Minneapolis Superintendent Johnson Steps Down

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Bernadeia Johnson, Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent, submitted her resignation to the district’s school board this week, marking the end of her 4-year tenure as superintendent of the district. Johnson played an active role in attempting to reduce the minority achievement gap during her tenure but failed to produce results.

Johnson, who will stay in her position through till the 31st of January, claims that she needed to step down to meet family responsibilities, especially those of her aging grandparents, and that she would no longer be able to give the time and effort that the job demanded.

“My commitments to family – specifically the care of elderly grandparents – are increasingly in competition with the extraordinary demands of this position.”

Johnson published a statement addressing parents on the district’s website.

“Without question, the work of educating our children must move forward, and at this time, I must put my family first”

District chief executive Michael Goar was named interim superintendent in Johnson’s place.

Johnson’s resignation has fueled disorder in an already problem-ridden district, which displayed one of the largest nationwide achievement gaps in the last year as well as staggeringly uneven suspension rates of minority students. The situation has also reflected in an increase of student withdrawals from city schools by parents.

School authorities deny requesting her to resign.

The 55-year-old Johnson did not attend the school board meeting, and her decision to quit comes a month after she received poor scores from the school board for her performance. Regardless of announcing various initiatives and focusing resources to decrease the minority achievement gap before her departure, she has failed to produce sufficient results and has been subjected to criticism from the school and community.

During her first two years, Johnson helped decrease the achievement gap in math and reading scores. However, the academic progress report highlighted how, in her last two years, minority achievement fell lower since the 2009-2010 school year – a 57 percent gap between reading scores and a 50 percent gap between math scores.

While the district still battles with the academic progress of minority students, especially those from low income backgrounds, Johnson will continue to provide consultation to ease the transition until the end of June. Her contract also dictates that she is entitled to a principal position in the district.

Board Chairman Richard Mammen stated regarding Johnson:

“Her leadership has brought clear vision for the path ahead and her team has established aggressive goals to move us toward that vision”.

He continued to say that:

“This is a job bigger than any one individual, and the role of the superintendent to drive collaboration among all the school district’s stakeholders is extraordinarily challenging. We are grateful for her service and we appreciate that she has built a strong leadership team to succeed her and manage the transition we now face.”

Regardless of her shortcomings in closing the gap between racial groups, she has been lauded during her reign for temporarily prohibiting suspension of students studying from prekindergarten to first grade, leading to a 50 percent fall in suspension rate from 2013-2014.

Her successor Michael Goar has been her second in command since June 2013 and promised to keep at Johnson’s efforts in dealing with the district’s major issues. Goar claimed in his statement that:

“Significant challenges remain in front of us, but I am confident we can succeed,”