Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Superintendent’s Heir Apparent

Wanted a Deputy Superintendent:  Qualifications  – “Candidates must have a Master’s Degree and a New York State School District Administrator (SDA) or School District Leader (SDL) certificate at the time of appointment.  A Doctorate Degree is preferred.  Candidates must have eight (8) years of supervisory experience.  Candidates with successful administrative experience in an urban school district with a large racially and economically diverse population are preferred.”

These are the qualifications listed for the Deputy Superintendent position recently posted by Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie.  The emphasis is on Deputy Superintendent as that is the job, purportedly.  However, the majority members of the Board have hatched a new scheme and proposed that the individual hired for the Deputy Superintendent will become the Superintendent on July 1st when Mr.  Ogilvie leaves the District.  They have several arguments for this unprecedented action:  the Board does not need to do a national search for a new Superintendent because there are numerous talented individuals in the District who can do the job; an “outsider” would have a steep learning curve, which would not be the case for an inside candidate; it’s just the logical conclusion that the Deputy should be the heir apparent for the Superintendent’s job.  I don’t agree with this rationale and neither do my fellow minority board members.  We believe that at this critical juncture, a national search for the District’s leader is imperative.

First, it’s important to note that under normal circumstances, the decision to interview and select the Deputy would rest solely with the Superintendent.  The Board has only one employee for whom it conducts a search, interviews, hires, evaluates and promotes or terminates.  That employee is the Superintendent not the Deputy.  Ten individuals applied for this position, three internal candidates and seven external.  With the exception of the internal candidates, perhaps, all of the others applied for a Deputy position, not the Superintendency.  That raises questions about the candidates’ qualifications, experience and even willingness to be considered for a position to which they did not apply.

Under the “Qualifications” heading, the Deputy position calls for just 8 “years of supervisory experience” and “successful administrative experience”.  There is no clarification of the scope or identification of the specific areas of supervisory or administrative experience that are sought to confirm the competencies of an individual who could handle the job of Deputy, let alone the job of Superintendent. Further into the posting, the job description states that the Deputy “will help lead the executive team to deliver on the district’s strategic goals and priorities by aligning BPS programs and resources and ensuring that there is a return on the investment.”  Sounds good, but what does that mean?

In addition, under key competencies, the job notice lists numerous soft skills such as:
  • ·         Strategic vision and courage to ensure that all students achieve
  • ·         Unwavering commitment to getting the job done and willingness to go above and beyond to meet the needs of BPS Students
  • ·         Ability to build and maintain positive relationships with key stakeholders
  • ·         Effective communication skills
  • ·         Skills in navigating existing political structures and systems

The few skill-based competencies listed include:
  • ·         An ability to identify, diagnose and prioritize key issues
  • ·         Ability to find innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems
  • ·         Excellent execution and project management skills a track record for establishing clear metrics for success and regular monitoring of progress towards goals

The question is; How does a candidate demonstrate these competencies?  What evidence is being required to validate that with a minimum of 8 years of supervisory experience, a candidate, whether internal or external, can successfully perform as the Chief Educational and Chief Executive Officer of a billion dollar enterprise serving over 34,000 students?   An element of the majority’s plan is to have the Deputy learn from Mr. Ogilvie during the last few months of his tenure. Consequently the job posting identifies that the successful candidate “will work alongside Superintendent Ogilvie to ensure that schools and students have what they need to be successful.”   It sounds like “on-the-job training”, a charge repeatedly thrown at former Superintendent Pamela Brown by Board member Paladino. 
However, now it would appear to be acceptable to have the outgoing Interim tutor the Heir Apparent.

It remains to be seen whether any of the internal candidates will be selected for the position.  There is one who has strong credentials, but according to reports is not the majority’s leading candidate.  To be clear, my colleagues and I are not opposed to the hiring of a competent Deputy Superintendent.  That individual should have the right to apply for the Superintendent position when it is posted.  We strongly disagree with the majority’s plan and question their motivation. 

With malice of forethought, unmitigated gall and a sense of privilege, the board majority has created an intolerable environment from which even the most seasoned, knowledgeable and committed educators are beginning to flee.  Undeterred by their ignorance of the educational needs of our children and continually spewing soundbites about instituting “reform” measures, “saving poor failing children” and “urgency”,  their “boldness” is nothing more than a brazen move to put a hand-selected individual, with limited experience, in the position as Superintendent.  And now, they want to delude themselves that another handpicked successor will do what they say and what they want. 

The only qualification that appears to matter is the unspoken one; that this candidate pushes the majority’s agenda and only asks the question, “How high” when told to jump! 

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