Based only on race, no black CEO for schools

September 24, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

Way back in August, Sun reporter Stephen Henderson filed a story on who will be the next permanent CEO of Baltimore City's public schools. Part of Henderson's story focused on a potential racial conflict in selecting the new chief.

Current CEO Robert Schiller is considered too melaninistically - if I may kind of invent a word - challenged. There are many who will insist that the new schools chief should be black - although we've had black superintendents for years, with no visible benefits to the schools.

In fact, it was the predominantly black leadership of Oakland, Calif., public schools that tried to pull off the Great Ebonics Scam of 1996. Black students in Oakland have a dismal academic performance, trailing every other racial and ethnic group. That's probably in spite of - and may indeed be because of - blacks in leadership position in the Oakland schools.

Still, it's a guarantee that some folks in Baltimore will insist that the new school CEO be black. But if we insist on selecting the new chief based on race, then let's do it right. Let's look at educational achievement based on race and use that

data to select a new chief. Using this criterion, it's clear what racial group the next public school CEO should belong to: Asian.

The academic success story of Asian-Americans is well known by now. Asian students consistently outperform white, black and Hispanic students. The difference is in the culture, not the genes. According to Temple University psychology Professor Laurence Steinberg, Asian-American students spend twice as much time on homework as their non-Asian counterparts. Steinberg did a 10-year study of student achievement and found that, on average, parents of Asian students demanded grades of A- or better. Parents of white students were happy with any grade above a C, while the average black or Hispanic parent was happy with a grade of D or better.

But you don't have to read Steinberg's study to get a picture of Asian academic achievement. Just attend any MathCounts - a mathematical competition for middle-schoolers - here in Maryland. You'll notice a high percentage of Asians among the winners. Maryland's 1996 MathCounts team featured an all-Asian unit.

An Asian school superintendent might inspire children of all ethnic groups to approach education the Asian way - with an emphasis on achievement. Those who still insist on a black superintendent might want a black African immigrant as the next superintendent. Black African immigrants as a group are the most well-educated in the country.

But the current racial climate being what it is, my guess is that some will insist on a native-born black American to be the superintendent. Boyse Mosley would be my choice.

Those of you with short memories might not remember Mosley. He's the former principal of Lake Clifton and Northwestern high schools in the city. He resigned several years ago as principal of Northwestern and retired from the school system.

"Public education in Baltimore is dead," Mosley declared on retirement, frustrated with students who showed no respect, hung out in malls, used foul language and regarded schools as venues for fashion shows, not institutions of learning. Mosley is now the administrator at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for juvenile offenders. His departure was a loss for public education in Baltimore. He was a tough disciplinarian who demanded adherence to standards of excellence. He prophesied - years before it happened - what would happen if Baltimore's public schools remained in a state of decline.

Mosley was not afraid to propose controversial ideas. He once proposed eliminating athletics at Northwestern and spending the money on academics. Now imagine Mosley as schools chief, proposing this idea: No school will have an athletic program unless 90 percent to 95 percent of its student body passes the Maryland functional reading, writing and math tests. No football, no basketball, no track and field - nothing.

There would be demands for Mosley's scalp, followed by burnings in effigy. But Mosley, being the tough educator he is, would stick to his guns. All students at all public schools would suddenly have a vested interest not only in their academic achievement, but in that of other students as well.

Mosley is a whip-cracker not afraid to propose controversial ideas. That's just the kind of schools chief we need.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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