This letter is in response to Adam Knapp’s letter concerning a nontraditional superintendent, and his call for a nonpublic search resulting in only one candidate. As for the examples Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, gives of his “nontraditional” leaders, well, there are a few problems.

Lou Gerstner was indeed from American Express, and did get credit for turning around IBM. He also had worked for years in a variety of leadership positions all closely related to technology and marketing, exhibiting the very experience and leadership he needed in taking over IBM.

Lawyer Joel Klein had little experience in education or leadership when he was appointed, without an open search, and the New York City schools “miracle” is a myth, a creation of media and marketing. Research is making this clear in spite of Klein’s hiring of an incredibly expensive media marketing corps to tout his “success.”

Scores in New York City schools did go up, on state tests, but at a lower rate than scores throughout the rest of the state. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, NYC scores for most student groups were essentially flat. In eighth-grade reading, for example, the respective scale score for all students in 2003 was 252, and in 2009 it was again 252. Scores for low-income African Americans and Hispanics actually went down during the same period in almost all areas, and this is important because such groups make up a large portion of urban school systems, including our own.

Maj. Gen. John Stanford was hired in an open search, and is credited with improving Seattle schools, yet is mostly revered for ending the race-based busing there before he succumbed to leukemia after less than three years on the job. Scores did improve on state tests, but they also improved in nearly every district in the state, and more often at a faster rate than in Seattle.

Knapp fails to point out the overwhelming number of nontraditional superintendents who have failed.

There are no “magic bullets” to improving education, but one thing is clear. Recent events have perhaps demonstrated, even to Knapp, that transparency is paramount if we are going to improve schools for all children.

Let us all be in favor of an open search for proven leaders who actually have improved outcomes for students in districts and states similar to our own (based on data, not anecdotes and puffery). Let us be in favor of educational leaders who do not owe their allegiance to any special-interest groups or ideology, but to ALL students and ALL citizens.

Why is the chamber so afraid of honest, open searches?

Why haven’t the media called for open and honest searches for superintendents for East Baton Rouge, and for the state!

Noel Hammatt

independent education researcher

Baton Rouge