There’s a lot of finger-pointing these days at Seattle Public Schools. Who is to blame for the crisis we are in: Superintendent Raj Manhas? The School Board? The angry protestors? The State for under-funding education? The one thing we know for sure is: It’s the children who suffer when the adults can’t provide the necessary leadership.
Along comes a great suggestion from a group of community leaders who understand that it doesn’t matter who is to blame—the real question is: What are we going to do about it? And one leader is so passionate that he has offered up his own services. That leader is former Mayor Norm Rice.
Contrary to reports, nobody has asked the School Board to choose between Norm Rice or a national search. Norm Rice has offered to serve only as interim Superintendent while the best long-term candidate is identified. And, let’s face it: After Superintendent Manhas’ much publicized difficulties with the School Board and parents, it might take longer than year-end to find a replacement. It will certainly be harder than the School Board’s botched national search three years ago which yielded nothing when all of the finalists withdrew their names.
Meanwhile, who is leading the district? Despite Superintendent Manhas’ best intentions, he will be unable to champion much-needed change without the support of the School Board or the community. And, other district executives are jumping ship. The CFO and Director of Communications have resigned, and there are signs that others will follow. How is a leader who is leaving supposed to convince others to stay or effectively recruit the most talented replacements?
Norm Rice, on the other hand, is a proven, decisive leader, who understands this city and knows how to unite communities. He is capable of rebuilding confidence from an increasingly discontented public whom we rely on for support when our district levies come up for renewal in February. Norm Rice brings prestige back to the position, paving the way for a world-class superintendent to follow.
How disappointing that the first reported reaction of the School Board was negative. Now is not the time for egos and power struggles—there’s too much at stake. No more finger pointing or defiance. Norm Rice doesn’t need this job. It’s all about helping the children in our great city, who deserve much better than they are getting. It’s time we all stood together for a change. No matter what your opinion is about who got us into this mess, there is no denying that former Mayor Norm Rice is the most logical, constructive idea we’ve heard yet for working together to get us out of it.
(Originally written, along with input from other CPPS Board members, to submit as guest editorial to the Seattle Times, but looks like they're already covered with Lyn Varner's editorial in today's paper.)
And to reiterate what Beth said below in her post, please make your views on the superintendent known, whatever they are. You can email them to Superintendentsearch@seattleschools.org (now a featured link on the right side of this blog).