Search for new principal is underway


Sophie Downey

Associate Superintendent Steve Flisk and Interim Director of Talent Acquisition Miquel McMoore answer questions from South parents at a PUSH meeting December 9.

Sophie Downey, Features Editor

When students entered South at the beginning of the school year, something had changed. Students discovered that South had a new, interim principal, while the district is in the process of hiring a new one.
This summer, South’s previous principal, Cecilia Saddler, was appointed to a position to Associate Superintendent for Area C. In her place interim principal Dr. Willarene Beasley was hired to keep things moving forward until a new principal is found.
Now, well into December, the hiring process is picking up. On Monday, December 9, a PUSH (Parents United for South High) meeting aimed to kick off the process by involving parents early on. At the meeting, Associate Superintendent Steve Flisk and Miquel McMoore, interim director of Talent Acquisition for Minneapolis Public Schools, described the process for the plan moving forward, and proposed ways to come up with a selection of parents to be a part of the search committee.
When Saddler was hired in 2009 as South’s previous principal, teachers, parents, and students were all important components of her hiring process.
“It was very involved,” said social studies teacher Rob Panning-Miller, who was part of the search committee last time, and hopes to be included this year too. “We collectively looked through and ranked the applicants, and then decided which ones we wanted to interview. Then we conducted the interviews,” he described.
Earlier this year, Panning-Miller, as union steward for South’s licensed staff, wrote a letter to the district. In this letter, he requested that the district conduct the hiring process in the same way as it did last time. Flisk responded to the letter.
“He said that they appreciate the input and they’re interested in hearing from all the various groups involved,” said Panning-Miller. “And [they] seemed to accept the proposal, but it wasn’t clear that it was going to go forward as we presented it.”
According to Flisk, there will be many similarities between the process of hiring the new principal and Saddler’s hiring process.
“We want that broad range of involvement because we want the school to have invested interest in the next leader,” said Flisk. “You, as staff and as students, have different perspectives on things because you are in the school.”
The ad for a new principal will be posted in mid-January, and at the same time, Flisk hopes that the committee will be finalized. Interviews and screening will take place in February. “Our goal is to have a decision made by the beginning of March,” said Flisk.
However, according to some, this could be too ambitious of a plan. At the PUSH meeting, several parents expressed concern that the process was getting started six months after Saddler left. And while Flisk reassured the parents that this is regular procedure, there still remain worries that the search committee will not be fully put together in time.
Because of the diversity of South’s student body, and families, PUSH wants to put forward a group of parents who can accurately represent South’s population across age group and ethnicity. The proposed date, however, for having a final search committee is January 10, which may be too fast to get an accurate representation.
Flisk and McMoore want students to get involved in the process as well. There will be a survey passed out to students which will be compiled into a leadership profile for South’s new principal, along with feedback from staff and families. “We will be reaching out to counselors for students who would be a good fit for the search committee,” said McMoore at the PUSH meeting.
Senior Sugei Leal, Student Council President, thinks that student involvement is very important to this process. “Ultimately, we are going to be the ones who are going to be dealing with them every day,” she said. “Administration can come down and supervise them once in a while, but we’re the ones who need to be able to respect them, and understand them, and have understanding on both sides. So if we got some of the students’ input, and see what they want and what they need, then we can have a better environment.”
For all parties involved, it is clear that there is a common goal in mind: finding an individual who understands South. “We’ve always had a great staff here to…support the students in the way that they need them,” said All Nations counselor Jackie Vertigan, who was also involved in the hiring process for Saddler. “We have the best of the best here, let them [teach].”
“Certainly we want somebody who has classroom experience,” said Panning-Miller, “And classroom experience with diverse students, and experience as an administrator beyond that. [I want] somebody who is going to come in listening, and be open to what’s already in place, and what people are trying to do, and continue our work in the direction we’ve been heading, rather than to try to come in and force a new agenda, and put in a plan.”
According to Flisk, the next step in the process is getting the word out and forming a committee. “We just have to communicate what it’s going to look like to the community, and identify who will be on the committee, because there’s definitely going to be a commitment there.”
In the meantime, South’s interim principal, Beasley, is finding her place at South. “I see my role as a leader,” she stated, in an interview conducted earlier this year by the Southerner. “I like South,” she added. “I like the climate, the atmosphere, the student body.”