Published Online:

Large-District Superintendencies Change Hands

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Last February, the American Association of School Administrators (aasa) released a study indicating that job-related conflicts and pressures are prompting school superintendents to leave their current positions at a faster rate than ever before.

At least part of that finding appears to have held true this year, as an unusually high number of major school superintendencies changed hands during the summer months.

In a few cases, the filling of a vacancy in one city simply created a job opening in another area, setting off a chain reaction that eventually touched as many as three or four school districts.

In Omaha, for example, the city school board announced on April 1 that Jack P. Taylor, superintendent of schools in the suburban Cleveland community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, would replace retiring Omaha superintendent Owen A. Knutzen at the end of this month.

On Aug. 10, the Shaker Heights school board announced that Mr. Taylor, in turn, would be replaced by Peter Horoschak, the superintendent of schools in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

And school officials in Poughkeepsie said last week that the city school board would meet this week to discuss how they would go about finding Mr. Horoschak's replacement.

If the board decides to conduct a nationwide search and to select a candidate from outside the school system, yet another link could be added to the chain that began back in Omaha.

'High Level of Turnover'

Luvern L. Cunningham, professor of educational administration at Ohio State University and a consultant to several of the school boards seeking new superintendents this summer, agreed that there has been "an unusually high level of turnover" in major school superintendencies this year.

"But historically, it appears that many large school districts experience cycles of this sort," Mr. Cunningham added. Unfortunately, he said, it is impossible to predict the duration or the regularity of such cycles because no one has ever amassed adequate data on vacancy rates over a long period of time.

According to the aasa study of 1,300 school superintendents, of which Mr. Cunningham was a co-author, 15 percent of the respondents said that conflicts with their former school boards and the growing tendency of boards to be uncooperative were key factors in their decisions to change jobs.

Mr. Cunningham said that it was impossible to say whether these factors played an important role in the decisions made by superintendents who found new posts this summer.

He did note, however, that the study found that most superintendents spend approximately five years on the job before seeking a new position elsewhere. Many of the superintendents who accepted new jobs over the summer, he pointed out, followed that pattern rather closely.

The following is a summary of what has occurred in some of the major school districts that have appointed, or are on the verge of appointing, a new school superintendent this year:

Fairfax County, Va.: William J. Burkholder, a 26-year veteran of this suburban Washington school district, was named superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools on June 24. Mr. Burkholder succeeds Lynton Deck Jr., who resigned from his position as superintendent this spring after having spent two years on the job. Mr. Deck left his post after he and the school board concluded that they had "divergent and mismatching views with respect to the manner of conducting the business" of this 122,000-pupil school system, the 11th largest in the nation.

Columbus, Ohio: The board has narrowed its search for a new chief for this 74,000-pupil district down to two finalists. That search was spurred by Joseph L. Davis's surprise announcement late last March that he would step down from the district's superintendency on July 31. Mr. Davis, who had one year remaining on his contract, had held the top post in Columbus since 1977. According to a spokesman for the school district, Mr. Davis "just felt that it was time for him to leave." The Columbus school board hopes to select Mr. Davis's successor by Sept. 1.

Cleveland: Early last week, the city school board announced the appointment of Frederick D. Holliday as superintendent of this 80,000-student school district, the largest in Ohio. Mr. Holliday, most recently superintendent of schools in Plainfield, N.J., succeeds Peter P. Carlin, who had spent three years on the job before being dismissed by the Cleveland school board on Feb. 25. Mr. Carlin was recently chosen to head Cleveland State University's new center for the advancement of computers in education.

St. Louis: Officials in this 60,000-student school district say they stopped accepting applications for the position of superintendent on Aug. 3. The school board's search committee has already narrowed the field of applicants down to 30 and hopes to select a new superintendent by Nov. 1. The search in St. Louis was initiated in late spring when Robert Wentz, who held the top post there for six years, allowed his contract to expire in June in order to accept the superintendency of the Las Vegas Public Schools.

San Diego: On Aug. 6, the city school board announced the appointment of Thomas W. Payzant as superintendent of this 110,000-student school system, the ninth largest in the nation. Mr. Payzant most recently was superintendent of schools in Oklahoma City, a post he had held since 1979. He replaces Thomas L. Goodman, who had been superintendent in San Diego for 10 years. Last April, the school board bought out the remainder of his contract, which was scheduled to expire in June 1983. Recently, Mr. Goodman was hired to manage a statewide campaign for a ballot proposition, according to a school spokesman.

Philadelphia: The city's school board is now considering five applicants for the superintendency of this 202,000-student school district. According to a school spokesman, this field will be narrowed down further by the second week of September, with a final decision to be made by the first of October. The search for a new school chief was initiated following the resignation on June 22 of Michael P. Marcase, who had been the school district's superintendent since 1975. Under the terms of an agreement with the city's mayor and its school board, Mr. Marcase will remain on the school district's payroll for the next two years. He will spend the first year as a consultant to the board and the second on extended leave.

Lincoln, Neb.: John Prosh, who has been superintendent of this 25,000-student school district for more than 15 years, announced earlier this year that he plans to retire from his post on Dec. 1. On July 27, the city's school board announced that it had named Roger Clough, most recently superintendent in Mason City, Iowa, to replace Mr. Prosh. Mr. Clough had held the top post in Mason City for the past three years.

Indianapolis: On May 24, James Adams succeeded Karl Kalp as superintendent of this 57,000-student school district. Mr. Adams came to Indianapolis after six years as superintendent of the Winston-Salem, N.C. public schools. Mr. Kalp had been with the Indianapolis school district for more than 20 years, the last 11 as superintendent.

Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Raj K. Chopra, most recently superintendent of schools in Council Bluffs, S.D., has been named superintendent of this 33,000-student school district. Mr. Chopra, who is expected to assume his new position by Nov. 1, had been chief school officer in Council Bluffs since 1978. He replaces Arzell L. Ball, who recently accepted the superintendency of the Richardson (Tex.) Independent School District. Mr. Ball had been superintendent of schools in Shawnee Mission since 1968.

Little Rock: Edward Kelly, former superintendent of the Harlem School District in suburban Rockford, Ill., has replaced Paul Masem, who headed the 20,000-student Little Rock district for four years. Mr. Masem has assumed the superintendency of the Ames, Iowa, schools.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories