Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Looking for Superman for our schools

October 12, 2012 

We all seem to agree that the next superintendent, whoever that may be, will face tough sledding.

And not just because it never snows around here.

According to a recent online survey, the new leader of the Muscogee County School District will inherit:

• A large, complex and divided system that's woefully inadequate at educating students in its southern half.

• Teachers overwhelmed by standardized programs and policies that ignore the individual needs of students and schools.

• A school board that's petty and difficult to work with.

• A "good old boy" network that makes it tough to put all students first.

• And plenty of racial tension.

Tough sledding indeed. So what kind of person are we looking for?

Respondents, which include parents, community members, teachers and school staff, agree on a lot of things.

For starters, everybody thinks the next superintendent should be a "people person," which includes the ability to listen, communicate, motivate and be approachable.

That person should also be a consummate leader, as well as a visionary problem solver, change agent and financial wizard, all while putting the kids first, letting the teachers teach, standing up to the school board and telling the good old boys to take a hike.

No problem, huh?

"In other words," as one parent wrote, "Superman or Superwoman!"

But respondents don't agree on everything. For example, how far will Superman/woman need to fly to get here?

Some say not very far, thinking the new superintendent should be the most qualified principal or administrative staff member already working in Muscogee County.

Others say it should be somebody who's already had proven success in a large, complicated district like ours.

I tend to agree with the latter group, and would add, like many respondents did, that we're looking for somebody with experience improving test scores and graduation rates in an urban environment and inspiring students and teachers in Title I schools.

One astute community member wrote this: "An effort should be made to identify candidates who are not looking to escape, or who are coming from failure as a leader, but to identify individuals who are content, who are successful where they are, but may be ready for a new challenge."

Right on.

Maybe we can find somebody leading an urban school system right now who's from the Chattahoochee Valley and looking to move home.

Or maybe we could just find a superintendent who faced challenges in another community like ours, met them, became a hero, and is looking to do the same thing somewhere else.

You'd hope that's why we've hired a national search firm.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, can be reached at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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