Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

EDITORIAL >> They’re all jumping ship

Rob McGill, the embattled interim superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, is the latest finalist for the top job to jump ship and seek his fortune elsewhere.

Although he’ll take a big pay cut — the Maumelle position pays $95,000 a year, about half of what he could have made at PCSSD if the board had dropped interim from his title — McGill has opted for a principal’s salary over the three-ring circus atmosphere at the school district he’s leaving behind.

He’ll lead the Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle starting in July, when the Pulaski County Special School District will probably still be searching for a superintendent and still hope to convince a judge that it is integrated and unbiased.

Although he had hoped to lead one of the biggest districts in the state, McGill must have realized the board was much too divided and probably unqualified to deal with the district’s problems, especially the lawsuit by the Joshua Intervenors, who told a judge this week that PCSSD discriminates against the poor and minority students.

Civil rights attorney John Walker has told the court that new school construction in Maumelle and Chenal in Little Rock deprives less-wealthy areas of new facilities. You look around Jacksonville, and you have to agree with him.

The district is bogged down in at least two court cases: The long-running desegregation suit that may not be decided for months, if not years, along with the court battle involving the district’s teachers and the school board, which inexplicably decertified the unions in the middle of contract negotiations.

The judge has urged both sides to work things out, but that’s been an elusive goal for generations. Why worry about educating youngsters when you can spend a lot of money going to court? Just do the math and see how the taxpayers’ money has been misspent.

It’s no wonder McGill was fed up. You can’t blame him for accepting a less stressful job that will let him spend more time with his family than in court or attending arbitration meetings.

Sure, McGill had hoped he might get a shot at the position, but the board is so divided and dysfunctional, it’s unlikely a finalist will emerge anytime soon. Here we are, several months after the search began, and the position remains vacant. The best candidates are long out of the running, and it’s unlikely a strong contender will ever seek the position.

Doesn’t anybody want this job?

The board should have made a decision at least a couple of months ago, but why hurry? Board members had other priorities — attending meetings and conferences and taking care of their own businesses.

That’s the problem: How many board members are qualified to serve on the board, and how many of them are way in over their heads?

Just look around and count noses. But the consultants will keep drawing their checks as the board dithers and the district keeps making court appearances and dodging bullets, while students who can get out leave the district or go to charter schools.

The school board thinks there must be a good candidate out there, but after a fruitless search that saw the most promising finalists drop out for consideration, you have to wonder: If McGill was the last person standing, what kind of search did the board conduct?

Perhaps the consultants — McPhearson and Jacobson Executive Recruitment and Development of Omaha, Neb. — made some sensible recommendations to the board, which decided to ignore them.

The search has not gone well, and it wouldn’t surprise us if McPhearson and Jacobson give up and go to a district where their work is better appreciated.