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City Life: Ten requirements for the next superintendent

April 03, 2012|By Steve Smith

Nine people can judge whether laws passed by Congress are constitutional.

Twelve people on a jury can convict someone of murder and, in some states, give the possibility that he will be sentenced to death.

There are countries in which one person makes the decision to go to war.

But the combined wisdom of the education experts on Bear Street determined that it will take 31 people to screen the candidates for our next school superintendent.

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The list of the sections of the community from which the candidates were selected reads more like a team created not because it brings some particular education expertise to the table, but because someone did not want to exclude or offend anyone. This huge committee all but guarantees competing priorities, so to help smooth the process, here is a list of qualities, credentials and experience on which the Newport-Mesa Unified committee should focus.

Eleven Costa Mesa schools are on Program Improvement status, meaning there are specific actions that must be taken because they are not meeting various academic goals. A few of these schools are just flat out failing.

So, first and foremost, the new superintendent should have success in turning around failing schools. It is so important that it is a deal-breaker. Those without turnaround experience need not apply. This requirement isn't only first, it is second and third as well.

Fourth, the new superintendent must have his or her fiscal priorities in order. If the new superintendent supports an annual travel and conference budget of $221,052 while some teachers are asking for Ticonderoga pencils, the new superintendent had better be able to draw a direct line from the meetings to school improvement.

Fifth, the superintendent should have a higher sense of accountability than his predecessors or the current members of the school board. For instance, every conference or meeting off-site should be followed up by a written report or summary stating whom was there, what was discussed, and most important, what was learned that will help our schools and how and when it will be implemented.

Sixth, the new schools chief should have a thick skin. The candidate should invite criticism, even if those delivering it don't always provide a solution.

Seventh, the new superintendent should have experience with written travel guidelines to prevent any misuse of public funds. There is no need for a task force to develop the guidelines, as there are hundreds of them in existence.

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