The last four years have been a whirlwind with the hiring of the Broad-trained superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and all that came with her reign of tenure. School closings and re-openings, unnecessary rif’s, shutting down of programs that should have instead been supported, the MAP test three times each year even though only twice per year is required to get the appropriate results (we’ll get to that later), Teach for America, Inc., the student assignment plan debacle and the re-segregation of our schools (just in time to start the drumbeat of charters as a “choice” now that most options have been taken away from students on the southend of Seattle. And if the options have not been taken away then transportation to those options have) and the fear that was created in speaking up due to her “my way or the highway”, top-down rule.
Well folks, those days are over. It’s time to catch our breath and find our way back to where we started, just a little bit older and hopefully a lot wiser.
Now’s the time to ask ourselves and each other what we want in a superintendent. Do we want an exec who can twirl the budget numbers and data to read however we want them to or an educator who has come up the ranks, someone who is seasoned, knows what it’s like to be on the front lines as a teacher and a principal? Do we want someone who parachutes in, has a major learning curve about our schools, our school board, our students and our goals and then imposes their ideas on how our children should be educated or someone who we have known, respect and has been here for the long haul, proving to us that Seattle, our schools and our communities matter?
Unfortunately these days, many school boards seem to think that they have to go elsewhere to find a superintendent. Because of this type of thinking, the Broad Foundation has been able to place superintendents in districts around the country and therefore been able to take control of many school districts in terms of priming them for charter schools with all that goes with that including excess, high stakes testing and the breaking down of teachers’ unions to allow for a cheaper labor force to staff the charter franchises.
Seattle has a richness, variety and diversity that is unique and something that we are proud of as Seattleites. From that rich soil, many talented people have developed. These individuals know our children, our schools and our communities. They know the needs of the students and our resources. The ideal candidates also have developed over the years a vision for better schools and ideas on how to achieve those goals knowing what we have and don’t have, knowing what we want and what we are capable of.
It is my belief that the appropriate candidate should have come up through our school system as a teacher and developed over the years experience as an educator and an administrator. The candidate should be someone who we know and trust, someone who has proven themselves in terms of their intelligence, their creativity, their professionalism and their character.
This is an old idea but it works. Coming up in the Los Angeles School District, there were many successful superintendents who took on the role after being a part of the community for years.
Do I have anyone in mind? No, no one specifically. I will say that I haven’t been in Seattle long enough to know all of the likely candidates but off of the top of my head I can think of one or two.
It is time to start asking the question of who we want and letting the school board members know what is important to us in terms of the next superintendent. And don’t think that answering questions in a survey is sufficient, it’s not. Talk about it with other parents, teachers and students, discuss it with your board members or write your board directors and let them know what you’re thinking.
And if there is anyone out there who knows someone who they think would be a great candidate or if you think you would be the best match for our schools, speak up!
This should be a decision that is community based and not as it was before, predetermined by outside forces with hidden agendas.