bounce from city to city looking for their next hustle. The crises
in public education have created a diseased gene pool of school
superintendents who go from urban district to suburban district.
They have the school reform jargon down pat, promising fiscal accountability
and higher reading scores. And so I ask you: if they knew how to
do that successfully, would they be on the market so often?
average desk life of a school superintendent is about three years.
These once-were or wanna-be school superintendents all know the
superintendent shuffle. To the tune of the Cupid Shuffle, let's
the right, to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right
kick 'em in the butt, kick 'em in the butt.”
St. Louis where the school district has been hemorrhaging for the last
five years, we've seen the superintendent shuffle more often they
we'd like. Mayor Frances Slay has been on a mission to bring more
white, middle-class residents to the city. One of the barriers is
the predominantly black, mostly poor school district. The solution?
Destabilize the district and bring on the charter schools.
a lion waiting in the cut to pounce on his prey, Slay saw his opportunity
when Dr. Cleveland Hammonds retired after seven years of service
to the district. Quickly, another respected administrator was named
to replace him. As soon as Floyd Cruise (2004) began making decisions
as if he had power, he was snatched out and never heard from again.
Pamela Randall Hughes was named interim supe for a short time in
2005 but learned she was just a stand-in for who the Mayor and his
corporate backers really wanted at the helm.
community organized a gallant fight-back, picking off a couple of
the Mayor's board members and replacing them with consensus board
members. Slay and his remaining cronies on the board ratcheted up
the stakes and brought in their “cleaner”. He was William Roberti,
a former Brooks Brothers exec. With no school district experience
and no superintendent certification, the state waived all such legal
and statutory requirements for these special circumstances. Now
with Alvarez & Marsal, the so-called global turn-around company,
Roberti was paid $5 million dollars to take the district down.
know the drill: Twenty-two schools were closed, mostly in black
neighborhoods; services were privatized; teachers were laid off;
consultant friends and relatives were hired or given no-bid contracts.
Test scores plummeted as did staff morale.
his year of a job well done, Roberti bounces in Creg Williams from
Philly with no superintendent credentials. He had done the superintendent
hustle from Chicago to Philly. Rudy Crews bounced in as a high-paid
consultant. They were collectively described by one local reporter
as “hired guns to blow up the district.”
and other personnel started to leave the district in droves. Parents
with the resources to do so pulled their children out of the bleeding
district for their own educational safety and sanity. With a fractured
school board, a dysfunctional district, a burgeoning deficit and
drowning test scores, the St. Louis school district was now ripe for a state take-over.
Republican governor appointed his business friend to head a committee
of three to have full authority over the moribund district. The
elected board, now with a majority of members democratically elected
to implement the community's agenda, has been relegated to the sidelines.
Also on the outs was Dr. Diana Bourisaw, a competent supe hired
by the “elected board,” who had began making significant changes
and had won the support of the teachers union, parents and other
community stakeholders. She had regained almost all of the 25 accreditation
points lost under the Roberti-Williams regime.
getting the boot out of St.
Louis, Creg Williams has bounced around several cities. Crews has
bounced to several districts. Alvarez & Marsal shuffled to New
York City and New Orleans,
They shuffled all the way to the bank. Cha-ching, cha-ching.
Crews went on to Miami
and became the highest paid superintendent in the country. Community
leaders there even chipped in to buy his house. That little romance
soured quickly. Crews abused his powers. He used the proverbial
cloak to hide his shenanigans and refused to cooperate with requests
for transparency. The computer software firm where his son works
got the big hook-up for a multi-million contract. Crews just left
with a severance pay of $368,000.
the ugliest part of the shuffle. A year or two into the contract,
the school board and community find out these superintendents can't
or don't deliver on their briefcase of promises. Financially strapped
districts have to buy these hustlers' contracts out and still pay
for a new superintendent. It is the worse form of exploitation.
It means that district jobs have to be cut or schools closed to
make up the difference. These hustlers almost always leave the district
in worse shape than when they came.
St. Louis is currently looking at three bouncers
for the next superintendent of its troubled district. I don't know
if they fit the criteria of being in the diseased pool of superintendents
that I spoke of earlier but I certainly see some running sores that
don't look healthy.
Adams first came with Creg Williams. That association alone makes
him suspect since Williams' signature was bringing his incompetent
friends into St. Louis for jobs. A source close to the situation say that district
employees who had to work with Adams cringe
at the thought of him becoming head honcho. Like Roberti and Williams
before him, he has no experiences as a superintendent.
Becoats was the former co-interim superintendent of a district in
North Carolina. Does that term mean that he was one of two temps the
district wouldn't hire as permanent? Becoats has admitted using
bad judgment when he ran his private consulting firm out of one
of the schools in another district where he was associate supe.
Did I mention he hired his wife for an administrative position in
the Guilford County school district?
Evans is best known for a blunder that left students in 60 buses
stranded for hours into the night during a December snowstorm. Evans
was supposed to be the one to stop the revolving door of superintendents
in Providence, RI.
But alas, just like his predecessors, he barely got his three years
in. Other criticisms of Evans was the lack of communication with
parents and the public. Teachers cited a number of issues such as
lack of accountability and a lack of clear direction. One school
went without a principle for two months. Evans increased the size
of special education classes in a sordid effort to close the budget
St. Louis superintendent selection process is starting
to look like an impending train crash. It's not too late for the
State Appointed Board to put on the brakes, suck in their pride,
and ask former superintendent Diana Bourisaw to come back. This
district cannot afford another failed experiment leaving more human
and financial casualties in its wake. Seven superintendents in seven
years for an urban district on the brink of disaster. Our children
deserve better - in St. Louis and any other city or town. They really,
Board member, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the Organization for Black Struggle
in St. Louis and the Black
Radical Congress National Organizer. Click here
to contact Ms. Rogers.