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I'm Listening

Dear colleagues,Joe Gothard headshot

These last few weeks have been incredibly hard. Bad news and extraordinary difficulties facing schools and communities around the country are reflected here in Saint Paul. Students are struggling, staff are overwhelmed, families are stressed, and everything feels heavy. 

As you know, our Board of Education approved a modified version of the Envision SPPS plan to close some of our schools after this school year. To the 2,000 students, their families and staff who are directly impacted by these closings, I am sorry. Cuts such as these are never easy, rarely fair, and not the fault of the school’s staff or students. If you work or have students at Cherokee, Galtier, Jackson, John A. Johnson, LNFI, Obama, Parkway or Riverview, I know that nothing I say right now will make these transitions any easier. 

As Superintendent, it is not my job to sugarcoat our current reality or put a positive spin on it. Working in an urban school district in 2021 is arguably the hardest job besides our frontline healthcare workers. Deploying licensed district staff as subs and extending winter break only go so far to lessen the load, and don’t relieve everyone equally.

So what else can I do? I, along with every other leader in this district, can listen. Through this Envision process, the pandemic, the strike, and the many challenges that came before that, I have heard that SPPS leadership doesn’t listen. We don’t know what staff want, what students need, or how best to serve our community. I take this feedback to heart, and as we move through our current challenges and onto the next, I want to hear your ideas and your solutions for better serving our community and making our schools the best they can be for our students and families.

How do we improve student outcomes? School climate? Staff satisfaction? How do we stabilize or even increase enrollment? What should we stop doing, and what should we do more of? I am always available to meet, talk or email with staff, or you can send your ideas through this Google Form; including your name is optional. I am listening and hope to hear from you about how we can make SPPS better, together.

In partnership,

Joe Gothard signature

Joe Gothard, Superintendent