Atlanta Public School superintendent selection process criticized – should we learn from how the five largest cities conducted their searches?


WXIA reported (see here) that certain members of the Atlanta community were upset with the process to select the superintendent for the Atlanta Public Schools. The report contains the following quotes,

“We have been insulted; our intelligence has been insulted; Atlanta deserves better,” said Verdaillia Turner of the Atlanta Federation of Teachers [Note – Ms. Turner was on the Selection Committee until she resigned last year – see more here]. Monday morning she joined a group of teachers, parents, ministers and community activists who blasted the Atlanta School Board for the outcome of its two-year national search.

… they do have a problem with the fact that the community was not given a field of at least three candidates to meet and question.

“I don’t think that we should be a part of a coronation, … not a democracy, but a coronation,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald of Concerned Black Clergy.

OK – so let’s take a look at the selection process.

A Search Committee was selected by the Board (see here) and executive search firms were hired to conduct the process. Then a number of meetings were held to get community input on the criteria for the next superintendent (see here). A profile was developed (see here) and the search firms interviewed over 400 candidates from all types of disciplines. Then the Search Committee held numerous meetings to review candidate credentials and, after a very lengthy process, announced the selection of the sole finalist.

Further, in a fully democratic process, a Board of Education with six new members was elected this past November and December and the outgoing Board members deferred to the new Board to make the selection. The selection of the new superintendent was one of the main topics of discussion during the past election and the elected Board members were fully aware of not only the importance of the decision, but also of all the public input during the election.

The superintendent is the sole employee of the Board and, by statute they are responsible for the selection. I will also add that naming a slate of candidates composed of individuals in high-profile positions places the candidates that are not selected in precarious positions with their current employers. As a rule, the candidates want to remain anonymous until a finalist is named.

Based on my observations, the process was extensive, inclusive of public opinion, very well-managed and the selection was made by the new Board that was being responsive to their constituents.

And, maybe most important, as noted by the individuals protesting the process,

They said they don’t have a problem with 44-year-old Meria Carstarphen of the Austin, Texas school system or with her credentials.

But let’s not just look at the process in Atlanta. Maybe we can learn from how the five largest school districts in the country completed their superintendent selection process.

In New York City, the Huffington Post reported on 12/30/13, 

With just days before he begins his term as New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio (D) on Monday named longtime educator Carmen Fariña to lead the nation’s largest school system. 

There is no mention of other candidates being offered for public comment.

The Los Angeles Times reported on 01/12/11,

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s superintendent of choice made it past the L.A. School Board yesterday. Board members voted him in 6-0; only Steve Zimmer, of Board District 4, abstained. 

And from the article, no other candidates were interviewed by the Board.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on 10/11/12, 

Her [Barbara Byrd-Bennett] appointment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will make her the fourth Chicago Schools CEO in less than two years — and the first female appointed to the post since lawmakers gave Chicago’s mayor control over the city’s public schools and its leaders in 1995. 

Again, there is no mention of any public involvement in the selection process.

The New York Times reported on 10/10/08 the selection of the Miami-Dade, FL superintendent,

Mr. Carvalho, an 18-year veteran of the school district, was appointed without a formal application process. 

No public comment, no other candidates and no formal applications process.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported on 06/09/13 that,

While Skorkowsky is in his 25th year with the district, he has been in the board’s direct view only for the last two months as interim super­intendent. Before that, he was deputy superintendent of instruction for seven months…“I have had more intensive interview processes,” said parent Carrie Russo.

The Board made the decision without substantial public input or an extensive search process.

That is interesting – in all five instances, there was no process, no community input and no published slate of candidates. Maybe these school districts have something to learn from the extremely thorough process conducted by our Board and the Search Committee.

Again I will say to the Board and the Search Committee – well done!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

3 Responses to Atlanta Public School superintendent selection process criticized – should we learn from how the five largest cities conducted their searches?

  1. tom says:

    I agree 100% with your analysis.

    Voter turnout in the school board election was around 17% of registered voters, probably less than 10% of voting age adults. I am sure Ms. Turner voted, and I know she worked very hard trying to register voters and turn out the vote, but i wonder how many of the other complainers voted. Perhaps more importantly, how many of their neighbors voted? If you want to have an impact on the “democratic” process, then stop lobbing grenades from the cheap seats and get your community involved . . . in voting, not complaining.

  2. Chris Murphy says:

    The ‘old guard’ won’t ever go away, and they know they are in the center of the bulls eye. APS has always been a jobs program, when whites ran it, and blacks followed suit. It has never- I repeat, never- been known as a stellar example of education, and it sure as hell ain’t now.
    The Rev. Tim fought for Bev Hall, he and his “Concerned” Black Clergy. They were never ‘concerned’ with how the kids were treated, just that some people were obviously going to lose their jobs. The reason that would matter to ol’ Tim is that the Rev. has to get his money somewhere, and some of the good money that flows to incompetent people at APS goes into his church.
    The days of cronyism and incompetence, of big dollars for thin results, are over- it’ll take some time for all to get the memo. And I don’t mean to demean the good, competent, hard-working and dedicated folks at APS- they are a minority, but a large one. They’ve had to carry on as best they can, every day trying to find a way around the meat heads and careerists in the attempt to educate children. Their day is coming, hang in there folks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: