by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
Here’s one news headline you won’t see when you open the Champaign Unit 4 School District website homepage:
“Superintendent Arthur Culver Gives Champaign The Finger”
But that’s exactly what he did in a Q & A article that appeared on the front page of Sunday’s News-Gazette. Well, at least he cleared up that mystery for me — he won’t be in charge of administrating my daughter’s education when we enroll her in the district this fall.
(Not to hijack my own post, but it was announced at the Board of Education meeting on Monday night that kindergarten assignment lottery letters will, in all likelihood, get mailed on Friday. UPDATE: On Wednesday (4/13) we were notified that the best estimate is now April 19 or 20.)
I do not begrudge the man for wanting to find a new challenge or for wanting a change of scenery. He is not from here, and his kids have gone through the school system and graduated. That is completely understandable. Administrators come, and administrators go. It had been reported weeks ago that he was named a finalist for a superintendent position for a very large (and very troubled) district near Atlanta.
What is not understandable is why anyone would publicly scream to the rafters his desire to leave before officially announcing his resignation. This is the kind of interview a person gives AFTER they have secured a new job. That’s just PR 101, folks.
Here are just four of the biggest problems with this interview:
1. It absolutely dripped with hubris (he called it confidence, but there is a big difference in my opinion). And while the district may have come a long way since he got here, it still has a LONG way to go. And the lack of recognition of that fact is, frankly, appalling.
2. Although he says he will continue to give the proverbial “100 percent” while he is still here, if anyone believes that, I have an extension of Olympian Drive to sell you. He made it pretty clear that he is gone. You can’t have it both ways.
3. The overall air of smug.
4. Warranted or not, this interview is another stain on the district’s image. Culver is not a free agent. He is still under contract (more on that in just a second), and still is the figurehead of Unit 4.
Culver’s contract runs through June 30, 2014. In February 2010, the Board of Education had a contentious vote whether or not to extend his contract by a year, which was originally scheduled to expire in 2013. It passed, 4-3, and at the time, all of the board members who voted “no” said that their vote did not reflect on the Superintendent’s performance. (According to the district website, he makes $246,851.16 with a $3,000 “differential,” although reportedly his salary has not increased in some time).
That all seems like a moot point now. It’s fun to speculate, why a man with three years left on his contract would be so very eager to say Sayonara. Did it only take a year for the tide to turn from a Board of Education perspective? We’ll never know the truth — at least not publicly. One thing we do know is that none of the current board members were in office when Culver was brought to Champaign in 2002.
As for the Atlanta job, an announcement regarding the position will be made April 18. If you have some time to kill and want to amuse yourself, you can read some fascinating feedback about Culver the job candidate made public on the DeKalb County School District website.
Perhaps we should hand it to him; we should all be so “confident.” It takes guts — chutzpah is too complimentary a word — to tell anyone who will listen that you want to get the heck out of dodge. But that interview makes it painfully obvious that there has been a vacuum of leadership at Unit 4 for some time now. The district’s teachers, staff and students deserve more.
Funny, I don’t see anyone in Champaign begging him to stay.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill is the co-founder and editor of chambanamoms.com. You can reach her at email@example.com.