A wish list for the new superintendent
I am only the third president of the CH-UH Teachers Union in 48 years. There is considerable job stability and longevity among school employees, but this does not seem to extend to administrators. During my more than 30 years at CH-UH, there have been at least eight superintendents (including interims), and I would have a difficult time counting the number of principals with whom I have worked. Administrators who have stayed for any significant amount of time have been few.
That being said, CH-UH will be hiring a new superintendent this spring, and with this important decision will probably come a host of other changes. I have noticed that within a year of the arrival of a new superintendent, most of the central office administration changes, as well. The central office structure will change to accommodate the new leadership, and a certain amount of upheaval will occur as people are assigned new responsibilities.
Little of what goes on in central administration has a direct impact on what happens in the classrooms, though there will be a trickle-down effect as new procedures are put in place. This can be disruptive, although sometimes in a good way.
The teachers union has as much input into the selection of a new superintendent as everyone else. In other words, we were invited to focus groups and to fill out leadership surveys concerning which 10 aspects of leadership, out of 33 choices, are most important in a leader.
Personally, I do not have much confidence that the search firm hired to identify potential candidates will use this information to find someone who really fits well in CH-UH. There are very few people in education with the ideal credentials who want to be a superintendent of a district of our size and demographic.
My wish list of attributes for the new CH-UH superintendent is long. I hope that we hire someone who doesn’t believe that standardized test scores define children, and who doesn’t believe the misleading data compiled by the state of Ohio regarding our students. I want someone who is willing to speak out against the inequalities and injustices in school funding in our state, and someone who is not reluctant to mobilize the community around these issues.
I want us to hire a leader who will take the time to learn what we do well in our schools and in our community, and what makes us unique. Many school leaders come with a mindset that whatever they did in their last school district is the way to do it here. We want someone who is open-minded, who will listen to different points of view, and who will make decisions that can be explained and accounted for.
We need someone who can admit a mistake and then work hard to correct it. We need someone who praises people for the good work they do, and is willing to hold people accountable when improvement is needed. We want someone who is compassionate, energetic, and willing to compromise, but who also has a vision to make us better.
How will our board of education find and retain such a leader? I wish our board well as it takes on this formidable task. I can offer the board assurances that the teachers and support staff I represent will continue to serve our students well, and that the union will continue its collaborative efforts with district administration.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.