Working in public education for forty-two years has given me a good idea of characteristics which are important to an educational enterprise. I concede that my opinions might be somewhat slanted in assessing the Manatee County School District, since I worked as a Manatee administrator from 2000-04. I have arbitrarily chosen two traits for analyses.
Transparency.The district would rate well below average on this one because of its unwillingness to provide budget information to the public and even selected board members. By refusing to place all of its budget cards face up, the district has fostered suspicion of cronyism, nepotism, and fiscal recklessness. School districts are best advised to avoid hiding matters which the public has a right to know, because when controversial issues, heretofore hidden, surface (and they always do), the worst is presumed. This type of suspicion tends to linger and fester.
Credentials. Manatee would rate above average in insuring that its building administrators are properly qualified, having used a thorough, transparent screening process for many years. By contrast, Manatee would rate below average in administrator qualifications at the top of the management pyramid. The three assistant superintendents do not have doctorates in education or in a subject matter area; given their six-figure salaries, this shortcoming is hard to explain.
The superintendent recently received a fast-track doctorate, an approach which has become fashionable. For generations, doctorates have required qualifying exams, a book-length dissertation, 12-15 courses of three-semester hours each, a residency requirement of one year entailing a leave from his/her position, and a thorough written and oral exit examination. As a starving doctoral student, I was challenged regularly and rigorously; such demands are not possible in fast-track mode.
Perhaps it is I who needs to change and acceot that the current scaled down approach is more in step with the pace and demands of 21st Century public schools. On the other hand, I will bet I learned more about public education than is possible in fast-track programs. For teachers considering working towards a doctorate, the superintendent has opened the door to Internet offers of “Want a Doctorate in Anything?”
Summary. Further attention needs to be given to the two traits which I selected. Manatee is more opaque than transparent and thinly credentialed at the top. I presume that a conscientious Board is assessing district progress with its own bag of traits. The public would be comforted knowing the results of these analyses.