Interim MPS super says this is no time to ‘play scared’

Michael Goar (r) with Michael Walker, director of MPS Office of Black Male Achievement.
Michael Goar (r) with Michael Walker, director of MPS Office of Black Male Achievement.

Right-sizing schools will be a ‘cold reality’ for some

If the Minneapolis School Board approves it, Interim Superintendent Michael Goar plans to “right size” the district. “What we are proposing are the things that I will be focusing on as superintendent for the next four months,” says Goar, who was named Bernadeia Johnson’s interim successor in December and assumed his new duties Feb. 2.

“That is my focus for the next four or five months, and the board can hold me accountable based on what I was able to accomplish on some of these things I am talking about.” This includes “right-sizing” how things are currently being done at Davis Center, the district’s headquarters.

“Eighty-five percent of our budget is spent on people,” he points out. “We need to identify resources. There are great people working here, [but] what that means is that some people who are working at the Davis Center today will be working at the school level. And some people who are working today may not be working for us next year. Some people unfortunately will be impacted by this decision. That’s the cold reality.”

“When you are talking about ‘right-sizing,’ it’s going to be messy,” he predicts. “I think it’s critical for our system. It’s critical for our kids that we spend more money [on schools] so that there is teaching and learning taking place. My job is to set those conditions and set those expectations.”

His present position has the interim tag, but Goar stressed that he must “lead and inspire” the district. “I’m a product of this school system,” says the 1982 Washburn grad, who was hired by Johnson as MPS CEO in 2013.

“As an interim superintendent, or [until] whenever that term ends, I think it is critical that my job is to push in making sure that we have a clear vision, a clear pathway that you can see what we are doing. I want to make sure that we have a vision for the future, and we want to make sure that we execute it and make sure that our kids are successful.”

He says that not enough has been done to inspire district teachers “to really get into teaching and helping our kids.” Goar reiterated that he can’t be scared of making tough decisions in his interim role. “This is the right time for me to do what I need to do and not play scared.”

Furthermore, the MPS leader also wants to improve community relations, which have been strained at times over the years for various reasons. “We need to do a better job establishing relationships with our parents and our community,” states Goar. “I hope that we can get the job done connecting with our families on how we can improve as a system.

“I don’t think parents trust us or believe that we are doing right by them. What I just said isn’t new or earth-shattering. We have to reestablish that trust.”

He is also seeking board approval on “a clear school recovery plan for the most vulnerable [and struggling] schools” in the district. “There are 10 of them.”

“I feel like I’ve been prepared for this job and have been nurtured and mentored for many, many years from some strong Black women” such as former superintendents Bernadeia Johnson and Carol Johnson “and [was] taught how to lead a large organization that is very complex. I had the opportunity to work for strong Black women. I want to make sure I do right by my mentors…and more importantly, I want to do right by our kids.

“All the kids in Minneapolis are my responsibility, not just some. I’m blessed. I feel like I’ve been trained for this moment, and God placed me in this moment for a particular reason. I’m going to take advantage of it,” concludes Goar. “I want to emphasize what’s positive in Minneapolis Public Schools.”

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Edited 3/2/2015 2:14 pm