To the Editor:
Stamford has a history of turning over superintendents every 5 years or so. Assuming we continue down the current path, we are on the verge of running another one out of town. We will need to go through the process and cost of replacing the role without any real consideration of the timing and consequences of putting another person in that role.
Let’s start with some basic facts. In a city of about 135,000 people, no superintendent is going to please all of the people. Nor will they please all elected officials in either political party across the various elected boards. Nor will they be able to please all of the teachers or their union. So maybe we can agree that no superintendent candidate is going to be perfect or acceptable to all constituents or stakeholders in our diverse city. None of the issues that we currently face are unique to Stamford and are most likely a direct result of a global pandemic which impacted the entire world, not just Stamford or Connecticut or the USA.
I would like to ask those who are so hellbent on ending Dr. Lucero’s tenure a few questions…
- What exactly are we going to achieve by bringing in a new superintendent?
- How is someone new going to make the changes that the disgruntled citizens, parents, politicians, and teachers are expecting?
- Having run so many superintendents out of town, who do you think we are going to get to take over that is going to be better than Dr Lucero?
- Why do you think a new superintendent, most likely an outsider, is going to fix all that ails the district?
- Is there an internal candidate you think will succeed where others have failed?
- Who is going to want to come here under these circumstances?
- How much do you think a superintendent should be compensated for running our district?
Here is what will most likely happen after the next extension is rejected later this year, with Dr Lucero currently scheduled to depart in June 2024 though it is possible that she leaves sooner, as she will be a very viable candidate for another district. If this happens then this will require an interim superintendent for at least one year. We will begin a lengthy and costly (unbudgeted) search process beginning as soon as July 2023. After the interview process and negotiations, then we will have someone who is most likely not going to be familiar with Stamford.
A new superintendent will take at least 2-3 years to assess the situation and to see firsthand what the issues are before even developing any kind of plan to address them. This assumes that no new issues will have surfaced during this time period. Any new issues identified during this assessment period will only add additional time before any plan can be formulated and implemented. Once the assessment is complete, then the superintendent will need to get approval and funding. This process requires going through not 1, not 2, but 3 elected boards, and they will need to get through this process annually. We all know it is virtually impossible to get a budget through this process unscathed. Expecting a newcomer to plan and fund this kind of multi-year assessment during their first few years of their tenure is ludicrous and unrealistic
Even after the assessment is completed, approved, and funded, they will need to spend the next 2-3 years implementing the plan and measuring the impact of these changes. From there it will take at least another 2-3 years to adjust the plan based upon the initial results before we can begin to see real progress or results. This type of transformation most likely won’t result in significant changes until year 5 or 6 or about 2030, at the very earliest. That means our current kindergarteners would be in middle school or high school before any significant change can be implemented.
History shows us we don’t have the appetite or attention span or patience to allow anyone that much time. We expect immediate results which are absolutely ridiculous and unrealistic. By the time 5 years have passed, parents, teachers and elected officials will once again become dissatisfied, asking the same questions and/or raising other concerns and will be ready to throw the new superintendent under the bus that will be driving them out of town.
We will then repeat the same process again and again because they are not meeting (our impossible) expectations and assume the next person will fix our schools, forgetting all that came before. It is like we are perpetually doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Isn’t it time to break that cycle?
By no means do I think Dr Lucero is perfect, but she successfully navigated a global pandemic less than 1 year into her tenure, has demonstrated a knowledge of the city process, is the only person in 20 years that has developed and began to implement an infrastructure plan and is already invested in all of our schools’ children, she has also been highly visible, present at forums, sporting events, school performances etc.
Rather than driving her out of town, which is almost inevitable now, let’s ask her to put together an actionable plan to address the issues that the community is upset about and give her an opportunity to develop a plan to address those issues. At least if we have a plan and remain dissatisfied with her performance we can hand a plan to a new superintendent to review and implement, saving us time and money. Not renewing her contract for another year only kicks the can down the road for another 5 to 10 years.