Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Search for Todd Roberts 2.0

On an email I saw recently, someone referred to the search for a new Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent as "the search for Todd Roberts 2.0."

Todd Roberts, you might remember, was the well-liked superintendent of Ann Arbor schools before Pat Green. He left for greener pastures in North Carolina.

Todd Roberts. Picture taken from the
University of North Carolina School of Education
Before Todd came to Ann Arbor, he was a deputy superintendent in Oakland County's Birmingham school district--but he lived in Ann Arbor. He was named 2009 Superintendent of the Year for Michigan Region 8.

I think this Ann Arbor Chronicle article offers some insight into what people liked about Todd Roberts.

Roberts Will Be MissedThe fact that Roberts’ contract was just extended was a sign of the board’s confidence in his leadership, according to Mexicotte. “He’s the whole package,” she continued, “You can’t replace somebody like Todd Roberts – you just hope you can find someone as good.”
Satchwell echoed that sentiment, crediting Roberts with stabilizing a district fraught with conflict when he was hired, and establishing a strategic plan to carry AAPS forward. “He is a realist and a troubleshooter,” Satchwell said. “He is good at bridging, and has worked well with every corner of the district. He’s one of the most approachable guys in the world.”
In a phone call earlier today, long-time board member Glenn Nelson praised Roberts’ humility in creating a team atmosphere where people could truly work together productively. He also acknowledged Roberts’ role in getting the Comprehensive School Improvement Program (commonly known as “the Bond”) improvements back on track when he was hired in 2006, and by leading the district’s strategic planning process in a way that made it more useful than it had been previously. While allowing that he expects a smooth transition, Nelson admitted, “I very much regret his resignation. I think he’s been an excellent superintendent, and I’m sorry to see him leave.”
This time round, will we get Todd Roberts 2.0? I don't think so.
Todd Roberts had experience as an assistant superintendent; he had excellent people skills; and he had experience working in education in Michigan.

Whatever you think of Jeanice Kerr Swift and Brian Osborne, neither of them has the experience in Michigan that I think is critical. Thus--without assessing their superintending or people skills--in my opinion they are missing a key piece that would make them capable of being "the next Todd Roberts."

Would the "local" candidates have been able to be "the next Todd Roberts?"
I don't think so. Henry Hastings was an "outside, different" candidate who had not worked at a high administrative level in a school district. Ben Edmondson was missing the classic "middle step." Most candidates for a school district the size of Ann Arbor's would have first been a deputy superintendent or a superintendent elsewhere. Although Sandra Harris, on paper, looked like she did have that experience, she hadn't even bothered to update her letters of recommendation--from 2009! That is not a mistake Todd Roberts would have made.

[I did not go to the interviews, but I think Kellie Woodhouse did a nice job with her live blog. Day 1 here; Day 2 here.]

Of course I was left wondering--did the school board overlook another "Todd Roberts?" An assistant superintendent or a superintendent in a southern Michigan school district?  There were 61 applicants, and we only know about the six semifinalists.

After the last two years, I really hope that if the two finalist candidates do not suffice, that the board feels that they can reopen the process, and does not feel that they have to hire someone immediately.


  1. I wonder why he left too? Was it really about the money?

  2. He said that he was leaving to be closer to his, and his wife's, aging parents. However, he did get paid a lot more in his new job.

  3. I would guess there is more to the story..
    Maria Huffman

  4. North Carolina is not quite the attractive place it looked like a couple years ago, though.