Forget the conflicting rumors over whether Ron Huberman is or is not stepping down as head of the Chicago school system, this is actually bigger news. While Huberman is just getting his feet wet as chief of the Chicago schools, Mark Roosevelt dove in head-first a long time ago in Pittsburgh.
Apparently, he's resigning to become the head of Antioch College when it re-opens next fall -- though the college says there are a few more hurdles he has to leap before they'll be ready to make that decision.
But the timing of the move makes it both newsworthy and surprising. And not just because he's jumping ship in the middle of the school year (December 31st, to be exact). Few teachers would ever consider abandoning their students mid-year, so it seems somewhat tasteless for a Superintendent to do it (or maybe it just proves that teachers are more important, since the district will likely operate about the same in January as it did in December).
Roosevelt is in his sixth year leading Pittsburgh's schools (which is a fairly long time for an urban superintendent) and was, seemingly, right in the middle of his master plan for reform. During his time he's implemented massive reform -- closing 22 schools and restructuring countless others, founding the "Pittsburgh Promise" (guaranteed college tuition for district grads that attend in-state public schools), and winning a $40 million grant from the Gates Foundation to overhaul teacher evaluation and pay last year, among many other things. While he's upset more than a few teachers and parents, the school board is in his pocket, there are no national headlines about his brusque personality, and the mayor isn't going to be replaced anytime soon.
In other words, he pretty much had free reign to mold the district as he saw fit in the coming years (and his pay was recently upped to $240K, with which one can live like a King in eminently affordable Pittsburgh, as part of a new five year contract). He was on top of the world. And now he's leaving. What? What am I missing?
Considering that he had never worked in schools prior to his job in Pittsburgh (he was a lawyer/politician/businessman), and that he's faced so little opposition from the Board of Ed, it's hard to believe that he's burnt out (though, I suppose, not impossible). He's originally from Massachusetts and attended Harvard, so there's not a blindingly obvious tie between him and Antioch (in Ohio). He's never been a college administrator before, so he's not returning to his previous profession. It's hard to believe that Antioch would be courting him if a giant scandal was about to be exposed. So, why's he leaving? You got me. He's changed positions and professions quite a few times, so maybe he was just ready for a new challenge.
But considering that he was right in the middle of major reform in Pittsburgh, it seems like an awfully odd time to walk away.
It also exemplifies one of the problems with education. Every time people start to adjust to a wave of reform, somebody new comes along and demands something else. But people still wonder why teachers and school systems are so resistant to change.
It will be very interesting to see who gets hired as his replacement and which reforms he/she continues . . . stay tuned.