Urban School Leadership

Sitting in an urban secondary school principal’s meeting yesterday I was struck by how difficult it is to run a great urban public school and how frustrating it is to try to do it in a bureaucratic system—well intentioned but ineffective leadership development propagated by revolving door leadership with layers of federal, state, and local policies that make the student admissions process as complicated as buying a house. And now add pending layoffs to that list.
The Quality Counts report (that I wrote about yesterday) is a valuable comparison of states, but it masks the urban American education challenge and the underlying urban poverty challenge.
John Deasy was appointed superintendent in Los Angeles—the toughest job in America.  John is the best possible candidate, but the challenge is huge.  LAUSD is bankrupt, California is bankrupt, and both are hidebound by nasty politics.
One of my 40 predictions was that “LAUSD superintendent John Deasy will embrace a portfolio strategy in Los Angeles, commit to more charters, close bad schools, and embrace school management partners.”
A portfolio strategy that focuses internal resources and embraces external partners is the only viable strategy. There are seven or eight great charter management organizations in LA and more charter schools than any city in the country–it’s a great platform to build on.
He’ll need to consider another one of my predictions, “Lingering budget woes will cause several districts and charter networks, particularly in California, to flip to a blended model, with a shift to online instruction for a portion of the day to boost learning and operating productivity.”
John is a very talented and passionate educator.  LA is very fortunate to have him.  If the city (and especially the board) gets behind John for a decade, the district, in some new form, can become  the engine for civic, social and economic good that it should be.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.