Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Plugge Era: 1999-2010

December 24, 2009, 2:00 p.m.

Thanks for the Memories
(brought to you by*)

Two days ago the Press-Citizen reported that the Iowa City Community School District Superintendent, Lane Plugge, will be resigning the end of this school year to become the chief administrator of the Green Hills Area Education Agency in Council Bluffs. Rob Daniel, "Plugge leaving for new position; Says job in Western Iowa closer to family," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 22, 2009. [Photo credit: Press-Citizen.] Today the paper devoted a lengthy editorial to his years here, and some requests regarding what the paper would like for him to do before he leaves. Editorial, "A challenge for Lane Plugge during his final six months," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 24, 2009, p. 7A.

Debbie and Lane have never made a secret of their love for Nebraska (and the Huskers!), their family ties there, and their desire to be closer. Ten years in one place is a long run for anyone in the superintendent biz, so it's not exactly like they're running out on us.

Still, it was a real pleasure to get to know both of them, and I'll miss them. They're the kind of folks you'd like to have as next door neighbors, and had they been I'm sure we would have spent a lot of time together.

During my three years on the School Board I always found Lane to be accommodating and reasonable and a pleasure to work with. Indeed that's a reason why, after a near-five-year hiatus of silence on education issues, as I've returned to expressing some views about District matters my focus has been on the failures of the School Board rather than the Superintendent.

I remain convinced that any school board that would properly do its job, expressing its goals and governance wishes with clarity, would find that Lane would be doing his best to give the Board whatever it said it wanted -- within the bounds of federal, state, and local law and regulations. Requiring a superintendent to perform the board's job as well as his own is as unfair as it is inappropriate.

Being a superintendent is kind of a thankless job under the best of circumstances. There are just too many categories of stakeholders, not to mention individuals, all of whom demand to be pleased even though their wishes are often mutually inconsistent: government officials, other District administrators, teachers and other employees, parents, students, media, taxpayers, Democrats and Republicans.

I once asked Walter Cronkite's sidekick commentator, Eric Sevareid, dubbed "the grey eminence," how he felt about working at CBS. He said it was similar to "the sensation of being eaten by ducks."

My guess is that Lane must have felt a similar sensation some days.

Anyhow, rather than wait until next June to say goodbye, I thought I'd take this occasion to wish him and Debbie all the best on this new venture.

Donald Kaul and I once decided that Iowa's motto should be, "Warmer than Minnesota, more fun than Nebraska." It turned out it was too long to fit on a license plate. And besides, with Lane closer to the border even Nebraska might be more fun. But it's our loss.
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson
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Anonymous said...

Well said and oh so full of class... thank you for stating what many of us think. Lane is leaving very, very big shoes to fill...

Unknown said...

All these nice things said indicates you really never knew Plugge at all. Good damn riddens...that's what the rest of the many think.