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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Internal, Local, or National

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.

25 comments:

RosieReader said...

"Anyone notice that all three of them are lawyers? I don't think this is a job for a lawyer.'

WTF? So if you've trained and practiced as a lawyer, you can't be a more general leader? Get your head out of the sand Charlie. Many many attorneys have made the transition to chief executive very well.

Now maybe three are reasons that these three folks wouldn't be on your short list, but don't stereotype beyond those individuals.

Jon said...

If others, as I did, want to find out more about Mary Jean Ryan and Holly Miller, here are summaries of their careers.

Mary Jean Ryan:

http://www.ccedresults.org/about/who-we-are/

Holly Miller:

http://www.financeproject.org/special/about/miller.cfm

I'd very much like to hear more about both. From what I see, they both look like strong candidates for superintendent.

Dorothy Neville said...

I think Noel Treat is an interesting potential candidate. Sure, he's only been here a year, but what a year! I think he's learned a lot about the superintendent's job, both from being deputy superintendent working closely with Susan as well as attending the board retreats. I do *not* think he would leave all of Teaching and Learning to Cathy Thompson. He has two youngsters in SPS and he and I have had some candid conversations about T&L. He's thoughtful. Being a lawyer is a plus, given that the superintendent has a lot of laws to follow. How many folks coming through education would really have what it takes to follow the construction budget and contracts?

I haven't heard him speak in public, except at board meetings. One thing Susan does have is a great public speaking ability and presence. Do we need someone with that to instill confidence in the general public? Or would Treat's intelligence and earnestness be sufficient? Perhaps.

Patrick said...

A regional search would have some advantages compared to a national search: cheaper, because the candidates would not have to travel as far. And a candidate from elsewhere in Washington should at least be familiar with state laws and the state superintendent's office. They would not be caught be surprise by seasonal depression that affects many people coming to the Pacific Northwest from sunnier climates.

mirmac1 said...

Although this is not true for all lawyers BUT lawyers are officers of the court and must respect for the law and "represent the legitimate interests of all parties and the general good of society" (Wikipedia!) Now that's more than is required of me as an average nudnik.

Of course I recognize your post is purely your opinion, and I totally disagreed with your opinion on retaiing Enfield so whatever.

Holly Miller is a Hell No. Her office presides over an ineffective mayoral fiefdom. Her office is to thank for justifying MGJ's cramming of MAP down our throats. She used to be Exec Dir of the New Schools Foundation (now merged with LEV).

Mary Jean Ryan is on the payroll of the Gates Foundation via her one woman Ed Reform group Community Center for Education Results, at the same time as she sits on the State Board of Education. CCER has on its Board Gaurab Bansal, NW TFA lawyer, who hobnobbed with Jennifer Wallace at the PESB. So double down on the HELL No.

Both these two are career bureaucrat. No thanks.

mirmac1 said...

Dorothy, in answer to your point re: glibness and public speaking. If we look at MGJ as an (awful) example, one needn't be a talking head to inspire confidence. In my book, trust is more important than inspiring confidence. I agree that, without Noel, Susan's record would be far more spotty and questionable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I generally agree here with Charlie's conclusions. I'll bet we'll have some big search so the Board will be able to say "you wanted a search? Here's your search."

I still think internal is the way to go. This is a clean-up job right now and with the turmoil that has been going on,we need someone that staff can trust. That is just a huge issue.

Anonymous said...

Look people, talk all you want but there will be a national search. My hope is that geographic locals will also be encouraged to apply. Someone from within? Nobody has the qualifications that will make people beyond this blog happy.

If you want to totally empower The Establishment, go with Ryan or Miller...they are all hooked in w/ Gates and McGinn and Burgess and The Alliance. In this job it's the superintendent whisperers that I most fear. So, "Next please" And Rice or Watts? Puhlease. All figurehead, no qualifications. And figurehead for the business set to boot.

Informed Voter

dan dempsey said...

Mary Jean Ryan ....
No thanks,
I've had enough of odd expectations from the SBE. A Gates Foundation, financed CCED voice is hardly what is needed.

Students do NOT need a higher level of expectation without the support to meet those expectations.

SBE was all for Algebra II as a graduation requirement.

Gates Foundation was the mover and shaker and funder of the Common Core State Standards (originally done in secret by individuals hand picked for that task)..... David Brewster likes that style, I do not.

If MJR is the best you have, how about looking internationally?

