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Moving Forward Together

Dear Colleagues:

Joe Gothard headshotI hope you all have been able to take a large collective breath this past week. I remain proud of everyone who has been at the bargaining table over the last several months and their ability to work through every proposal and reach a tentative agreement that puts our students first. More details about the agreement will be shared and ratified by SPFE in the coming weeks, with final approval from the Board of Education expected on April 19.

Saint Paul Public Schools is the best school district in the state, first and foremost because of the people who choose to work here. With this truly collaborative tentative agreement in place, it’s time to remove words like “us vs. them” and “both sides” from our vocabularies. SPFE is SPPS and vice versa. The same is true for AFSCME, ASAP, PEA, SPSO, TAs and all of our 26 labor groups. We are all SPPS, and we are all here for one reason: to help our students reach their full potential. 

Of course, there will always be differences of opinion about how best to accomplish that goal. There are also real budget limitations, and those will not go away with the approval of this contract. A lot of eyes are on the state’s $9.3 billion surplus, and I’ve been involved in hearings and meetings about other persistent barriers to fully funding our schools, including funding for special education and English learners. I am hopeful that some of what Governor Walz is proposing for education funding will come to fruition, but we can’t count on those dollars to completely eliminate our projected $42 million shortfall. 

Next weekend, I am attending the Council of the Great City Schools Legislative/Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The federal budget timeline and priorities remain an important promise the current administration has assured us will benefit public education. Along with my colleagues from the largest urban school districts in the country, we will have a chance to engage with the legislative bodies and staff responsible for federal support of public schools.

While we all continue to push for fully funding public education, we can’t lose sight of the great work happening right now at SPPS. Thanks to ESSER and the American Rescue Plan, new programs like WINN, expansions of programs including Flipside and EDL, and continuations of successful programs including internships, certifications and more options for credit recovery are among the many opportunities available to our students right now. 

On Friday, I attended a career exploration fair between Hamline Elementary and Hamline University students. The first station I observed allowed students to put on gloves to touch a sheep brain. The room was filled with energy and dialog back and forth between elementary and college students, and I was reminded just how meaningful these connections can be. 

This week, the Como Park girls basketball team will play in the state tournament. They have worked hard to make it to this level, and I am extremely proud of these student-athletes and their coaches. Next week, the French Ambassador to the United States will visit L’Etoile du Nord to connect with that school community and see the opportunities that their support has made possible. 

These are just a few examples of the amazing things happening in our district every day, none of which would be possible without the hard work of all of you. After two years of extreme hardship, we may not be back to “normal” and there will be many challenges ahead, but we all have reasons to feel hope and pride. Thank you for everything you do to make SPPS a district we can all be proud to call our own.

In Partnership,

Joe Gothard signature

Joe Gothard, Superintendent