The school board gave a public demonstration Saturday for why we should disband it. The board was divided over who to pick as our new superintendent, or even whether to pick anyone at all. The voting revealed four of the nine members favored Doris McEwen, an education professor in Washington state. Yet after haggling over whether they should try to find new (hopefully better qualified) candidates, they eventually voted 7-2 out of desperation to hire the old white dude in the picture, former Chattanooga superintendent Jesse Register. See The Tennessean
and the City Paper.
So Register, who beat out a field of utterly forgettable applicants
and won his job in a political compromise, will take over without anyone's enthusiastic backing.
Is this any way to run our schools? It's not really the fault of these board members. A dysfunctional process is almost guaranteed when nine elected officials are making decisions. This school district needs a bold superintendent who's unafraid to upset teachers, principals and even parents. A superintendent can enjoy the freedom to operate that way only if he's answering to only one elected leader (i.e., the mayor).
Look at Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C
. She couldn't do what she's doing if Mayor Adrian Fenty weren't her only boss and giving her unqualified support. Wait, back up. She never would have gotten the job at all if an elected school board, and not Fenty alone, had been making the hire.
Register will have to hedge his bets to try to keep all his bosses happy. His first order of business isn't surprising, therefore. He says he'll ask the state Education Department for flexibility in meeting student achievement standards. That won't help students, but it would keep board members in power and save Register's job. The way things stand now, if the district fails for the sixth straight year, the state can give control to Mayor Karl Dean.
"We've got to do something to take the gun away from everyone's head," Register told board members. No, actually, we like the gun exactly where it is. In fact, it's time to pull the trigger.
Update: Council member Emily Evans says we don't need someone like Michelle Rhee. Evans wants to "ease along" with the old white dude from Chattanooga. Now that's what I call reaching for the stars! The City Paper calls for putting Register on a short leash.