St. Paul board picks Silva as new supt.

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Valeria Silva
Valeria Silva was chosen Monday by the St. Paul school board to be the district's next superintendent.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

The St. Paul School Board has named Valeria Silva its new superintendent, capping a months-long process to find a permanent replacement for Meria Carstarphen -- who left this summer to head the Austin, Texas, school district.

Silva, the current chief academic officer of St. Paul Schools, was the only internal candidate among the three finalists.

The other two were Deb Henton, the current superintendent of North Branch Schools, and Charlson Hopson, the deputy superintendent of the Portland, Ore. District. The board voted 7-0 for Silva.

The St. Paul district had hired a search firm, HYA, to recruit candidates and select six semi-finalists. The board then interviewed the six and selected three finalists. Those three were interviewed one last time last week.

HYA associates had claimed, based on a series of community meetings this summer, that there was a general desire that St. Paul's next superintendent stay in the job for a while, a reaction to Carstarphen's three-year tenure.

Silva, speaking to media last week, affirmed that desire to stay, noting her entire family lives in the Twin Cities.

The process now moves to contract negotiations to determine Silva's salary, benefits and start date. The district currently has an interim superintendent, Suzanne Kelly, who did not apply for the permanent job.

This will be Silva's first superintendent's job, which follows with St. Paul's recent past. St. Paul was also the first superintendency for Meria Carstarphen and Pat Harvey, the district's two previous permanent leaders.

Silva says a fellowship she took part in through the Broad Foundation served as something of a superintendents' academy.

Silva assumes the top job for a district that recently announced it faces a budget deficit next year of between $23 million and $28 million. The district, like all districts in Minnesota, also faces a January 15 deadline to have a new teachers' contract in place.

St. Paul has made closing the achievement gap -- the difference between how well white students do compared to students of color -- a key area of focus, which Silva says she'll continue.

Before her current post as chief academic officer, Silva was also St. Paul's director of ELL (English Language Learner) programs from 1997-2006 and principal of Adams Spanish Immersion School before that. Dating back to 1986, she has spent all but two years working in the St. Paul district.

A native of Chile, Silva graduated from Colegio San Grabiel in Santiago before moving to Minnesota and attaining degrees from St. Cloud State University, the University of Minnesota, and St. Mary's University in Minneapolis.

Her hiring also represents a rarity among K-12 leadership: According to a 2006 study by the American Association of School Administrators, just 1.4 percent of all superintendents in the United States were Hispanic or Latino.