"I don't think we need to look every place else first," she said. "We need someone who sees this as a citywide issue. It's not just making the District shine; it's making the city shine."
She also wants someone with experience grappling with severe budget cuts and multiple sources of funding.
Given the complexities of the job, Shorr and Ramos are taking a serious look at abandoning the superintendent model and going back to having a chief executive officer and a chief academic officer, the structure that existed under Vallas.
"It's in the air," Shorr said.
Ramos said it is "tough" finding a person "who can lead and manage at that scale of complexity and who [also] has an educational background. … I don't know that you need a superintendent's certificate."
Regardless of the structure, said Lytle, it is paramount that the new leader develop the right kind of relationship with the School Reform Commission.
The function of the SRC, he says, should be "to set goals and parameters and not to be directly involved in management ... more like a corporate board than a school board."
Search will not be short
Ramos expects to hire a search firm and for the process to last awhile. Many good candidates, he said, tend to come in at the end of the search because they want to be sure that they really want the job and have a good shot at it.
While the goal is obviously to have someone in place on or before the start of the 2012-13 academic year, he said, "You keep going until you have the right person."
That person will not be easy to find, as Philadelphia now has a reputation for chewing up its school leaders and spitting them out. While nationally the average tenure of big-city superintendents is increasing – from about two years in the 1990s to three-and-a-half years now – the recent history in Philadelphia has been the reverse. Hornbeck lasted six years, Vallas five, and Ackerman just three.
Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that school boards have become more sophisticated about the cost of rapid turnover, not just in terms of disruption but in terms of payouts, as Philadelphia discovered with Ackerman's nearly $1 million severance.
The pool of people willing to take on the country's largest and generally most troubled districts is shrinking, Casserly said. Of the few out there, the competition among districts to recruit the best is stiff.
"The job," he said, "isn't much fun anymore."