Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Where oh where will a superintendent be found?

There is a new approach to leadership that has been happening in the last 5-10 years in this country.   A school system needs a new superintendent.  In the good old days, the Board of Education looked at the current system leadership and picked the next leader.   It was also not unusual for that next leader to have been groomed by the previous leader.  Such a quaint system, but it made for the orderly transition of leadership and the system itself was protected from upheaval.  And, of course, each new superintendent added his or her stamp to the way the system was run but there were not any huge breaks from the past.
Then came a time, when the common wisdom became we need to get someone from outside the system, we need new ideas, we need a shake up wizard.  Along with that notion came the present era of rock star superintendents.  These are folks who wander the country ever moving up the salary and system size ladder.  Their only interest in the new employer is how it will help them to climb to the next rung of the ladder.  When they finally get to whatever is the top of their ladder, they leave the aggravation of being a system superintendent and go to work for a big foundation or educational media company from whence they can sell products to former colleagues.
You will notice that rock star superintendents rarely stay more than 3-4 years in each new post.  Their goal is to make a short term splash so they can tout these achievements to the next system position they are seeking.  They certainly are not there when the fall-out comes from their mistakes.  Oh and be sure you note that each new superintendent says how much the system means to them and they are there for the duration.  What they do not say is just how long that duration will be.
The most recent Baltimore City superintendent extorted a huge contract from the Board AND an assurance that he would stay as long as they wanted him and that the Board, his employer, could not challenge or question what he did.  The Board, for whatever reason, bought into the idea.  Of course, he broke his contract and left after 4 years to be on the faculty at a university.  But the Board did not learn from experience and hired his successor also from an outside district.
So now we have situations where schools systems are routinely thrown into upheaval by new leadership, each new leader working fast and furiously to leave a footprint for the next job.  Existing leaders who have given their professional lives to the system are routinely marginalized.
No new curriculum is going to fix this problem.

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