Leadership change is needed for Seattle Public Schools, and it is needed now. Whether it is the reality or just a perception (fueled by very biased media coverage in the Seattle Times and elsewhere), many Seattle residents think Seattle Public Schools are in crisis. Allowing that perception to remain unchanged over the next 10 months could be quite harmful to the health of the district.
In the Informal Poll - Hire Norm as Interim? or Keep Raj Until Next August? on this blog today, the majority of respondents felt that hiring Norm now as interim superintendent made sense. As I've talked with people over the last few weeks, I've been surprised at how many people share that opinion, both those parents deeply involved in working to improve the school system and the taxpayers/voters who don't usually pay much attention to education issues. The support for hiring Norm Rice seems to cross racial, ethnic and income lines. I have found support for the idea among some people who supported Raj and thought he did a good job as superintendent, and among some people who thought Raj's resignation was good news.
School Board members, have you done any polling of your constituents on the idea of hiring Norm Rice as interim superintendent? Are you finding the same kind of support that I am?
If the School Board takes the courageous step of buying out Raj's contract and hiring Norm Rice as interim superintendent, I believe not only will public perception of Seattle Schools improve, but public perception of and support for School Board members will also improve. If School Board members go against expectations and turn down the chance to play turf and ego games over this issue, the genuinely good and hardworking people who are on the School Board might get a chance to be successful, working in tandem with a superintendent with political and leadership skills. And a few public successes could certainly improve the re-election hopes of School Board members next November.
If instead, as Brita Butler-Wall has indicated, the School Board decides to insist that nothing is really wrong with Seattle Public Schools and it is okay to go forward with business as usual, then I believe the pressure will mount for some or all of the elected School Board positions to be replaced with appointed School Board members.
The Seattle Weekly, which has been absent from education coverage for months, has an article this week, "Board Stiffs" by Nina Shapiro, which addresses the idea of appointed School Board members. Shapiro writes, "The idea [of appointing School Board members] is being taken seriously enough that Mayor Greg Nickels is expected to issue a statement about the appointment process this week."
So, leadership change is needed for Seattle Public Schools, and it is needed now. The only question is will it be the superintendent who is replaced, or School Board members, or both?