Alonso will be longest serving superintendent since 1994
Whether or not you like what Andres Alonso has accomplished in the past three years in the city schools, I hope you will get a chuckle out of the picture above, which was given to him by his staff recently. It was taken with a phone by my colleague, Erica Green.
Alonso has been navigating some rough waters, as the picture reminds us today as he celebrates the beginning of his fourth year on the job. It is a moment of note for the city schools. If Alonso stays through today (and we are betting he will), he will become the longest-serving superintendent in Baltimore since Richard Hunter left in 1994 after six years on the job.
It is a well-known truth that urban superintendents don't stay long, but Baltimore seems to have had particular trouble keeping its superintendents. School boards keep hiring new superintendents, then letting them know they don't like their work one or two years later.
We think it is worth a quick review.
After Hunter came Walter Amprey, who hung around until he was kicked out in 1997, when the mayor ceded a portion of his control of schools to the state. The old school board was replaced with a new one appointed jointly by the mayor and the governor. The city schools were to see a new day. Since then, test scores have continued to improve year by year, but there have been six superintendents, not one of which has stayed more than three years.
Robert Schiller was the first to arrive in 1997; he was supposed to stay for a few months, just long enough for the school board to hire a new chief executive officer. It took longer than expected. He stayed a year, until Robert Booker came from San Diego to fill the job. Booker, who passed away recently, was widely seen as not dynamic enough. He resigned in 2000 and was replaced by Carmen Russo, a Florida resident who tried some new ideas but failed to keep the books balanced. A budget deficit ballooned under her watch, and she was asked to leave.
A few months after her departure, the system was teetering on the edge of insolvency. This time around, the board turned to Bonnie Copeland, a native Marylander who was saddled with a myriad of problems left over from Russo, not the least of which was the deficit. Charlene Boston, the first longtime city school educator to take the helm in more than a decade, was named CEO in 2006 and stayed for a year, until Alonso arrived.
Longevity can be important. Many of the most-improved urban systems, including Atlanta, Boston and New York, have had superintendents who stayed for many years, even a decade. So will Alonso stick around for three more years to see reform through? Or will someone else be on the fourth-floor North Avenue office by next July?