The following report was provided by our Observer Corps volunteer, Elizabeth Zalanga:
As students prepare to head back to school, The Saint Paul Board of Education is also preparing for the 2016- 2017 school year. During the August Board meeting, the Board listened to presentations about district-wide school readiness updates. Interim Superintendent Dr. John Thein expressed his excitement for his first day of school by saying he “can’t wait to see the smiling faces of all the students and staff on September 6th and 8th.”
Dr. Thein, a former educator, administrator, and superintendent of Roseville Public Schools, was named the interim superintendent last month when the Board officially voted Valeria Silva out of the superintendent seat. This decision was heavily criticized and led to the immediate resignation of Board member Jean O'Connell, who strongly disagreed with the actions of some of the Board members and the lack of transparency in this matter. Silva received a separation agreement worth $787,500 and will serve full-time as a special consultant through September 2017. No details have been provided yet about the search for her permanent replacement.
Another important topic discussed during the Board meeting was about clarifying the role of school resource officers (SROs) in district high schools. The board voted 5–0 to approve a new contract for police officers assigned to work at high schools, which includes additional training, monthly meetings with student advisory councils, and new distinguishing uniforms. The contract comes after a video of a school resource officer at Central High School arresting a former student suspected of trespassing was posted on Facebook and within hours was viewed nearly 206,000 times. The officer was widely criticized for his actions as many believed he was being unnecessarily aggressive. This contract serves as a way to improve relationships between school resource officers and students.
Our Observer Corps works to help monitor city government and its various departments, including: City Council, Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED), and the soccer stadium committee. If you would like to become an Observer Corps volunteer, please email Mary Vik at firstname.lastname@example.org.