Minneapolis schools superintendent to resign

Bill Green
Minneapolis Schools superintendent Bill Green said today he's stepping down from that post next year.
MPR photo/Tom Weber

Minneapolis will now join St. Paul in the search for a school superintendent.

Bill Green announced his plans today to step down from the Minneapolis job after the upcoming school year, so he can return to teaching at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Green said he's announcing his plans now to give the school board time to find a replacement. When he leaves, Green will have led the district for four and a half years.

He was hired for the job in 2006, but as he recalls, he wasn't looking for the job.

Green had served on the Minneapolis School Board in the 1990s. In January 2006, Green was teaching at Augsburg and had no connection to the school district -- until he got a phone call from a colleague, fellow professor Joe Erickson.

Erickson was also serving as chair of the Minneapolis School Board.

The district was in turmoil, and then Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles was on her way out after less than two years in the job. Green said Erickson told him the board was looking for a known entity.

"'We need to have somebody who knows us, and kind of knows what it is to go through a difficult time.' That person didn't answer the phone, but I did," Green said.

It started as an 18-month position. When the school board wanted to hire him for three more years, Green said he was reluctant. But he also felt he couldn't say no.

His intention, though, has always been to return to Augsburg -- where he's still on leave -- and to not wear out his welcome.

"I do take seriously the importance of leaders knowing when it's time to move on," said Green.

For Green, that time will be June 2010, when his contract ends. Joe Erickson, the former board member and Augsburg colleague, says Green has always had one huge plus in his favor.

"He didn't need the job, and he didn't have to have it," said Erickson. "He came to it on a real even keel, and a good understanding of all the issues in which he needed to be engaged in, and he didn't have to have it his way."

Erickson and others say Green's legacy will be that he led the district away from turmoil, rebuilt frayed relationships, and got things re-focused.

The district is in the middle of a huge overhaul called "Changing School Options" -- which will call for closed schools, reconfigured schools, and changes to a host of aspects, including busing.

Green delayed the original vote on the plan this spring because it wouldn't have passed. But the board is now working on a revamped plan, and is expected to vote on it in September.

School Board Chairman Tom Madden says the district will wait until October to outline the process for finding Green's replacement. But he says Green is helping by announcing plans early.

"Typically a superintendent gets a job somewhere else, and gives their board 30 or 60 days notice, and is gone to their next job. And they're left scrambling," said Madden. "It's nice to not be in a scrambling mode here."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said today Green has been a great partner who will be missed. Rybak said he and Green have worked well together, even though city government and the schools are separate.

"I hate to see someone I've had such a great working relationship with leave," said Rybak. "But I also know ... that these next few months are going to be ones where he'll use this last period of time to bring about continued improvements that we have to do."

Green's departure means both Minneapolis and St. Paul will be looking for new superintendents in the next year. St. Paul's former superintendent Meria Carstarphen just left the district for a job in Texas.

As for Green, he says he looks forward to doing a lot more before he leaves the district, but he's also excited to get back to Augsburg. He's taught civil rights history, Minnesota history, and even legal history -- he does have a law degree, after all.

But Green says he's thinking about developing a new course at the school, which would cover the history of public education.

(MPR's Brandt Williams contributed to this report)

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