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Historical switch for Minneapolis schools finance chief

Minneapolis schools' Peggy Ingison is leaving to start a new job at the Historical Society.

Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune

Updated: August 23, 2011 - 11:30 PM

Peggy Ingison was lured to the Minneapolis schools from her job as state Finance Commissioner with then-Superintendent William Green's five-word pitch: No work is more important.

More than four years later, Ingison, the district's chief financial officer, says the motto still rings true, but 10-hour workdays, economic uncertainty and funding shifts imposed by state legislators have left her spent.

Ingison is leaving Minneapolis Sept. 9 to serve as the Minnesota Historical Society's finance chief, having transformed the school district's Division of Finance "into a more transparent, credible and effectively functioning unit," Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson wrote in an e-mail to staff.

Ingison's departure makes her the fifth district administrator to resign or retire since July 1, when Johnson handed out more than a quarter million dollars in extra pay, retroactive to July 2010, to executive staff. Ingison received a $9,335 bonus from the program.

The extra pay for the five employees, including Ingison, totaled $57,650 -- more than 20 percent of the $270,215 in payouts.

The payouts to administrators came as the district cut more than 100 jobs, including 52 teaching positions.

Johnson cited a $165,000 compensation study that found district administrators earned less than their peers in similar-sized districts as justification for the raises, but has since apologized for the timing of her decision. Minneapolis Board of Education members are crafting a policy that would prevent Johnson from granting raises to employees without their approval.

Johnson has already begun the search for Ingison's successor.

When Ingison came aboard, the finance department was an object of ridicule and was rife with errors, including a payroll glitch that issued a teacher $45,000 for nine hours of extra work.

Under Ingison's watch, the district submitted on-time financial statements to the state for consecutive years for the first time in more than a decade and accumulated a sizable fund balance.

"All is not rosy on the education front, but the district is fairly well-positioned," Ingison said.

Her tenure wasn't without turbulence: In January, Ingison apologized after her department underestimated the cost increase in the new teachers' contract by $3.8 million.

During her time as state finance commissioner, Ingison worked with one of her predecessors, the late William "Chuck" Irrgang, who left his job as Minneapolis schools finance chief to take the same position with the Historical Society.

Now she's following in his footsteps, taking a pay cut to do it and leaving one dicey financial situation for another.

"It's my dream job," Ingison said. "It's a highly respected organization."

Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491

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