School & District Management

Superintendent Moves: Wake County, Hartford, Detroit, Indianapolis

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — June 21, 2013 2 min read
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The school district in Wake County, N.C., which includes Raleigh and surrounding areas, has a new permanent superintendent: James Merrill, who comes to the district from Virginia Beach, Va. North Carolina’s largest school district is just one of a number of urban districts that made leadership-related announcements this week.

In Wake County, the Raleigh News & Observer reports that Merrill’s contract has some interesting features—including the ability to request a security detail for his family. Such contract features aren’t unheard of, according to the News & Observer—Merrill had this option in his job in Virginia Beach and never exercised it—but they are certainly rare.

Merrill’s salary is also higher than the salary of Wake County’s previous superintendent, Anthony Tata, who was fired this fall. The board cites Merrill’s greater experience—and the increasing challenge of the job. (The school system has been at the center of much education-related politicking in recent years.)

The fact that Merrill comes to the district with experience as a superintendent is not a surprise: Although Tata had been a Broad Academy-trained leader with no previous as a superintendent, Wake County’s school board president Keith Sutton had said earlier this year that the district was explicitly looking for a leader with school district experience.

Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, the board has narrowed a pool of 80 candidates to eight. Diane Arnold, the president of Indianapolis’s school board, said that Eugene White’s replacement will come from a group of applicants with both traditional and nontraditional backgrounds.

And in Hartford, Conn., the school board voted not to renew Christina Kishimoto’s contract earlier this week, the Hartford Courant reports. Kishimoto released a long statement touting her accomplishments as superintendent in response to the news.

In older news, Roy Roberts, who announced earlier this year that he would retire after two years as the state-appointed emergency manager of Detroit’s public schools, agreed to stay on for an additional six months late last month.

As of May, more than 17 notable districts were still searching for permanent superintendents. Districts where major governance shake-ups have recently taken place—in Camden, N.J., and in Prince George’s County, Md.—are still searching for leaders. And in Boston and New York City, the outcomes of mayoral elections this fall will shape who takes the reins in those districts. Other cities, including Baltimore and Memphis, have interim superintendents in place for the time being.

Research has shown that large school districts tend to see the most superintendent turnover, due to the complexity and politicization of the role, as my colleague Sarah Sparks reported this winter.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.