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Minneapolis Suspends Contract Negotiations With Superintendent Pick

The Minneapolis school board suspended contract negotiations with Sergio Páez, the former Holyoke, Mass., superintendent the board picked last week as its new schools chief.

The board's decision on Tuesday to put the contract negotiations on hold came a day after a Massachusetts district attorney said he was launching an investigation into allegations that special education students at a school in Holyoke, Mass., had been subjected to abuse during the time that Páez served as superintendent.  

The complaints were published last week by the Boston-based Disability Law Center. In the report, the advocacy group alleged that there were instances in which students had been slapped, slammed against the wall, and threatened. The group alleged several instances in which students had been restrained for long periods. 

The report landed just days after the Minneapolis school board voted 6-to-3 to select Páez as the new superintendent. The Minneapolis district said it was unaware of the allegations before they were released and that neither the search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, nor Paez had informed the district of the abuse allegations.

Páez served as the schools chief in Holyoke from 2013 until the state took over the district this past spring. He acknowledged to the Boston Globe that he had been made aware of complaints about the program, which served students with emotional disabilities. He said the district had conducted an investigation, but found no wrongdoing. 

The Holyoke Teachers Association has also said that the report was "not portraying an entirely accurate or fair picture," of the Peck Full Service Community School, where the special education program is housed. 

Two Minneapolis school board members are expected to be in Holyoke on Friday to continue to collect more information about the allegations.

The board will take up the issue again on Jan. 12. Interim Superintendent Michael Goar, who was among the final three candidates for the top post, will continue to lead the Minneapolis district.

"The board takes seriously the allegations in Holyoke and looks forward to thoroughly reviewing and evaluating all pertinent information before finalizing a contract with Dr. Páez," the district said in the statement.

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