Where should we look for our next superintendent? Internally? Locally? Regionally? Nationally?
Who's available? Do we want them? Would they want the job?
Internally? I don't think so. Not that it isn't, generally, a good idea, but no one in the District Leadership looks ready, willing, and able. There's a real shortage of experienced education executives. Just moving down the org chart we find Noel Treat. Folks like him, respect him, and generally think he's honest, but he has about a year of experience in education and hasn't demonstrated executive skills. Holly Ferguson has ten years with the District and knows her way around, but I don't think she would want the job. I doubt she wants the trouble; she has enough. She's also short (possibly negative) on public popularity. Ron English also has the experience but he has some pretty bad political skeletons in his closet - and maybe some real ones. Anyone notice that all three of them are lawyers? I don't think this is a job for a lawyer. Robert Boushe would be a great choice, but the man was pulled out of retirement and is already overdue to return. We have abused his good nature too much already; he is in the eighth month of a four-month contract. I like and trust Pegi McEvoy, but she has her hands full with her current job. None of the folks I have mentioned so far come from the academics side of the house, so they would all need to rely on Cathy Thompson to take charge on all Teaching and Learning decisions. That, by itself, eliminates them from consideration. It goes without saying that Cathy Thompson is an unacceptable choice. Not only are her views on academics unacceptable, but there's no executive experience there. We could reach past Cathy Thompson to an Executive Director, but the only experienced candidates there are Michael Tolley - hell, no! - and Phil Brockman. People like and respect Mr. Brockman, but I don't see the executive chops. Internal promotions are a nice idea, but we just don't have a great internal candidate right now.
Locally? There are some establishment types who are going to promote Norm Rice but they don't know diddly about schools and I'm not that convinced that they - or any political retirees (Bob Watt, Greg Nickles, etc.) - are particularly good executives. Business leaders have the same problem as former politicos - no knowledge of the District and no knowledge of education. I nearly choke on the name, but Cheryl Chow wouldn't do. Also, I don't think her health would allow it. All of them would delegate the Teaching and Learning decisions to Dr. Thompson. This puts them all out of consideration. There are local education types, but does anyone want Sara Morris, Lisa McFarlane, Chris Korsmo or Liv Finne as our Superintendent? They would not represent a balanced approach and I don't think they would work well. There are two local names that I do find intriguing: Holly Miller and Mary Jean Ryan. Mary Jean Ryan, in particular, strikes me as an attractive option. She has some really bold, child-centered ideas. She has some reform appeal but sees children as individuals with unique circumstances - not statistical data points. I may learn something more about her that eliminates her from consideration, but from my limited knowledge she looks good. Holly Miller knows the district and education, is local, has some executive experience, and, so far as I know, doesn't have any unforgivable marks against her.
Regionally? I think regionally presents all of the same set of advantages and disadvantages as looking nationally, so we might as well look nationally if we're going to do that.
Nationally we could just post the position or we could hire a consultant to conduct a search. I can't really see the Board sorting through 40 applicants, so they will go the search route and have the consultants bring them five for review. I think that's the way it's going to go because I think that's the way that offers them the most CYA. More than anything else, I think the Board wants CYA. They want to show that they went through a process.