What Does a Revolving Door at the Top Say About A School System?

JCCH_Revolving_DoorBy Nick McDaniels

It’s about time that I get off my soap box about the revolving door of teachers in big city school systems!  I’ve been a teacher for seven years, blogging here for most of that, and I have consistently criticized the revolving door of teachers, but have failed to really reflect on the revolving door of superintendents, or, as they would like to be called, Chief Executive Officers.  In seven years in Baltimore City Schools, I have known 4 CEOs–two permanent, and two interim–and on July 1st, I will know my fifth, as Baltimore City Schools crowns a former Chief Academic Officer the newest CEO. What does this mean for me, personally? Not a lot. The actions of a CEO don’t impact my day-to-day in measurable ways, though, over time, it may impact my year to year.

But that’s just it. CEOs don’t often get to stick around long enough to impact anything, and if they do, the impact of their leadership is not really felt until after they are gone.  What does this say about the revolving door at the top? About the long-term vision for Big City School Systems? What does it say for the rank and file who come back year after year to see CEOs either leave for greener pastures or get fired for, well, not really being any better or worse than the last person?

I can’t necessarily speak to all of that. But I can speak to what it says to me. No person within school system, no matter how brilliant, how experienced, how well-paid, has a recipe for fixing the problems poverty creates for a school system and the community it serves. And as such, one CEO comes in, is set up to fail, and another CEO comes in to replace that person, thus giving taxpayers the illusion that the government officials, whether elected or appointed, who get to call the shots, are doing something about the problem.

Instead, they are just running an assembly line of people who will take the fall for their own inaction. I don’t feel sorry for the CEOs who lose their job, because the salary is worth the fall at the end. But I do feel sorry for the rest of us, the students mostly, who are pawns in this game of kicking the can, false hope, and deflection.

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