Monday, September 22, 2014

Seattle Schools and the Search for a Superintendent

Update: search firms and candidates - you're welcome.
end of update.

The Board had a meeting of the entire group (without Carr) to discuss how to look for a superintendent.  It was a lot of logistics talk about finding the right search firm.

(I will try to get a electronic copy of the document they were working off of from Erin Bennett.)

They will be putting out an RFP around October 3rd and will decide on a firm by early December.  There was no firm date for the applications to go out for superintendent.  

The discussion was largely around finding a search firm.  I was a bit disappointed to hear they want to hire one because of the cost but I suppose it's too huge an undertaking to do on their own.

Legal counsel Ron English pointed out some items that would cost extra but possibly be of great use (like a Board member going with a search team member to visit a current superintendent's school).

Director Peters asked about how much salary might be weighted in a candidate's mind.  English said it was hard to know because there are other factors a candidate might be considering but that a competitive salary was important.

Director Peaslee asked that a "background check" be included in the request for professional and personal references.

Mr. English said in picking the search firm, it was important to be sure that the firm is sending its "A" team and not some "junior" person.

They are looking at a firm's qualifications, experience, references and awareness and understanding of SPS and the region.

Ms. Bennett mentioned asking firms to call out how and when they would conduct community engagement. Director McLaren said maybe they should "state their desires" for community engagement but Mr. English said it might be better to make it bland so as to see what the firms write in their application about community engagement.

Director Blanford said a "strong NW presence" would be good but that they needed to identify national candidates as well.  He said "We need a strong superstar superintendent from wherever we can get them."

I would disagree on this point.  I firmly believe that for urban districts (small, medium or large and Seattle is considered medium), that most people who are applying are now guns for hire.  Many of them have desire to be long-term superintendents.  I think both the late Maria Goodloe-Johnson and former super Jose Banda are good examples.  This new breed of superintendent goes from place to place getting things done on paper but they leave before any real results come out.

We don't need any more superintendents who are more interested in their career than the district.

The discussion went on about finding someone from the Western part of the U.S. (whether the West Coast or NW).

They were going thru the criteria and, at this stage, are going to weight firms' criteria like this:

- references 10% (but if they are bad, a candidate firm would be tossed out)
- awareness of Seattle/SPS, 10%
- approach to the work, 20%
- experience 20%
- qualifications, 20%
- capabilities, 20%


SeattleGuy said...

I'm curious how they are going to evaluate these criteria. "Approach to the work"? What objective measurement criteria do they plan on applying to that?

If I were to pick the criteria, it would be that they would have to pass a background and reference check, then weight at living in or near Seattle already (20%), work experience in Washington State and with Washington State laws (20%), qualifications for the position focusing on prior experience in management and budget of large organizations (40%), and familiarity with Seattle Public Schools and the issues of Seattle Public Schools (20%).

We want someone who deeply cares about Seattle, the children of Seattle, and the success of public Schools in Seattle. That means someone who loves this city and will be here for the long-term.

mirmac1 said...

snooze. Too bad the board's input is expended on this crap versus leading its one hire on priorities and actions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Guy, good questions to send to the Board.

I'm happy to say I believe there will some very good regional candidates.

Anonymous said...

No Mirmac. This is not crap. This is doing the work necessary to start a strong and credible search. A search must be done and done right. If it didn't, no doubt you would be one of the first to complain. In any case, your snarky comment does not advance this important process.


Anonymous said...

“A strong superstar superintendent from wherever we can get them”?
Seattle doesn’t need a superstar superintendent. What kind of idiotic statement is that? Looking for a “superstar superintendent” makes you wind up with crooks like this:
Or like this:

Or like this: and

Seattle needs a solid superintendent, one willing to take on some hard and thankless tasks, piss some people off, and do what is best for kids rather than the Gates Foundation, the Alliance for Ed, LEV, or the Mayor and his newfound interest in school governance. No former TFA flash-in-the-pants. No Broadies.
Just someone with years of experience as a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent. Someone with common sense and an understanding of the teaching and learning process as well as what needs to happen in administration to support both teaching and learning for all kids.


mirmac1 said...

