OUR OPINION: Wright accepts unique Mississippi challenges

Mississippi’s public school trustees have unanimously nominated Carey Wright, a longtime Maryland educator and consultant, to become the next state superintendent of education, the first woman named to the top leadership position.

Wright must be confirmed by the Mississippi Senate by the end of the 2014 session.

Trustees voted unanimously in executive session late Tuesday to hire her. The vote must be formally spread on the minutes of the meeting for it to be legal. Several people familiar with the process said the executive session vote protects the identities of other finalists who wanted to avoid controversy in the jobs they hold now.

Lynn House serves as interim state superintendent. She did not seek the superintendency and will retire from the department.

The selection of a woman to lead Mississippi’s schools other than as an interim is arguably overdue. A strong majority of the state’s public school teachers are women, and some other states and city systems long ago broke the gender barrier.

The unanimous vote she received suggests all the trustees voting found her strengths compelling – the right fit for Mississippi.

She was the only woman among five finalists, but not the only woman among the original larger pool of 62 who applied.

Wright also previously had interviewed for local superintendent positions in Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa. In both cases she was not chosen.

Wright left the Washington school system in March. She worked for controversial former superintendent Michelle Rhee in Washington, but she said earlier that she is her own person and has a different approach to education leadership. Wright worked three more years after Rhee’s forced departure.

Wright is a former associate superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools, a large district in metropolitan Washington. Montgomery County, which has a smaller footprint than Lee County, Miss., has more than 1 million residents as of 2012. Thirty percent are 18 or under.

Her dossier in that position lists her areas of responsibility as special education and student services, both important areas of concern statewide in Mississippi.

Her background, while not statewide at any point except in the context of the District of Columbia, dealt with large budgets, thousands of students and thousands of teachers.

Wright begins her new job Nov. 1, a quick start in what arguably will be her most challenging endeavor.

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  • sam6

    another outsider, wont stay long, just adding to her resume for the next job, lots of smoke and bells, no staying power for the long run here.

  • Kevin

    What are the unique challenges alluded to in the headline? This is just Wright’s resume and a few statements about how she got the job. It doesn’t say anything about the unique challenges of the post.

    • guest

      I would venture a guess that the challenges would be how to financially and administrative squeeze public schools to create a disruptive environment which would allow Republican lawmakers cover to push through radical ideological measures. I can easily see several created crises on the horizon which will allow lawmakers to apply varying / sliding standards to measure different schools / school systems. I can also see where an environment created to attack and degrade teachers with the most seniority since they will be earning the most money. I can also see an upcoming attack on teacher benefits and they will betrayed as public leaches of our tax dollars because they ask for health insurance and retirement like everyone else. We saw the playbook developed in Wisconsin and you can bet they have perfected the plays.

      The question IMHO is how fast do they intend to do this.