Not Voting on Superintendent Davis's Contract Matters

The Atlanta school board is refusing to vote on whether Superintendent Davis' contract will be renewed.

Here's why it matters:

Superintendent Davis and former-Superintendent Hall were brought in during similar public expectations.  Both Dr. Hall and Mr. Davis were asked to improve APS from the low status many perceived it to have. However, as a necessity, much of Superintendent Davis’s initial efforts have been in direct response to shortcoming of the immediate past administration under Superintendent Hall.  Namely, the previous administration had ambitious plans for success without realistic corrections for failure. The Hall administration accepted the positive trends in ways that the Davis administration is now scrutinizing. Where Superintendent Hall put in place initiatives to spur educators to reach the height of performance, Superintendent Davis is enacting initiatives to discourage educators from dipping below performance expectations. Namely, Mr. Davis addressed five areas immediately upon assuming full superintendent responsibilities: (1) combating cheating, (2) rehabilitating the district, (3) restoring students, (4) employing administrative leave, and (5) applying relevant professional, employment, and criminal penalties. These strategies are likely considered to be sound approaches for managing education systems in the context of responding to crisis, but alone they are not likely to transform the district from operating as it had under Superintendent Hall.
[Superintendent Davis took] positive steps by cleaning up the environments that incentivized cheating behavior in the first place, and he is consulting with experts to put in place professionally sound organizational strategies. What is concerning, though, is that many thought that Superintendent Hall was doing similar things at the time she was managing the district—borrowing reforms and initiatives that the education community thought were effective.  After speaking with former APS employees [during my thesis research], there may be reason to believe that simply changing superintendents and tightening administrative policies may not on their own lead to sustainable solutions. Said more strongly, it is unclear that these new policies will actually result in environments where educators and decision-makers will actually be able to police their own environments.

--excerpted from my Master's Thesis, CRITICAL INCIDENTS IN EDUCATION:

So what am I trying to say?

I'm trying to say that Superintendent Davis may have been just what the doctor ordered to restore order in Atlanta Public Schools.  However, it is doubtful that he is what is needed to push APS to become a district that thrives on its own successes and evaluates its own shortcomings.  For all his well-deserved praise and accomplishments (seriously, no sarcasm), it's fair to say that Superintendent Davis never expected himself to be APS's long-term superintendent.

Nor should we.

But that doesn't mean that his contract must end THIS year.  There is a strong case for keeping him on long enough so that the search for a new APS superintendent isn't rushed.  Renewing Superintendent Davis' contract for another year may provide an opportunity for a meaningful administrative transition and introduction of the new leader to Atlanta's community.  It may signal a maturity and stability that APS has lacked.

You see, APS does not just need someone to stop the bleeding and prescribe the medicine-- APS needs a long-term caretaker.  Someone who helps the district regain its strength and envision new opportunities.  And, most importantly, APS needs new administration’s policies grounded in an APS specific context.

So, am I for or against Davis?

Because I am interested in the long-term stability and PROSPERITY of Atlanta Public Schools, I must be for Superintendent Davis -- he had undeniably done GOOD for the district.  I am ALSO for a predecessor to take the reigns, after an appropriate transition, and build upon the stability Davis has brought.

Anyone know any names of potential candidates that have come up in the superintendent search?

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