Public Comment

Commentary: Talking Points for the Superintendent Selection Process

By Michael Miller
Friday November 30, 2007

The following text is the United In Action “Talking Points for Superintendent Selection Process,” submitted to the Leadership Associates (“Leadership”) consulting group. Leadership is the agency contracted by the BUSD to find our next superintendent. 


United in Action believes that the stakes are far too high to simply hire a competent administrator. While we need the experience and skill set that will continue to maintain and enhance our infrastructure, we cannot continue to sacrifice the success and well-being of our students. The data are irrefutable. We are failing to educate our black and brown students at record levels, throughout the entire district.  

The 2007 CA STAR test results show that 77 percent of our second-grade African-American and Latino students are less than proficient in English-Language Arts, while more than 80 percent of our eleventh-grade African-American and Latino students are less than proficient. We must have leadership that will make student achievement the number one priority.  

We have outlined the qualities that we believe are absolutely essential for this position. We feel duty-bound to inform those in our community who may not be aware of the critical need for education reform. 


About the selection process: 

1. Berkeley is a unique and diverse community with many political, racial, ethnic, social, and economic divisions. The selection process lacks a community envisioning process to develop a shared set of community values and priorities regarding the new superintendent. In fact, the community meetings scheduled with the search team reflect and perpetuate these divisions by grouping only similar organizations together, rather than grouping diverse organizations together to facilitate consensus amongst the community. How will the consultants adequately represent the community vision when there has been no shared process in identifying our values and priorities? 

2. The process is too fast to address the goals and desires of our community. Similar selection processes in the past have not met our needs and this process is not likely to meet our needs either, unless there is more time allotted to developing a shared set of community values and priorities.  

3. The process does not enable the community to get to know the candidates in any real sense to differentiate whether they are good at selling themselves or good at solving our serious educational problems. The process is closed, the community role is marginalized, and the community's ability to qualify candidates to ensure we find a superintendent that we can support and who will support the change we feel our districts needs is undervalued by the process. 


Important Qualities for our next Superintendent: 

Our most recent superintendents have brought important skills for the improvement and success of our school district. Jack McLaughlin brought his skills in facilities construction at a time when many of our schools were being rebuilt, while Michelle Lawrence brought her skills in fiscal management at a time when our district was in financial difficulty. We now need a superintendent with the passion, skills, and experience to address issues of race and class and bring our community together to ensure the academic success of all of our students. This superintendent should: 

1. Hold student achievement as their highest priority. 

2. Have a proven track record of addressing issues of race, class, and equity in a large urban community similar to Berkeley. 

3. Understand institutional barriers to achieving educational equity. 

4. Be a community builder, with a demonstrated ability to build and lead a collaborative partnership with parents, teachers, staff, and the greater community. 

5. Have the ability and desire to enter into intentional and respectful relationships with city government, institutions of higher education (UC Berkeley and community colleges), community resources, and state and federal resources. 

6. Have experience in preschool through adult education, and understand and value the importance of continuing and alternative education (B-Tech, Independent Studies, the Adult School). 

7. Have proven commitment and innovation in recruiting and retaining teachers of color, and development of a professional development plan with the focus of helping boost the achievement of low-performing students and engaging all students.  

8. Have demonstrated experience in implementing a data collection system to systematically monitor student performance, and to inform targeted intervention efforts at the classroom, school, district levels. 

9. Be sensitive to the needs of special needs students, and have demonstrated ability in meeting these needs. 


Michael Miller is a coordinator for Parents of Children of African Descent.