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Pros and cons of hiring a non-educator to be superintendent

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The Wake County school board would make a statement if it chose a non-educator to become superintendent.

As noted in today's article, policy revisions recommended by the school board's policy committee would take advantage of changes adopted by the General Assembly in 2001 to allow non-educators to become superintendents. But few school districts in the state have taken advantage of the change.

Guilford County Superintendent Maurice Green was about the only non-educator to come to mind for people. Green was Charlotte-Mecklenburg's in-house lawyer and later deputy superintendent before becoming superintendent.

You've got some examples, nationally, including New York City Chancellor Joel Klein. You've also got the Broad Foundation training non-educators to become urban superintendents.

But educators are still the norm for superintendent.

The state's requirements are vastly different for educators and non-educators.

Educators must meet this state Board of Education requirement:

Must hold a North Carolina principal's certificate and superintendent's certificate issued under the authority of the State Board of Education. The principal's certificate must have an experience rating of P‑01 or higher. This requirement will assure that a candidate for superintendent has served as a principal or has had an equivalent administrative experience at a level which would enable the certificate holder to receive one year of experience on a principal's certificate. Equivalent administrative experience includes employment as a superintendent, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent of a school administrative unit, headmaster of a non‑public school with seven or more teachers, President or Vice President of institutions of higher education, dean or associate dean of a School of Education, President or Vice President of a community college or technical institute, and State level education administration with the State Department of Public Instruction at or above the Division Director's position,

The state requirement for non-educators is a lot shorter. State board policy says they "must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and have five years leadership or managerial experience considered relevant by the employing local board of education."

Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the board's policy committee, said dropping the educator requirement would broaden the field of candidates that could be considered.

Russell Capps, president of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, said hiring a businessman would recognize that the school system is the "largest business in Wake County." He said the board could have someone like interim Supt. Donna Hargen oversee the educational issues.

But school board member Carolyn Morrison said a non-educator would lack "credibility" with principals and teachers. She was a longtime Wake teacher and principal before she retired.

Tama Bouncer, the new president of Wake NCAE, questioned whether a businessman would understand Wake's educational needs.


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Tough to Compare

If I go to a restaurant and order a steak and it's not done to my satisfaction I can send it back.  As a teacher, when I get a student in my classroom, I cannot "send it back," but catch that student where they are and teach them.  In this vein I am not a business.

On many occasions, as I already know for next year, I am teaching students who cannot read or write.  For example, I have had numerous students in my classroom who had a 1 on both math and reading from 7th grade, yet because they "showed growth" they were promoted.  This "philosophy" is flawed from the start.  A student is often promoted if they had 225 on reading (not sure if these numbers match up to pass/fail, just an example) in 6th grade and get a 227 in 7th grade even though both scores may be a 1.  Now in business we would say that we are producing an acceptable product?  I like the analogy of the Toyota gas pedal.

In business if you are making money and your "product is selling" you keep doing what you are doing.  If not.....change gears.  In education we wax poetic about feelings and making safe educational environments and no one has any idea what, exactly, that means.  I agree that a child has to feel safe in a classroom, I am not saying otherwise.  However, the "waxing poetics" will never give you a specific definition of a "safe classroom."  Just as they have no clear cut definition of "diversity," "inquiry learning,"  and "differentiation."  You haven these "eduspeak professors" that tell new teachers that if they are GOOD they can teach 40 students in a classroom and ALL can be EC and you "reach them all."  So these inexperienced teachers with only a slight level of life experience go into the classroom and keep their mouths shut and do their job.  They accept whatever they are given and told to do.  Then these students rise to the next grade with no skills.

Here is the perfect example.  The past two years my school started to adopt this thing called ABCI.  This "philosophy" is one in which you never give a child less than a C.  In the NCWISE data program you cannot enter an incomplete because the program only accepts numbers or letters (A, B, C, D, F)  Sooooooo, a parent sees their child's single grade all quarter as a C.  Now since we do not enter anything less than a C then all assignments not done are left blank.  At the end of the quarter a child has a 60something put into these blanks.  Now the parents gets the report card and goes berserk...........as would I.

