Norm Rice or Tom Vander Ark for Superintendent?

The idea, which has been around for a while, of Norm Rice being hired as the next Seattle Schools superintendent, was given extra life today by the PI in their article, Will Rice ride to schools' rescue? and by the Seattle Times in their article, Mayor pushes Rice for Seattle school head.

An article in the Seattle Times this week, Vander Ark steps down from education post at Gates Foundation, makes me think Tom Vander Ark is throwing is hat in the ring for the Seattle Schools superintendent job. According to the article, he is staying with the Gates Foundation with a new position in January 2007 as a Senior Fellow. But I also read a recent quote of his that no one should stay in a foundation for too long, and that he wants to get back in the field.

Vander Ark is the candidate touted by Robert Jamieson, Jr. in the PI today in his column, Jamieson: Take this schools job and love it. But he also discussed the Norm Rice rumor and other potential ideas, such as the Buffalo schools superintendent, Dr. James Williams.

Here are some selected links about all three possible candidates:


Vander Ark:


I know it is the job of the School Board to recruit and hire the superintendent, but let's help them out. Who do you think we should be considering for the job? And what should the criteria be for selecting a new superintendent?


Anonymous said…
We hope a list of serious candidates is developed and suggest that Carla Santorno should consider the position.

We also feel that Supt. Manhas is not the only one who should be faulted for the current mess.

The SPS senior management who made their recommendations and documented them in phase 1 and 2 should be held accountable by the next superintendent.

Or have the same integrity as Mr. Manhas and resign.

In the Enron case, founder Ken Lay trusted and relied on CAO Richard Causey, CFO Andrew Fastow and CEO Jeff Skilling. Each executive was found guilty of securities fraud.

This poorly executed closure process sets an example of education fraud for others to debate and study.
Anonymous said…
To be fair, what would any of these candidates bring to the table, other than the cultivated familiarity of who they know or who knows them?

I agree with the previous poster who pointed out that Raj Manhas should not stand alone. And just because my partner almost accepted a job in Buffalo, I offer this:

Due to the economic slump that Buffalo has suffered for so many years, it's likely that no one in Mr. Williams' job would be seen as satisfactory, but again, what does he bring to the table, other than having his contract bought out when he was in Ohio? (Didn't the SPS board have a finalist with the same problem? Is this a widespread problem among school administrators?)

I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I think the actual problems we're going to address via a new supe have to be prioritized before a short list can be agreed upon. The closure process seems to show that the minimal priorities still can't be agreed upon.

I like the suggestion of extending an offer to Carla Santorno.
Anonymous said…
More on James Williams:

Sketchy accounting practices. An advocate for charter schools and a union buster. Bring on the popcorn.
By all accounts, Supt. Manhas was a strong COO before he was asked to step into the Superintendent job--a job he wasn't ready for. Carla Santorno is even newer to her job than Supt. Manhas was. So far, she seems like a great CAO. Some day she might make a great Superintendent for Seattle, but why not let her prove herself in her CAO job first? I'd rather see us hire a great leader into the Supt. position, and still have a strong CAO in Ms. Santorno.
I hope the Board talks to Dr. Mike Riley, Superintendent of Bellevue. I've heard him speak a number of times and also interviewed him as part of the CACIEE (Supt's committee) work. He is a leader who understands what it means to focus on academic excellence. In Seattle, we've had a goal of closing the achievement gap for years now, but without a strategic plan, accountability, measurements, etc. progress has been slow. In Bellevue, they focus on higher expectations for everyone. One measure they use is getting kids into AP classes, and they've been so successful that ALL FIVE of their high schools made the Newsweek Top 200 high school list. Not a single other high school in the state made the top 400. Interlake High School in Bellevue was # 44 on the list with 30% of kids getting free or reduced lunch. Garfield has 22% of kids free/reduced lunch plus houses the APP cohort, and was the only Seattle school in the top 1200 at # 469. There is lot more to high schools than the Newsweek list, but the key thing is that Dr. Riley is a leader with a vision, not afraid to make decisions, and his actions are always directly connected to his strategies for academic excellence.
Anonymous said…
Given that we have months and months, can anyone suggest how the board might be able to gather input from a wide variety of constituents before they make a choice? It seems to me that this is an opportunity to gather the community behind some necessary qualifications, if not a particular candidate.
Beth Bakeman said…
In Boston, hiring a new superintendent took almost a year. Here's a description of their process:

