Chapter 11 for Schools

An excerpt from “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform”

What strategy has a chance of helping school districts like Rosemont* when they become trapped in a kind of leadership crisis whirlpool? Radical surgery is obviously needed and now is a good time to dust off the old adage, “Schools should be run like a business.” When a business hits bankruptcy there are rules that apply depending on the legal charter for business. Some of those rules make sense for school districts that are failing miserably academically and/or financially.

First, remove the school board and superintendent. That’s what happens to businesses in bankruptcy, a court appointed receiver takes over the business.

Historically, in New York State, the State Education Department has intervened in the running of failing school districts unsuccessfully in large part because most of the people who work at the New York State Education Department have never run a school district.

To buy the solutions-based book: “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform” click here.

State Ed’s role would be to develop a cadre of retired school superintendents and assistant superintendents with the expertise and experience to turn around districts with consistent problems in academic and/or financial performance. (They often come together.)

The list can’t be a reward for the good old boys/girls and instead reserved for superintendents and assistant superintendents who have produced documented positive academic and financial change in school districts. What kind of change?

To buy the solutions-based book: “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform” click here.

The school board also would have to be replaced by a team of three retired superintendents or assistant superintendents with expertise in school finances, school academic performance and school operations. The school board in place would be removed and not eligible to run for the school board in the future. The interim school board would be selected by State Education Department (this plan may be modified for other states). Each member of the new school board would be paid $12,000 a year as a consultant for their services (no benefits).

The first task of the interim school board would be to select an interim superintendent who would run the district for the next two years and be paid as a consultant with no benefits. The interim superintendent would be paid at the same rate as the outgoing superintendent. This interim superintendent would come from the cadre developed by State Ed for this purpose.

The total cost of this leadership team is approximately comparable to the team being replaced given the absence of benefit costs for the newly hired consultants. To make this plan work taxpayers would have to move past fears of “double dipping.” In the end these are the best candidates to complete the required restructuring, they have earned their retirement pensions and they will be the cheapest way to get the job done effectively.

All the existing administrators (academic and civil service) in the district at the time of this restructuring would become probationary employees losing their tenure/permanent status for at least two years and possibly longer while the district is restructured.

Depending on the severity of student academic performance and financial problems a percentage of teaching and non-teaching employees with tenure or permanent status as civil service employees (between 5 percent and 50 percent, percentage set by State Ed guidelines) would lose tenure/permanent status for at least two years with the decision of who loses tenure/permanent status resting with the interim superintendent after s/he has been on the job for 90 days.

State Ed would fund a separate restructuring budget equal to up to 3 percent of the district’s latest annual budget to hire consultants (other retirees are probably the best and cheapest option) to identify necessary structural changes to improve the district’s academic and financial performance and to evaluate the performance of teachers, administrators and support staff to determine who should stay and who should go. If necessary the interim superintendent may apply to an appropriate court for a waiver to any specific provisions to union contracts which provide a critical impediment to necessary restructuring. The law enacted to provide this school district restructuring authority would need to identify the criteria the judge would use to make contract provision nullification decisions.

In two years with the right team of retirees in place to make the decisions and implement the restructuring plan, the district could be “turned around.” However, in order for these changes to have a real chance for long term success and to avoid the sand castles on the beach syndrome the interim school board would need to serve two more years while a return to an elected school board is phased in.

To buy the solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform” click here.

During the first of these two years two newly elected community school board members with three-year terms would be added to the school board and a permanent superintendent with a four-year contract would be hired by those five school board members (three interim members and two newly elected members). In the second year after the departure of the interim superintendent two more newly elected school board members with three-year terms would be added for a total of seven members on the school board. In year three after the departure of the interim superintendent the full complement of elected school members would take their seats (no previous school board members from the school board that had been removed allowed at any point in the future to run for election to the school board) with the standard three year rotation for school board members set in place. As the last of these newly elected board members would take their seats on the school board the three interim board would members would leave the district.

To read more: click here. Buy the book of click on the book and read more excerpts.

For more information contact Guaranteed Press at (518) 366-6148 or email

To buy the book click here.



One thought on “Chapter 11 for Schools”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: