A week from today, the Sacramento School Board (they call their members "trustees") will vote on Jose Banda as their new superintendent. (I am waiting to hear back from their Communications person on details.)
I suspect they will vote to offer Banda the contract and that he will accept. I'm also fairly certain he would start almost immediately.
That then opens the door for two things to happen.
One, the Board needs to appoint an interim superintendent.
Two, they need to decide on a process for finding a new superintendent. I'll offer some suggestions and then some thoughts about a former superintendent.
Now I do not believe the Board would appoint an interim and then just
keep that person on as permanent superintendent. They know better than
to do that and I believe they want a search. (Naturally, any interim
person could apply for the job just like any other candidate.)
It might seem the natural choice to pick an interim from the top SPS leadership. That would likely be Michael Tolley or Charles Wright.
I believe Mr. Wright has not been here long enough to fill that position. (As well, he certainly has shown the propensity to fire off barbs at the Board so I'd have to wonder at him as a choice.)
Mr. Tolley has been here for several years and knows the district. Problem is, he has a lot on his plate especially with the new math adoption and other work. If he were interim, who would do all that work?
I would suggest hiring former finance head, Bob Boesche. He would know this would be a short gig, he is known and well-liked by other staff and could do the work well. I'm hoping the Board will consider him.
As for the process of hiring a new superintendent, I'm hoping that the Board will NOT use some expensive search firm and go nationwide. These firms costs a lot of money and frankly, have not exactly proven their worth. A team of two consultants to provide logistics for the process would probably work just as well.
We need someone who has roots or wants to make roots here. The revolving door in SPS for superintendents has many reasons, not a single one. But getting someone to commit to Seattle would be a start (and I believe there should be a clause in the contract - with penalties - should the person leave before three years for anything other than health reasons).
I know of two, but possibly three, good candidates. Naturally, until the process is open, I am not going to reveal anyone's name. I also know there are other candidates out there whose names I have heard floated who are likely to get a big push from the ed reform crowd.
That's where the district is right now with this situation.
I recently read John Stanford's book on education, Victory in our Schools, from August 1999. The foreword tells the story of how his 6th grade teacher came to see his parents near the end of the school year and told them he would not be promoted. But his teachers were willing to work with him (and his parents) and he got the job done and was promoted. The book is "dedicated to teachers, the real and enduring heroes of our society."
He outlines how he could feel the pushback from the community over the Board even thinking of hiring a former Army general. But as he said,
"I knew, of course, the concerns of the parents and teachers. I knew the stereotype they held of the army general; a Pattonesque commander, inflexible and abrasive, more able to order than to listen, willing to sacrifice our city's children for a questionable cause."
"Thirty years of leading the military had taught me that most leaders are the antithesis of those traits. Leading means inspiring, not commanding."
The irony here is that his first description of an army general superintendent better described Maria Goodloe-Johnson's style than his own. He did inspire and that ability to inspire is something this district sorely needs.
He speaks of the "courage and love" of his teachers who supported him. (I personally do not believe teachers have an obligation to love students but good teaching does take a deep degree of caring and empathy.)
"Our school districts need this kind of courage and love becaus without them, we will never graduate children who are prepared to thrive in the competitive, knowledge-based world they will inherit. If we can't do what is difficult now, we subject them to far greater difficulties in the future."
I really like this thought because I believe it applies to everyone - including parents. I have lately seen, at several meetings, this feeling of "what can you do for my child?" which I find troubling because education is a two-way street. No teacher, no school can do it all for a child. No teacher, no school can create the home atmosphere that says, "school matters."
- Children spend only 10% of their time in school. The rest of the
time they are in the community - with their parents, in their
neighborhoods, exposed to the media - absorbing the countless influences
that shape their values, habits, ethics and self-images. And if these outside systems aren't pointed toward the classroom, toward promotion academic achievement, they distract from what we do in the schools. Too few people realize this and want it all to happen at school. It won't.
Some of his other key thoughts that need to be recognized as he says some things that many might not believe he could/would have said:
- I was handed a fine school districts. My observations and changes are the direct result of an effective leadership style applied to a new profession.
- I spent the first three months as superintendent meeting with teachers, staff, business leaders and parents..." How are you advancing achievement for all children? What is the most important thing we do? What are the challenges that get in our way?"
- He didn't like senority for teachers and felt it should be based on merit. He believed that academic progress should be part of a teacher's evaluation. But he could not understand how, if teachers are so crucial, they only got about 17 minutes a day for planning and a couple of days a year of PD?
- He also said that "business groups" sometimes "micromanaged the district's operations.
- Stanford was a "vision" guy but he didn't like other districts' eduspeak mission statements. He wanted that BIG vision statement. His big vision was "To be a world-class, student-focused learning system by 1999." Big vision with a specific goal. Learning, not teaching, because the end goal was "what did this student learn?"
- His strategic plan had four - count 'em, four - steps. That's a plan. It then had definable goals.
- A list of principles was part of the strategy and most of them were about keeping the money in the classroom, limiting adminstrative expenses and not spending money on programs not in the plan.
- I was reading through the latest e-mail drop about the frantic days after our recent math adoption and the flurry of activity by principals/executive directors. Many of these e-mails reveal that schools are using a bit of the district curriculum and then supplementing with a lot of different other pieces. Stanford would have hated this. He believed in keep together so that you could see how curriculum worked at different schools and THEN making adjustments.
- He was a big believer in a syllabus. He believed that if each teacher filed one, both principal and parents would know what was going on in the class and when. It sounds simple but, for a parent, looking at a syllabus - a jargon-free syllabus - they would know from week-to-week what was happening in their student's classroom. They would see the progression of skills.
He said, "We made it hard for parents NOT to know how and what their children were doing (in school).
- He could be charmingly naive (or hopeful).
He thought every school had a volunteer coordinator (and many did back then and some were even funded by schools).
He wanted the Alliance to coordinate service groups to support low-income students who struggled. (The Alliance he describes in the book is unrecognizable today.)
- He was an environmentalist and one chapter sub-title is "The Environmental Education Compact: Growing 47,500 Green Guerrillas."
- The middle of the book has a checklist for every group - for superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, students, community, etc - on what they should be doing to support public education.
- He wanted principals to be leaders, not managers. He thought custodians should run building logistics and school secretaries could worry about bus schedules so principals could be working with teachers, parents and students.
- He absolutely was against vouchers and charter schools. "Both alternatives rob money from public schools." "The reality of charter schools and vouchers is that sophisticated parents will learn to 'work the system' as they do now and will get those 'elite' services for their children. Meanwhile, the majority of children will remain in the traditional public schools, which will have even less money than they have now to pay for basic education." He believed that technology was the future, not charter schools.
I have said before that Stanford's early death left us in Seattle somewhat like the country when JFK was killed - not really knowing how great that person and their leadership would have been.
But Stanford was inspiring and he knew how to bring everyone to the table and make everyone feel equally important and worthy of attention.
We need a leader more than ever in this district.