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From the Editor

When Cathie Black was first nominated to be New York City Schools chancellor last fall, some predicted the former chairwoman of Hearst magazines to last six months, but the prediction ended up being optimistic. Ninety-five days after her start date, she is out, and deputy mayor Dennis Walcott, an educator, as well as former CEO and President of the New York Urban league who has long aided mayor Bloomberg in educational matters, is in.

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.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama said, "Nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science." And as education reform continues rapidly under this administration, school district leaders are searching to find the right infrastructure and the data to lead their students in the right direction.

When I consider how rapidly 21st-century tools are transforming education, I think fondly of the legacy passed down from my mom, a retired educator. She was grateful to come from Austria to the United States as a high-school-aged student at a time when U.S. education was envied the world over. She earned her education degree, became a certified FLES teacher and then an elementary school reading specialist in Scarsdale, N.Y. She was a career educator as well as eventually a school board member and subsequently the president in our home district.

There is no doubt from all perspectives that measuring the effectiveness of teachers is key to improving today's schools. During these fiscal times, no administrator can forget that salaries and benefits are typically over 75 percent of a district's budget, and the recent PISA standings reaffirm that something has to change in U.S. education. Teacher quality is paramount.

One of the fringe benefits of editing District Administration is that I'm able to attend conferences and events and meet in person some of the rock stars of education, as I've come to think of them. Rock star status, by my definition, tends to be conferred upon people who are able to reach a large number of people with their work and, as a result, affect change.


As I've edited this publication over the last several years, the line between what is deemed the responsibility of parents to teach their children, and what educators are expected to teach students in nontraditional areas of learning seems to be getting fuzzier all the time. With each issue, I waver on this parent-educator conundrum. In DA's September 2008 issue, we ran "Districts Weigh Obesity Screening"—a feature article about the trend toward mandating the measuring of students' body mass index, with parental notification. These initiatives seem intrusive and make me feel uneasy.