==============
Algebra ONE ...

District pass rates on EoC
OSPI's End of Course assessment
Algebra Students in grade 9
............... ALL :Low Income :Black
Seattle..... 48.80% : 38.50% : 26.50%
Bethel...... 36.60% : 29.60% : 31.90%
Everett..... 36.20% : 33.10% : 23.70%

Clover Park 58.60% : 56.70% : 54.90%
Spokane.... 59.20% : 51.30% : 39.00%

WA St. avg: 53.70%: 43.80% : 35.90%

Notice the top 3 use "Discovering Algebra"
The Bottom two use "Holt Algebra"

Providing the students with a solid k-12 program that would allow a lot more students to learn Algebra One is needed before making Algebra II a graduation requirement.

Algebra One looks like a "questionable" graduation requirement at the moment.

Don't look for MJR to question the CCSS involvement that has local districts mandated to spend at least $165 million over the next five years rather than on the students they serve.

Please .... How about someone focused on teaching? ..... As in providing for the educational needs of each student as an individual ..... More unrealistic broad sweeping generalized requirements are NOT helpful.
-----
No Ed Refomites.

dan dempsey said...

I think a good case is being made for Treat in .... and Thompson Out.

Kathy said...

How about Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel?

http://www.rentonfoundation.org/maryaliceheuschel.html

I hear she is awesome- and is looking for career advancement.

In my opinion, knowledge of School Law is essential.

I'm intrigued by Noel Treat. Having kids in the district is a definate plus. I'm uncomfortable with National Search. Regional feels much better.

suep. said...

I'm not convinced that hiring from within JSCEE HQ is the answer. We need someone untainted and objective.

Treat has various ties to the corporate ed reformers. If he is a decent, intelligent fellow, that's great, but would he be overly influenced by these connections?

And I was troubled by his legal rationale to the board for not being concerned about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision (fall 2010) regarding the discrimination ramifications of allowing Teach for America, Inc. recruits to teach low-income kids. DeBell referred to his explanation as a "tour de force." But, if memory serves, this "tour" essentially amounted to a statement that Arne Duncan supports TFA, therefore, that would likely overrule what a regional court might say. (This was before Congress forced the issue and undermined the court.)

http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1686

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/congress/a-highly-qualified-gift-from-c.html

He also advised the board not to fire MGJ "with cause." I'm still not sure that was the best advice. I think some bluffing was going on, on the part of MGJ, and SPS caved.

StopTFA said...

Not surprisingly, I'm a one-issue hothead. Mary Alice Heuschel is on record as good to go on TFA if they were free. Shoot, she just needs to kiss up to the right people (rhymes with midge).

no more stinkin
supts in love with TFA

StopTFA said...

Yes, Treat was wrong and he deserved to get the paddle (instead DeBelle threw his hankie). I believe Treat learned at that point that lots of us are watching and willing to call him out on things.

On the MGJ matter, that's a tough one without seeing what kind of evidence they had on her. I was not particularly keen on taking Pam Eakes word that MGJ was a mere stooge but not directly complicit.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of leadership changes-

Dear Alliance for Education,

I received in the mail today your request for a year-end contribution.

No, I will not be continuing my past support of The Alliance. Yes, Jon Bridge's calculated "teachers don't matter" comment as reported by this blog was the final straw, but as an active community member, I have seen other good he has done for children in Seattle over the years. Someday I may get over my dismay at his perspective.

My decision rests in your divisive and in my opinion wrongheaded leadership in the form of your CEO Sara Morris. I did not appreciate her agenda of pushing National Education Reform with Goodloe-Johnson and Enfield. I certainly did not appreciate the expenditure a few years ago of Alliance donations on the NCTQ "teachers are the problem" report. Then there was the recommendation letter of Goodloe-Johnson to other districts, written by The Alliance and exposed by this blog. I was and continue to be aghast.

In short, under Morris' leadership, and the Alliance board supporting her, The Alliance has become synonomous with National Education Reform, which in this past donor's opinion considerably diminishes your organization. Especially with a promised new push for charters in this state and district. What happened to support without a PAC-like agenda? That was The Alliance to which I happily contributed.

With a clean sweep leadership change of the past 4.5 years on the way at district headquarters, I look for you to follow suit. I would be pleased to see The Alliance and The District forge a productive new path together.

Until then, I will put my money to education groups that boost, not divide, Seattle's education community. There are many worthy candidates. You are no longer one.

