Thursday, December 9, 2010

Are Superintendant Searches a Thing of the Past?

After NYC hired an outsider (Joel Klein) to run their schools, Pittsburgh decided to hire an outsider as well (Mark Roosevelt).  Both leaders were controversial, but can claim some successes.  And both were generally liked more by policy wonks than by teachers or parents.

When NYC decided to replace Klein this year, the process was done behind closed doors and -- as far as anyone can tell -- exactly one candidate was interviewed (update: apparently, at least one other person may have been offered the job).  The end result is a prospective new chancellor (Cathleen Black) that may be even more strongly disliked by parents and teachers.  When Pittsburgh needed to replace their superintendent this year, meetings were held behind closed doors and exactly one candidate was interviewed.  The announcement was made today that the board will hire Deputy Superintendant Linda Lane as the next leader of Pittsburgh Public Schools on Monday.  It remains to be seen how parents and teachers will react to the news, but it seems unlikely that the move was made to assuage their concerns.

There, are, however, three major differences:

1.) Lane has spent almost 40 years working as a teacher and administrator in public schools, while it was unclear whether Black had even ever set foot in a public school when her hiring was announced.

2.) While Bloomberg was evasive and seemed to insinuate that others were interviewed for the position, the Pittsburgh Board of Education is being upfront about it.  Said the board president: "What would be the point of spending the money to do the search when what we wanted was right here?"

3.) Many in the press and public turned on Bloomberg after his announcement.  Judging by the glowing article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however, Lane is apparently already beloved by the press.  It will be interesting to see if the public feels the same way.  Despite the glowing review, it does seem somewhat unlikely that a board of ed that didn't even feel the need to pretend that they were conducting a thorough search would emerge completely unscathed.

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