The Minnesota Board of Education has granted a three-year waiver allowing the Minneapolis school district to hire an unlicensed superintendent to run the school district, effective immediately.

The action marks the first time the board has allowed a district to operate long term without a licensed superintendent.

The board's waiver enables Peter Hutchinson, president of Public Strategies Group, a St. Paul publicservice consulting firm, to head the 44,500-student school district.

School district officials chose Hutchinson based on his success in helping the district repair its finances, which officials said deteriorated under superintendent Robert Ferrera, who was fired in February.

As superintendent, Hutchinson intends to streamline school system by increasing accountability at every decision-making level, according to an official at Public Strategies.

If the goals in Hutchinson's contract with the district are not met, Hutchinson has agreed that he and his firm will not be paid more than $60,000 annually for their services, according to a district spokeswoman.

Before serving with Public Strategies, Hutchinson was Minnesota's finance director in 1990 and 1991.

The school district has about $72 million of outstanding general obligation debt, rated A1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA with a negative outlook by Standard & Poor's Corp.

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