The Dallas and Philadelphia school boards took steps last week to fill top administrative spots in moves that they hope will help bring stability and new momentum to their cities’ public schools.
In Dallas, whose 162,000 students make it the nation’s 10th-largest district, former Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Moses is poised to become the fifth superintendent in four years.
The city’s nine-member school board voted unanimously last week to name Mr. Moses as the finalist for the job, which became open in July after the board fired Waldemar “Bill” Rojas, citing his poor relations with board members. Under state law, the board must wait 21 days to offer Mr. Moses a contract.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia school board appointed Philip R. Goldsmith as the district’s interim chief executive officer. He will fill a new position created by the board after Superintendent David W. Hornbeck’s resignation in August ended his six-year tenure in the nation’s eighth-largest district.
Mr. Goldsmith, 55, a lawyer and former bank executive, will serve in the role for a year while a national search is conducted for a permanent CEO. He will begin work Nov. 1 as the head of Philadelphia’s school administrative team, which includes Deidre R. Farmbry, a veteran educator, as the 208,000-student district’s chief academic officer.
Last week’s developments continue a spate of top-level administrative shifts in major school districts, during a year in which three of the nation’s other 10 biggest school districts—Los Angeles, New York, and Clark County, Nev.—hired new superintendents.
If all works out as expected in Dallas, Mr. Moses, who currently is a deputy chancellor of the Texas Tech University system, will be on the job later this fall.
"[Mr. Moses] has enormous experience,” school board President Roxan Staff said last week. “He knows the big picture of how Dallas fits in to the scope of Texas. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t work.”
Mr. Moses, 48, was the state’s top education official from 1995 to 1999 before taking his new post with Texas Tech, where he directs governmental and external relations and institutional advancement.
A former teacher, Mr. Moses also has been the superintendent of the Lubbock, La Marque, and Tatum school districts in Texas.
Without being specific, Ms. Staff said that Mr. Moses was likely to be paid about the same amount as Mr. Rojas, whose annual salary was $260,000.
While Mr. Moses took on many contentious issues as the state commissioner, he is likely to be challenged in new ways in Dallas, where political in-fighting and tensions between racial and ethnic groups have hampered the board.
Already, some local activists have complained that the job should go to a minority candidate. Mr. Moses, who is white, reached out to different sectors of the community immediately following the Oct. 9 announcement by the school board.
In meetings last week with business leaders, community activists, and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, Mr. Moses said that his priorities would begin with raising student achievement, and would include nurturing relationships with teachers, principals, and other district officials.
Dallas now has 28 schools deemed “low performing” by the state, up from nine last year, and also has fallen on other state indicators of academic performance.
In addition, the district is trying to generate public support for a $1.6 billion school construction and technology bond at a time when public confidence is lacking.
Staff Writer Karla Scoon Reid contributed to this report.