If a casual observer were to listen to the collective political pitches of the Metro mayoral field they might mistake this summer’s election as an old-fashioned school superintendent campaign (City Paper, May 11, 2007).
It is indeed a good thing for the Mayor's to be paying such attention, but as I noted yesterday, something is still missing. The Mayor should understand and have opinions regarding the specifics of the schools' daily operations, but the Mayor's real role is to hold accountable those people responsible for those decisions. Doing so is difficult because the 4 branches of the school system are so easily and almost naturally at odds with one another. An education Mayor will have to show that he/she is able to bring these groups together to pull in the same direction while still leading.
To that end, David Briley wins this round. His position is that the school district's strategic planning effort should be complete before he weighs in. While there is room to suggest where that effort should lead, I agree that getting too far in front on the specifics can complicate the real job I just described. The danger in Briley's approach is that waiting will leave him unable to lead once the strategic plan is in place. The danger that the others face is that they will have to compromise their strong positions or face permanent conflict over tangential issues.
I like the discussion, and I am pleased by the City Paper's coverage of it, although I find it curious that this article is found inside, while the results of the latest straw poll stream across the front page. The horse-race mentality sells papers and garners interest in campaigns, but it doesn't help a city improve its educational outcomes. But for more on those issues, visit Debate Scoop.