Kent Pekel has never been superintendent of a school district before. In fact, he's never been a school principal.

Yet, he was the school board's unanimous choice as interim superintendent of Rochester Public Schools, one of the biggest education jobs in the state, with 18,000 students and more than 2,000 staff members.

While Pekel's resume as a candidate for superintendent has an obvious hole, his career, indeed his life story, is one of achievement:

  • Spent two years at a teaching college in China, where he grew concerned about American education.
  • Spent several years teaching in Bloomington, Minn.
  • Accepted into the White House Fellow program.
  • Served a stint in the CIA during the 1990s.
  • Held positions in the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of State.
  • Was director of research and development for St. Paul Public Schools.
  • Held a position at the University of Minnesota and most recently has been CEO of Search Institute, which works to promote youth development and advance equity.
  • He cites the three parts of the triangle that seldom connect in American schools: research, practice and policy.

Pekel has lofty goals and seems a smart choice for interim superintendent of Rochester schools.

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The one-year term of his contract should reveal any perceived shortcomings in his work history. He also appears to have made a commitment to Rochester, moving to sell his home and leaving his job as CEO of Search Institute. He says he'll apply for the permanent superintendent's job if all goes well. Thumbs up

Global Mayors Challenge

Rochester is one of 50 finalists in the Global Mayors Challenge. Mayors from 631 cities submitted applications highlighting innovative urban solutions in the wake of COVID-19. Of the 50 finalists, 15 will win $1 million each to help them spread their ideas around the world.

From the contest's web site:

"In Rochester, Minn., 40 percent of Black residents live in poverty, and the level of unemployment among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) women is far higher than among any other demographic group. The city proposes to engage BIPOC women, employers, and labor associations to design pathways for increased participation in Rochester's growing construction industry, by focusing on education, training, hiring, and work culture interventions. Rochester’s idea is important because it focuses on the workforce development and inclusion of a highly underrepresented group and could bring lessons to bear as many additional infrastructure projects get underway across the United States."

The contest is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Thumbs up for a creative way to address a longstanding issue. And a million bucks could go a long way.

Curtains drawn at Chateau

The city of Rochester has cut ties with Exhibits Development Group, ending their five-year agreement early.

EDG had brought a new concept to the city-owned Chateau, offering exhibits such as a showing of Beatles memorabilia, complete with retail space and performance space But the pandemic and other factors forced the closure of the latest "Downton Abbey" fashion exhibit.

Thumbs down that the theater is closed, but plans for the 94-year-old vaudeville theater might already be in the works. Stay tuned.