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On Wednesday, the St. Paul School District will be led by an interim superintendent who's been denied a license. Two government agencies, however, have indicated they are not likely to take action on the matter for at least seven weeks.

The St. Paul school board named Suzanne Kelly interim superintendent in April, a few weeks after they learned that Superintendent Meria Carstarphen would be leaving today to take a job in Texas.

But the Minnesota Board of School Administrators, which is in charge of licensing superintendents, refused to give Kelly the necessary clearance, saying she lacked proper credentials. The district appealed, and the matter is set to be decided at the board's Aug. 20 meeting.

Until then, neither the School Administrators Board nor the Minnesota Department of Education believes it can take action, they said Monday.

While the Administrators Board and the school board disagree on whether Kelly should be allowed to serve as interim schools chief, they seem to agree that Kelly shouldn't be allowed to perform some tasks.

The district has compiled a list of duties Kelly can and cannot perform because she lacks the appropriate license, said Kazoua Kong-Thao, chairman of the St. Paul school board.

"She is not licensed, so there would be a question of the legality of any legal document she signed," said Judith Lamp, executive director of the School Administrators Board.

Kelly also won't do personnel reviews of her staff, which require a licensed superintendent.

The situation is unusual because administrators denied a variance to perform the job usually are replaced, Lamp said.

"I can't recall one where the variance was denied and they continued on," Lamp added. "In my two and a half years here I do not know a district that has gone without a superintendent."

Yet the St. Paul school board is adamant that Kelly continue as interim because they say she has the best chance of leading the district through a time in which they are facing deep budget cuts and the need to hire a new superintendent.

In a letter requesting that the administrators board change its mind and grant Kelly the variance, the board said Kelly is the only person who's been intimately involved with key district initiatives and who wouldn't apply for the full-time job. They pointed out that Kelly has been an education administration leader in Minneapolis, Memphis and now St. Paul, as chief of staff for two years for the departing Carstarphen. Kelly also once was a reporter and editor for the Star Tribune.

"We made the decision to have [Kelly] as our interim superintendent, and we have faith in her ability ... so that we can move as quickly as possible to get a full-time superintendent," Kong-Thao said.

The district has put out a request for proposals for search firms interested in helping the district find a new chief. The request expires today.

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287