Sunday, July 22, 2007

Connie Calloway - the right choice to lead Detroit Public Schools?

I was listening to Frankie Darcell's "Talk of the Town" program on Mix 92.3 FM today, and she was interviewing Dr. Connie Calloway, the new superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools. This reminded me that July 1 marked the first day of the administration of Dr. Calloway, who was selected by the Detroit School Board to lead the troubled school district. To this day, I am baffled as to how, despite a national search, the majority of the board members decided that Dr. Calloway would be the best person to manage the Detroit Public Schools, receiving a salary (not including other perks) of $280,000 per year.

Now, I know that there are those who would say that she's only been in office for a few weeks, and that we should give her a chance. But ask yourselves, do we really have the luxury of giving her a "chance" when Detroit's schools are in the shape that they're in?

Consider Dr. Calloway's "credentials":
  • Prior to Detroit, the largest district she had ever run had a total of 5,700 students (that being the Normandy School District in Missouri). This is about the population of 2 or 3 large high schools in Detroit.
  • For 2006, the average ACT score in the district was 16.8, compared with the Missouri state average of 21.6.
  • In 2006, only 8.9% of Normandy's students who took the ACT met or exceeded the state average.
  • In 2006, only 10.5% of 11th graders received a ranking of "Proficient" or above on the state of Missouri's standardized tests in communications arts (reading and writing).
  • In 2006, only 8.5% of 10th grades received a ranking of "Proficient" or above on the state of Missouri's standardized tests in mathematics.
  • In 2003, she was fired by the Trottwood-Madison (Ohio) district as the superintendent of that district after teachers and others complained about her management style and low morale among staff.
Should I go on?

When Ford Motor Company last year decided that it needed a leader to turn it around from its declining market share and loss of profitability, the company didn't just choose anyone. Ford chose Alan Mulally, a seasoned Boeing executive who is widely credited for saving the airline after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 crippled Boeing's sales and nearly brought the company to its knees. While the jury is still out on whether or not Mulally will succeed in his efforts to save Ford, he at least brings a track record of success with him.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Connie Calloway.

This is not meant to be a personal attack against Dr. Calloway. However, Detroit's public school students and their parents deserve someone who is more capable of improving large, troubled urban school districts, and there is simply nothing in Dr. Calloway's background to suggest that she is the right person for the formidable task for turning around the district. The district needs someone who doesn't require on the job training to run a district such as Detroit. Does anyone really think that the Detroit school board chose the very best person for this job?

Nevertheless, I wish Dr. Calloway well in her task. I guess we don't have much of a choice.

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