Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding a New Superintendent: A Four-Legged Stool

If you want to know what other people think we should look for in a new Superintendent, take a look at these survey results. I agree with 80-90%% of the comments there.

For myself, I've been visualizing what I want in a Superintendent. And I've been visualizing a four-legged stool.

Yes, I drew this myself. It took forever!

For the next Superintendent, I think we need:

1. Obviously, we are looking someone with educational leadership/curricular knowledge. I personally am looking for someone who is concerned with supporting teachers and principals and who seeks feedback from them. I am looking for someone who is not interested in testing as a goal (for the purposes of evaluating students or teachers), but rather sees standardized testing as something to be limited. I'm not interested in another Broad-trained Superintendent. I never wrote about how Pat Green was trained as a Broad Superintendent (or what that means), although I had plans to do so. In fact at the time she applied I had no idea what that meant, but now I do, and you can read a little bit about Broad Superintendents here and here.

2. Second, we should be looking for someone with good communication skills. We need someone who speaks and writes well; who will spend time in the schools; and who wants to be open, accessible, honest and transparent to parents and taxpayers. [No, they don't have to do whatever people want; but when there is a disagreement they have to be able to articulate and explain.]

3. Third, at this critical time, we need someone with excellent financial skills. AAPS is a large organization, and we need someone who is comfortable managing large budgets and, even more critically, comfortable with leading longer-term financial planning.

4. Last, and definitely not least, I think we need someone who is familiar with Michigan politics. We need someone who understands Michigan's current educational climate and has experienced it. We need someone who is willing to lead as a political advocate for Ann Arbor schools and all public school districts in the state. We need someone to say that our districts are worth funding well. We need someone to say that (for instance) the education bills around the EAA and teacher evaluation, currently in the state legislature, are misguided and poorly-thought out. In this regard, Clarkston Superintendent Rod Rock, Oakland ISD Superintendent Vickie Markavitch, or Bloomfield Hills Superindent Robert Glass (who by the way, came from the Dexter schools) are modeling the kind of behavior I'd like to see from our next Superintendent.

So--anything else?

What about internal candidates? A few names have been suggested to me, of both current Ann Arbor staff and recently retired staff people. I guess if the board wants an interim person, then a recently retired person with a lot of experience might be good--especially if they had retired from Ann Arbor, because right now the "cabinet" is pretty green. Also, if we were to find a good candidate for the permanent position who was very local--internal to the district as a staff person or parent already--I think that would make the transition easier. If Saline's experience is any guide, an internal candidate would likely stay longer and be more successful. And if the candidate is not internal, let's at least look locally!

But minimally, I think the board should at least start with the intention of hiring a Superintendent who has been working in Michigan. I would suggest we only expand that geographic boundary if an initial search didn't turn up good candidates. Remember, it only takes one good candidate. [These folk tales make the same point poetically.]

Finally, let's talk about pay.

I'd like to see the board offer a salary range, rather than a fixed amount. Let's have that range start around $160,000, and top out where Pat Green's salary is, $245,000. I know, $160,000 is less than Todd Roberts was getting three years ago, but all that does is allow the board to be a big shot and not pay at the bottom of the range. And also, let's be careful about what goes in the Superintendent's contract, too.

What other criteria are on your mind?


  1. Nice post. I think we need to steal someone from another district and stop the traditional game of "who would like a job...please apply".

  2. $160,000 but you want them to be all those things you listed? Completely unrealistic.