Dr. Joe Gothard is the 2024 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year

  • Wednesday, Oct 18, 2023

Alumni Awards 2021 - (l. to r.) Ben Wiederholt ’01, Dr. Mary Jean Etten ’68, Joe M. Gothard ’99, MA ’04, Ed.D. ’15, Yesenia Villalpando-Torres ’17, President Andrew Manion, Jeanne (Moe) Siegenthaler, MA ’01, Ed.D. ’11, Matthew J. Schroeder ’07, Tsetan Dolqar ’12, Tyrone Cratic Williams ’12

Madison, Wis. (October 18, 2023) - The Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) has named Dr. Joe Gothard, ’99, MA ’04, Ed.D. ’15,  Superintendent of Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS), the 2024 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year. As the Minnesota honoree, Dr. Gothard is a candidate among other state recipients for National Superintendent of the Year, to be announced in February 2024. Dr. Gothard was selected for this honor by a panel of representatives from a variety of Minnesota education organizations. Nominees are evaluated on how each candidate demonstrates leadership for learning, communication skills, professionalism, and community involvement.

"Dr. Gothard’s selection as the 2024 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year reflects his unwavering commitment to excellence in education and his exceptional leadership in our state's educational community,” said MASA Executive Director Dr. Deb Henton. “His innovative leadership and dedication to fostering a supportive and equitable learning environment have significantly impacted the success of all SPPS students and educators. We congratulate Dr. Gothard, and we look forward to his continued successful contributions to SPPS and Minnesota's education system." 

Dr. Gothard has served as Superintendent of SPPS since 2017. Prior to his time with SPPS, he was Superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District for four years. Dr. Gothard was a dean of students, middle school principal, high school principal, and then assistant superintendent with the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis. Dr. Gothard began his career in teaching as a biology teacher at La Follette High School in Madison.

In the last year, Dr. Gothard has produced transformative change for SPPS with American Rescue Plan (ARP) spending to create a new district-wide department called the Innovation Office. The district's ARP planning resulted in a needs assessment that received more than 11,000 responses from SPPS staff, students, and families. The project management system developed by the Innovation Office has supported ongoing and emerging initiatives across the district, including work with their American Indian Parent Advisory Committee, Latino Consent Decree, and the recent planning and successful launch of the nation’s first East African Elementary Magnet School in September 2023. Dr. Gothard's plan has been cited by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as an example for districts around the country, and he has presented for the U.S. DOE as a part of their Raise The Bar series.

The district's strategic plan, SPPS Achieves, focuses on reducing disparities in student success, especially among Black and American Indian students. Over the past three years, Dr. Gothard’s leadership team has proactively identified credit-deficient students early, offering virtual learning periods and after-school credit recovery options to help them catch up and stay engaged. Credit recovery initiatives were achieved by the reorganization of the alternative learning centers (ALC) oversight departments to bring them closer to the district's Division of Schools and Learning to align the ALCs with all schools in SPPS. Dr. Gothard encouraged these departments to rethink credit recovery by making it more meaningful, as traditional credit recovery approaches often provided the same content with less time and support, resulting in negative student experiences and outcomes. SPPS also launched the Experiential Summer Learning program, which pairs core subjects with real-world experiences beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. This innovative summer learning program led to not only successful credit recovery but also increased student engagement and a re-energized enthusiasm for learning. The results of the credit recovery and the intentional experiential learning efforts created positive growth in four-year graduation rates from 2021-2022 for students who are American Indian (58.6% to 61.1%), Black (70.4% to 73.5%), and students who identify as two or more races (76.3% to 79.3%).

Dr. Gothard is an active member of MASA and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). He has served on the MASA Board of Directors for four years and is currently the MASA President. Dr. Gothard also serves as a member of the Professional Assistance Team, providing MASA members with professional and confidential support during times of need.

Dr. Gothard is involved in a number of other community and education organizations, including the Center for Model Schools National Advisory Board, Council of the Great City Schools Executive Committee, Edgewood College Board of Trustees, 3M Racial Justice for the Future of Work Community Coalition, Genesys Works Twin Cities Board of Directors, Generation Next Board Co-Chair, Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Governance Committee, and the Saint Paul All Ready for Kindergarten (SPARK) Executive Committee.

Throughout his career, Dr. Gothard has received a number of awards, including the 2023 Laureate from the Junior Achievement North Hall of Fame, 2022 Green Garner Award Finalist from the Council of the Great City Schools, 2021 Edgewood College Distinguished Alumni Award, and the 2021 MASA Administrator of Excellence (Region 9).