Stability at the Top
Two recent reports on the tenure of superintendents inspired us this month to look into the history of superintendents serving in the 10 largest school districts in the country. Using published news reports, we researched the superintendents who had served over the last 15 years in order to understand their accomplishments versus time served, and the reasons why they left their districts. The report by the council of the Great City Schools found that the average tenure of urban superintendents has increased in the last 10 years, from 2.3 years in 1999 to 3.6 years in 2010, a promising trend since, too often, innovative leaders are asked to leave districts just as they are making a difference in student achievement. The Association of School Administrators' report provides a clear view of how a key group of educators can make education work. Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, says, "It's become very apparent that they are making a difference in one of the key elements in running a successful district is stability. So if you have a revolving door, it's counterproductive, and there's never a chance to establish reforms or create programs that make a difference. Even a three-year period of time is inadequate." Check out "Superintendent Staying Power" by Senior Editor Angela Pascopella.
The superintendent of Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, Jerry Weast, is a prime example of a long- standing superintendent who has made systemic school reforms, bringing unusual stability to his district and raising student achievement exponentially. MCPS's 25 high schools are in the top 3 percent in the country, according to Newsweek, and these are brick-and-mortar high schools with 1,800 to 2,000 students in them, not small or magnet schools. I had the pleasure this month of chatting with Weast for our conversations department aptly titled "A Legacy of Systemic Change."
My staff and I enjoy keeping up with all initiatives in education. On many evenings, not only can I be found searching for the best education headlines for our daily e-newsletter, but also sending staffers articles referred to on Twitter for future story ideas, updates to stories that we're currently working on, or ideas for our editorial calendar. Over the past few months, I have received e-mails or voicemails from administrators telling me about unique programs happening in their districts, some of which we've been able to write about in the magazine. I'm finding that our readers are putting us ahead of the curve, giving us a lead on many district innovations. Last month, New Canaan (Conn.) Public Schools library media specialists shared with us the curriculum programs that earned them the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award. This month's district profile started with an offer to view a book written by Neil Leist, superintendent of rural Clermont (Ohio) Northeastern Schools. I laughed out loud reading about his unique method of saving his district millions of dollars, which we cover in our profile. And this month's problem/solution was initiated by Assistant Superintendent Tony Gasper of the Ansonia (Conn.) Public Schools, with lessons he learned as a former employee of the Connecticut State Department of Education working on the Connecticut Accountability for Learning Initiative, with schools named "in need of improvement." We appreciate the ideas. Please keep them coming.
Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor in Chief