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August 2013
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August 2

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Rachel Hicks
Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs

Dr. Johnson announces key leadership positions for MPS

MINNEAPOLIS – Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), today announced three key positions in the school district’s administration with the selections of Susanne Griffin-Ziebart as chief academic officer (CAO), Rich Valerga as chief information officer (CIO) and Cecilia Saddler, former South High School principal, as associate superintendent of Area C. 

“I am confident the newest members of my leadership team will reinforce the school district’s priorities of ensuring all students are prepared for college, career and life,” Johnson said. “Susanne, Rich and Cecilia are proven leaders whom I believe will effectively move our school district forward in providing a bright future for all Minneapolis children.”

Griffin-Ziebart joins MPS from the Bibb County School District in Georgia where she served as deputy superintendent of school improvement and redesign, as well as acting school superintendent. In these roles, Griffin-Ziebart oversaw school redesign and supported the implementation of the school district’s strategic plan. Prior to joining Bibb County schools in 2011, Griffin-Ziebart worked for 23 years in Rochester (MN) Public Schools both in the classroom and as an administrator. As CAO, Griffin-Ziebart will oversee and implement the school district’s academic agenda to provide a world-class education for all MPS students. 

Johnson named Valerga as the school district’s new chief information officer. Valerga will be responsible for managing the school district’s computer systems and enhancing the use of technology in all MPS classrooms. Valerga has provided information technology support to large school systems, including St. Paul and New Orleans. Most recently, he oversaw the $1.6 billion consolidation of information technology services for Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools, one of the largest ever K-12 mergers.

After four years as principal at South High School, Saddler will take on the role of associate superintendent for Area C. She has 18 years of urban educational experience in both classroom and administrator roles in MPS. Associate superintendents work with school communities to accelerate student achievement, close the achievement gap and improve overall school performance. While at South High, Saddler created and supported academic coaching models to increase teacher and student achievement. She also facilitated parent involvement opportunities such as the site council, Connecting Parents to Educational Opportunities  (CPEO) and Parents United for South High (PUSH). CPEO helps parents and teachers work together to transform children’s educational environment, both at home and at school, so that they can achieve their greatest academic potential. The purpose of PUSH is to create ways for every family and student to have a social connection to the school community and feel like a valued member and participant within it. 

With the hiring of Saddler as the associate superintendent for Area C, Dr. Willarene Beasley was selected to serve as interim principal at South High School. Beasley has over 25 years of experience as an administrator in MPS and will provide stable leadership at the school as Saddler transitions to her new leadership role. The selection process for a permanent principal will begin immediately.

In additional to the above district-level appointments, Johnson named Patrick Exner as the principal of Washburn High School. Exner joins MPS from Ubah Medical Academy High School in Hopkins, where he served as principal. During his tenure, he increased math and reading proficiency and reduced student discipline reports. Enrollment at Ubah also increased 25 percent under Exner’s leadership.