Large school districts are unmanageable, period. They are governed by a politically charged school board, harassed by a hostile teacher's union, and pulled apart by demands from federal and state governments. The result? The few people willing to apply to be superintendents are able to demand outrageous employment contracts. Most of those hired will last only a few years so they must get while the getting is good.
To come to work here in Clayton County, a failing school district in Georgia, former Pittsburgh superintendent John Thompson wants $275,000 in salary, a $2 million consulting budget, a Lincoln Town Car with a driver, and money to pay a personal bodyguard.
Sound a bit hefty for someone likely to pull a power lunch in a junior high cafeteria? Maybe not.
Fewer qualified candidates, rising expectations, and a near-impossible job description are creating a new breed of superintendents: Call them central office rock stars. These candidates say that, for the right price, they're willing to do an unpopular job that can take a heavy personal and professional toll to whip underperforming districts into shape.