Opportunity knocks again

First Posted: 1/15/2009

Shortly after schools Superintendent Colin Armstrong announced that he would not seek a contract extension, Mike Smith, the chairman of the school board, made this declaration about the impending search for a replacement: “I don’t foresee us having any problems. The superintendent makes a good living. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of applications.”
Obviously, Smith isn't clairvoyant.
Some board members will make the case, as John Campbell did for a Page 1A story today, that this newspaper's insistence that a real search would not be conducted hamstrung that process. That might be true - to a degree - but we were absolutely correct that half the board didn't search, but fixated on one candidate. And, if not for a single vote, we could now make the claim we were clairvoyant.
The worry that the board will not conduct a real search has now been kicked aside. That is a result of its decision not to reconsider the original 18 applicants, which dries up the local pool and works to keep politics out of the equation. The decision by board members not to give previous applicants another look was made to alleviate the tremendous local pressure they were under during this failed search.
What really cripples the board's ability to carry out a search, at least as it relates to the pool of candidates, is its richly-deserved reputation for micro-management, being political and not always acting in the interest of the students. Those are precisely the reasons that the board is looking for a superintendent; its meddling and indifference to education are why Armstrong didn't seek a new contract. Even now Armstrong, saying the board's actions have not changed, will not entertain reconsidering his decision to leave or continuing the job past June 30 on an interim basis.
Where Campbell is absolutely correct is his assertion that the next superintendent deserves more than a split board. We have just seen what happens when board members grab the opposite ends of the rope - there is a struggle, in this case one that lasted six months, that ends where it began.
We would add that the next superintendent also deserves the backing of the community.
So what's next? We don't know. Much worse is the board doesn't know either.
But the board is again presented with an opportunity, although the challenge is greater because the pool is likely to be smaller and time is short. We will watch to see if the board can prove its many critics - we being just one - wrong, and get this job done.

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