The Superintendent and SPPS

On Tuesday, January 5, 2016, Jon Schumacher, Steve Marchese, Zuki Ellis, and Mary Vanderwert were sworn into Saint Paul Public Schools, (SPPS), school board.


Schumacher, Wanderwert, Ellis, Marchese. Photos from

The four new board members easily won their seats back in November with support from the St. Paul DFL Party, (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party), and the SPPS teachers’ union. Both groups have become increasingly unhappy with Silva’s superintendent performance since she was elected in 2010.

Starting day one, the new school board majority addressed many concerns that had plagued SPPS. They demanded quick and efficient action to be taken on improving school safety and student achievement, among other goals, in a document titled “Proposed action Time-frame for 2016 SPPS Board Priorities”.

The first action expected would be to have the Superintendent publically present the proposal for the School Climate plan in February. Continuing after that, the proposal would go under revision until August. Taken aback, Superintendent Valeria Silva said, “I’m not upset about the (agenda) … but the reality is I don’t like surprises,” she said.


Superintendent Valeria Silva. Photo from

Silva continued to challenge the new board’s aggressive timeline of proposals on Tuesday. Silva said “Contract negotiations and mediation rules could interfere with their goals. The plans also must align with the district’s budget.”


These proposals were written by the four new board members and SPPS board veteran, John Brodrick, who has been with district since 2014.


Brodrick. Photo from

The new board members’ number one priority on their list of proposals was to make SPPS schools more safe and welcoming to prospective, new, and current students. This is a specific point of emphasis as in the 2015-2016 school year alone, there has been at least seven reported acts of violence in SPPS schools. 

Due to the disruptions, numerous students have been suspended. It’s been reported that the district decided not to allow expulsion as of 2012, (with a few exceptions). This rule resulted in over 1,000 suspensions during the first quarter of the school year.


SPPS Suspension Rates 2011-2015. Photo from Josh Verges.

That means 9.22% of SPPS students were suspended the first quarter of the 2015-2016 school year. That’s the highest suspension rate in five years. In 2009, suspension rate was about 7%.

“I remain steadfast in my belief that suspensions and expulsions, while at times necessary, do little to foster a restorative culture in our schools.” – SPPS Superintendent Valeria Silva

The teachers’ union took Silva’s administration to deliberation over their next working agreement, threatening to strike if they don’t get their way on school climate and safety. Their demands included a $100,00 budget to focus on school climate and safety. Silva commented the plan would cost up to $11 million a year. It’s been reported she has created a new department of administration that would exclusively address school climate. She explained she hopes the department will spend the next year researching possible situations.

“Kids are feeling really unsafe and are not feeling at ease at school anymore,” says a Highland Park Junior.

Parents, students and teachers alike are becoming frustrated with our Superintendent. Parents like Doug Hartmann, a Como father, told Pioneer Press, “I’ve been frustrated as a parent. I’m not convinced the superintendent is doing enough to take it seriously.”

A leader who doesn’t “like surprises” or insists on spending valuable time on making color-coded presentation boards rather than solving the problems of SPPS.

“I don’t know what we can do to solve it,”-Superintendent Valeria Silva

It being the violence in our schools, the drop in testing scores, and the students falling behind because she is not willing to accept suggestions to counteract these problems.

Hopefully, the school board will be able to address the serious issues facing SPPS, and in the future, Superintendent Silva will be able to come to a place of understanding that will allow her to work in conjunction with the board.

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