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Remember Rudy Crew? In 2004, he was the St. Louis Public School Board’s first and only pick to be superintendent. Dr. Crew, the Board said, was the just the leader needed to revitalize education in the central city.
But Rudy Crew had other prospects and, shortly after leaving St. Louis at the altar, he eloped with the Miami-Dade County schools. He would save them rather than us.
That left St. Louis with a series of interim superintendents, one brief fourteen-month fling with Creg Williams, and now the selection of a new head.
How did Dr. Crew do in Miami? There was a honeymoon, some positive signs, and a contract renewal. But the situation started to unravel over a year ago and, earlier this month, Dr. Crew was fired.
There are two lessons here. First, there is no education miracle maker. No one individual can rescue the St. Louis Public Schools or any other central city school district. That should seem obvious but somehow the hope for a savior lingers on.
Second — and somewhat connected — even an effective superintendent needs time to make a difference. But impatient publics and the schools' boards which represent them often demand near-instant results. Superintendents who do not deliver quickly become ex-superintendents.
Do the St. Louis Public Schools need an effective leader? Sure. But, even more, it requires a supportive public who give that superintendent time to succeed. Expecting too much too soon is a recipe for continued failure.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.