Uncomfortable? As it should be.

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Question: Is Beloit prepared for what it will take to turn around the schools?

IN A STORY last week the Beloit Daily News reported the School District of Beloit had departed from tradition by offering a dozen administrators a one-year contract extension rather than two years.

Interim Superintendent Donald Childs told the paper the school board's intention is to provide a new superintendent, likely to be hired in the next couple months, the opportunity to evaluate existing administrative staff and decide rather quickly who stays or who goes.

Childs said he met with impacted administrators and, not surprisingly, some were upset. Declining to hand out longer term contracts, it was said, might contribute to turnover.

Note: Not all turnover is bad.

IT'S NO SECRET: The Beloit district is in trouble. Academic performance falls well below state averages. The district's report card, issued by the state, is an annual embarrassment. Discipline problems in the classrooms and halls are cited regularly by teachers as an impediment to the learning environment. Teachers complain administrators do not have their backs when bad behavior causes issues. And they say there's a serious lack of continuity and consistency in educational policies and practices.

Why reward that with longer contracts?

Conditions argue for this outcome: Beloit needs to hire an educational change and turnaround agent.

Change starts with a muscular hire at the superintendent position, an individual willing to single-mindedly demand excellence from educators and good behavior from students. If the school board gets that right, improvements can begin. If the board blows that hire - as boards have blown hires in the past - expect continued failure.

LOOK, THE COMMUNITY - and that includes everyone both in and out of the district buildings - needs to understand a fundamental truth. Change is hard, and often painful. Whether it's in the public sector or the private sector, a serious change agent is going to walk in and start killing sacred cows.

The objective going forward can be nothing less than moving the needle across the district from failure toward success. That cannot be a wishful expectation - it must be a demand, backed up by appropriate actions. Scores must improve. Bad behavior must not be tolerated. Administrators and teachers must be measured and held accountable.

Getting there means having a team - from the front office to the classrooms - committed to change. It means replacing those who are measured and fall short. And it means eliminating administrators who are unable or unwilling to get with the program.

That's why a new superintendent deserves the opportunity to evaluate existing administrators and make up his or her own mind about keeping them or replacing them. The only job security should come from measured, demonstrated success at turnaround.

THIS IS OUR ADVICE to the citizens of Beloit: Don't whine if a new superintendent starts turning over the chairs and tables and breaking up the old ways of doing things. Whine if the new superintendent does not do that.

More bureaucratic shuffling will not create the needed changes in a district clearly performing in the unacceptable range. A true change agent will make almost everyone uncomfortable - and remove administrators who resist, teachers who can't improve, and students whose only contribution to the classroom is consistent disruption.

Getting better is a rough process. Beloit requires nothing less.

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