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"I'm challenging you to step up to a very different way of doing business," he says. "There's going to be upset initially. But as success sets in, there'll be a critical mass. After the first year or two, things will settle down."
Amato admits that his problems in New Orleans may have stemmed from people not knowing what he was doing.
"It speaks to the possibility of not getting the terms of public relations and communications and not getting that out, but, for us, the most important thing was academics."
Take note here of the way that Amato steers the subject back to his love for education. It's important to stay on message.
Besides, no one can argue against the importance of academics.
In both Hartford and New Orleans, state test scores during Amato's tenures reflected increased reading comprehension. And both places saw those scores drop within a year or two of his departure. It's hard to tell whether such a decline shows lack of long-term success with Amato's programs or reflects new programs put in place by his successors.
As an urban superintendent, it's important that you change everything the previous person did. Remember, you've come into a difficult situation. You've been hired to shake things up.
Step 5: Start Looking for a New Gig
Whether you're simply shopping for desperate-district cash or truly trying to help in a tough situation, a staff full of wary backbiters gives you a good excuse when you start looking for the next job.
Eaton says Amato was well known for keeping his name in circulation for jobs and then taking it out again. "He was weird like that," she says.
Amato says he didn't look for anything in Hartford until it was clear that he was on his way out because the mayor had assumed more control over the school district. But editorials from The Hartford Courant note that despite Amato's ability to pump up test scores, his "autocratic impersonal management style was wearing thin" and he was "always on the make for a new gig." The same editorial, in the paper's November 2, 2002, edition, does agree with Amato that Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez pushed him out.
So far, Amato says, he has applied for nothing since arriving in Kansas City.
"Kansas City has been good to me. I'd like to stay at least five years," Amato says.
So what kind of administrator is Amato?
"If you're going to ask that question, you have to look at how I've invested in the community," he says. "I've bought a house, and, if you know about real estate, you know that I'll lose big if I leave in less than five years. Plus, I've got kids in the school district — adopted kids — and when you have them, you don't want to keep moving them around. You want to give them some stability. To uproot them and have my wife yelling at me for moving again, I'm not doing that."
Of course, he bought houses in Hartford and New Orleans, too.
Best of luck, future superintendent.