The Failure of Leadership: The Latest on Eugene White’s Efforts to Flee His Malpractice in Indianapolis
Earlier this week, Dropout Nation analyzed the failed tenure of Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White and his attempt to find new gigs in Greenville, S.C. Since the piece ran, White’s luck in landing another job hasn’t gone so well. On Tuesday, days after deadlocking on whether to hire White, Greenville’s school board voted 7-5 to pick the district’s interim superintendent to fill the top slot. Then another district to which White was attempting to flee, this in Mobile, Ala., unanimously picked another internal candidate. With almost no options this time around, White announced that he would remain as top boss of the Titanic district. Declared White: “I’m going to do what needs to be done.” And upon hearing the news, one can imagine all the parents in Indianapolis served by the district who can afford to leave put their kids’ names up for charter school lotteries and called U-Haul. (The ones who can’t are stuck with abject failure that damages the futures of their kids.)
But White’s future remains cloudy, even if IPS’ clown college of a school board (which has indulged his incompetence for seven years) decides not to send him packing in the next few months. The threat of Circle City Mayor Greg Ballard taking control of the district looms large, especially after the mayor (who already authorizes charter schools) hired a former Teach For America executive to be his education czar. The state branch of Democrats for Education Reform stepped up the pressure to reform the district this week by holding a confab featuring Neerav Kingsland of New Schools for New Orleans, who discussed how Indianapolis had to embrace at least part of the Recovery School District model that has advanced reform in the Crescent City. And Indiana’s state government could weigh in further this summer by seizing more IPS schools from White’s management.
Certainly White isn’t the only failure among school district chieftains. He may not even be the worst of them. But we cannot continue to tolerate those in charge of providing education for our kids remaining in jobs they are ill-equipped to hold. If we are to hold laggard teachers accountable for their failures in the classroom, then we require all school leaders (including superintendents and those on school boards who abet them) to meet the same high standards.
No matter what happens, it is high time for White to take his leave of the district. As I said seven years ago about both White’s predecessor, Duncan “Pat” Pritchett and then-state superintendent Suellen Reed, White’s departure would do a host of good for the Circle City’s children.