Twenty Minnesota School Districts Send Superintendents to Times Square Conference

Intercontinental New York Times Square Hotel
Intercontinental New York Times Square Hotel

Twenty Minnesota school districts will be sending superintendents to New York City for a conference beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016.  District Management Council, a Boston education consultant company, will convene its annual “Superintendents’ Strategy Summit” January 13-15 at the The Intercontinental New York Times Square hotel.

Eighty-three school districts from fifteen states are sending superintendents to the Summit.  Out of the fifteen states, only one, Connecticut, is sending more superintendents than Minnesota: 24 to 20.  According to DMC’s website, the company will cover the DMC member districts’ superintendents’ lodging costs, as long as they registered for the Summit’s room block by Dec. 1, 2015.  (This potentially saves districts around $300 for lodging costs.)  DMC membership fees are not listed on their website, nor are the fees for the Summit; however, it was found on several school district websites that the average membership cost begins at about $25,000/year and goes up from there, depending on the services DMC provides to the contracting district.

Of the twenty superintendents attending the Summit, eight come from districts in the East Metro Integration District (EMID) – (Stillwater, South Washington County, White Bear Lake, West St. Paul, Spring Lake Park, Roseville, South St. Paul and Forest Lake) – which paid $29,000 in membership fees to DMC in 2014, along with an additional $50,000 to be part of DMC’s “A-ROI” (“Academic Return on Investment”) research project.  Furthermore, five of the EMID districts – (West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Spring Lake Park and Stillwater) – along with EMID, are sharing the cost of paying $60,000 each (EMID pays $40,000/each, districts pay $20,000/each) for a DMC program called “Raising Student Achievement During Tight Financial Times.” The $60,000/individual district is a discount from the usual $125,000/district cost for this program.

(EMID also recently paid $25,000 to Dr. Almanzan of “The Equity Collaborative” for “Equity Training.” Previously, Dr. Almanzan was Associate Director of Teacher Development for Pacific Education Group, the same consultant group used by St. Paul Public Schools to develop its now highly-criticized discipline policies.)

Four (Farmington, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, Lakeville, and South Washington County Schools) of the twenty Minnesota school districts also had operating levies ranging from increases of $100/pupil to $900/pupil on the Nov. 3, 2015 ballots; all but North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale passed their proposed operating levies after informing residents that major cuts would be necessary if the levies were not passed.

Denise Pontrelli, Superintendent for Stillwater School District ISD 834, will be attending the conference.  Pontrelli has come under fire since the December 2015 “BOLD” proposal that includes closing three Stillwater district elementary schools, in order to create more equity between schools in the district and save the district $1.26 million.  A citizens group has organized to oppose the school closures: STOP BOLD COLD, which includes a website, Facebook page, a Change.org petition (now with over 1600 signatures) and a gofundme.com page.

Dr. Keith Jacobus, South Washington County ISD 833 Superintendent, will also be in attendance.  ISD 833 not only passed a large ten year operating levy ($10 million/year) in November, but also was involved in a lawsuit brought against the district by citizens over five uncounted ballots, which made the difference between a $96 million bond passing or failing from the November election.

This year’s District Management Council Summit is titled: “Shifting Resources to Support Strategic Priorities.” The agenda includes: “Winning Support for Shifting Resources” and “Persuasive Communications Strategies” along with a networking reception and dinner at the Harvard Club of New York City.  DMC’s leadership team is headed by John J-H Kim, who is faculty at Harvard Business School serving in the Social Enterprise Initiative. He is the co-chair of PELP (Public Education Leadership Project), a joint project between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Business School, and teaches a second year elective course Entrepreneurship in Education Reform.”

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Updated 1/11/2016 6:54pm