Cover Story

Driven to educate

"Driven to educate" Continued...

Issue: "Tough love," Aug. 18, 2007

"I don't like your verbs. I don't break down anything."

She is successful in "building cooperative bridges," she said. She plans "to work with people, engage participation, make decisions based on data, and be consistent in the message that process determines product and that student achievement is the product. As a leader, that is my challenge-not making people change, but having a consistent, data-driven focus as to why we should change."

Calloway's language was similarly direct when she spoke on July 11 at a Detroit Federation of Teachers "welcoming reception" held in her honor. "I do not believe in charter schools; I do not support charter schools," she said, speaking to several hundred DFT members. "As long as I am superintendent, charter schools will not be welcome in Detroit."

Calloway's adamant stand against charters may-or may not-put her at odds with Detroit's oscillating mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. In 2003, Kilpatrick accepted an offer of $200 million by philanthropist Bob Thompson to build 15 new charter schools. But Kilpatrick abandoned the plan after fierce opposition from DFT. This March, the mayor again came out strongly in favor of building more private, faith-based, and charter schools in an attempt to tourniquet the city's student attrition and to attract parents considering moving to the area.

But in July-the same month Calloway arrived and proclaimed her opposition to charters-Kilpatrick backpedaled again. "I'm not going to Lansing with any [charter] legislation until I see that we can work as a community to get this done," he told the Detroit News. It appears Kilpatrick is giving Calloway time and room to work. Still, he did not retreat from school choice entirely: "If we can't make it happen here locally, then I, as mayor, need to do something. We need to quit defining ourselves by one school system," he said.

In the followup interview, Calloway did not respond to WORLD's questions about her reasons for opposing to charters.

Calloway's initial three-year contract calls for an annual salary of $280,000, plus $30,000 in performance bonuses, with an automatic two-year renewal, making her one of the highest-paid public officials in the United States. Calloway negotiated the contract at a time when principals were accepting pay cuts due to the district's anemic budget, alienating and angering some principals.

But there are two views on the salary issue: The Detroit job may be the least desirable in the entire nation-and therefore more expensive to fill. "It's a PR battle rather than a budget battle," said education analyst Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency in Sacramento. "Trimming Calloway's salary might facilitate hiring an extra teacher or two. But then you're asking someone to take what may be the worst education job in the country and do it for less than they might get running some other school system that has a lot fewer problems. It's hard to really join one side or another on this."

If Calloway is commanding a high salary, she will also demand high performance-both from her subordinates and herself, said Normandy board member James. "She takes on a lot of work, and expects everyone to hit the road running at the same pace that she runs. Sometimes you have to build up that speed and endurance."

How will Calloway fare in the big city? "My grandfather always used to say you're either conceited or convinced," James said. "I think she's convinced. She has a lot on her plate, but I think she's up for the job."

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