Urban superintendents face a very difficult task
The current excitement and controversies of the most recent election of Board of Education candidates has focused public attention on urban education.
Newly elected member Carl Paladino has made many suggestions in The News of how to remake the Buffalo School District. One of his prominent proposals is to fire the current superintendent, Pamela Brown, and hire a savior superintendent with an outlandish hiring bonus of a half-million dollars. This super administrator would solve poor attendance, chronic violence and low academic achievement of Buffalo students.
The quest for the rock-star superintendent is an unachievable goal. No such person exists. The tales of other urban superintendents can attest to the fact. No large city superintendent in the United States has achieved those goals. By pretending that this is possible, we set our academic leaders for failure. Then the cycle starts again, until we find the next star that we can appoint and eventually let go.
The average length of service of an urban U.S. superintendent is just under three years. Also, according to a University of Memphis survey of superintendents, 71 percent agree that position is in a state of crisis. A majority of them also state that the current model should be seriously restructured.
During this brief tenure, even the most qualified superintendent will unlikely implement reform programs that can result in higher academic performance.
Unfortunately, the success of urban superintendents has not been encouraging. Given the state of urban education, how long before Buffalo schools will look again for the next savior superintendent?
W. John Kozinski
Retired Buffalo School Counselor