Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Diana Bourisaw: Suburban Republican Superintendent?

Diana Bourisaw: Suburban Republican Superintendent?

OK, so the St. Louis Board of Education's decision to make Dr. Diana Bourisaw permanent superintendent was a bit of a shock. Sure, it's justifiable as a way to make grantseeking and hiring easier. Nevertheless, it does seem rather strange.

You may already know Dr. Bourisaw had troubles in the Fox district several years ago, culminating in her filing discrimination complaints and receiving a severance package of over $350,000. In 2001, she was appointed to a slot on the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE).

Her nomination from Gov. Holden to the Missouri Senate on September 5, 2001 read:

I have the honor to transmit to you herewith for your advice and consent the following appointment, made and commissioned by me on July 9, 2001, while the Senate was not in session.

Diana M. Bourisaw, Ph.D., Republican, 3597 Kneff Farm Crossing, Imperial, Jefferson County, Missouri 63052, as a member of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, for a term ending June 27, 2006, and until her successor is duly appointed and qualified; vice, Bailey Ray Henry, term expired.
Sure, this may have been just another Democrat posing as a Republican; but also around this time, she was involved starting up the St. Louis (Charter) Academies, two private schools sponsored by the Church of God in Christ that, after realizing they could not use federal child-care subsidy funds to run schools, eventually became charter schools located in former Catholic school buildings (Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Boniface). After many well-publicized problems, their charter was revoked by DESE; now the North 20th Street location is known as Paideia Academy charter school.

In January 2002, Dr. Bourisaw and her husband, a traffic-law attorney and former traffic-ticket prosecutor for the City of Charlack, moved from Imperial to a new $400,000+ 10-room McMansion in Sunset Hills near St. Anthony's Medical Center, where they reside currently. I guess they do ok. At least one biography says they have two school-age children; but I don't know whether they attend Lindbergh schools or private/parochial schools. I guess it doesn't really matter.

While I know there's no residency requirement for SLPS employees, it would send a nice message if the superintendent lived in the city limits. Or, even if she didn't live in the city, she could still send her children to city magnet schools, at least as long as Lindbergh still participates in the program. I'm sure several past supe's also were suburbanites; but I believe Creg Williams did have an apartment downtown, ironically in the former school board building at 911 Locust.

I wouldn't presume to tell anybody where they should live. Nevertheless, it would be a nice message to parents, students, and teachers if the superintendent seemed to be more 'one of us' than an outsider. While surface appearances are not everything, Dr. Bourisaw still seems like as much an outsider as Creg Williams and Bill Roberti were.


Urban Review said...

Interesting post. My concern was the opposite --- that being from the St. Louis area she would have too much local baggage --- that a true outsider might be more immune to local politics and norms.

Travis Reems said...


I usually agree with you, but not on this. First, the position of Superintendent is not a political one, or at least it shouldn't be. It should be a position appointed on a basis of expertise and merit.

Further, if we limited our search for a quality Superintendent to within the city's borders, we would have a small group of candidates that wouldn't include either the current office holder or her predecessor.

Anonymous said...

I don't think her party affilation or place residence has much to do with the issue. The issue really is that she was hired as the superintendent with no process, no public input, and no transparent review of her abilities.

IMO, unfortunately the current board has stuck to past practices in assuming that they and they alone know what is good for the education of city children. Public participation is not only a political goal--we live in a democracy--but also strengthens belief and commitment in common goals.

Anonymous said...

Just curious what you think now, in July '08, with a Republican from Frontenac running the schools. Same concerns?