St. Paul superintendent let go in wake of controversy over school violence

Yesterday the St. Paul school board fired its superintendent of schools, Valeria Silva. Silva’s contract was bought out with a package estimated at $787,500.

Silva’s firing follows an explosive series of local and national columns by the Center’s Kathy Kersten on violence in the St. Paul public schools. In the most horrifying case, a teacher suffered brain damage when he was beaten by a student in his own classroom. But that was just one of many violent incidents–so many that the teachers’ union threatened a strike.

Violence in the St. Paul schools was widely attributed to the “equity” initiative that began in the Obama administration’s Department of Justice and was enthusiastically embraced by Superintendent Silva. Basically, the “equity” principle imposed racial quotas on suspensions of students from school. The effect was that students who should have been suspended instead roamed the halls, sometimes violently attacking other students as well as teachers.

Teachers and parents have complained that softer penalties for student misbehavior and the rushed mainstreaming of special education students have made schools less orderly and safe, causing families to enroll at schools outside the district.

As a result of parental discontent, four new members were elected to the school board last November.

Silva’s $787,500 buyout is, to say the least, controversial. (Take a look at the many comments on the linked Pioneer Press article.) Why should a failed superintendent of schools be paid the better part of a million dollars to go away? The St. Paul public schools are in trouble, and the money could have been better spent in many ways. To name just one, how about using it to put armed guards in the public high schools so that children can learn in safety?

Government accountability is all too rare, as Ms. Silva’s sorry tenure and gilt-edged parachute illustrate.