Graff’s 6-year MPS tenure ends in discord

MPS Superintendent Ed Graff
Photo courtesy of MPS

On Wednesday, March 30, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent Ed Graff announced his intention to resign effective at the end of the school year, June 30.

Graff has been the superintendent for MPS for six years. While the school board had already approved a vote to negotiate a new contract for Graff’s third term, he declined, stating in resignation letter that he believed it was time for new MPS leadership.

“MPS has a team of committed and dedicated educators, parents and community members who want our students to succeed, and I am confident they will continue to join hands with you to make that happen,” Graff stated in the letter.

MPS School Board Chair Kim Ellison stated support for Graff in an MPS press release: “Always with students as the focus, Superintendent Graff has brought systemic and transformational change to MPS during an extremely challenging time in our history,” Ellison stated.

“He has repeatedly delivered on the School Board’s values, implemented equity-driven structural changes, and kept students and staff safe and learning through a pandemic. I am grateful for his service and all he has done for Minneapolis Public Schools,” read Ellison’s statement.

While Graff has had a fair amount of support from inside the district offices of MPS, support has not been unanimous. The offer to extend Graff’s contract was passed with a 5-4 vote, with board members Adriana Cerrillo, Josh Pauly, Sharon El-Amin, and Siad Ali voting against extending Graff’s tenure. 

Colleen Lindström, a local radio host on myTalk 107.1 and a parent, was not happy with the job Graff had done over his tenure.

“This man was never equipped to usher the Minneapolis Public Schools anywhere,” Lindström said. “He was too big for his own britches, and then when the emperor no longer had britches, and we all saw it, he retreated.”

“I wonder if he’d have cared more if he’d have believed in his own leadership enough to send his kids to a Minneapolis Public School,” Lindström added.

A ninth grader in the MPS school system, who asked not to have her name or school identified, was also unsupportive. “Not surprising and good riddance,” the student said. “Only cowards walk away when faced with hardship.”

An MPS teacher, who also asked not to be identified, said Graff has been very unpopular among students. Last January students went as far as to create an Instagram page called “Ed Graff hate club” in response to MPS’s decision to continue in-person classes despite a high case load of COVID-19 in the metro area.

The page, which posts edited memes involving Graff, has nearly 1,500 followers and received over 750 likes in 12 hours on its most recent post about Graff resigning.

Graff’s announcement coincides with the settling of a several weeks-long strike by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT).

Tumultuous meeting

Courtesy of MPS Screenshot of MPS Special Business Meeting on March 29.

Teachers and students returned to the classroom this Tuesday after MFT members voted over the weekend to approve the tentative agreement forged by MPS and MFT negotiators. As Minneapolis schools were closed for the duration of the strike, a special business meeting was held Tuesday night to vote on approval of extending the school year out to June 24to make up for missed days during the strike.

A point of discussion in the meeting was Minnesota Statute 120A.41, which dictates the number of hours of instruction that Minnesota schools must have in a school year. Board members explored options about ignoring the statute, and Amy Moore, a general counsel to Superintendent Graff explained the consequences of bypassing the statute.

“If we do not comply with the mandated requirement in the statue, there are fiscal ramifications that can happen as well as criminal,” Moore said. “They’re looking at a willful noncompliance, which at this stage it would be, and those criminal penalties can be applied to administration, but also to other staff, teachers are referenced in that statute as well.”

Director Kimberly Caprini voiced her support for extending the school year. “We owe [students] the opportunity to finish high school,” Caprini said. “The thought that we would actually be having a conversation about not following the law, the statute, is ridiculous.”

Caprini’s speech had members from the audience interrupting to express displeasure. An attempt to take the vote was held directly after Caprini finished talking, but as members began to vote yes, a group of four MPS students interrupted the meeting with a megaphone.

Superintendent Graff left the meeting as the students spoke, citing their use of the word “bullsh-t” as his reason for his exit.

“Just to be clear, I’m leaving because I’m not going to be a part of any organization that allows people to use profanity,” Graff said before being drowned out by the students.

“You can’t talk to our students because of a curse word?” students called after Graff as he left the room. “Shame!”

Superintendent Graff did not return for the rest of the meeting. His resignation was announced the following morning. The vote for the motion continued again despite student protest.

The vote passed 5-2. Superintendent Graff was not present to vote and Director El-Amin abstained, saying she refused to vote without Graff present. El-Amin and Cerrillo walked out of the meeting and joined the student protesters in support.