Politics Can Handicap Urban Superintendents; Elected Boards, Turnover Create an 'Impossible Job'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

Politics Can Handicap Urban Superintendents; Elected Boards, Turnover Create an 'Impossible Job'


Byline: Andrea Billups, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The recent ouster of Miami-Dade Public Schools' top administrator Rudy Crew, who was named the nation's top superintendent just seven months ago, marks the latest clash between a high-profile urban administrator and an elected school board that some experts have dubbed a revolving door in education.

Mr. Crew, a nationally recognized school reformer and author who once led the New York City public school district, negotiated a $368,000 buyout of his contract Sept. 11 after political infighting and a budget shortfall in excess of $250 million polarized the country's fourth-largest school district.

Some educators said Mr. Crew's departure was inevitable.

Running a large urban school system has become almost an impossible job, said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), which honored Mr. Crew, 58, as National Superintendent of the Year in February.

Mr. Domenech, who once helmed the schools in Fairfax County, defended Mr. Crew's tenure in Miami-Dade, noting that he fell victim to political struggles similar to those that have marred the success of urban public school administrators across the country.

The benchmarks would indicate that academically, he was doing a very good job down there. He's a very popular writer and speaker on the education circuit, and he has a passion for kids and excellence in schools, said Mr. Domenech, who decried the increasingly political nature of elected school boards as an impediment to administrators and student progress.

With boards that are elected, when things are not going the way they like it go, they rail against the one person they can rail against, and that's the superintendent, he said, comparing the role of superintendent to that of the coach of a popular home team that isn't doing very well. …

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