Minneapolis school board may be forced to rethink Sergio Paez

December 10, 2015

Hold that contract, Minneapolis school board members.

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Dr. Sergio Paez

Just two days after the board chose Sergio Paez to be Minneapolis’ new superintendent, a troubling news report surfaced from Paez’s previous employer, the Holyoke, Massachusetts public schools.

Paez was superintendent of the Holyoke schools from 2013 until this past summer, when the state took over the district, citing chronic academic underperformance.

But that’s not what is raising alarms now.

A December 9 article from the Boston Globe bears this headline: “Holyoke school abused disabled children, report says.” Reporter Bryan MacQuarrie then describes in detail some shocking allegations against staff at Holyoke’s Peck School, which serves–or is supposed to serve–“emotionally disabled” children in grades four through eight.

Here is some of what Massachusett’s Disability Law Center found at Peck, during an investigation:

The Disability Law Center’s review, which began in May, looked back for about a year before that time and conducted more than 45 interviews with students, parents, former staff members, and others.

One 67-pound student was restrained 50 times, including about a dozen times when the pupil was held prone on the floor, according to Eichner and the report. The child complained to a parent of being unable to breathe, and that some of the restraints had been painful, the center said.

“Prone restraints can lead to serious injuries or even death,” Eichner said. Some restraints lasted for longer than 20 minutes, the investigation found.

Children were thrown to the floor for not moving, pulled out of chairs for refusing to get up, tackled to the ground, and restrained for refusing to change into a uniform, investigators were told.

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HYA rep Ted Blaesing

Judging by this report and the news article, the abuses at Peck were under full investigation during Paez’s time at Holyoke (which has just 11 schools, overall). Yet HYA, the search firm hired by the Minneapolis school board to garner “high quality” candidates, assured the board–publicly, repeatedly–that all of the finalists for the superintendent position had been subjected to a rigorous examination of their work histories and their references. 

How could this story from Holyoke have escaped HYA’s “rigorous” spotlight? This puts the Minneapolis school board in the tough position of having to reexamine the candidate they thought would be the best person to lead Minneapolis forward.

Reporter MacQuarrie was aware that Paez had just been awarded the superintendent’s position in Minneapolis:

The allegations surfaced during the tenure of former Holyoke superintendent Sergio Paez, who lost his job after Massachusetts education officials voted in April to place the district under state control.

On Monday, the Minneapolis school board voted to appoint Paez as that city’s next school superintendent. Members of the board did not respond to requests from the Globe to comment on whether the allegations would affect his hiring.

Perhaps that petition circling through Minneapolis last weekend, demanding that the school board restart its superintendent search, will now carry more weight. It had 950 names as of Monday night, when the school board voted Paez in.

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6 thoughts on “Minneapolis school board may be forced to rethink Sergio Paez

  1. An Dang

    MPS has a long history of choosing the politically correct person instead of the best qualified one. Not just for superintendents, but for principals and every level on down. Maybe that’s why the district is in such a mess.

  2. GenevaK651

    Well that won’t be a problem in Minneapolis, right? With the district implementing District Management Council’s (DMC) plan to practice what they call the “inclusion model” (business code for putting a nice name on the stripping of FAPE (free and appropriate public education) and LRE (least restrictive environment)) for special education students, they will all be in the general education setting anyway. And there are no suspensions, so no problems. Move along. Nothing to see here. Who paid for the search consulting firm HYA (Hazard, Young and Attea) to do the MPS superintendent search? Was that billed to the district or pro bono work funded by outsiders? Connect the dots and remember that HYA dropped Broad Superintendent Academy’s Silva in St. Paul Public Schools and she is facilitating precisely what Broad Academy superintendents are trained to do: create churn and chaos to promote a lack of trust in the public schools so that they may be more easily turned over to private interests. More on Broad: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/how-to-tell-if-your-school-district-is-infected-by-the-broad-virus/
    Now with Paez having been at Holyoke when it was placed in receivership, it seems like that’s what he’s qualified to do here in Minneapolis: hand the school district over. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/01/holyoke-schools-receiver-announced/yvd9dwUzyve72UBStBSlaO/story.html)

  3. Rob

    So the million dollar question is, did the BG reporter contact Mpls board members BEFORE they voted in Paez? We should ask the reporter

  4. ah1960

    As much as I appreciate your writing, there is a disturbing lack of connecting information and a great deal of innuendo in this account (including the headline).

    1. sarah.lahm@gmail.com Post author

      Can you expound on this? I’m not sure what kind of “connecting information” you were hoping to find? And what innuendo you see? I love feedback, but I’m not sure I understand your concerns.

  5. Gregory Pancratz

    Perhaps it is time for MPS to tune up the Escalade and get Thandie Peebles back at the wheel……

    What a worthless school board misguiding a troubled district, in myriad ways…


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