Turnover School Superintendents Are Changing Jobs with Increasing Frequency

Article excerpt

More than half of the school districts in St. Louis County have a superintendent fairly new to the job. And nearly a third of the county's school districts will get new superintendents in the coming year. The trend extends nationwide: The average stay of a school superintendent is dropping yearly, and is now at 2 1/2 years.

It used to be that superintendents would work two or more decades for the same school district. That's rare now.

Some observers say the trend is the result of a society that often looks for a scapegoat.

"There has been a lot of fault-finding with schools since the education at risk report came out," said Earl W. Hobbs, an associate professor at St. Louis University who was superintendent for 21 years in Clayton.

Hobbs was referring to the "Nation at Risk" report issued 12 years ago. The report urged schools to demand more from students, to match student achievement in other countries.

Superintendents are often held responsible for some of society's biggest problems - such as violence, drug abuse and poor parenting - for which no one has easy answers. And superintendents often deal with multi-million dollar budgets, special-interest groups and school board members with agendas.

Allan Ellis will retire this summer after 10 years as superintendent of the Bayless district. He has noticed a lot of vacancies in superintendent positions across Missouri. He said the stress of the job has worsened.

"Look what's going on with all the political things coming toward the schools," Ellis said, adding that he is not referring to his school district. "There always are people who support these things and people against them. The superintendents are caught in the middle."

Some teachers cite the benefits of getting new superintendents, such as an opportunity to change old practices. But teachers also mention minuses, such as the loss of someone known and trusted in the community.

When Donald Senti announced last week that he would resign as superintendent in Parkway this summer to become superintendent of the Clayton schools, his office was flooded with letters, faxes and telephone calls urging him to stay. …