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Published in Print: January 27, 1999, as Help Wanted: Experienced Administrators

Help Wanted: Experienced Administrators

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Seattle isn't the only big-city school district looking for someone to run it. Atlanta, Kansas City, Mo., and New Orleans are in the market, too.

So is St. Paul, Minn., after the school board rejected both its finalists in August and started a new search for a superintendent.

And then there's Texas. Five of the state's eight largest districts are hiring for the top job: Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, and the El Paso-area Ysleta district.

"The competition is going to be keen and hot among the 15 or so medium to large school districts looking for superintendents," said Jay Goldman, the editor of The School Administrator Magazine, published by the American Association of School Administrators. "Many of them will probably want to look outside the traditional ranks. ... And they'll have to look at folks who have done exceptionally well in smaller-sized school districts."

Stiff Competition

Several large urban-suburban systems are looking for new leadership as well, including: Broward County, Fla., which includes Fort Lauderdale; Montgomery County, Md., in the Washington suburbs; and the Mesa, Ariz., schools in the Phoenix area. Smaller urban districts seeking a superintendent include Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I.

Gone are the days when only a superintendent of a district with 60,000 students or more could hope to get the top job in one of the major metropolitan systems. "School leaders with less experience get pushed along a lot faster than used to be the case," Mr. Goldman said.

With baby boom administrators heading for retirement at the same time pressures for higher achievement are mounting, no one expects the searches to get easier. And urban districts, with their intertwined problems of poverty and low achievement, may have to scramble the most.

"Those pressures are difficult to cope with," said Estanislado Paz, who until last summer was the chief of the El Paso schools. That is especially true in Texas, with its strong state-imposed accountability system, he added. Mr. Paz now heads a professional-development program for the Arlington, Va.-based aasa.

Mr. Paz said he left El Paso before he lost the support of the school board. "When the pressure builds, the easy solution is to chop the superintendent's head off," he said.

The five big-city jobs in Texas "reflect pretty much what's going on across the country," Mr. Paz said. "I talked to one search firm ... and they said they are rarely doing superintendent searches these days--it's too difficult."

Vol. 18, Issue 20, Page 5

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