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Superintendent Vacancies Statewide Might Mean Shuffling At Dallas ISD’s Central Office

With a "shallow pool" of potential applicants nationally and statewide, it wouldn't be a total surprise if Dallas ISD loses some top staff to other districts' superintendent searches.
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Dallas ISD's Linus D. Wright Administration Building. Courtesy of Dallas ISD

The good news, as we reported last night, is that Dallas ISD trustees named current Austin ISD superintendent Stephanie Elizalde its lone finalist to replace Michael Hinojosa. He announced his intention to retire in January.

The bad news is, there is now a scenario where there might be some shuffling at district headquarters this summer.

Let me preface this by saying that I have no knowledge of anyone’s career intentions, but I do know the landscape statewide, where there are roughly 51 open superintendent positions that include Richardson ISD (where the application process will start June 1), Fort Worth ISD (where the process is still in the public input phase), San Antonio ISD, and now Austin ISD.

Almost a quarter of superintendents nationally have quit in the past year, American Association of School Administrators director Dan Domenech told The Hechinger Report. The typical turnover is around 15 percent. 

In February, I talked with Mike Moses for a piece I did for our sister publication, People Newspapers. Moses now helps districts conduct superintendent searches, but he is also a former Dallas ISD superintendent and Texas Education Commissioner.

During our conversation, Moses gave me the lay of the land when it comes to superintendent searches right now. He had no doubt that there would be internal candidates within the district that might be a good fit. But if they were potentially a good fit for the top spot at Dallas ISD, they would also be attractive to other school districts. 

They’ll be in every district’s potential pool of candidates because that pool nationally is “very shallow.”

Moses said that districts often look within to identify potential candidates, but with so many vacancies, internal candidates might not be patient enough (or need to be patient enough) to wait for the spot to open up again in their district if they’re not chosen this time around.

With so many large urban districts statewide looking for superintendents, it wouldn’t be outside the bounds of reality to expect some of Dallas ISD’s top staff to be attractive to the search firms those districts have hired. Add in the urban district openings nationwide, and it feels like almost a given that at least two or three lands on a shortlist. Dallas ISD itself is no stranger to hiring from a nationwide pool — for instance, former superintendent Mike Miles was superintendent of a district in Colorado Springs, Colorado; current Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova was previously superintendent of Denver Public Schools. 

In fact, Cordova was considered by many to be a strong contender for her boss’ job when the announcement was made.

But since most districts conduct their searches confidentially, only announcing the redundant-sounding “lone finalist,” there’s a chance we may also never know how close the district came to losing some of its top brass, especially since some of those districts also have their own viable internal candidates. 

“You have to look at your talent pool in your own district and decided and assess what you have,” Moses told me in February. “And you may find someone that you want to use, but if it’s (ultimately) not, you probably need to be prepared to lose them if they’re skillful and talented. The big denominator is can you work with students, with teachers, with parents? Can you work with taxpayers, the business community, and all the state stakeholders? 

“If you have someone on your staff that’s talented and you might want to promote, and you don’t, you might have to be prepared to see them go, too.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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