When EOGs were finished this year our 7th grade, which has teachers that have never done anything but teach for their 1 to 5 years of work experience, awarded a plethora of A honor roll and A/B honor roll certificates.  However, they had the lowest composite scores on the reading and math EOGs.  Yet, we are still discussing the use of this ABCI crap.  The highest scores came from one 8th grade team that did NOT utilize this crap.  Fortunately, with a new principal coming in who was an AP in a high school, this entire fiasco will be dismantled.

Education can be successful if everyone is vested.  That means teachers, students, parents, administration and the school board.  If one of these do not do their job (or numbers show that something is not working) that something needs to be changed quickly.  If that "something is working" then others should be taking that on to see if it works for them.  My students have been successful because I spend time calling parents and providing consequences for not doing work.  I allow students to make up any work they choose not to do, but the parent has to bring that child to school 1 hour prior to school starting.  Otherwise the zero stands.....but that choice becomes the choice of the parent and child.  Unless a bad choice is made to be an inconvenience the bad choice will be repeated. 

BTW exyankWCprin...........I am still waiting!

If Chris Malone is any indication...

It has been reported that Chris Malone, in his remarks at the Wake Forest-Rolesville High School graduation, told students that Albert Einstein invented the light bulb.

By all means, let's get more people like Mr. Malone, the rest of the ruling junta, and other people who know nothing about education to run our school system.

Then again, it is understandable that Mr. Malone uttered this malapropism since Ron Margiotta was not there with his hand in Malone's back to operate his mouth.

"By all means, let's get

"By all means, let's get more people like Mr. Malone, the rest of the ruling junta, and other people who know nothing about education to run our school system."

Oh, come off it.  As you later recognized, it was a malapropism.  I'm certainly delighted that no one follows me around with a microphone, because I could astound you with the word salad that comes out of my mouth some times.

Quite a double standard, too.  I don't remember anyone saying a word about all the non-engineers who are teaching studentsat Brentwood Elementary "Engineering" Magnet. 

Perhaps Mr. Malone is a

Perhaps Mr. Malone is a product of WCPSS, where my experience has shown that students are more likely to study the inventions of George Washington Carver, than the inventions of Thomas Edison.

Capps has an absolutely horrible argument

Let's see. In the vast majority of non-elected jobs, you need experience in your field to advance. You can't be a manager without working at the bottom of the totem pole /at an entry level job first.

Mr.Capps obviously knows a thing or two about businesses: would businesses hire someone for a high-level management position who doesn't know how the business works? Obviously, the answer is no.

The Superintendent is the highest position in the Wake County Public School System. Shouldn't then, using that logic, the Superintendent have experience in public education systems?


The days of the stockboy advancing to be CEO of the Company have long past.

Red Hat's current CEO, for example, came from Delta Airlines.   The current Ford CEO came from Boeing. Joel Klein, in NYC, was an antitrust attorney.  Alcoa's president came from Siemens.  And those are just off the top of my head.

I may be dating myself but

I may be dating myself but the first thing that comes to mind when I think about business execs getting involved in public administration I think about Robert McNamara who was recruited from Ford Motor Company to be Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam war. By nearly all accounts he did a less than stellar job.


This is where the "schools

This is where the "schools as a business" comparison should stop.

There are inherent differences in running a school and running a business.  You can't run schools like corporations, even if they have the budget of a corporation.

Besides, I know for a fact that manufacturing corporations try to produce as many widgets as possible for the lowest possible cost.  If that's your comparison, I don't know why you had such problems with the old board.

Quality Counts, Too

Good manufacturers know that today's production environment requires an equal balance of QUALITY along with QUANTITY.

What happens when quality declines or is compromised in some manner during production? RECALLS. CONSUMER BACKLASH.

Hey, BP, don't worry about all that oil you spilled...we know you were only trying to pump out as much crude volume as possible.

Hey, Toyota, don't worry about all those stuck accelerator pedals that came off your production lines...after all, you were only trying to keep up with consumer demand, right?

Hey, waiter, don't worry about this clump of hair in my food...I know the chefs are busy trying to meet the dinner rush.

We don't need a new Superintendent; we need a Quality Control Manager. If the products aren't meeting standards, improve the production processes, don't just spit 'em out into the world.


First of all, why is a manufacturing corporation your model?  Why aren't you looking at professional service industries?

