Bud Spillane

Bud Spillane has passed. The legendary superintendent ran school districts large and small – and really big including Northern Virginia’s behemoth and sprawling Fairfax County. His career arced along with some of the most contentious issues to face public schools, for instance desegregation in Boston when he led there and then later merit pay in Fairfax County. In other words, the nation’s educational walk from access to excellence paralleled his own.

He was no-nonsense about things. Once faced with a Fairfax County teacher sexually abusing students and an almost hopelessly dysfunctional process for addressing it Spillane went to work saying, “at the end of the day one of us won’t have a job.” He kept his. Boston was no picnic, he ended the practice of selling principalships via local Democratic committees. This line from The Times’ obit says it all:

As a reformer he displayed a brash zeal that energized supporters and alienated critics, and he earned nicknames like “the Velvet Hammer” and “Six-Gun Spillane” for his willingness to take on entrenched interests.

That’s about right. He loved public schools, so much that he expected much more from them and had little patience for those who didn’t. But I’m biased, he signed my high school diploma and shook my hand when I received it. Getting to work with him later on a few projects was a career treat.

More from The Washington Post on his time in Fairfax County.

2 Replies to “Bud Spillane”

  1. It sounds as though this superintendent knew how to get rid of sexually abusive teachers: Call the police.

    Although rare, there have been unfortunate instances of abusive educators (all levels) who were protected by their institutions. These teachers were transferred from school to school and allowed to continue with their criminal activities for many years. Police were not called. State departments of education were not notified. Administrators ignored complaints from teachers, parents and children and placed the reputations of their schools ahead of the safety of the students.

    A notable example of this was the Miramonte school scandal in Los Angeles where administrators turned a blind eye to abuses by a teacher and allowed him to “teach” for decades. It wasn’t until a photo shop clerk called the police that this man was finally taken out of the classroom. Sadly, administrators who allowed this to happen were never held accountable. I personally contacted the District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles but got some vague answer and no action.

    There are strict laws in every state dealing with the sexually abusive individual, but first someone has to call the police. It looks as though Bud Spillane cared enough to do so.

  2. Call the police?
    According to Mr Rotherham and Campbell Brown, teachers and their unions prevent parents, other teachers, BOE members, principals from doing this.

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