Moving on?

Less than three years from the time she was selected as St. Paul's school superintendent, Meria Carstarphen is already thinking of getting out of town, according to reports today. She's a finalist for a superintendent's job in Austin, Texas. The news comes almost three years from the day Carstarphen was selected as St. Paul's school chief in March 2006. A concern at the time was she tended not to stay in one place very long.

The first school officials appeared to hear of her desire to leave was when she put her Summit Avenue home up for sale, although they tried to dampen speculation by saying she only intended to move into a condo instead.

Her predecessor, Pat Harvey, only stayed for 6 years, and considered leaving for Portland halfway through her tenure.

Her predecessor, Curman Gaines, lasted seven years. He, too, let his name be floated for an out-of-town gig (Seattle) halfway through his tenure. But he had spent 25 years in the system, coming to St. Paul as a science teacher in the '70s.

Why don't school superintendents stick around longer? The Pioneer Press analyzed metro school district salaries last year and found them rising faster than teacher pay. It documented how far districts are willing to go to keep superintendents around, usually with car allowances and bankable vacations and unused sick days.

Gaines was considered one of St. Paul's best superintendents. A comment at the time from a teacher's union official might explain why. "He's one of us. He's home-grown. He knows the state and what's going on. We don't want to lose him - and I didn't have to say that," Sandra Peterson said in 1995.

What direction should St. Paul take now? Should it look for someone local or try to attract someone else's superintendent who's ready to move on?

Update 2:18 p.m. - MPR's Paul Tosto, who knows more than a little something about the education beat, sends along this report that shows the average urban school superintendent lasts for three years. In 1999, it was a little over two years.

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