When Bob Corkins, a lawyer with no classroom experience, was named Kansas Commissioner of Education in 2005, newspaper editorialists and education bureaucrats throughout Kansas condemned the action. How could a person with no classroom experience and no traditional education credentials possibly manage the state’s schools?
“Bob’s in way over his head,” said Winston Brooks, superintendent of USD 259, the Wichita public school district.
But what about Martin Libhart, the man who succeeds Winston Brooks, if only as the interim superintendent? According to a news release on the USD 259 website: “Because Libhart does not currently possess a district level leadership certificate, the district is working with the Kansas State Department of Education for a restricted certificate as permitted by the department.” (emphasis added)
It seems that lack of formal credentials was not an obstacle to the promotion of Mr. Libhart. But Mr. Libhart has worked for the Wichita public school district for 20 years, and it seems that loyalty is now paying dividends. Evidently it is enough to overcome his lack of classroom experience and traditional education credentials — the same inexperience that made Bob Corkins, in the minds of Kansas education bureaucrats, unfit to serve.
What exactly did Mr. Libhart do for the Wichita school district? Again, from the USD 259 news release: “During his 20-year career in the Wichita Public Schools, Libhart served for 13 years as director of the Facilities Division prior to being appointed chief operations officer.”
It seems, however, that the facilities and operations of the Wichita school district are managed somewhat less than efficiently. I say this because if you submit a records request asking the district how many classrooms and portables the district owned for the previous two years, you may get this answer, as did one citizens group:
The information is available. In order to prepare the information, it will require 40 hours of staff time @ $20.00 and 300 copies @ $.20, for a total cost of $860.00.
The Wichita public school district is telling us that in order to count the number of classrooms it possesses, it will take someone an entire workweek to produce this number. Does it seem like the district is effectively managing its resources when it will take one week to simply count the number of classrooms?