Three leaders in notable U.S. school districts named new leaders or inched closer to hiring one this week, filling just a few of the many vacancies at major districts across the country.
On Wednesday, the school district in Boston announced a new interim superintendent, and Clark County, Nev. tapped a new permanent superintendent. And earlier this week, the Wake County, N.C., district announced three finalists for its superintendency.
As this school year comes to a close, we can expect a flurry of activity—and some superintendent musical chairs—at the helms of school districts.
In Clark County, Pat Skorkowsky, who has been the interim superintendent since the departure of Dwight D. Jones in March, will become the permanent superintendent of the 311,000-student district. Skorkowsky has been an employee of the district, which encompasses Las Vegas, for 25 years.
In a 6-1 vote, the district’s school board opted not to use a search firm but to instead offer the permanent job to the in-house Skorkowsky. Skorkowsky had been deputy superintendent under former chief Jones.
“I call Clark County home, and I’m not afraid to identify flaws and address them so we can continue to get better, together,” Skorkowsky said in a statement to the board. “I am data-driven and will challenge my team to continue to address our most pressing issues.”
Several state legislators, including senate minority leader Michael Roberson, a Republican, wrote a glowing letter to the board that recommended that Skorkowsky be the new superintendent.
Skorkowsky’s initial salary offer, at about $250,000, is a little more than half of the $400,000 per year Jones made in the role.
The Las Vegas Sun has some good insight in its coverage of the resignation of state superintendent James Guthrie earlier this spring, which came soon after Jones’ departure. Jones had created a new school-rating system and a number of other reforms.
In a press release, the district said that an overwhelming majority of people it surveyed at a series of town hall meetings—86 percent—wanted to keep on with the reform plans in progress. (The district emphasized that two of those meetings were held entirely in Spanish.)
In Boston, John McDonough, who has been the district’s chief financial officer since 1996, will be interim superintendent, the Boston Schools Committee—appointed by the mayor—announced Wednesday night.
“It is important that this key position is filled by someone with deep knowledge of the district, its priorities and especially the commitments made as we voted to adjust our student assignment plan for 2014,” said Michael O’Neill, the chairman of the Boston School Committee, in a press release. (Check out this Education Week article has more about Boston’s new student assignment plan.) Meanwhile, the committee will begin a search for a permanent superintendent.
Carol R. Johnson had led the district for six years and announced her retirement late last month.
Johnson and McDonough will work together to prepare for the transition until her retirement this summer. In the press release, Johnson said McDonough has educational chops to go along with his financial background.
In an interview last month, O’Neill said that the Boston School Committee was committed to a thorough search in order to find the leader the Boston school district—the nation’s first—deserved. There’s another factor at play, too: Longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has been been very involved in the city’s school system, is not running for re-election. O’Neill said a permanent candidate would likely want to know who they were working with. Boston’s superintendent sits on the mayor’s cabinet and works closely with the city leader.
Speaking of city leaders’ involvement in education, the impending New York mayoral election has also been drawing speculation about what a new mayor will mean for that city’s school district, as this New York Times editorial illustrates, but that’s another story.
I wrote recently about the Wake County, N.C., school board’s preference for a superintendent with experience in districts. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, it looks like the district is set to find one: All three finalists announced earlier this week are career educators. You can find more about the finalists—Dana Bedden, the superintendent of the Irving Independent School District in Texas; Ann Clark, the deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; and James Merrill, the superintendent of Virginia Beach City—on the News & Observer’s WakeEd blog. Wake had had a prominent non-traditional, Broad Academy-trained superintendent, former brigadier general, Anthony J. Tata, until this fall. Tata is now the state’s secretary of transportation.
Executive search firm McPherson & Jacobson, which found Wake’s three finalists, is the search firm Clark County chose not to employ in this go-round.
Talent from Within?
Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that lately, more urban districts are drawing leaders from within. Skorkowsky’s appointment may be evidence of that trend. Another observation: Two African-American district leaders have been replaced by white male leaders.
A number of other big districts, including Detroit, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, are still awaiting the selection of permanent leaders.
Nationwide, more superintendents are retiring, said Dan Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.
Of course, the superintendent shortage is nothing new: Here’s an article from Pew from 2000 that raises many of the same concerns.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.