I hold in my hands the Stakeholder Input Report for the Muscogee County School District.
(Quick refresher course: Who's a stakeholder? You and me and everybody else around here.)
Today, let's take a look at the answers stakeholders gave to the following survey question: "What issues should the superintendent be aware of as he/she comes into the district?"
The responses were submitted by search firm McPherson & Jacobson LLC, and will be shared with the final candidates.
The No. 1 answer to this question was summed up by this response from a parent: " Even though it's 2012, we are still segregated! There is North and South."
It was the problem most frequently mentioned by parents and community members, and the problem mentioned the second-most by teachers, classified staff and administrators.
So what did the educators think was the biggest issue?
"Teachers are extremely overwhelmed with all of the different programs in this county," one teacher wrote. "When a school district tries to implement too many programs at one time, the teachers are not able to (be) proficient in any one of them. This is a huge problem."
Plenty of teachers echoed this sentiment. One of them wrote: "Teachers should devote a lot more time to working with kids in the classroom than worrying about posting work in the hallway that only the principal and a few others may see."
A community member picked up on the problem too: "There needs to be support for schools trying innovative approaches that meet the needs of THEIR students. Standardizing everything is not working; individual schools and students have individual needs, therefore they need to be able to do what works for those populations."
Parents expressed concern about the end result of such a strategy. "Placid children," one wrote, "seems to be a more important goal than a challenging, creative, environment."
Every group also expressed concern about a "top-heavy" administrative staff, but especially about the school board. Parents described board members as kids "throwing hissy fits," "politicos who want to wield power," and "a bit uneducated themselves."
The concept of magnet schools also bugged parents, who frequently mentioned Columbus High School and Britt David Elementary.
Some teachers weren't thrilled about magnets either. One of them wrote: "There are too many public 'private' schools that skim off the better students, leaving the rest to rot with the dregs of our tax dollars."
Many teachers mentioned the presence of a "good ole boy" network that negatively affects education.
One of them had this advice for the next superintendent: "You will be walking into a political buzz saw. Find out who supports you early on and try to gain favor from others. Get the teachers behind you; if they are they can out-influence the powerful money interests that you will have to contend with.
"The school board does not benefit the students as much as (they) could; be wary of them, they are very political."
Parents also targeted what they described as school buildings in disrepair, and teachers harped on overcrowded classrooms.
And everybody mentioned racial tension.
Big surprise, huh? Can't wait to see who applies for this job, and what they plan to do if they get it.
Next week, we'll take a look at the specific qualities stakeholders (you, me and everybody) are looking for in a new superintendent.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor and vice president, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org