OPINION: Blowing Smoke
It won’t be long now before the proverbial white smoke is curling from a chimney atop the Greendale Schools’ district office announcing the selection of a new superintendent.
Before that happens, there will likely be private interviews with stakeholders, school tours, Q&A sessions with teacher leaders and administrators, community meet-and-greets, “off the record” phone calls between board members and intimate dinners with the candidates and school board members at undisclosed locations.
It can be a grueling and tough process for the candidates. We should all thank them for being willing to stand up for Greendale kids and go through the process. Too many good school leaders aren’t willing to work as a superintendent these days. I wish them good luck.
This school board has a proven track record of poor and inward judgements and decisions. When it comes to choosing the next superintendent, these five community decision-makers will hold their own counsel (and perhaps that of a small, hand-picked circle of long-time district cheerleaders and usual suspects).
They don’t seem interested in reaching out to others — perhaps out of paranoia and fear. Maybe our newest board member is willing to break this mold. I hear he is asking increasingly uncomfortable questions of other board members and the administration.
What we don’t know is who else was in the candidate mix and was missed by the board. As one experienced board watcher told me, “There is always at least one great candidate that the interview team misses. Good teams will go back and double check. Bad teams ignore the critics and make excuses. The one they missed may have been the best candidate.”
And, let’s hope they go further than simple, cursory checks on the candidates this time around. The board needs to go beyond listed references and probe for possible problem areas in backgrounds. That is just best practice and common sense. I am hearing that some parents and community members are taking it upon themselves to vet the candidates themselves. That is probably not a good thing.
The board will also give lip service to the idea that they are truly listening to the feedback of a wide-range of community leaders, parents, students, faculty and staff. This bunch simply isn’t inclined to reach out. When was the last time a school board member called or emailed you out of the blue? Heck, some of them are known — and take pride in — not returning an email or phone call.
However, we must support our board members through this decision-making process because Greendale can’t afford a second, colossal hiring mistake on the single most important choice a school board has to make — the next superintendent.
Hopefully, there is a strong and authentic leader in the mix. We will find out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because the schools’ new superintendent will be tasked with uniting a community and school leadership divided and damaged by their predecessor and the decisions and inactions of the current school board. Rest assured, the district’s search firm has made the candidates aware of this fact already.
Equally as important, there is much in-house work to be done to retool for the future ensuring Greendale’s kids have the flagship education the community has come to expect for 75 years.
Hopefully, the Greendale Schools is still a destination of choice for a great leader. Lord knows we need one desperately, and so does the Greendale school board.
A Parting Gif…