John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Not about Community, surprisingly

The Madison Metropolitan School District is nearing the end of a search for a new superintendent, and things are getting weird. First they announced two finalists for the position, and the next day one of them, the current superintendent of schools in Springfield, Illinois, withdrew his name from consideration after questions were raised about his tenure as superintendent of a district in New York. Good thing we paid an executive-search firm in Iowa a ton of money to find candidates for us!

My sister has often complained that doing a nationwide search for positions like this is counterproductive as often as not, if not more often. Her opinion, and it's not an unreasonable one, is that even the best school administrator in the world needs time to get up to speed in the new job, and that hiring someone from Springfield or Chicago just exacerbates that. Not only are they completely unfamiliar with the district and the local politics, they've got to worry about moving and getting settled in an unfamiliar new town on top of that. Therefore, she says, it'd be better to promote from within. MMSD has a deputy superintendent and at least two assistant superintendents, any of whom would require much less time to get established in the job and could get to work solving the district's problems that much quicker.

Of course, if they don't want the job — as I seem to recall the deputy and one of the assistants saying back when the search got underway — then promoting from within might not work. But is hiring an out-of-state executive-search firm to do a nationwide search the logical next step? As former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz points out, MMSD has an HR department, and it's obvious that outsourcing didn't do us much good.

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is also looking for a new leader. They've appointed a search committee composed of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community members, held public meetings were held to gather input from the community on what qualities the committee should look for in a new chancellor; and are currently reviewing applications. But they also hired a search firm to help identify candidates.

I don't know. Looking over the list of previous presidents and chancellors, several of the best-loved ones were found right on campus. Birge, Van Hise, Elvehjem, Ward … they were all UW professors before they were given the big job. Maybe they should try that again instead of hiring an outside firm to do a nationwide search. That's probably how they found the last chancellor, and she only lasted three years. Could tapping a distinguished professor or dean work out any worse?
Tags: current events, uw-madison, wisconsin: madison

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