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Our View: School superintendent's contract needs clear definition of success




On Tuesday, the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees held a specially called meeting to consider the future employment of its superintendent, Dr. Philip Hickman.  


According to board president Jason Spears, a decision on whether Hickman will remain as superintendent after his four-year contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 school year will be made at the board's next regular meeting on May 8. 


Although details of Tuesday's meeting were limited because the discussion was held in executive session, it appears that there will be changes. 


Spears said the board instructed its attorney, David Dunn, to draft a new contract. 


Without being privy to what the board's expectations of its superintendent might be, we offer a few suggestions as it fashions the new contract. 


The key to success in any enterprise is having a plan that lays out not just the end goal but benchmarks that can be used to measure progress.  


These must include objective criteria -- measurable and verifiable -- such things as student performance, disciplinary data, teacher/staff retention, resource management and others. 


We also believe there are other qualities necessary but not subject to measurement but are nevertheless obvious.  


We believe the superintendent should be a tireless advocate for the schools, a champion of its students, teachers and staff, that is to say a superintendent who is accessible, approachable and visible in the community.  


It means having a superintendent whose public and private conduct inspires confidence, both within the district and in the larger community.  


It means having a superintendent who encourages dialogue and is not defensive in the face of criticism.  


It means a superintendent who can articulate a distinct vision and provide clear steps for achieving it. 


We do not know, at this point, if the new contract will include these terms and conditions.  


We feel strongly it should.



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