ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools may be on the way out.
The district announced Wednesday that the school board is looking at Valeria Silva’s contract and exploring “various transition options.”
Silva has held the top post since 2009 and been with the district for 29 years, but this last year has been a tumultuous one. She has faced a lot criticism this past school year.
While there’s been no announcement that Silva is stepping down, many people believe she and the school board are discussing a buyout of her three-year contract, even though she’s only six months into it.
Her annual base salary is $213,000 and if she is forced out, she could still get paid a lot of money.
St. Paul schools are dealing with declining enrollment, fights among students — with teachers sometimes getting injured — and most recently, frustration on how to close a $15 million budget gap for the upcoming school year.
“The test scores are flat, the number of people leaving is increasing, lots of people are saying, ‘We’re not satisfied with what’s happening,’” said Joe Nathan.
Nathan is a founder of the Center for School Change in St. Paul, which does education research.
“The policies that have been promoted have been well-intended but very poorly implemented,” Nathan said.
He says many parents and teachers have lost confidence in Silva’s leadership
“A growing number of people believe she is costing the district millions of dollars,” he said, “and it might be more financially wise to buy her out or to do something else rather than have the bleeding continue in the district, rather than have the continued exodus of the students who represent millions of dollars.”
Silva’s contract shows that if she is terminated without cause she would get all of her unpaid salary, vacation and benefits for the next 2-and-a-half years — under certain conditions.
Michael Healey is a St. Paul attorney who specializes in employment law. He says terminating with cause would terminate the contract but it could also prove to be a challenge.
“If she has been coming to work, doing her best to do the job, things that are outside her control like say, enrollment declining for example, that may not be on her,” Healey said. “That might be factors outside of her control. Hard to get a material breach with that.”
The district’s latest enrollment numbers were handed out at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Nathan says he was shocked to learn they show a big jump in the number of students who have decided not to attend St. Paul Public Schools this fall. The number went from 100 to 542.
Silva and school board chair Jon Schumacher will hold a press conference Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the district’s administration building.