Education

Superintendent Fired, Gets $800,000 Severance Package From Taxpayers

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Blake Neff Reporter

The superintendent of St. Paul, Minn., public schools has been fired, following a disastrous tenure highlighted by shaky academic performance and a huge surge in violence. But as a parting gift, the superintendent is leaving with a severance package of $787,000.

The deal between Valeria Silva and St. Paul Public Schools is engineered to provide her exceptional financial comfort. Silva will immediately transition to a new role as a “special consultant” that will last until the fall of 2017 and pay her almost $270,000. Despite the vast salary, it’s not clear what her role will be, with St. Paul school board chairman Jon Schumacher telling the Pioneer Press she would not have an office and would simply be tasked with helping the transition.

In addition to her salary as a consultant, Silva will receive $100,000 in direct severance, $213,000 in insurance benefits, $75,000 for unused vacation time, and $25,000 in deferred compensation.

Even after her employment ends, the district will make pension contributions in her name until December, 2019, allowing her to earn the largest possible pension in retirement.

Silva’s termination is so costly because the same school board that fired her had given her a new three-year contract just six months ago, which was set to pay her about $225,000 a year.

Ironically, one of the problems Silva was fired for was a failure to adequately resolve ongoing budget woes.

During Silva’s tenure, which began in 2009, St. Paul pursued a radical overhaul of school discipline policies designed to reduce a significant racial disparity in punishments. Silva made it harder for schools to suspend troublesome students, required staff to receive substantial “cultural awareness” training, and offered financial bonuses to principals who slashed suspensions. Many have blamed Silva’s policies for a series of incidents in which St. Paul teachers were attacked by their own students.

While Silva scaled back punishments for students, district administrators have repeatedly punished teachers who attracted the ire of the city’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Conditions in St. Paul deteriorated to the point that teachers considered a strike to express their dissatisfaction. Instead, though, they used fall 2015 elections to fill the school board with Silva critics, which led to her costly termination.

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