What The MCSD Board Survey Doesn’t Ask

  The Muscogee County Board of Education wants to know what attributes we value the most in a school superintendent. There is a survey form for you to fill out on the MSCD website. You can go to it by clicking this link. I hope the Board publishes the results because I would like to know them.

  Meanwhile, this has me thinking about what I most value in a superintendent. Do I want a “benevolent dictator” like the late Dr. William Henry Shaw? That’s how a lot of people describe him, and there was no doubt that he was a very strong, progressive leader.   

  My main reason for living in 1945, the year Dr. Shaw came to Columbus, was to play a snare drum in the Jordan band, which was a small and not very good outfit. It wasn’t that we didn’t try, but we didn’t have a full time band director. He, and the school board who backed him, changed that dramatically. All of the high schools hired full time band directors, bought band uniforms and additional instruments and Columbus’ high schools were put on the musical map. Jordan, under Bob Barr, won all sorts of impressive awards, including national awards in places like Chicago and New York.  

  The fact that Dr. Shaw quickly put resources into the arts was emblematic of his approach to education. While he was very much interested in improving all classroom instruction, he understood that education  goes beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

  He was definitely a politician, knowing how to get his way with city leaders and his school boards. The boards were not elected then, but appointed by a Grand Jury.  I don’t know if that made them more inclined to go along with him than if they had been elected.  The results, however, point that way.

  The real test came when the school’s were racially integrated. I thought he handled it well. I remember a conversation I had with him about it. I was news director and evening news anchor at WRBL Radio and TV at the time. He said, “You know, Dick, the problem is not with the kids. It’s their parents. They are the ones who are having the greatest difficulty in accepting this change, and, of course, the kids pick up on that and it affects their behavior.”

  So we have the example of what a strong superintendent can accomplish.  “Strong leader” is not one of the choices on the school board’s survey. There can be a problem with a “strong leader.” He or she may be strong, but could lead in the wrong direction.  I guess the closest to “strong leader” would be the choice of “charisma.”  Charisma is fine, but it doesn’t mean the leader will lead in the right direction, either.

  Also, not listed as a choice is “educational philosophy.” Closest to that I suppose is “visionary.” I think “philosophy” is an extremely important issue.  I think the school board should find out the superintednent’s philosohpy of education, and if it agrees, and he or she meets the other qualifications the board requires. hire the person and let him or her do the job. Stop all of this micromanagement business that the board engages in now. If the new superintendent does the job, fine, if not, get another one.

  Being a lover of democracy, I can’t say that I don’t want an elected board. But, it does have its problems. The power of being elected does seem to affect a board member’s ego, and strong egos do seem to go hand in hand with being a person who wants to hold public office. While the board members may say the main reason they run for the office is beacuse they want to serve the community and the children,  the quest for power is probably an underlying reason.

  Bottom line: hire a good superintendent and let him or her do the job. Give that person guidelines. Hold him or her accountable, but don’t try to micromange.


The MCSD supplied this public service announcement:
The Muscogee County Board of Education seeks input from the community in staffing the next Superintendent of Education for the Muscogee County School System.  August 31st is the deadline to complete and submit a Community Survey.  This one-page survey is available at the following locations: Central Administration building of the Muscogee County School District, the four public libraries in Muscogee County, and the office of Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.  The Community Survey is also available at the School District website at www.mcsdga.net.  The citizens of Muscogee County are encouraged to participate in this survey, as well as two upcoming community forums.  Contact Karen P. Jones at 706-748-2018 for additional information.


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