Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Next Superintendent

Saturday, will be the second of four meetings the school board is holding to get citizen input on the search for our next Superintendent of Schools. So, I’ve been thinking about the kind of person we need to lead Richmond Public Schools. I think I know what I would like to see in a Super-superintendent. In the real world, however, we may have to settle for less.

As a prologue—

We have to think of Richmond Public Schools as a manufacturing business. At one end we take in young minds ready to learn; at the other end we produce young men and women who are prepared to deal with their life goals, whether in college, in the business world or in the military. In thinking of RPS as a business we need to look at the taxpayers of Richmond and the Commonwealth as the shareholders. These shareholders invest their tax dollars and realize their “profits” in the satisfaction that they have prepared a future generation to take up the baton. Like all businesses, the workers of RPS, from the superintendent to support staff in each school, are accountable to the shareholders for their performance. The business analogy must take into account the uniqueness of the “product” that RPS is producing. In addition to the taxpayer-shareholders our school system must also be accountable to the children, whose precious lives we have in our care.

Therefore, in no particular order—

Our next superintendent must be a leader. The superintendent needs the ability to get the myriad employees of RPS to follow her agenda. She has to be the motivator that gets everyone to work at their full potential. Leadership ability should be demonstrated by success in some leadership position either in academics, business or the military.

Our next superintendent must understand organizations. RPS is often accused of having too much bureaucracy. The superintendent needs to be able to analyze the RPS organization and eliminate those positions that are unnecessary in giving our children an excellent education.

Our next superintendent must be committed to accountability. The attitude of employees in any institution is set at the top. The superintendent must not only be honest himself, but also convey to everybody who works for RPS that their job is a public trust. He must make it clear that he will not tolerate any employee who uses taxpayer money improperly.

Our next superintendent must understand the Richmond problem. A significant number of parents in the City of Richmond have indicated their lack of confidence in RPS by leaving the city to find a better educational opportunity for their children elsewhere. The superintendent must be able to deal with this problem first by making RPS a superior school system and second by convincing parents that their children will thrive here.

Our next superintendent must understand our school population. Seventy percent of RPS students come from families with economic difficulties. The superintendent must understand the challenges that these children face in obtaining their education and must have a plan for how to help them reach their full potential.

Our next superintendent must have a vision for RPS. She must be able to articulate her vision of where she expects RPS to be going in the next two years, the next five years and the next ten years. She must be able to convince the taxpayers that their investment in RPS will pay off in class after class of productive young citizens. She must show us the route to greatness.

Our next superintendent must be a unifier. Making RPS into a world-class educational system requires the participation of teachers, parents, civic and faith groups and the business and academic communities. The superintendent must be able to unite these various stakeholders in a common purpose—the education of our children. He must also be able to work productively with the school board, the city council and our next mayor.

1 comment:

gray said...

For the schedule of the Public Forums on the Superintendent Search, go to .