WITH THE appointment of Robert Booker as chief executive officer of the Baltimore City Public Schools, the Board of School Commissioners has completed its most important task.
Without strong, consistent and persuasive leadership, the school system will not overcome the problems that contribute to the failure of students to achieve academic success.
Dr. Booker has many strengths the system needs -- extensive experience in a large, urban school system; solid grounding in the intricacies of budgets and bureaucracies, and the ability to listen and to lead.
Yet, as the board has recognized, no one person is likely to have all the qualities necessary for the Herculean effort of turning around failing schools. The ultimate test of Dr. Booker's tenure will be his success in building a team of people who complement each other's strengths and work well together.
Strong teamwork will be especially critical in decisions about curriculum and other academic matters. Dr. Booker's impressive credentials do not include hands-on experience in turning around failing schools -- which, ultimately, will be the key to the reform effort's success.
For that reason, he will need to depend on the people around him -- and his choice of a chief academic officer will almost certainly prove to be his single most important decision.
That person should be someone with a solid record of achievement in this difficult area, as well as the ability to listen to all the stakeholders in a school's success -- students, teachers, parents and administrators, as well as community and business leaders.
Dr. Booker himself has already earned high marks for listening. That's a good start on a long road to success.
Pub Date: 5/28/98