Monday, April 30, 2012

Providence superintendent search: no news is not good news

Though you would not know it from the news, Providence is engaged in searching for a new district superintendent. The most recent news reports, from late March, indicated that four candidates were in play, one of whom is Interim Superintendent Susan Lusi. Other than Dr. Lusi, the candidates names were confidential, "a common professional courtesy," meant to prevent them from tipping their hands at their current workplaces, as WRNI reported.

While I am no expert on the protocol of superintendent searches, I have informally witnessed enough to know that if such secrecy is a common professional courtesy, it's largely honored in the breach. Generally--though certainly not lately in Providence--final candidates make public presentations and have an opportunity to interact with stakeholders. Generally, the media reports on the final stages of the process, and the hiring process that school boards follow is publicly reported.

The courtesy of confidentiality extended to candidates, even if it is common practice, may have less merit than the benefits of transparency that would accrue if this process were more public. I expected that at this stage, final candidates would be public and we--the public--would have more information about the possible directions in which the district might head. I wish we understood the options. Wait, scratch that. I wish we had an opportunity have meaningful input into the outcome of this process. Given that meaningful public conversation around district leadership doesn't seem to be happening, I hope that the search committee and school board pay close attention to what stakeholders want. Pay attention to the comments that people submitted in response to the committee's request for public input (thanks to the Mayor's office for sharing these), which, along with two brief forums, represented the only opportunity for public engagement in this process.

Finally, pay careful attention to what the outcome of this process should be. If you want a strong, unified public school district (a big if, given the direction in which Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans and other busted up, privatized districts have headed), please hire Sue Lusi permanently for the position. Sue is building systems that will see the district through the long haul. She's stabilized the district's relationship with the union. She takes teaching and learning seriously. I can attest that she communicates with parents and families confidently, compassionately, thoughtfully, and competently. Her experience and expertise are very well suited for Providence.

If you agree, speak out. You may want to sign a petition that just got started on to indicate your interest in Dr. Lusi's continued work in Providence; if so, here it is:

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