Onward. Where did the last "credible" search leave us? I'm just ***** tired. Are you okie dokie? Well great. The entire superintendency market is incredibly unsatisfying.

To date, I have withheld judgement on the interim Supt. When do we get to the business of leading and achieving?

While we going through the motions again, staff carries on its merry way. "Governance and accountability? Who cares?"

Sorry if my snark doesn't "advance this important process". Not really. The rest of the world grinds on and our kids are ground into dust.

so long fat brains said...

Mirmac #relevant?,

What does 5x* means?

All I can say is no to whom ever brought Banda to us and then trained him to get a job closer to his pension. Not that group. Nor am I sorry to see him go. I like the new guy. Give him a deal to go year to year after the first. Can't be any worse than Enfield, MJG or Banda. And then let's clean house. Assistant Sups MT and Wright and the lawyer that hasn't helped us yet.... what's his name? Gone!


fat brains be gone said...

Mirmac excuse my typo but please what is 5x* and why do you have versions of your self? Is it like HMS #? or USN #?. Have you been to sea on tons of navel flotilla? I am pretty sure the Mirmac was a destroyer right?

On the lawyer, ha I thought it was Irish... But it is English! I pay attention I just don't have enough money to buy the action characters!

2 cents

mirmac1 said...

Sorry the 5X* should have been a 4x* letter word.

Melissa Westbrook said...

2 cents, very funny.

But CT hits the nail on the head (and I had the exact same thought when Blanford utter those ed reform talking points words "superstar superintendent."

Try for that and I guarantee you will get someone like Goodloe-Johnson or Banda. Guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with CT. No "superstars" need apply.

We need someone with local roots who cares about Seattle schools.

Also, no candidates previously from K-5 districts, as opposed to K-12.

We still have two more new middle schools to launch, plus the high school capacity issue to deal with, plus (hopefully) math adoptions for middle school (and high school???). We need someone with strong secondary school experience.

- North-end Mom

Carol Simmons said...

Dear Friends,

Don't despair. I know of at least two excellent candidates who hopefully will apply.

kellie said...

My two cents for what it is worth, is that a national search is unlikely to be a good investment of time or money.

When you do a national search, what you find are people who think about their career nationally rather than locally. Someone who is recruited to move to Seattle, can be recruited to move elsewhere. Every recruiter knows this. At one point in my life, I managed national searches. We routinely lost the best candidate because they would not move to Seattle because there were committed to something locally.

I vividly remember one candidate who really wanted to go to Seattle because it was his "dream job." We hired him, he signed all the papers, sold his house and when the moving van arrived, realized he couldn't do it. He turned down the job and found a new house in Austin.

Seattle needs someone who feels that way about Seattle.

While everyone likes to think they are more unique, Seattle truly is unique. Seattle was the only major Public School district to do VOLUNTARY desegregation. The other major urban districts had court-ordered desegregation. There is a huge difference between following a court-ordered-change and just designing-your-own-system.

The home grown nature of Seattle custom assignment plans directly impacts everything about this district. Seattle simply does not fit "national trends." Because of this national searches have resulted in Superintendants who are disconnected from the root cause of Seattle problems. The most obvious example is that urban districts across the nation were shrinking, so we closed schools, in spite of all the evidence that the district was growing.

We have only dealt with the tip of the iceberg regarding capacity issue. These capacity issues matter because capacity directly impacts educational outcomes, special education and every possible equity issue.

We need someone who knows Seattle Schools and is committed to Seattle is going to be in Seattle for the long haul.

Charlie Mas said...

Steve Scher is on Crosscut now and he's doing podcasts. He recently did one called "The Elephant in the Room" about why Seattle can't seem to retain a school superintendent. It was full of the usual misinformation and misunderstanding. One person on the show, Kimberly Mitchell, said, near the end of the hour-long podcast, that no superintendent worth their salt would take the Seattle job because... of the meddling board. Her only example of meddling was the board's selection of elementary math textbooks.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the Crosscut podcast. I will warn you that it is ambling, un-focused, and, to a disturbing extent, uninformed.