A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Banana Republic School Board strikes again

This just in-- Creg Williams, the Superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools, was fired Friday at an emergency school board session. You may remember that I posted about Williams' program to help 8th graders make the transition to high school. Here's the story from the Kansas City Star:
St. Louis school Superintendent Creg Williams was fired Friday after just over a year on the job.

The vote to fire Williams came in an emergency closed session. St. Louis School Board member Robert Archibald told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the vote to oust Williams was 4-3.

The board hired Diana Bourisaw, the former Fox District superintendent, Archibald said. She was brought in a few weeks ago to conduct an audit of the St. Louis schools.

Several key members of Williams' administration were also fired. Archibald, who supports Williams, called the board's actions a case of adults acting like children. He said the only ones being hurt by the firing are the students.

Mayor Francis Slay, visibly upset by the ouster, called it a "damn shame," and "disastrous" for the district's 35,000 students.

"This board drove out a man who has vision, energy, a plan and commitment to kids," Slay said.

He said the best thing that could happen now is a state takeover of the district.

Williams served in St. Louis for only 15 months, after working as an assistant administrator in Chicago and Philadelphia. He signed a four-year contract with a previous board.

No reason for the firing has been disclosed, but Williams publicly sparred with the board this week over the firing of Vashon High School basketball coach Floyd Irons.

Williams had complained that he didn't know about the decision to fire Irons because of unauthorized spending until the end of an executive session at Tuesday's School Board meeting. He said if it were up to him, Irons would have continued coaching at Vashon.

Earlier this week, Williams dismissed rumors that he had applied for vacant superintendent posts in Boston and Baltimore and vowed to stand up for his job.

A bit of background: earlier this week one of the winningest basketball coaches in the state, who had coached (and been principal at one point) at one of the most dreary, distressed, academically impoverished schools in the SLPS was fired for various financial improprieties (spending money on a scoreboard, fancy uniforms for his team, etc.). Apparently his firing by the board caught Williams by surprise, and many claimed that the coach's firing was a shot across the bow for Williams himself. He was interviewed in the St. Louis paper today saying he had no intention of quitting and knew nothing about being fired.

Th St. Louis Public Schools have had a plethora of problems, many of them self-inflicted. The previous superintendent before Mr. Williams was a former Brooks Brothers executive who ran a corporate turn-around firm, and his tenure was marked with insanity on the part of certain board members (example: a previous board member put a hex on the mayor and claimed one of her enemies had put cocaine in her coffee) and furious parents at board meetings when schools were closed. Mr. Williams was the first person in a long time who seemed willing and able to try to take positive steps to deal with the requisite problems of a large urban school district. He's been on the job for fifteen months.

There are factions of people who have a vested interest in the St. Louis Public Schools-- specifically they have a vested interest in continuing the chaos that has reigned there for decades so that they may fatten themselves at the expense of the students. The district has a chronic shotage of certified teachers and has actually tried to recruit teachers from overseas. Some classes struggle along with permanent substitutes for the entire academic year. The school year arrives with textbooks missing or in the wrong places every year. Truly, the cockroaches have been scurrying for cover ever since it looked like Williams was actually going to try to get the district on sound academic and fiscal footing.

This is yet another significant step back for the St. Louis Public Schools, and once again it is 35,000 students who are left to suffer the consquences. Those behind this coup should be ashamed.

***Update: Liz at I Speak of Dreams has more on this story, and she has links which I was too wiped out to find at 1 am last night about some of the nutsy history of this district.


At 7/15/06, 12:16 PM, Blogger Dr. Jan said...

The superintendency is one of the most unstable and stressful jobs that a person can occupy. I cannot imagine why anyone would do it.

And, now another good one bites the dust. However, I hope you forward this post to him; or he somehow sees this. Being fired as a superintendent seems a lot like going through a messy divorce on the front page of the newspaper... from one who knows about being fired as a superintendent.

Thanks for your clarity and compassion.

At 7/15/06, 6:14 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I don't see how anyone can succeed as superintendent in this district. It seems like chaos 24/7-- and obviously summer offers no respite.

The "adults" in this district never seem to concentrate upon providing an education to the students.

And I wouldn't be a superintendent even if you offered me a million dollars. Too far removed from the actual nuts and bolts of teaching. I don't know how people do it in a relatively stable district, much less the Marx-Brothers-meets-OK-Corral SLPS.

At 7/17/06, 5:05 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Living outside of St. Louis, I have been following this insane story. This doesn't make sense to me.

At 3/21/07, 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try looking at the insanity for the North Kingstown School Department in Rhode Island. Not only do they have a School Superintendent under investigation by state and federal authorities, the school committee is so divided that the man ahs not even received a reprimand for misuing special ed funds.


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