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Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff to leave district

Graff announced that he will not serve a third term as superintendent, and will step down when his contract expires in June.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff plans to leave his post when his contract expires this summer, according to the district.

Graff notified Minneapolis Board of Education members of his intentions in an email Wednesday. "For the past six years, the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Directors has given me the extraordinary opportunity to fulfill a life calling and make a difference in the lives of children," Graff wrote.

"It was a difficult decision but ultimately, after praying and careful consideration I’ve decided that it is time to turn over the helm of leadership in Minneapolis to someone new," he continued. "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's announcement comes just days after the district and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers reached a contract deal after a contentious strike that kept students out of school for 14 days.

As one of the largest districts in the state, MPS has more than 30,000 students, but enrollment has declined during Graff's tenure.

In his letter to the school board, Graff defended his record as superintendent, pointing to the fact that the district has "reduced the number of racially isolated schools, created Hmong and Somali language and cultural pathways K-12," and added more music and recess at the elementary levels, among other items. 

Last fall, the school board voted 5-4 to negotiate with Graff for a potential third term, which he has now declined.

Khulia Pringle, a local outreach manager and organizer with the National Parents Union, has long called for Graff's removal.

"I think it's just best to have a fresh start," Pringle said. "Communication was broken with families, his staff, teachers and board members. So, yeah, I think right now, the Minneapolis Public Schools just needs to start over, especially at the top."

Lindsey West, a fifth-grade teacher at Barton Community School who stood in solidarity with the unions during this month's strike, also called Graff's departure "the right move." 

West and Pringle are both critical of Graff's leadership during implementation of the Comprehensive District Design, as well as his handling of the strike.

"I think the strike highlighted a lot of the dysfunction and combative relationship," West said. "I think he represents something that's not really good for public education in Minneapolis." 

During the strike, Graff was also the target of criticism from top union leaders, who called on the superintendent and school board to take a more active leadership role in negotiations.

An educator for 25 years, Graff is originally from Minnesota but began his teaching career in Anchorage, Alaska. Graff took the job of Minneapolis superintendent in 2016.

In a statement, School Board Chair Kim Ellison praised Graff's leadership "during an extremely challenging time in our history."

"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," she wrote.

The district must now start the search for the next superintendent, subject to board approval, but MPS hasn't said how long that will take.

"I would hope that the school board truly engages the community, the marginalized community," Khulia Pringle said, "the folks who the disparities within Minneapolis Public Schools affect."

This is a developing story. KARE 11 will provide more details as new information becomes available.

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