The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking for a new superintendent. In a story in today’s Los Angeles Times, the qualifications of several candidates are discussed, and includes this passage:

“Experience in an urban district would help, especially if students in that system have performed well or at least made strong gains.”

That’s not news to readers of this blog and my Daily Pilot columns. In an effort to improve the academic performance of Costa Mesa’s schools, I have been pushing for years for the administration and the board to start hiring principals with turnaround experience. Instead, we get the person who is next in line for the job, or the nice person who won’t rock the boat.

All nice people, of course, but that is not enough. Costa Mesa’s schools need people who have been through a turnaround and know what works and what doesn’t. During the selection process for N-MUSD superintendent a few years ago, I even found someone in L.A. who made remarkable progress at a failing school and should have been interviewed for the job but wasn’t.

The challenge is that this turnaround person is also likely to be independently-minded and that doesn’t mix well with a board that likes to have all its ducks in a row all the time and bristles at the thought that anyone would try to initiate those “reform” things in its schools to improve academic performance.

So, students and taxpayers get well-meaning nice people, and the lack of progress in Costa Mesa continues. That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that the students, parents, taxpayers, and real estate developers in Costa Mesa do not have a single board member with the courage to demand more from the administration.

Steve Smith