GBC’s Fry: The community�s role after the schools CEO selection process

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The search for a new Baltimore City Public Schools CEO has prompted much discussion about the skills, qualities, management style, and requirements for the job.

There is general consensus that the new CEO should be an innovative manager, results-oriented, accountable, politically adept, familiar with urban school systems and, above all, dedicated to the success of the city’s public school students.

There is also, as there should be, much sentiment for community stakeholders to be involved in the schools CEO selection process.

Of course, there is an important role for the community during the selection process. But in my mind, there is an even broader, more impactful role for the community to play after the selection process.

It’s the role of providing a real, honest-to-God, support system for the CEO. In Baltimore, if we are candid with ourselves, we must concede that the lack of broad, deep, sustained support from the community – including parents, community leaders, advocates, leaders, and politicians – has been a contributing factor in the departure of previous school system CEOs.

This community must do much more than just politely introduce ourselves to the new CEO and then start the sniping.

First, we must embrace and trust the new CEO. Then, we must work together as a community to take some of the burden off of the school leader and help move a positive agenda forward.

We could create a formal network of supporters and advisors who will help the CEO navigate our city and state’s political shoals. We can be the community that he or she needs in order to succeed for the long term. And while we’re at it, we should encourage the new school board to adopt this posture as well.

We won’t always agree. But we should resolve to be open about disagreements, admit mistakes, avoid hidden agendas, and solidly back the CEO once a policy decision has been made.

Our city’s public school students deserve to be the objects of real community teamwork – not political football.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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