Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Superintendent Background Research: Ben Edmondson

Time presses. The school board is on a very fast timeline to make a decision about semi-finalists, and I don't have half the information I would like to have! I will add more as I find out more (at least for the finalists), but for now I'm just going to share a disorganized group of information, take from it what you can. For the finalists we will try to find out more information.

But first. . . a fun fact! Did you know that there is a well-known Australian cricketer with the same name?

Dr. Edmondson currently serves as the Principal of the Ann Arbor Public School’s Roberto Clemente High School. Dr. Edmondson holds a B.A. from University of Virginia, a M.Ed. from Ohio State University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University. He didn't list his dissertation topic in his resume, although he did list a student presentation he made about Acting White, a Theory for African-American Underachievement. I'm not sure if that became his dissertation.

Here is an Ann Arbor Observer article about him:

Ben has served in several principal positions in Ann Arbor (at King Elementary, Scarlett Middle School, and Roberto Clemente High School). He has been active in "Quad-A," the administrator's union. His list of references is quite impressive, including both Todd Roberts and George Fornero (two past superintendents), as well as David Comsa (current interim superintendent) and Linda Carter (current teachers' union president). He has children in the Ann Arbor schools.

I was very impressed at the way that he got Clemente students engaged in saving their school last year. I think their experience of talking at the school board meetings was a wonderful example of performance-based learning. He also probably annoyed some members of the school board with his tireless advocacy for Clemente and its students.

I spoke to three people who had worked with him in various capacities, and (both those who love him and those who don't) basically agreed on his key characteristics. You see one of those in his advocacy for Clemente students--his focus is on the kids.

You see another characteristic in the description that two people gave me that he is, or could be considered, arrogant. I think this is, oddly enough, confirmed in his cover letter, in which he used the word "humbly" twice, as in "I humbly submit. . . "

Here are a few comments, I'm keeping them all anonymous:
"I suspect I’m biased: he’s charismatic, rooted in the community, and he has relationships with teachers and students and administrators in this district. Too, the BOE has been told over and over that it should strongly consider local candidates for the superintendent job; I will be writing and reminding them of that strongly held community opinion over the next week." 
"He has a HUGE ego. Case in point: While principal at King School, he took down the big portrait of MLK in the lobby (it was a big portrait) and replaced it with his own. Underneath it said: visionary.”  
[My question to that--it was several years ago. Would he do that today?]
"I think the world of Ben Edmondson" 

"He did some amazing things in efforts to turn Scarlett and Clemente in the right direction. He expects and gets respect from some of our hardest to reach kids.There are people who find him arrogant."  

"If the district wants a superintendent who is serious about equity and about closing (not narrowing, not working on) the achievement gap, Ben is the right guy for the job. If the district wants someone who is going to nitpick the budget for a living, then Ben is probably not the guy." 
"I'm not sure I’ve ever been more inspired by anyone but him talking about reaching kids and changing kids lives. It’s always about kids first, as a teacher and administrator. I’ve seen him change kids’ lives. He’s got all kinds of charisma and he’s super smart. I know some people had trouble working for him because he had high expectations for his staff. Some people didn’t like being held to those standards. Some teachers felt they weren’t being treated like professionals.
I think the decisions in this district need to be made with kids in mind. They’re not thinking about students first. He's a leader, and he's got vision."


  1. One of his references is Tim Quinn, who is listed as a consultant for Broad Academy. (page 9 in this doc: Is Edmondson an "alumni" of Broad? Are Edmondson and Osborne the only candidates with Broad associations?

  2. Edmondson went through the Michigan Leadership Institute Superintendents Academy. I think but am not positive that this is the SUPES Academy, which is related to the Broad Academy. But it's also possible he went through it before MLI expanded the range of the SUPES Academy to be national in scope and essentially take over the work of the Broad Academy. Tim Quinn is definitely associated with the Broad Academy.

  3. "Arrogance" can be very devisive. This scares me.