The Little Rock School Board meets Monday afternoon to narrow applicants for the school superintendent's job to to finalists.
I'm interested particularly in one applicant, Walter Milton Jr., currently superintendent in Springfield, Ill., and a finalist the last time Little Rock filled this job. I've talked with him and he insists questions raised about his tenure in Springfield and elsewhere during his quest for a job in Wisconsin are just the sorts of things long-term superintendents inevitably face. Bosses don't make everybody happy, after all, and they can't be held responsible for the occasional mistakes in hiring of subordinates. But, my, what a lot of smoke.
And that's just a sample.
Forget the single applicant.The larger question is whether any of the applicants offer hope for departure from status quo, change-at-the-margins leadership. Leadership is lacking on the School Board itself, though that's something of a product of racial factionalism. The superintendent selection process was delayed far too long and is occurring now at a bad time during the school year. The process was outsourced to a consultant firm that hasn't produced stunning choices before. Race of the superintendent choice seems likely to be a disproportionate factor in the selection process.
It's far too late for me to make this suggestion, but I'll make it again anyway. Little Rock could have sought a waiver from state law to bring in an independent local businessman without political baggage to evaluate, even ruthlessly, the old order of things. Heck, they could look next door or elsewhere in Arkansas for somebody like Jerry Guess, who's used a powerful portfolio as state-appointed leader of a district in receivership to right the Pulaski County Special School District. He, incidentially, had a noteworthy career at a Camden school district well-versed in coping with desegregation and flight issues.
Why can't the district recruit a shining star rather than fall back on the usual sorts of choices that inevitably include candidates fleeing difficult circumstances?