A leading Democratic donor and philanthropist and the Republican governor of Michigan teamed up last week to announce the opening of a national center to prepare urban superintendents.
Eli Broad, the chairman of SunAmerica Corp. and the founder of the Los Angeles- based Broad Foundation, and Gov. John M. Engler, the chairman of the National Governors’ Association, appeared at a press conference at the Capitol in Washington to launch the Broad Center for Superintendents.
The center, to be housed in Old Mission, Mich., will provide up to 20 aspiring urban superintendents with extensive training as business managers, beginning in February.
“We are building an executive leadership corps to protect and to grow our nation’s investment in children,” Mr. Broad said in a statement. “Our goal is to use the skills of managers and executives to grow the intellectual capital that our nation’s changing economy demands.”
The program’s design reflects the frustration expressed by some urban political leaders that their superintendents lack business know-how. The foundation noted in announcing the center that 98 percent of superintendents were trained mostly as teachers.
Participants will be trained in finance, facilities, operations, personnel, and instruction, said Dan Katzir, the director of program development at the Broad Foundation. “The preparation for CEO of a large district has to involve the product, which is student achievement, and then in all the organizational matters,” he said.
The center’s goal is to place talented leaders from a variety of fields—including government, business, the nonprofit world, higher education, and the military—as urban superintendents. “Lou Gerstner was stolen from RJR Nabisco and went to IBM, even though he didn’t know anything about technology,” Mr. Katzir said of the computer company’s chief executive officer.
Also eligible are current superintendents, especially those from smaller districts, said Melissa Bonney Ratcliff, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation.
The new program for aspiring superintendents will involve a 10- month training period and consist of seven four-day weekends, Mr. Katzir said. The foundation will pay for all expenses related to the sessions, which will be held all over the country, beginning in Los Angeles.
Foundation officials said they would decide next month who will train the participants.
Graduates of the program will get help in finding jobs as superintendents.
In addition to donating money to Democratic candidates, Mr. Broad is a benefactor of Michigan State University, his alma mater, where the college of business and graduate school of management bear his name. In another commitment to education, the former housing developer turned financial-services mogul announced in 1999 that his foundation would commit $100 million to improving leadership in urban education.
For his part, Gov. Engler “has a strong interest in making sure that Michigan schools are good, especially those in Detroit, so he took a keen interest in this,” said Matt Resch, a spokesman for the governor.
A version of this article appeared in the November 21, 2001 edition of Education Week as Center to Prepare ‘Executive Leadership Corps’ for Schools