Sincerely, and Troubled,

Past Donor

P.S. In the new year I will be asking my school to consider ways of processing our community donations other than through The Alliance.

Charlie Mas said...

RosieReader is right. I shouldn't presume that someone trained as a lawyer could not be good in this role.

Further, Dorothy and others make a good case for seriously considering Mr. Treat in particular. His performance has been very strong this past year and he has some experience which does appear to be applicable.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't expect to agree with the superintendent 100% of the time, so anyone with a past is going to have points of disagreement.

I don't penalize folks for having dealings with Education Reformers. I look at their work more than the work of their acquaintances. Look at the focus that Ms Ryan is taking - it is a direct effort to close the opportunity gap, not an indirect effort to de-professionalize teaching.

PODG said...

Noel Treat has all of the same concerns around him that SE had. He had four jobs in as many years. Anyone ask why his stint at City Light was so brief?

Hired by MGJ. Based primarily on his wife, who has Gates funded astro-turf running Carol Rava Treat.

I can assure you he is light on supervision experience, his "division" at the KCP was him and a share assistant for most of the time he was there.

Yes, he is nice. So wan Raj Manhas.

Let's try to look outside the JSCEE. How about Lee Vargas in Kent? Runs the 4th largest district in the state and used to work in Seattle, so wouldn't started with no local or historical knowledge.

StopTFA said...

PODG,

At least Vargas was apparently NOT receptive to TFA. He's worth a look-see.

My take on City Light was, who the hell would want to work for an ass like Carrasco?

And, actually, Neu in Federal Way comes across as a good guy. Refused to hire TFA will RIFing certified educators. It's all on SPSLeaks. It was their business mgr McClean who danced with Janis and Co.

Anonymous said...

PODG -
I am a bit curious as to the accuracy of your post. I worked with Mr. Treat for several years. His prosecutor's office divsion was at least six attorneys, if not more. He was also deputy director of a county department and then chief of staff for the county executive where he had a lot of supervisory and other responsibility. Having worked with him and knowing others who have for longer than me, I have no doubt he was hired by the school district based on his merit.
-Fran

Jan said...

Thanks, Fran, for the post on Noel. I don't know him personally, but had legal dealings with him when he worked for the county, and thought he was smart and effective.

My sense is that MOST people we are going to be looking at will have done something, at some point or other, that has Ed Reform tags on it. It is so omnipresent, and sends its message (hidden beneath piles of grant money) virtually everywhere. Also -- whoever we get is going to need to be able to deal with, and talk to, the Gates Foundation, the Alliance, LEV, etc. Some people are so steeped in Ed Reform that it is pretty safe to say that (short of a Ravitch u-turn), they wholly support the Ed Reform agenda and will push it here.

For others, I think it is a matter of flat out asking them! Now, anyone who has lived in Seattle and followed the District knows that talk is EXTREMELY cheap -- but if the candidates know that there are a range of positions on the Board (from pro-Ed Reform (Harium) to anti- (McLaren and Peaslee, at a minimum -- as well as Patu, I think, with the others somewhere along the spectrum -- and that the Board as a whole is NOT interested in, and will not support with votes, a management plan that mindlessly follows Ed Reform fads -- I think we should be able to figure out where candidates stand.

Those candidates who have supported Ed Reform initiatives in past places need to explain what their thinking was -- and how is does/does not apply to ongoing debates like teacher evaluation, charter schools, national standards, high stakes testing, etc.

Because if ever we were even able to find someone who loathed anything that Ed Reform does -- I am not sure they would work for all the parents out there who hear things like "improving schools," "rewarding excellent teachers," raising standards through national standards, etc." and think -- ooh! THAT sounds like a good idea!

Ed Reform ideas (most of them) collapse from their own weight (not research backed, not "best practices" in any peer-reviewed sense, not even common sense (TfA)) -- but ONLY IF someone who can think critically and is willing to act independently is in charge.

anonymous said...

How bout we get someone from Renton so they can show us their strategies for supporting struggling students and substantially increasing their graduation rates.

sprung rablin

wsnorth said...

How about someone from Finland or Singapore?

seattle citizen said...

Here's an article in today's Times that looks at the weird fact that many of the losers and winners in the school board race either won their district but lost the race or lost their district but one the race.

School Board races' unexpected twist

Anonymous said...

WSnorth,

Great idea! Whoever it is must be from this planet, however.

WSsouth