Home is where the job isn't

Atlanta's former school superintendent is still having a hard time pulling up stakes in Georgia. And, as a result, Ben Canada is facing questions about his commitment to his new job running schools in Portland, Ore. Canada, who left Atlanta more than two years ago, lives in a rented bachelor pad in downtown Portland, while his wife Doris remains in their large home near Lenox Square. He claims he can't afford a home in Portland, eliciting guffaws from those who know about the housing prices in the two cities.

His Atlanta home has yet to go on the market. The native Southerner has been treated as an honored celebrity in Portland, star-ting when the school board decided he was the only finalist for the job they considered worth looking at. His warm personal manner, honed PR skills and evident concern about disadvantaged students earned him kudos during his first year in Portland, as did his way of connecting with students.

But many of the same criticisms that stung him in Atlanta — that he is unable to assemble and manage a crack team of deputies and to deliver results that match his promises — are surfacing in Portland.

Unlike in Atlanta, he has presided over rising test scores in Portland, but even Canada acknowledges he can't claim full credit for the upswing in Portland student achievement. Business leaders strongly back Canada and say they expect to see big results from him in the coming year.

But minority activists in Portland are much less sanguine. "All in all, it's the same story, different city," says Ron Herndon, who read up on Canada's time in Atlanta and in Jackson, Miss. "A lot of handshakes and smiles, but no substance and no change in achievement for students."

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