Friday, March 26, 2010

Incompetence at all levels

It was reported here -- from credible sources -- that Kenosha's new school superintendent, Michele Hancock, comes from Rochester, New York with a host of issues including:

  • Promoting the use of Black English Vernacular ("Ebonics") in school.
  • Allegations that she recently intimidated the staff at a Rochester school that voted "no confidence" in the school's principal.
  • Hiring her at $195,000 -- $45,000 more than the present superintendent -- when she has never been a superintendent, even in a small district.
The first two bullet points were previously discussed.  The third points out that Hancock's management experience was as an elementary school building principal, diversity director for the Rochester schools and then director of human capital initiatives (which, from reading the school district's web site, appears to be an amalgamation of a personnel director and diversity director).

This is not to say that Hancock hasn't had some successes.  Her work as an elementary school principal in one of Rochester's worst schools included literally cleaning and painting the building, uplifting educational test scores and engaging parental involvement.  Building diversity and being an effective personnel manager are also important goals.

But the job that was open in Kenosha was the top dog's.  The third largest school district in the state should command talent that has experience running a school district, and perhaps preferably one in Wisconsin.  Why did the school board hire someone without that experience?  And what about the new superintendent's controversial background in Rochester, which included criticism from the black community?

The lack of public dialogue about the school board's failure to perform due diligence here is astounding.  Even Lenny Palmer at WLIP says he's given up on the board which seems immune to public input.  The Kenosha News has simply ignored the controversy.  Ditto for WGTD.  And WLIP?  They gave up their news department years ago and rely on stories taken from the newspaper.  This isn't rocket science. A simple Google search would have provided the basis for further inquiry.

In all of this I feel a bit for Hancock, though it's hard to effectuate much sympathy when she's being paid substantially more than an experienced incumbent.  Coming into a new job with unexplained baggage helps nobody, including Hancock.  She could turn out to be the best superintendent we've ever had but this is a job that requires an experienced person who can hit the ground running.  Can that happen when there are clouds over her?

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