June 2, 2009

Shaw looks to develop leadership within Racine Unified

Racine Unified Superintendent James Shaw met with the Racine Unified School Board on May 28 to review his first nine months as head of the school district. The far-reaching conversation touched on several issues facing our public schools. We're breaking down the meeting by topic and will post stories over the next few days reporting on the meeting. See our first story here.

Superintendent James Shaw is reorganizing Unified's central office to focus on his priorities and to allow top administrators to develop priorities of their own.

Shaw’s plan puts district administrators in charge of different issue areas – such as redistricting, school safety and curriculum – and, by the sound of it, will push them to become the district’s leader on those issues.

It solves a couple of problems at once, Shaw said. First, it gets people working everyday on key problems in the district. Second, it improves leadership within the district and sets a succession plan if any leaves.

“We do want to build a pipeline of people for the future,” Shaw said. “We need three or four internal people assuming higher level positions.”

Part of Shaw’s plan includes hiring a full-time deputy superintendent to replace Jack Parker, whose interim contract expires at the end of June. But Shaw was cautious with the position, which will combine three vacant jobs into one. Following Van Atta’s advice from the business world, he told the School Board he wouldn’t hire someone unless they were a perfect fit.

“If we don’t have the right person, we won’t move,” Shaw said.

School Board Member Dennis Wiser said Unified needs to get away from relying on the superintendent to make improvements.

“We can’t afford to start over every time a superintendent leaves,” he said.

Shaw agreed.

“The big responsibility I have is succession, providing leaders to you, that you can have the flexibility of promoting within,” Shaw said. “You need to have some internal options to take a look at.”

He added: “We should be losing leaders to other school districts. That’s where we should be.”

Plan aside, Shaw said Unified has work to do at simply getting along both internally and with the community.

“The distrust thing is still here,” he told School Board members. “There is still significant distrust with people.”

The antidote, Shaw said, is creating a vision for success that everyone can follow.


  1. Assigning responsibility for specific problems is a community suggestion, but it took a year before Dr. Shaw mentioned it! Also Dr. Parker has been working on redistricting for a year, what is the status?

  2. Dr. Parker accepted the Interim Deputy Superintendent position mainly to finish the work he did with the Redistricting Committee.He did not want to leave with the job "half-done" so to speak.

    I would imagine since his term ends June 30th, we will hear something then.

  3. The man draws down a big salary to work on redistricting, reports nothing for a year and "maybe" we might hear something on his last day? This is a joke, right?

  4. I'm certainly not making excuses for the man (I definitely think its taking way too long) but he has been reporting his progress monthly to the board members in an open meeting.

    Nothing in government gets reported until the ink is dry, so to speak.

    That's why its so important to attend open meetings.

  5. soooo...instead of anything that closely resembles a positive result, the taxpayers may see a "report"?