Nov. 16 editorial: Revolving door should stop now

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THE ISSUE: New EIS superintendent OUR VIEW: Leadership stability matters

By The Staff

Elizabethtown Independent Schools’ second superintendent since mid-2006, Dr. Jayne Risen Morgenthal who began her career in education teaching in the city’s schools, steps into her new job on Monday. But like her predecessor, Dr. John Millay who stayed on the job only two years, Morgenthal assumes the position in an environment where two of the five board members, vocal alumni and supporters prefer someone else to lead their alma mater.

Outvoted 3-2 by the board, those who championed the selection of Gary French when Millay was picked instead continued to campaign for him this time around. Their loyalty is well-placed. French is a graduate of the system, a longtime teacher and administrator who has experience as associate principal, assistant superintendent, director of transportation and even as interim superintendent. French is widely admired and liked by faculty,  graduates and students for all he has done for the city’s schools.

Morgenthal began her career as an elementary teacher in Elizabethtown. She has experience as a supervisor of instruction, general director and associate superintendent of schools in Covington, an elementary principal in Beechwood and Fort Thomas, and professor of education administration at the University of Louisville where she taught classes on the position of superintendent. When hired, Morgenthal was president of her own leadership coaching consulting firm.

Morgenthal vowed to return to Elizabethtown as superintendent when she left the district in 1985 and vows now that she won’t be run off. Let’s hope it never comes to that.

Elizabethtown Independent Schools, one of the top districts in the state by just about any measure but especially in academic and athletic achievement, needs an extended period of stability at Central Office. But if you count interim leaders, it has had five superintendents the last decade or so, three full-time superintendents.

The district was led by Paul Upchurch for seven years until mid-2005, by Millay from July 2006 to May of this year. In between, there were two interim superintendents while the board interviewed candidates. French had the job while Upchurch’s successor was being selected. Bill Twyman held the position temporarily, first while Millay was making the transition from Meade County to Elizabethtown and again this year while the board was searching to replace Millay.

It’s been said that a new school superintendent should keep at least one bag packed. Even under the best of circumstances it is a challenging job to meet the oft-conflicting demands of parents, faculty, students, alumni, federal and state governments and the community — with diminishing resources to allocate.

But it shouldn’t take an expert in pedagogy or school administration to realize the impact such frequent turnover could have on a district. You can bet that educators in other districts are aware and watching, wondering what’s going on in Elizabethtown. And you can bet that students working on their teaching certificates are wondering, too.

We understand and respect the loyalty many feel toward the man they feel deserves to be superintendent. We could be wrong, but don’t think we are, that although deeply disappointed and frustrated, again, Gary French being the committed educator and administrator that he is would be one of the first to recognize that for the sake of Elizabethtown and its students, it is time to get behind the new superintendent and help her lead the city’s schools to maintain their standards of excellence.

Dr. Jayne Risen Morgenthal, Superintendent Morgenthal, welcome. 


  - This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.