MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first week on the job for the new leader of St. Paul Public Schools is now drawing to a close.
Dr. Joe Gothard is the district’s new superintendent. His last job was as superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district.
The school board hired Gothard after a national search following the controversial term of former superintendent Valeria Silva.
St. Paul is the second-largest school district in the state, facing some of the biggest challenges in its history, including a $27 million budget deficit. Yet, Gothard is eager to take the reins in St. Paul.
“I am passionate about urban education and the importance it has on a community. I can’t think of anything more important to a community than education,” Gothard said.
Gothard spent 20 years working as an educator in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been a science teacher and a principal, and has even coached football.
“I got to be a high school biology teacher in the same class I took biology from a teacher who I just thought the world of. It’s the reason I went into that area. And it had nothing to do with biology, it was about the way he treated me as a student and how he treated my peers,” Gothard said.
Gothard says his childhood experiences have influenced his career. He’s biracial, the son of a black father and white mother. He sees a need for students, teachers and parents to communicate better, especially now when racial tensions are high.
“The way that we judge, our biases, impact the way we interact with neighbors, with people we work with,” he said.
Dealing with the district’s declining enrollment is a priority.
“Students who are involved, students who are engaged, students who know the adults care about them are going to do better in school. And if that isn’t the case, then that’s the work we have to do,” he said.
Gothard, 45, also serves on the board of directors of the Twin Cities United Way.