MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis Public Schools high school principal has been stripped of his title for failing to get properly licensed, but there's a chance he could earn it back.
In a letter to the Minnesota Board of School Administrators dated Sept. 20, 2021, Brett Stringer writes that he worked as a licensed principal in Colorado for eight years. When he moved to South High School in the fall of 2019, he had two years to get a Minnesota-approved principal license.
In the letter, he admits he didn't take the steps to get one, which would've required five semesters of course work in an approved licensure program.
"I failed to do that, and I am humbly asking for your forgiveness," Stringer said. "I write this letter to ask for leniency and an extension of my provisional license while I complete a state approved program."
Dr. Tony Kinkel is BOSA's executive director.
"He can still work there," Kinkel said of Stringer's situation at South. "He can do clerical duties. He can do research. He can offer opinions but the actual decisions that a principal does, he cannot do."
In a Wednesday letter to the school's community, Minneapolis Public Schools said Stringer "has been reassigned to work as an administrator on special assignment at the Davis Center."
The district said Stringer will no longer office at South and won't have any duties related to the school "at this time." Meanwhile, Steve Simondet is serving as interim principal.
Stringer is now asking the state to extend his provisional license as he works to meet state requirements for a regular license. The district became aware of Stringer's lapsed license after a South High parent contacted Kinkel at BOSA in August.
In a letter dated Sept. 20, Minnesota State Mankato professor Jinger A. Gustafson confirmed Stringer is now enrolled in the courses needed for a regular license. Gustafson is also a member of the state board that will decide whether to grant Stringer an extension.
Kinkel says granting an extension is rare.
"We've done it probably three or four times since I've been here," he said. "Always for extenuating circumstances such as a principal's wife got cancer; the board extended it. Principal went overseas on military duty; we extended it."
Minneapolis Public Schools sent KARE 11 the following information:
- After the school year began, MPS was made aware that Mr. Stringer failed to meet the Minnesota principal licensure requirements in the time provided to him by BOSA.
- All principals are required to be licensed in the state in which they are working, so Mr. Stringer was required to pursue a Minnesota principal license after he began working with MPS.
- Today BOSA met and decided to table Mr. Stringer’s request for an extension of his provisional licensure, so that he could continue leading South High while he completes the necessary coursework to get his regular MN administrator's license.
- BOSA is now scheduled to discuss Stringer's request at its regular meeting in late October.
- While the District had hoped that this matter could be resolved today, the District respects BOSA’s decision and we are comfortable continuing the interim leadership plan that we have had in place.
- Until BOSA issues a ruling, Steve Simondet will continue to serve as interim principal at South. Associate Superintendent Shawn Harris-Berry will continue to provide added support to Interim Principal Simondet and the South administrative team as needed.
- Mr. Stringer will continue to support South High in matters that don’t require a principal license.
In this case, Stringer points to the pandemic and George Floyd's murder happening less than two miles from school.
"The past two years have come with unprecedented challenges," Stringer said in the letter to BOSA.
"Our entire community (students, families, staff) were all directly impacted by the events of the summer of 2020. I have spent the last two years trying to hold together our community and lead through unprecedented times at the epicenter of a global movement and pandemic."
"The licensing committee is really weighing whether that meets the level," Kinkel said. "[What] there is some question to is the timing. You know, George Floyd died I believe it was May 25. Well, [Stringer] got issued a provisional almost a year before that. So they're going to weigh that and make a decision next month, but it will set in motion a precedent that this board will have to live with."
Monday morning, BOSA's licensing committee postponed the decision on whether to grant Stringer an extension of his provisional license. The committee is expected to discuss the issue again next month.
MPS says it hoped for a resolution Monday but respects the board's decision and is comfortable continuing its interim leadership plan.
Read Stringer's full letter below.