Well it is time to look at DeKalb Schools’ latest hire for superintendent. This will be DeKalb’s fifth superintendent since 2009. Did we improve ourselves or do we have more of the same?
If blogs and conversations with friends and neighbors are any indicator, not everyone is taken with Dr. Green. In all fairness, anyone who has worked in an inner city school district will have a mixed record. It is simply the nature of the beast. We should look for progress and different approaches to the way we are offering a public education today. Dr. Green has some plusses and minuses. Does he appear to be a trendsetter? I don’t think so. It seems to me that we are getting a typical superintendent that hasn’t been a big innovator or change agent. Of course only time will tell if he shakes things up in DeKalb.
He seems to have some of the same issues that Dr. Atkinson had coming from a smaller, impoverished system. In the 1960’s the Kansas City school district had approximately 100,000 students. By 2010, there were less than 18,000. The KC district went through court ordered spending programs in an effort to integrate schools in the 1980’s and 90’s. That effort failed. In the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s the KC district closed many schools as enrollment declined. In 2007-2008 several schools were successfully removed from the district and put under the control of a neighboring school district. That may be how DeKalb will have to go to see any real progress. I am firmly convinced that large public school systems will die an agonizing death soon if we do not put away tradition and try to administer to our students in a climate where they can be more successful. Yes, independent school districts, charters, and possibly home schooling may be where the salvation will come from. Size does matter.
What did the DeKalb Board of Education do here? I suspect that they had better candidates, but could not get the requisite 4 votes they needed to hire a mover and a shaker. Or maybe they could get 4 but not 5 and didn’t want to bring in a new superintendent on such a slim margin. Perhaps, Dr. Green was the only candidate that could get over 4 votes. Our system really needs a person that is willing to come in and reconstitute our staff at all levels and re-staff schools. Of course that would be a danger to the jobs program the school system is running. Given my past experiences, I know there were people in the room that would fight against anyone they sensed would bring significant staffing changes.
“What about the children, Don?” The majority of the people in leadership at the county are only interested in feathering their nest. The students in DeKalb are a means to an end for them. When we hired Dr. Atkinson, I (my opinion) knew we had at least two better candidates. Dr. Atkinson didn’t even make the cut when we first started looking at candidates. Whenever the leadership in DeKalb feared we were getting close to being serious about a candidate that could bring change, sabotage ensued. After successfully eliminating qualified people from the process, the board eventually maneuvered to hire Dr. Atkinson. That was a 6-3 vote with myself, Dr. Pam Speaks, and Nancy Jester voting against her hiring.
Another dynamic in this particular search was the game played by Michael Thurmond. I am certain Thurmond lobbied hard for the job. He will never admit it, but he did. I still know several people at the palace. They keep me filled in. Thurmond and his operatives were trying to blow up the search process. It may very well have been that Dr. Green was the only choice that could get the votes and put an end to Thurmond’s time at the helm.
The difference in this go round is that Pam Speaks, Nancy Jester, and I publicly voted our displeasure and stated that we had better candidates, with better records. We spoke out about how the search process was concerned about many things but improving the results for kids was not one of them. Well, you know how that turned out. For whatever their reasons, this BOE did not have the intestinal fortitude to voice any objections they may have had. They were probably told to look united. Thank you, Dr. Elgart, and some DeKalb legislators for putting us in this predicament. The BOE is afraid to voice their real feelings because the legislature has decided to believe that if board members hold hands that will translate into higher student achievement. That is bunk and has no basis in fact but that myth has been enshrined in state law to the detriment of our schools. We saw a board removed because of the perception of discord. And what value did that removal provide? Scores are lower now than they were three years ago. We are spending more than ever on the central office. We continue to pay a ridiculously high millage rate. But remember Pam Speaks and Nancy Jester were expelled for being spot on about picking a superintendent. With that kind of history this board bailed. The lesson is that our state would prefer you be united behind failure than correct in your judgment.
Have you looked at Dr. Green’s contract? There are some bad things in the document. Once again I am against the “no receipt” expense account. This isn’t new. All the superintendents have had this and it stinks. The worst part of the contract, to me, is the $15,000 yearly increases he gets if he stays. He is already near retirement age. His family is here. That is a primary reason for his relocation according to Dr. Green. In three or four years he will have earned over a million dollars and he can just fade into the sunset a happy and rich man with multiple pensions.
I am disappointed that no one on our BOE spoke up. I do understand why. You also must be cognizant that each BOE member has but one vote. Did they use it wisely? Were they wrong? Why do school board members seem to feel that they cannot voice their convictions?
Until this school system is reconstituted it will ultimately fail.
In spite of my feelings I do wish that Dr. Green proves me wrong.