It's only been a day since the Seattle School Board announced its two finalists for the job of superintendent, and already there are some big red flags about each candidate. As the daily papers told us this morning, Philadelphia's chief academic officer Gregory Thornton was embroiled in an ethics controversy after he helped approve a contract with an education company that subsidized a trip he made to South Africa. And Maria Goodloe-Johnson's tenure as superintendent of the Charleston County School District has been anything but smooth sailing. The Seattle Timesreported that four of nine board members rated her "inadequate" or needing improvement in her last annual review. The unanswered question was why?
Conversations this morning with two of the board members that gave her poor marks provides a limited measure of relief. Yes, they name some alarming problems that Seattle should thoroughly investigate before making a decision. As a crew from a local TV station rolls up to her house to interview her about Goodloe-Johnson, former board member Sandi Engelman notes that "in the three years she's been here, we've gone from five failing schools on AYP"--adequate yearly progress, a federal test-based standard under the No Child Left Behind act--"to 19." Board member Ray Toler says that the failing schools also played into his assessment of the superintendent. But both Toler and Engelman also name a core objection to Goodloe-Johnson that has nothing to do with Charleston schools, and that is her out-of-wedlock pregnancy while superintendent. Toler calls it a "moral issue." Says Engelman: "I don't think it was easy for me to move past that fact." With financial, morale and racial problems in Seattle schools, the city has bigger things to worry about.