Up and comers

May 24, 2013 

The three finalists for the next superintendent of Wake County Schools now are known, given the Wake school board’s wise decision to release the finalists’ names and bring them to Raleigh to meet with people in the community. The finalists will be in a forum Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium downtown.

This is the first time in 17 years that the board has chosen to release the names of finalists.

And we can’t help but point out that the world did not end, and Wake did not go without candidates, with the decision to tell the public who those final candidates were.

It turns out, they all seem outstanding.

The three are: Ann Clark, deputy superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, Dana Bedden, superintendent of the Irving Independent School District in Texas, and James G. Merrill, superintendent in Virginia Beach City Schools. All appear to be top candidates, well-qualified and savvy enough to take over after a period of considerable turmoil in the state's largest system.

They’re all experienced, and they’ve all dealt with school boards that have undergone changes, and wrestled with crises of funding and setting standards, etc. They also seem to have personal and professional toughness, something they’ll need in calming a system that has been in turmoil over the last few years.

Clark is a former national principal of the year who has been in Charlotte since 1983. She’s worked literally at all levels of public education, from the classroom to the administration building.

Bedden has worked in several systems and Wake schools’ office said he had put into practice several long-term plans for improvements in everything from special education to human resources.

Merrill may sound familiar. He was an assistant principal in Wake and rose to associate superintendent between 1984 and 2000. His fellow superintendents chose him as the 2013 superintendent of the year.

The three candidates will meet with the public at a Tuesday forum.

The advantages of this are considerable. First, it gives community leaders and parents a chance to observe the candidates, see how they interact with the community, ask questions, and judge for themselves the character and personalities of those who would lead the system in a challenging time. Second, once the decision is made, it will have more public support behind it. Transparency is rarely if ever a disadvantage.

As to the claims, often made by those in this state's university system, that top candidates for administrative jobs won't apply if they know their names will be made public in the course of the selection process, this group of finalists stands as firm evidence that good people, excellent people, will apply and are not afraid of disclosure.

It looks very much like Raleigh is going to have a very worthy superintendent. And one chosen the right way.

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