Do School Districts Have Leaders or Managers?

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The question of this post’s title is never actually stated, but it screams out from Linda Borg’s Providence Journal article about Rhode Island public school districts that have already thrown in the towel on attempting to reopen schools:

Eight Rhode Island schools superintendents have written Gov. Gina Raimondo and said that they are prepared to move to remote learning next month because they don’t have the time to fully prepare to open safely in person.

“In the absence of firm guidance, we feel it is our responsibility to notify our state leaders that if we, as the district leaders, do not feel that we can confidently and safely meet the metrics above, then schools in our communities will open in a virtual/distance learning environment,” the letter said.

Here are the eight districts, along with their unrestricted annual expenditures, as reported in their communities’ FY19 audits:

  • Coventry: $70,021,300
  • Cranston: $157,376,542
  • Johnston: $59,349,202
  • Lincoln: $56,685,406
  • Pawtucket: $120,939,516
  • West Warwick: $58,118,801
  • Warwick: $166,767,001
  • Woonsocket: $81,716,345

Combined, that’s $770,974,113 — approaching a billion dollars.  And these organizations can’t figure out how to serve their customers without CYA guidance from Gina Raimondo?

RINoOpenSchoolDistricts-ActualBudgets-FY19

If these were private companies, they would not be small, and they would be expected to figure out how to stay open.  They would have to!  Why are our expectations for the professionals who operate something as important as our education system so much lower?