Columnist Jamala Rogers
To the tune of “The Cupid Shuffle”:
“To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right
Now kick ‘em in the butt, kick ‘em in the butt.”
The crises in public education have created a diseased gene pool of superintendents who go from urban district to district. They have the school reform jargon down pat, promising fiscal accountability and higher reading scores.
I ask you: if they knew how to do that successfully, would they be on the market so often?
Take Creg Williams and Rudy Crews, for instance, described by one local reporter as “hired guns to blow up the district.” We have Brooks Brothers Bill Roberti, Mayor Slay and his posse to thank for them. Since getting the boot out of the Lou, Williams has bounced around several cities. Crews has bounced in several districts. Cha-ching, cha-ching.
Rudy Crews, a Roberti “consultant” here, went on to Miami and became the highest paid superintendent in the country. Community leaders there even chipped in to buy his house.
That little romance soured quickly. Crews abused his powers. He used the proverbial cloak to hide his shenanigans and refused to cooperate with requests for transparency. The computer software firm where his son works gut the big hook-up for a multi-million contract. Crews left with a severance pay of $368,000.
That’s the ugliest part of the hustle. Financially strapped districts have to buy these hustlers’ contracts out and still pay for a new superintendent. It is the worse form of exploitation. It means that district jobs have to be cut or schools closed to make up the difference. These hustlers almost always leave the district in worse shape than when they came.
St. Louis is looking at three bouncers for the next superintendent of its troubled district. I don’t know if they fit the criteria of being in the diseased pool, but I certainly see some running sores that don’t look healthy.
Kelvin Adams first came with Creg Williams. That association alone makes him suspect, since Williams’ signature was bringing his incompetent friends into St. Louis for jobs. A source close to the situation says that district employees who had to work with Adams cringe at the thought of him becoming head honcho. Like Roberti and Williams before him, he has no experiences as a superintendent.
Eric Becoats was the former co-interim superintendent of a district in North Carolina. Does that term mean that he was one of two temps the district wouldn’t hire as permanent? Becoats has admitted using bad judgment when he ran his private consulting firm out of one of the schools in another district where he was associate super. Did I mention he hired his wife for an administrative position in the Guilford County school district?
Donnie Evans is best known for a blunder that left students in 60 busses stranded for hours into the night during a December snowstorm. Evans was supposed to be the one to stop the revolving door of superintendents in Providence, R.I. But alas, just like his predecessors, he barely got his three years in. Evans also has been criticized for lack of communication with parents and the public. Teachers cited a number of issues, such as lack of accountability and a clear direction. One school went without a principal for two months. Evans increased the size of special education classes in a sordid effort to close the budget deficit.
The superintendent selection process is starting to look like an impending train crash. It’s not too late for the Special Administrative Board to put on the brakes, suck in their pride, and ask former superintendent Diana Bourisaw to come back. This district cannot afford another failed experiment leaving more human and financial casualties in its wake. Our children deserve better.