Secondly, what parts of a school system can't be run like a corporation?  After all, there are for-profit companies providing K-12 education.   Hospitals are often corporate entities -- why is educating a child fundamentally different than treating a patient?  

corporations vs. school systems

A corporation is an entity that is owned by its stockholders.  The board and management of a corporation answer to the corporation's stockholders and their duty is to increase the value of the corporation for stockholders by maximizing profit.  A government entity is very very different.  A school system has many different stakeholders--children, teachers, principals, parents, taxpayers and the community at large.  If a CEO increases profits, he has fulfilled his duties and stockholders have no complaint.  As we see from the recent debates over the board action, various constituencies seem to have differing and often opposing ideas of what the schools should be doing (e.g., educating children in their neighborhoods vs. encouraging diversity).  It's a different world than a corporation, has vastly different stakeholders and judging from our national experience with the "CEO President" I am quite skeptical that CEO types really have what it takes to run a complicated government agency.  A school system just is not analogous to a business.

Service industries set their

Service industries set their price and then market themselves to find customers willing to pay that price.  The schools are trying to produce educated kids.  Production = manufacturing.

Most parents don't think they know a better way to treat their kids when the kid gets sick.  It seems as though there are a lot of parents who think they know how to run a school district.  

Really? Does the

Really? Does the Superintendent teach or does he lead? Does he work with the budgets or grade assignments? The Superintendent is the leader of the school system, not an instructor in the classroom, he has many (some say to many) Assistant Superintendents to specailize in the various functions of the school system, this is the same way Corporate America functions.

Your widgets anology is true with school systems also. We try to get the most value out of the dollars budgeted.

HUH? CEO's of major

HUH? CEO's of major corporations do not always come from the industry they a chosen to lead. The CEO is there to lead the organization and map out its future. Having worked "in the trenches" does not necessarily equate to leadership ability. 

"working in the trenches"

"working in the trenches" breeds the best leaders; when TQM was all the rage, I recall watching a training presentation that put rental car management personnel on the front lines at the customer service desk; once they experienced first-hand what it was like to be yelled at and cursed up and down, they finally made suggested changes to procedure offered by customer service reps; same holds true for education; how can you possibly know what it's like to be in the classroom -- and make decisions that directly affect what goes on in the classroom -- if you've never "been there?"

Excellent Practice

Many school systems require this of principals.  Why all do not is beyond me.  I often remember one principal who would grab a chair and stand on it in the hallway to try and direct student behavior.  It was comical to watch the children (middle school) obey the directions by walking by and kicking the chair on which he was standing.  Principals are people I often refer to as "waxing poetics."  They love to spout philosophies that do not work.  They need to practice these "philosophies" before requiring their use.


How can you criticize school board members and opine on what they should do, when you've never been one?  For that matter, except for the one or two doctors there, how can any member of Congress say anything meaningful about healthcare reform when they've never practiced medicine? 

How does Ford Motors manage to build cars when their CEO has never built one in his life?  I agree that spending time on the front lines can give a leader valuable insight into how his organization functions.  But, I dispute that it's necessary to do so.  (Although I do wish that the Congress would stop trying to change what they know nothing about.)

That certainly goes against

That certainly goes against the "individualized attention" criticism that is leveled against the old board and Del Burns.

CEO's may jump to other

CEO's may jump to other industries, but there are a number of common denominators between corporations.  I would not expect someone to be appointed Fire Chief or Police Chief unless they had a good understanding of how those departments functioned well.  And much as the technologies used in fire prevention/fighting and law enforcement continue to evolve, I'd be worried about hiring a police/fire chief who had been out of that line of work for over ten years.  Same goes for schools.


I'm sympathetic to the idea that the superintendant should have some experience in education, even though Joel Klein in NYC seems to be doing ok without it.  However, my preference would be to stay clear of anybody steeped in the education ivory tower.  In my view, an Ed.D. is a negative for the job.

In the end, however, my main concern is that they end up selecting somebody good, and I don't care if they do it by including plumbers in the selection criterea or if they use a ouija board.  (Patti Head's has probably been sitting on her shelf since she left the board.  Maybe she could lend it out.)

Taxpayer Money

Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the board's policy committee, said dropping the educator requirement would broaden the field of candidates that could be considered.
How much is their budget for salary?

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.