid Mohamed were at the meeting. Directors Kim Ellison and Ira Jourdain were absent.
The board approved a timeline for the hiring process to start with the application window opening on Sept. 5 and closing Nov. 5, presenting candidates to the board on Nov. 15, and the board selecting a candidate by Dec. 15. The candidate’s start date will depend on that individual’s current job and timeline for finishing the position, but the latest starting date is July, 2024.
The consultants advised against starting the search any sooner than September because, according to their experience, potential candidates tend to avoid the job boards where superintendent positions are posted during the summer.
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 in early 2023. The listening sessions and survey gathered nearly 4,000 responses. There are about 30,000 students at MPS.
BWP & Associates consultants recommended that the board continue to engage with community members about the superintendent profile throughout the summer, and encouraged the board to put a draft profile on the superintendent search webpage for community members to add comments and suggestions. A profile is a description of an ideal candidate for the job. The consultants will work with EPU, the firm that performed the community engagement, to put together the draft profile including the community’s input on what they want in a superintendent.
Several school board directors expressed concern about the community engagement process. In January, EPU put out a survey and held eight sessions throughout the district, which were poorly attended.
Cerrillo said she was “extremely disappointed with EPU” and wanted more community engagement before hiring. Emerick has repeatedly asked that board members meet community members where they already are, like at public parks or beaches through the warm months. Abdi wanted a standardized way to collect community engagement to ensure that the responses are recorded and coordinated amongst the board. At the meeting, board directors agreed that putting the profile draft on the website for community members to add input was a good idea.
Another main point of the meeting was keeping candidates’ names confidential. BWP & Associates consultant Kevin Castner stressed the importance of keeping candidates’ names private as long as legally possible. Publicizing the names too early in the process, Castner warned, weakens the candidate pool. Some candidates are leaving current jobs as superintendents and don’t want their colleagues to know that they are searching for another job. Castner recently worked on a search where the candidates’ names leaked before hiring a final pick and two candidates dropped out.
Directors asked several questions about maintaining candidate confidentiality throughout the hiring process. MPS General Counsel Amy Moore explained that due to open meeting laws, the full board can’t interview candidates without making the process open to the public. A smaller group of directors could interview candidates while maintaining a candidate’s confidentiality.
Another focus of the meeting was attracting a large and diverse pool of candidates for the board to select the next superintendent. BWP & Associates consultants explained that they will advertise the position in a variety of job boards and with several educator groups including the National Indian Education Association and the National Alliance of Black School Educators. They said that since only 1% of school districts are the same size or bigger than MPS, the search has to be national. The job will be posted on Minnesota boards as well.
The next step for the board is to put together characteristics that are specific to MPS for a leadership profile before the next board meeting on June 13 at the Davis Center.