Departing Superintendents and Student Achievement

Ron Huberman will depart Chicago Public Schools later this month, Chancellors Rhee and Klein have recently departed DC and NYC.  Pittsburgh lost Superintendent Roosevelt, the Wake County NC school board is closer to announcing finalists for their top educator position.  The list of departing school superintendents goes on and on.  It always will.  It becomes fodder for rumor, power grabbing, and letting-up on the work for kids and supports for teachers.  It becomes a time for relaxed focus.  It must not if kids are really the most important priority of schools and school systems.

When I knew that I would be departing the superintendent position in Duval County FL, I also knew that I could no longer try to finesse resolution to multiple ethical issues on the parts on two of the school board members.  My departure was imminent, despite a very supportive business community, wonderfully supportive parent groups, terrific school principals, and partners in the employee unions and a small supportive minority of the school board for what was right.  They all knew right from wrong and knew my departure would likely facilitate the lack of honor and the corruption to continue.

The most important issue for me during that transition was to ensure that the work for kids, the positive movement on academic and business results of the school district continued, after my departure.  During my final days, I worked behind the scenes to help the school board (yes even those who had become adversarial) position my deputy for interim (and later permanent) succession.  He turned out the be the best choice for continuing our work–especially those positive changes that took the most organizational, and political effort.

This message is not about me, or Duval County, or even Huberman, Rhee, Klein or Wake County.  It is about school principals and their central office supports.  During times of transitions such as these, real leaders help intensify the work for kids, help teachers and all others maintain bright clarity in the work–and resist the urge to spend energy on those dynamics associated with a departure of the person in the top box.

Real leaders have real discipline to focus on what they should and hold others accountable for the same–in times of transition and always.

JW

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7 Comments on “Departing Superintendents and Student Achievement

  1. Dr. Wise,

    I love this!!! Every day I come in with passion and commitment to my students. My expectation for high standards and excellence is uncompromising and necessary to provide ample opportunities for children.

    • Hi LaQuita. I certainly have come to know this about you. Keep it up. Unfortunately, we have much work to do to help all adults in this work learn to refrain from the trappings of “power”. Especially when school chiefs leave, it becomes seemingly seductive to enter into banter and discourse about the shifting power, the power gaps, and the power grabs. The power we must focus on is the power we give kids and teachers when we support their work and hold them accountable for high standards of work. See you in a few days–headed to Chicago now. JW

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