Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff received his annual report card for the past school year, which showed that the chief of the state’s third-largest school district had more work to do on three of his top four priorities: student support services, social and emotional learning and literacy.
The school board released a summary of Graff’s review at its regular board meeting Tuesday, rating him as “developing” in all categories except for equity. Graff earned the top mark of “meeting expectations” for his work in equity, which is one his top priorities. The board also graded Graff on “operations” but measured his performance using general feedback from board members, which was mostly positive.
Graff said the board’s evaluation of his performance in the last academic year was fair and that the review captured the work ahead.
“We made progress, and we have a long way to go until we get all of our students up to receiving a well-rounded education,” Graff said in an interview Wednesday.
Graff started his fourth year at the helm of the school district on July 1 and earns an annual salary of $230,000. The district has seen some gains under his leadership. It was able to secure a $30 million annual increase in voter-approved funding to avoid a future budget shortfall. In the 2018-19 school year, the district reported a noticeable increase in statereading scores.
But there are still wide disparities in academic performance and discipline rates between the district’s students of color and white students. The challenges have contributed to a worrisome drop in enrollment. As of Oct. 1, enrollment in Minneapolis Public Schools was at 33,380, the lowest number in years. That’s a big loss for a district that has recently lifted itself from a multimillion-dollar deficit and given that enrollment drives the state funding formula — which provided $6,312 per pupil in the 2018-19 school year with some additional money coming with students with special needs.
“We’re always struggling with how we deal with finances because it changes every year,” said Board Member Kim Ellison, who expressed content with the superintendent’s work. Ellison said she’s looking forward to the district’s strategic plan, which Graff is months away from signing. The plan, she said, would right-size the district, meet student needs and restore stability.
When asked what he thought about Graff’s overall performance, new Board Member Josh Pauly, who chairs the superintendent evaluation committee, said: “We have more work to do, and our evaluation shows that.”
To evaluate Graff for the 2019-20 school year, the school board adopted a tool that’s used across Minnesota. The tool, which is focused on improving student achievement, will be used to grade Graff on literacy, student support services, finance and human resource practices, among other categories.
Last year, Graff earned positive marks for implementing all his top priorities for the 2017-18 school year. But board members disagreed on grading Graff on “operations” which was added to the list at a later date. Ultimately, Graff earned mostly positive feedback, but the board stressed that he needed to straighten out the district’s transportation and finances.