[from June 2007 issue]


We suspect that the answer is to give Superintendent Janey the boot. To be honest, we cannot decide if he has been good or just mediocre; we are certain that he hasn’t been bad. Whether he could perform at a higher level might have been possible if Robert Bobb had not been minimized and stripped of authority to run the school system. But that’s a done deal now, so the rest would only be speculation.

Now that the Mayor has taken upon himself to become the super school board chairman he will surely seek to bring in his “own man” – speculation runs rampant, fed by a hyped rumor mill and various well-placed “sources,” that the Mayor wants Miami’s Rudy Crew.

We seriously doubt that the Mayor will face any real opposition to dumping Janey in light of Janey’s cavalier decision to trot off on a junket to china, a-la our globe-trotting former mayor. These public officials who get to travel on my and your dollars constantly amaze us. This business of zipping off to China on the theory that we citizens will gain a benefit has yet to prove itself. (Williams said his trips would generate real business for DC; when Marion Barry made his famous mayoral trek to Africa he too promised new businesses would sprout in DC What nonsense was that!) So, here was Janey the other day telling us he needs to go to China to be able to be ready to implement some new program for teaching Mandarin Chinese in the schools here. This is nuts. If someone from the school system should be going to China to confer with their education experts on the ins and outs of teaching Mandarin Chinese then it should be a true educator with a deep knowledge and background in the teaching of foreign languages and, in this case, Chinese. We cannot believe there are not highly qualified persons here in DC, even if not on the school system’s payroll, who could not be tapped for that assignment. But Janey, and administrator?

So, if nothing else, this insistence that there is nothing odd about running off for two weeks just at the most critical moment when the control of the schools will change hands; the superintendent should be here and working 24/7 to help the Mayor’s people make the transition. Since Janey obviously fails to comprehend the urgency of staying on deck, we say, throw him overboard and get on with the journey.

But should the new person really be Rudy Crew? We are dubious –- and not just because he will be demanding a level of pay that is simply beyond all reason and cannot be justified by truly rational people. No, we are more concerned because we have heard and read too many negative reports about his performance when Chancellor of the New York City Schools and in other positions elsewhere (he’s not stuck with any one job for any truly significant period of time – does that not in itself raise eyebrows?

Set out below are just a few excerpts from a report published in the New York Times of December 29, 1999. We are alarmed by what we read in this one excerpt alone because it is consistent with so many other reports that have come to our attention. You be the judge:

“For the fourth time in a decade New York's Mayor and Board of Education are looking for someone else to save the city's public schools.

“But by now they should have learned the lesson that the system will not be cured by an iron chancellor who tries to impose his will on every individual school.

“Instead, a chancellor must use his power to take care of the big picture -- insuring that every principal can control what happens in his or her school and giving each the freedom to innovate, free of constricting work rules and bureaucracy.

“By that standard, Rudy Crew was an unsuccessful chancellor -- and it showed in the schools' results.

“Mr. Crew had all the power he wanted. After intense lobbying, the State Legislature rewrote education law, centralizing authority in his office, allowing him to fire superintendents in poorly performing districts. He also had much more money than previous chancellors -- the operating budget now surpasses $10 billion a year.

“He had four years in office, twice as long as the average tenure of a superintendent of a big-city school district, and more than enough time for the schools to begin showing improvement. Yet half of the city's students are still not reading or doing math at grade level.

“Why didn't the system improve? He failed to extend the fundamental principle of accountability for performance to everyone working in the schools.”

In closing, we should observe that if the Mayor and his handmaidens on the City Council who went along with his scheme hope to ensure that this takeover won’t be a colossal failure, then the Mayor himself must ensure that the very best person is hired and that it not be one who has consistently exhibited the management style of the presumed front-runner, one Rudy Crew.

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