Mpls. school board puts superintendent contract negotiations on hold

Sergio Paez
Minneapolis school board officials had chosen Sergio Paez as its top pick for superintendent last week, shortly before a Boston disability advocacy group released a report about student abuse in Paez's former district in Holyoke, Mass.
Michael Beswick | The Republican 2014

The Minneapolis School Board suspended contract negotiations with its top pick for superintendent amid abuse allegations at a district he ran in Massachusetts.

Board officials voted Sergio Paez its preferred choice last week, just before a Boston disability advocacy group released a report about student abuse in Paez's former district in Holyoke, Mass.

School board member Siad Ali introduced the resolution to put contract negotiations on hold at a special board meeting Tuesday. The board plans to vote on next steps at its Jan. 12 meeting.

"This resolution is going to send a clear message to our constituents," Ali said.

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Until Tuesday's vote, Amy Moore, the Minneapolis school district's attorney, had been moving forward with contract negotiations.

Concerns arose after The Disability Law Center issued a report finding that special needs students in Holyoke, Mass., had been illegally restrained and thrown into walls and onto floors.

Paez, who led the district for two years, including the time period the Disability Law Center investigated, said he was aware of the allegations and found no wrongdoing. He said he was not asked about the allegations during his interviews for the Minneapolis job.

Authorities in Massachusetts have opened up a criminal investigation into the abuse allegations.

School board members Tracine Asberry and Josh Reimnitz had planned to make a trip to the Holyoke school district after the allegations came to light. They will make that visit Thursday. But now that the district is under fire, school district attorney Moore warned them, people there might not speak openly about the allegations.

"It may not be as fruitful as we had hoped," Asberry said, "because of the current climate. I just want to make sure we're managing expectations."

Asberry and Reimnitz plan to discuss their Massachusetts visit at the board's Jan. 12 meeting, when the board takes up the question of Paez's candidacy again.

Editor's note (Dec. 15, 2015): An earlier version of the story was unclear on Sergio Paez's status with the Minneapolis school district. The school board voted Paez its top pick to lead the district Dec. 7.