An AJC story this morning talks about the new DeKalb school chief’s hiring of three former colleagues at six-figure salaries. Each is a top-level player in the transformation that Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson intends for DeKalb and each is being paid $159,800.
According to the story: Atkinson’s point person for instruction is Kathleen Howe, a former colleague of hers as a deputy superintendent in Kansas City, a district of 17,400 students and 2,300 teachers and other employees. Kendra March is DeKalb’s new deputy superintendent for school leadership and operational support. March worked with Atkinson in Charlotte at a district of 125,000 students. Gary Brantley, the chief information officer, will be in charge of all computers and technical equipment, such as digital “smart boards” for the entire district. He held a similar post for the Lorain City Schools in Ohio, where Atkinson was most recently the district superintendent.
It is not unusual for new CEOs in the private sector to assemble their own “cabinets” and pluck people from their pasts to serve in those cabinets. I don’t think we can fault Atkinson for creating her own team and reaching back in her career to find the best people.
But a retired school administrator sent me a note this morning about the part of the story talking about March:
Here is the section of the story that worried the reader:
Atkinson’s other top educator is March, deputy superintendent for school leadership and operational support. March has been a school principal at all levels to high school, and in affluent as well as economically struggling neighborhoods.
“I was able to improve student achievement in all of those schools,” March said. “That’s what our mission is here in DeKalb.”
Her first priority is to make sure that each of the schools in the district has an effective principal, and in turn, that person sets the tone for the classroom. March helped school districts boost their student achievement goals by assisting in creating student assessment tools, or ways to closely track student progress. She also helped improve curriculum of science and math instruction.
Here is what the reader said after reading it:
Should we worry about a Kendra March because of her statement “I was able to improve student achievement in all of those schools …”? Or should we simply conclude that it was taken out of context and not indicative of her proven practice? For in addition to it being politically incorrect to use the “I” word for what was so obviously a team effort, it is foolish when beginning a position which will take the cooperation and support of a large number of her new colleagues.
In my reporting over the decades, I have seen the power of one leader to transform a school, but a critical piece of that transformation has been the assembling of the right team.
But I have also seen the deflation that can occur in a school when a charismatic leader walks out the door. So, even though the team was still in place, the leader was the catalyst who provided the energy that electrified the school.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog