Thursday, May 28, 2009

Greater Clark County Schools Dr. Daeschner Hiring

HARBESON: Thoughts on Daeschner hiring

I see that the Greater Clark County Schools government-run system has finished its search for a new superintendent. Now that the system has hired former Jefferson County, Ky., Public Schools leader Stephen Daeschner, I thought I’d mention several items I like about the decision and a few things I’m still wondering about.


I like seeing someone who is 67 years old get a new job. But maybe that’s just because I’m getting older.

I like to hear that there’s a call-out for voluntary contributions to pay the difference in the budgeted amount and the salary Daeschner successfully negotiated from the board. This gives everyone who supports this deal a chance to prove they really mean it.

I like to hear discussions about alternative types of education intended to meet the varied needs of students. I will be following this closely as I am very curious as to what a government-run system means when it speaks of alternative education and choices.

I like that Mr. Daeschner is a bicyclist because this means we have at least one thing in common. The positive talk of his boundless energy is a testament to bicycling as a great lifelong fitness activity that can help people remain vital and healthy longer.


I wonder whether someone who has been a part of the same stagnant bureaucratic system for decades is really the best person to hire if you want to see change. Is it possible to get fresh new ideas by keeping the “old guard” in place?

I wonder if each local politician, school board member and community leader who publicly supported his hiring will come forward and personally set the example by openly and publicly contributing their personal funds to pay his salary. Or will we be told that donations need to be kept private, thereby introducing skepticism in the general populace who are being asked to judge this as a good investment?

Speaking of the term investment, I wonder how the general public is supposed to react to that. Doesn’t the use of this term also demand the use of the term return on investment?

I wonder if we’ll see any specific criteria used to judge whether this particular investment provides a real return or not. Or, for that matter, how a decent return on investment should even be defined.

Since Mr. Daeschner is known for being a big believer in data, I wonder if we will soon see such specific measurable criteria ahead of time so the public can more easily determine a return on investment. And if he does this, I wonder if there will be any consequences for failing to meet specific criteria. I wonder if at least some of his pay should have been bonus-based.

Naturally, expectations are high, so I wonder what we may hear if any measurable criteria are not met. Will we hear that more time is needed? Will we hear that we can’t really compare certain data sets because too many variables changed? If the data does not measure up, rather than meaningful explanation about the data, I wonder if we will hear instead about various abstract and fuzzy terms like increased motivation and morale.

I wonder if the school system could save some money if Clark County drivers show that they respect bikers on the road. I mean, maybe Daeschner will return the car if he can just bike to work.

I certainly wonder how this is all going to end up, but one thing I know, we are all going to learn a lot. Let’s hope it’s useful information that will actually improve education.