Search for new MPS superintendent narrows to two finalists

And then there were two. After months of crisis, the search for a new superintendent for Minneapolis Public Schools is down to two candidates: one working in Minnesota, one working in Alaska. Both were born in Minnesota.

Ed Graff is currently the superintendent of Anchorage Public Schools in Alaska. The other finalist, Dr. Brenda Cassellius, has been the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education since 2011. 

The two candidates emerged after a search committee narrowed the candidates to a pool of twenty, then five, then the final two. And it’s not the first time the district has approached the finish line in finding a new superintendent. One candidate was dropped after concerns arose of abuse by teachers in his previous district. Then, protesters stopped the school board from voting on making the interim superintendent the superintendent.

The candidates will take questions from the school board on Tuesday, May 16. The board will take public comments on Monday, May 23. The board plans to vote on Tuesday, May 24.

Fox 9 News asked both candidates how they would reduce the district’s achievement gap.

Dr. Cassellius:

“There is a concern over how the achievement gap, and there are a number of things we can do. One is looking at the budget and making sure every dollar we have is prioritized to kids. The second is working with teachers around school cultures and school climates. And also working with the community to strengthen our families, strengthen our communities.”

Mr. Graff:

“One thing that’s been very positive through the conversations I’ve had is there’s no apathy here. There’s a lot of urgency. So to harness that, capture that, really bring people together in line in what our next steps are in the community, in the district, are going to be critical to addressing the achievement gap.”

Fox 9 News also asked the candidates whether a current Minnesotan or outsider was better equipped to handle the job.

Dr. Cassellius:

“Somebody’s who’s been at the district, been at the state, a really unique perspective of the district, I think that offers me some advantage. I also don’t think I get the honeymoon you normally get. I think people will have high expectations and want to see quick wins.” 

Mr. Graff:

“I am a superintendent, I have 25 years of experience at all levels. Public education is my passion, and I’ve been successful at different levels. And it comes back to my leadership, ability to bring people together and make sure the focus is always going to be on students."