I will forgive Anthony Amato if the next time we call to interview him, he declines. Because of the brouhaha he's currently embroiled in as he fights to save his job as New Orleans school superintendent, I'm sure Amato hasn't realized an amazing coincidence.
About two years ago, District Administration readied a profile on the hot superintendent of Hartford, Conn. Amato was in the news at that time because he had been a finalist in some very public superintendent searches across the country. We wanted to see how his job-hunting affected what he was doing in Hartford. The story was written and going to press, when the wheels started to turn quickly. Under pressure from the board because, in part, of his job hunting, Amato abruptly resigned. The story, of course, was pulled.
This spring, about 18 months after Amato had taken the New Orleans job, we set out again to profile him and the drastic changes he was making in the biggest school district in Louisiana.
Again, the story was written and ready. Again, trouble interrupted. This time, with a state bill pending that would give Amato more power at the board's expense, the board of education decided to fire Amato before the bill could pass. Five possible replacements were named in the press and a 51-page folder of supposed Amato wrongdoings was readied by one of the board members. But as you'll see in this month's feature, ("Will He Survive?") this time the tale doesn't have such a neat ending. As I write this, on June 10, Amato still has his job and looks as if he'll retain it, at least until this magazine hits your desk.
The irony in this story is that one of Amato's biggest efforts upon joining New Orleans was to take the emphasis off policies and procedures and put it back on children and how to improve their education.
And that's where the lesson for other superintendents can come in. While I expect that not many of you will ever find yourself in as big a fight as Amato is, many of you will face skirmishes with your board or the public during your tenure. In this age of accountability, everyone wants to measure results quicker than before. Use this trend to your advantage. Set realistic goals, use multiple ways to judge your students' progress, and by all means, make sure you communicate with your staff, board and the public. This won't guarantee that you'll never get into a fight, but it may help you argue your way out of one.
Wayne D'Orio, Editorial Director