Outgoing Kent Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas is leaving the district to serve as executive vice president for AVID, a national non-profit that aims to turn average high-school students into college material.
AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is active in several Seattle-area districts, including Kent.
Vargas, who spent six years at the helm in Kent, announced his departure earlier this month but left his destination a mystery. He has been recognized for his efforts to increase the use of technology in Kent classrooms and was named state superintendent of the year for 2014.
A Kent spokesman said Vargas wasn’t granting interview requests until he gets closer to leaving.
His departure was announced not long before the resignation of a superintendent with a higher profile: Los Angeles’ John Deasy, who stepped down Oct. 16 after several clashes with the local school board and teachers’ union.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, Deasy is one of several urban school leaders facing intense pressure amid changes with standardized testing, charter schools and other controversial matters. One study, from the Council of the Great American Schools, says his 3 1/2 year tenure is about average for urban superintendents.
Vargas spent a bit more time in Kent, but with José Banda’s exit from Seattle Public Schools after a mere two years, parents and teachers may be wondering why superintendents don’t stay very long — and how much that affects their school districts.
David Hornbeck, a former Philadelphia superintendent, told NPR he believes superintendents need at least four years to turn a system around: one year for hiring, another year for developing a plan, and two years for implementation and evaluation. But a recent report from the Brookings Institution found superintendents have little impact on student achievement — regardless of how long they stick around.
What do you think? Are short superintendent tenures troubling? What should Seattle and Kent officials be looking for in their new leaders? Share your thoughts in the comments.