The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has narrowed its search for a new school’s CEO down to three candidates. A few weeks ago, it was announced that Jean-Claude Brizard will head Chicago Public Schools, along with an entirely new school board and a new Chief Education Officer. And in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder announced just yesterday that a former vice president of General Motors Corp., Roy S. Roberts will be taking over Detroit Public Schools as its emergency manager. All three school districts have had to deal with high dropout rates, students who live in poverty, declining overall populations, and poor academic performance on standardized tests. All of that has led to a high turnover in superintendents.
This morning, 90.3 WCPN’s call-in show The Sound of Ideas discussed the effects rapid turnover among schools chiefs can have on students, and how that turnover could be slowed down.
Dr. Theodore Kowalski, Professor and Kuntz Family Chair in Educational Administration at the University of Dayton has spent much of his time studying the performance of schools superintendents nationwide. He said his research shows that the average tenure of a school superintendent nationwide is seven years, but the average tenure of the superintendent of a large urban district is just under three years.
Kowalski said students lose out when the management keeps changing. He said each new leader comes in touting change and reform, but, “this was merely an illusion of change and that after a few years it was impossible to turn the systems around in that short period of time.”
He said superintendents move on from their posts so quickly, the change they envisioned rarely gets put into action. Plus, Kowalski said most superintendents start their new jobs without their own leadership teams. Instead, they inherit a group of people who are already embedded in the culture of the school district.
“So they’re coming in kind of as a loner,” Kowalski said. “While in the interim the status quo persists and that’s where I think the students get shortchanged.”
But superintendents in school districts like Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit often deal with budget shortfalls and difficult school districts, making the job increasingly difficult. Plus, there is always the allure of moving up and possibly into a better district.
You can listen to the entire show here: