Experience Necessary

Experience Necessary

This issue highlights how difficult it can be to match leaders with districts, but also how wonderful it can be when those matches result in positive changes.

When Cathie Black was first nominated to be New York City Schools chancellor last fall, some predicted the former chairwoman of Hearst magazines to last six months, but the prediction ended up being optimistic. Ninety-five days after her start date, she is out, and deputy mayor Dennis Walcott, an educator, as well as former CEO and President of the New York Urban league who has long aided mayor Bloomberg in educational matters, is in. Black's savvy business skills alone were not enough to lead the largest school district in the United states, perhaps unsurprisingly to the many who opposed her. Why the mayor appointed Black into this no-win position, without consulting educators, is a mystery. But the ordeal is yet another example of how prominent the issue of defining effective school leadership has become.

Among many other topics in this issue, we cover two emerging leadership models. Anthony Tata, the new superintendent for North Carolina's largest district, Wake County Public School System, is a former army general and one of four other ex-military officers running U.S. schools. after retiring from the military in 2009, Tata was hired as COO of District of Columbia Public Schools by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. She credits him as being a great leader, although Tata lacks specific education experience. Tata believes that there are great similarities between the military and education. The school district's central office was like army headquarters, he says, speaking about DCPS, and principals were the equivalent of colonels. We profile tata and his plans to lead a district swarming with controversy.

Of schools eligible for $3.5 billion in School Improvement Grants this year, 74 percent have chosen the transformational model, one of the four models of President Obama's education turnaround plan. This model requires a new principal and staff for low-achieving schools. In our article on turnaround principals, we report on how there is a shortage of principals who have both the educational experience and the skills necessary to take on this new leadership role. Among other things, turnaround principals must help teachers and the community at large to adapt quickly to a school going through an overhaul of instruction, evaluation systems and school operations. We discuss some new training models that help prepare leaders to transform low-achieving schools.

Every month, we bring you news and ideas to help you become a better leader. This issue highlights how difficult it can be to match leaders with districts, but also how wonderful it can be when those matches result in substantial and positive changes.

Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor in Chief

jhartnett@districtadministration.com


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