New St. Paul Schools’ Superintendent Will Face Growing Enrollment Problems

New projections for student totals are 5,200 less than projections from just two years ago.

By McGhiever (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ST. PAUL, Minn. – St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 on Tuesday to select Joseph Gothard as St. Paul’s next superintendent, and he’s already got quite the problems to sort out.

KARE 11 reports that Gothard made it through a field of 67 applicants and beat out Cheryl Logan, the chief academic support officer for Philadelphia’s school district. Gothard is the current superintendent of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Schools. Orlando Ramos, another finalist for the position, removed his name from consideration at the last minute after the Star Tribune reported on a bankruptcy he had not declared during the application process.

Gothard’s appointment comes as St. Paul Public Schools braces for a huge loss in student enrollment. The Pioneer Press reports that the district expects to lose 2,200 students in the next 10 years, on top of a loss of 1,000 students over the past two years.

In January 2015, demographer Hazel Reinhardt predicted the district would gain 2,200 in the next ten years. Lower than expected birth rates and more parents placing their children in charter schools has led to Reinhardt’s re-evaluation. While originally she projected the district would reach 38,200 students by 2024, she now believes it will only have 33,000 by 2026.

Former St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva expected large increases in enrollment. Her decisions under those beliefs may now face scrutiny.

“There’s opportunity to bring people back into the district under the right circumstances. We need to figure out what those are and get focused on those,” St. Paul School District Board Member Steve Marchese told the Pioneer Press.

Marchese wants to examine how Silva’s decisions may have affected enrollment. Specifically Silva’s changes included new school boundaries and a move from junior highs to middle schools.

The biggest loss comes in middle schools. Only 88 percent of fifth graders in the district move on to sixth grade.

Gothard became superintendent in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage in July 2013. Prior to that he worked in Madison as a middle school principal, high school principal, and an assistant superintendent.

Anders Koskinen