By a vote of six to two with Director Adriana Cerrillo absent, the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education voted to renew the contract of Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox until June 30, 2024 with an option to end the contract earlier if the board hires a permanent replacement before then. Voting against renewal were District 3 Director Fathia Feerayare and District 6 Director Ira Jourdain. Chair and District 2 Director Sharon El-Amin, at-large Directors Collin Beachy, Sonya Emerick and Kim Ellison, District 1 Director Abdullah Abdi and District 5 Director Lori Norvell all voted in favor of renewal.
The contract includes three provisions that the board asked for, but that are unusual in contracts for interim superintendents, according to MPS General Counsel Amy Moore:
- The board and Cox can agree to mutually terminate the contract before the end date, including if the board hires a permanent superintendent before the contract expires.
- The salary and benefits will remain the same as Cox’s current contract.
- The board and Cox will develop an evaluation “instrument” for her performance as interim superintendent.
Three motions to amend the contract were voted down by the board before the contract, as presented, was approved. The first amendment, brought by Feerayare, would have changed the language from “This Contract shall terminate June 30, 2024 or by mutual consent of the Parties” to “This Contract shall terminate June 30, 2024 or when the board hires a permanent superintendent.” She brought this amendment after a tense back and forth with Chair El-Amin over the meaning of the “mutual consent” phrase.
“I think some of you misunderstand me. I’m not against renewing. I’m against the contract going until 2024… if we find someone that qualifies before that. That qualified candidate is not going to sit there and wait for us until the contract ends,” Feerayare said about her position on renewing the contract. “To me, mutual consent, it’s not clear. It can mean many things.”
Prior to Feerayare bringing her amendment, Moore clarified for the board that the “mutual consent” phrase would indeed allow the board to terminate the contract early if they hire a superintendent before June 30, 2024.
Norvell spoke against the amendment, saying the proposed change “would only give us only one reason that we would end that contract and that would be upon finding a superintendent. I feel like that is pigeonholing us into this one tiny area rather than leaving that open.”
The second failed amendment, brought by Jourdain, would have removed the provision to allow for an evaluation of Cox during the length of the contract. Jourdain said his amendment was motivated by conversations he had at the Minnesota School Board Association conference over the weekend. In those conversations, he said that he learned that any evaluation of Cox would become part of her personnel file and also become public.
“This will follow her. And this is just a brief snapshot of the work she has done in a very short amount of time that does not show her full potential as being a superintendent because she does not have the full authority of a superintendent,” Jourdain said, arguing to remove the evaluation clause. He added that MPS has had many interim superintendents over the past two decades, and none of those leaders were subject to evaluation.
Directors Ferrayare and Abdi had previously spoken about the importance of including the evaluation provision in order for them to support renewal of the contract.
The third failed motion was brought by Ellision to table the vote to renew the contract until the next board meeting so that the board members would have time to develop the evaluation for the interim superintendent. Moore spoke words of caution to the board, saying, “It’s good that the board is going to define its priorities. The process for what you will be evaluating the superintendent on will take you much longer than your discussion tonight, or even next month, or the month after. I caution you as directors to table this because you’re not going to have that full process done.”
The motion to table the vote ultimately failed. And then, after nearly an hour of deliberation, the board voted to approve the motion to renew the contract for the interim superintendent. As El-Amin announced the final 6-2 vote total, the audience members clapped.