The Richardson school district (RISD) is seeking a new superintendent. Everybody has an opinion. Expectations and demands are as high as those set by the George Banks family in Edwardian England when advertising for a nanny.
"If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition.
Rosy cheeks, no warts. Play games, all sorts.
You must be kind, you must be witty, very sweet, and fairly pretty.
Take us on outings, give us treats, sing songs, bring sweets.
Never be cross or cruel. Never give us castor oil or gruel.
Love us as a son and daughter, and never smell of barley water.
Hurry, Nanny! Many thanks!
Jane and Michael Banks!"
Assuming that someone with Mary Poppins's qualifications isn't available, what criteria should be used to identify the RISD's next superintendent?
Not much has changed since I originally considered the characteristics desired in a school superindendent back in 2009. This year, the RISD has swapped out a characteristic or two for public consideration.
For example, "Finances/Business" has been replaced by "Organization/Systems." I'd argue that both are important characteristics. Dropping "Finances/Business" as an explicit careabout is unwise. Never forget that RISD has a $250 million budget.
Also, "Alliances" has been dropped for "Effective listener." That's a curious change. Again, both are important characteristics. Now, more than ever, being outward looking and forming alliances with the neighborhood groups, businesses, other school districts and legislators is critical to the success of RISD. And, although being an "effective listener" is also important, it's already covered under "Communication" because successful communication has to be a two-way street. Could "effective listener" have been added as an explicit qualification because of the failed proposal to build a new school on White Rock Trail? Is this a tacit admission that the RISD school board blames the failure on ineffective listening to the opposition in that neighborhood?
I had lots more to say back in 2009. Rereading it today, most of it holds up pretty well (although the paragraph on test scores might need updating). So, rather than repeat myself, I just refer you to that 2009 article: "Wanted: Superintendent, Practically Perfect in Every Way."