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St. Paul Public Schools scale back 'Learning Leads' plan by nearly $5M

April 09, 2019 10:20 PM

The St. Paul School District originally planned to hire 70 "professional Learning Leads" in each of its schools over the next two years for an estimated $8 million.

On Tuesday, SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard revised his plan during a School Board Committee meeting reducing the number of Learning Lead hires to 28 at an estimated cost of $3 million based on each salary package of $113,000 per employee next school year.

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"My priorities might not be the same priorities as some others," said Gothard. "Mine are based on what you've asked me to do--create a strategic plan to improve longterm outcomes for the wonderful children and families of SPPS."

RELATED: St. Paul Public Schools wants to hire 70 professional learning leads at cost of $7.9 million

School Board member Jeanelle Porter asked Gothard if the timing was right for a Learning Lead initiative when the district is facing a preliminary budget shortfall for 2019-2020, of $2.9 million.

"We are in a three-year cycle of budget deficits, so why do the Learning Lead program now," said Porter.

Gothard said principals face different challenges than years past and Learning Leads, even though they are not replacing principals, will provide a team system and communication that is needed to improve classroom performance in schools where achievement gaps are high.

"If I believe, or any of you believe, that we can create a system for school improvement solely on the backs of principals, we are wrong," said Gothard.

Learning Leads are licensed teachers, but are peer members of teachers to help them with their professional development and the original SPPS plan had them working only with teachers and not providing any classroom instruction.

Now, under the revised plan, SPPS administrators said the Learning Leads will provide instruction of students in the classroom "20 percent of the time."

Gothard also told board members the funding for the Learning Leads will come solely from federal dollars and none of it from the general fund or referendum money.

RELATED: SPPS superintendent delivers 'State of the District' address

"I will not back away from the importance of these positions in improving long-term student outcomes in our school district," said Gothard.

Schooo Board member John Brodrick said he has seen many plans in the past and the administration always stressed communication and trust to get the achieved results and he would be watching the Learning Lead program closely.

"How is it going to work right there where those kids are, right where that teacher is and where that principal down the hall is?" asked Brodrick.  "And, I understand I cannot get an answer right away, but I will say that I will keep asking."

The SPPS School Board will finalize its 2019-20 school year budget in June.

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