The DPS supt.: person or process?

Media reports discuss the current “choice” for DPS superintendent, but that is a misnomer.  There is no existing choice between qualified candidates. The alternative here is between a person and a process.  There are two different paths.  One of them is fraught with difficulty and potentially catastrophic. The other is not.

The person is Tom Boasberg, the current COO.  For the board, he is a known quantity, and they have had the chance to work with him closely.  There should be little about him they do not already know.

When the BOE hired Michael Bennet, they did so with a five-year commitment.  This commitment should be to the ideas and the reforms Bennet espoused, not just to the person.  Appointing Boasberg fulfills this commitment to a five-year effort, and to continuing the nascent and fragile work of reforming Denver’s schools. As has been reported early and often, Boasberg has virtually universal acclaim for his work as COO.  While that does not automatically make him the perfect superintendent, it certainly limits the downside.

The alternative is to engage in a national search.  This will take at least six months and potentially more, during which Boasberg will leave (wouldn’t you?).  DPS will be without an superintendent, and also without experience in both the COO and chief academic officer positions.  The vacuum of experienced leadership would be catastrophic. With it, the second tier of management at DPS — built slowly over the past three years and currently more skilled than it has been at any time in recent memory — will look to leave as well.  Momentum will stall — indeed, someone at this week’s principal’s meeting says it is already stalling amid the uncertainty  about leadership. Even if a top super can be both located and is willing to take the position (no guarantee), it will be another 3-6 months before they have their own team in place and have the traction to get anything done.

This decision is an alternative between a known and liked executive and continuity of the reforms which have been widely embraced by citizens across Denver, or a year of paralysis and attrition, with no guarantee of a better outcome.

And if Boasberg does not work out, guess what: the board has the ability fire him and engage in a national search – they do not lose this option.  Choosing Boasberg does not limit the board’s ability to go down the second path.  But it makes that decision — as it should be — one of last resort.

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