Interim state superintendent Ed Richardson spent 30 minutes or more at the Nov. 9 state board work session discussing the experiences and skill set needed by the next state school chief.
As is his nature, Richardson was candid and left no one in doubt as to how he felt.
Here are points he covered::
Experience in managing large, preferably public, governmental organizations in a manner producing measurable positive results.
Richardson reminded the board that governmental organizations frequently expand in size, without increasing efficiency. When this happens the organizations tend to subdivide into silos that become self-serving. He stressed that the superintendent must work with the board to identify and establish goals.
Experience in interacting with state legislators, elected officials, state agency officials, postsecondary and higher education, state organization leaders and the business community.
“It is essential that the superintendent and the state department of education have credibility with the legislature<” said Richardson. He also stressed that the department should be an advocate for education when the legislature is working on the education trust fund. He does not think that has been the case recently.
Possesses a broad knowledge of educational trends and existing program.
He pointed out that unless a superintendent has extensive experience at all levels of K 12 education, they will never have the confidence and trust of local educators.
Possesses sufficient knowledge of Alabama’s framework for providing educational service. In addition, clearly understands the primary role of the State Department of Education in regard to oversight and assistance to local education agencies.
State superintendent must be able to maintain a vigorous and demanding work schedule, be highly proficient in the effective utilization of time and making timely decisions.
Richardson also emphasized that the Alabama code says the state board and superintendent “shall seek in every way to direct and develop public sentiment in support of public education.” Unfortunately, this attitude has not always been prevalent.
As Richardson ran through his list, several thoughts kept going through my mind. One being that everything he said would be considered “common sense” by 99 out of 100 Alabamians. How do you not insist on experience in managing an organization similar to the state department?
And it was impossible to not think back to the summer of 2016 when the board hired someone who was woefully lacking in most of the things this job demands?
Governor Ivey presided at the work session. She repeatedly stated that the upcoming superintendent hire will be the most important decision this board makes during their current term. Richardson echoed her and it is obvious the two of them are on the same page as this search moves forward.
In fact, the governor announced that at the December board meeting she will offer a motion to hire a national firm to conduct the next search. She does not want to take a chance of repeating mistakes made by the board when they conducted their own search in 2016.
Nor do any educators in this state.