Could this be one of the major reasons for the downward spiral of the academic reputation and student attainment over the past few years? All you have to do is examine test scores (SAT and CRCT) dropout rates, STAR teacher turnover, and capable administrators and professionals abandoning the Cobb County School District. It was not very many years ago that the Cobb County School System was considered the standard of excellence for other Metro Atlanta systems to measure up to.
That is no longer the case!
Sure we have pockets of excellence (far east Cobb) but, there is no question that the overall quality of education a child receives in Cobb County is dependent upon the ZIP code that child lives in. The only ray of hope for those children who happen to live in underperforming Cobb County school attendance zones is the quality of leadership that is in place at that specific school. This has contributed to major consistency problems system wide that greatly reduces the opportunity for all children to receive a world class education in the CCSD regardless of their address.
The biggest issue is the lack of visionary leadership at the central office level, especially in academic areas. When is the last time we have heard of a promising idea from this well-paid crowd who inhabit central office positions? We generally get warmed over, halfhearted efforts like the recommendation to purchase over $7 million of new Common Core textbooks when current research strongly suggest that 21st century students no longer solely rely on this 20th century classroom tool. A better use for that money would be to invest in professional growth for local school teachers and administrators. The day of spending your way out of these very difficult and challenging academic issues is a long gone thing of the past. The CCSD has developed a well-deserved reputation of forcing many of their ill-conceived notions onto the already overburdened local principals, teachers and parents without ever seeking their honest input. The CCSD needs effective leaders who are not one dimensional managers who currently occupy central office positions.
A good leader innovates and focuses on its people and is not preoccupied with controlling everyone and every detail from afar. A good leader inspires trust and has long range vision. A good leader is willing to challenge the status quo and pursues research based ideas that are in the best interest of students, teachers and the at large Cobb community. A good leader leads by example. A good leader is selfless. A good leader is respected for his ability to get things done. A good leader can draw upon their positive professional background to resolve just about any challenge that might surface.
After over 40 years as a successful teacher and administrator in both Ohio and in Georgia, it is my professional opinion that a significant number of the CCSD central office academic department heads lack many of these strong positive leadership characteristics. I base this statement on some very obvious evidence. Many of the key CCSD central office academic department heads have either no local school principalship experience or have failed local school leadership experiences. That right! It appears that many of these positions are currently held by people who could not cut the mustard at the local building school level. Why should we continue to entrust the future of our most valuable resources, our children, to these people? Why does the CCSD continue to place these people in what I consider some of the most sensitive, strategic and vital positions within any public school organization? There are many more capable professionals inside and outside of Cobb County who would be much more proactive and promote a spirit a trust and relevance that would resonate within greater Cobb County. We can no longer keep these people in such important central office academic positions. This same argument should also apply to any CCSD failing school principal (at least 15) and any failing area assistant superintendents (at least two). You are not entitled to these positions unless you consistently produce at a high professional level!
I recommend that the CCSD Board of Education seek blanket central office resignations because many of these people have lost their professional way and are out of touch with the true academic needs of our 21st century children and schools. I am certain that there are some CCSD central office personnel who would consider it their professional duty to stay on until the end of the school year. I disagree with this notion. They are not abandoning ship because whoever could leave the CCSD has already gone by now! We have literally created well-paying jobs for individuals who no longer can provide value or positive leadership at the district level! The CCSD must stop the continuous promotion of ineffective local level principals to lucrative golden parachute jobs in the central office.
In conclusion, I would strongly recommend that the CCSD Board of Education conduct a rigorous outside academic audit and to require that each central office academic department head justify why they should retain their current positions. What evidence can they provide to illustrate that local schools, teachers and parents have benefited directly or indirectly from their individual leadership which has led to sustained academic progress. This is not only an educational issue but one that has a significant economic impact upon property values as well. The bottom line is that our children and community deserve better!
Dr. H.E. “Doc” Holliday is a former principal at Wheeler and Campbell high schools in Cobb County and a current associate professor of education at Kennesaw State University.