Thursday, February 22, 2018

Teaching and Coaching

The former chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools has just achieved former status. He did this by arranging that his daughter, unhappy at the arts magnet high school, should transfer into Wilson, a good high school, rather than into Dunbar, not a particularly good one. This was bound to become known, for even if an organization that large could keep secrets, still one cannot be chancellor of a large school system without making enemies. Once out, it was bound to create resentment. Wilson High School has a waiting list of six hundred students who do not live within its boundaries but would like--whose parents would like them--to attend.

It strikes me that being head of many school districts is much like being the football coach at a lower tier school in a power conference. Not all the good will and all the plans in the world will give Directional State  much of a chance to beat Alabama or Auburn. Not all the good will and mission statements in the world will anytime soon turn Desperate High into Boston Latin School or the Bronx High School of Science. Pretty much everyone knows this, but boosters and parents are impatient.

And in both cases, it largely comes down to recruiting. I think that it was Bum Phillips who spoke of Bear Bryant as a coach who "could take his'n and beat your'n or take your'n and beat his'n". There may be some such out there. But Alabama and Ohio State take all measures in their power to have the best their'n to put on the field. And when highly educated professionals move to Fairfax County or Potomac for the school district, that district's success builds on itself.

Still, there are compensations for the coach who goes 3-7 in the Big Ten or the school superintendent who isn't getting the job done. The university or the school board may become impatient and buy out the contract. A co-worker knew a school superintendent who had been bought out a couple of times--not for any particular fault of his own--and  had at times enjoyed the salary from his current job along with the salary from his previous one.


  1. I was amused to hear former Mayor Gray on the radio this week call Dunbar, his alma mater, a great school, while insisting that his own administration had been scandal-free.

    My hometown in New Jersey hired one of these professional school-superintendent carpetbaggers. He stuck around for only three years, but a check of online records shows that he gets credit in the state pension system for 216 months of service and is eligible for more than $3,300 a month once he elects to receive his deferred pension. It's quite a trick, hopping from town to town every few years, selling yourself as a star worthy of outlandish perqs. The coach comparison is indeed apt.

    1. Dunbar did once have the reputation of a good school: whether that lasted until Gray's years there, I don't know.

      That's a neat trick to multiply years of service by six--I can imagine that work as a school superintendent can age one more quickly, but at nearly a canine rate?