"Mayor Menino and the Boston School Committee appointed the Search Committee in December 2005 to coordinate the process of identifying and screening candidates for the position. The 12-member panel includes broad representation from parents and community leaders in business, higher education, human services and other sectors. Earlier this year, the Search Committee initiated an extensive public process to engage the community in discussion about priorities for the school district and characteristics and qualifications needed in the next Superintendent. The process included five public hearings, attended by hundreds of parents, students, community members and other citizens interested in the search process. Testimony at the hearings provided the Search Committee with a sense of the community's priorities for the next leader of the Boston Public Schools to inform the screening and interview process. The Search Committee retained the national search firm of Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler, Inc., to assist in the recruiting process, which drew a diverse applicant pool of more than 100 candidates."


And in Providence, the process included an online questionnaire and two community forums, as described at:

One interesting quote from that description is that "In addition to our request for your best thinking, the committee would like to ask for your understanding. A national search process is most effective when it remains confidential until finalists are announced. The best candidates for this job are likely to have current, highly visible roles in their communities, so we must maintain confidentiality as we do our work."
Charlie Mas said…
We have already done a lot of this work just three years ago. There WERE public meetings where people were asked about their priorities for the next Superintendent. I don't think we need to go through that exercise again.
Anonymous said…
Well, I wrote to Mr. Jamieson after I read his column. What I wondered was if Mayor Rice wanted the job, would the Board bow to the Mayor and say yes? Mayor Rice is a bright guy who knows this city and had a special interest in education during his tenure as mayor. He would bring gravitas and believability to the job. However, is it fair to not have a open application process? Wise?

Also, Dr. Williams, well, Google him and you'll find what I found (albeit in 10 minutes, not a long time). He was superintendent of Dayton Public Schools, was forced out with a golden parachute of ($250,000) because of financial problems (maybe due to his CFO, shades of Olchefske) and was superintendent in Buffalo. In both places, he had teachers' union problems. In Buffalo he tried to stand up to the union because they were getting 100% health insurance coverage (how did that happen?) and he wanted to change that. In both places he is described as brusque. Uh oh.
I'd have to see more but I'm not liking what's there to see.

Vander Ark. I said in previous blog that he seemed naive and uninformed when he was Federal Way superintendent (there was an profile article on him a couple of years back in the Northwest Sunday magazine). He has smartened up since working for the Gates Foundation but I think is very much in the mode of Gates' beliefs (and if you go along with them, fine, but I'm just saying that's his outlook) and probably heavy public-private partnerships. Again, okay but we need to get a grip on what this means to our district and how it will work.

I also think that the district should find the money to up the salary to $200,000 to get the best possible candidates.
Anonymous said…
Gave Carla a note asking her to consider the superintendent job. She smiled and said thanks.

I would love Mike Riley over in Bellevue. I spoke to the assistant superintendent there a couple of years ago about the changes they were undertaking. At the end of our conversation I asked if she thought he would consider coming over here. She laughed and said no. can't hurt to ask. He would be my number one choice.
Anonymous said…
As regards Bellevue and Mr. Riley -
Leslie here,
Know that a good part of the High Schools' high scores and inclusion on the "Top US lists" is accomplished on the backs of kids being forced to go to Robinswood Alterntive School - (Not by choice) the dumping ground for the "non-smart." Understood Alternative Schools to be by choice. Check out the Bellevue Webpage for the total lack of advanced placement opportunities, test scores, etc. Is a long brewing issue in Bellevue and I suspect would NOT meet with acceptance in Seattle. We have our own problems in SPS without creating more for an eltist system that doesn't include diversity.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools