Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Googling the School Superintendent Candidates: Is This the Best We Can Do?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 11:04 AM

I just googled Santiago Wood, one of three finalists to become Nashville's school superintendent, and guess what popped up? A lot of bad press.

It seems Wood resigned under pressure from his last superintendent's job, which was in Fresno, Calif. The Fresno Bee reports "Wood's critics at home had plenty of ammunition to fire."

During his fabulous tenure, high school students walked out to protest overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks and computers, not enough desks and infestations of cockroaches and rats. A state audit caused a scandal by revealing $35 million in flawed documentation tied to state construction contracts. And the city was outraged when Wood took a $25,000 increase in his compensation package as the school district struggled with a fourth straight year of budget cuts.

The district never met federal achievement standards in Wood's four years as superintendent, and he was forced out in 2004. Bet you won't find any of that on his résumé.

To leave, Wood got a nearly $500,000 buyout package. As part of the deal, school board members agreed not to speak ill of Wood in public.

"In [keeping] with the agreement, the only positive statement I can make is that he always dressed nice," former board member Manual Nunez said of Wood when Wood was applying to become a superintendent in suburban Atlanta this year. He wasn't hired.

OK, I realize this isn't the most attractive job in the world here. Our schools are failing, the mayor's threatening to take over the district and disband the board, and blacks and whites are at each other's throats over the new student rezoning plan. But if Wood is one of the top three candidates for our job, we may be in more trouble than we thought.

Bill Attea, whose search firm went looking for applicants, warned the school board last night that the results weren't all that exciting, but he added: "We feel we have three very good candidates." Really?

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