NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Managing Education Without Educators

June 8, 2000

Several major urban school districts have chosen non-educators for the top post of superintendent. Is this trend fueled by disenchantment with education professionals and their tendency to favor experimental programs over time-tested approaches?

  • Two years ago, Alan D. Bersin, a U.S. attorney for Southern California, was selected to run San Diego's schools -- where he laid off 600 paraprofessionals, remarking "they have added virtually nothing to student achievement."
  • Last month, Harold O. Levy, a corporate lawyer, was chosen to lead the New York City school system, the nation's largest.
  • On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Education named Roy Romer, the former Colorado governor, as its new superintendent.
  • Other urban districts also have turned to law, business, government and the military for new leadership and an outside perspective.

Seattle has had two nontraditional superintendents in a row -- one from the military and one from the private sector. Houston's superintendent is a former school board member. Chicago's is a former city budget director, and Kansas City's a former top federal aviation official.

Source: Tamar Lewin, "Educators Are Bypassed as School System Leaders," New York Times, June 8, 2000.


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