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Cities Desperate For School Leaders

Even as politicians and parents demand immediate results from the nation's schools, the number of administrators with experience running school systems keeps shrinking.

CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reportssome experts believe that finding permanent superintendents for troubled school systems will become increasingly difficult.

That's especially true in the poorest schools, where problems are entrenched, leaving children who most need strong leadership least likely to get it.

Thirteen big cities are now looking for permanent school superintendents and the list keeps getting longer.

One of those is Los Angeles. There, Ramon Cortines is interim superintendent and says he wouldn't want it any other way. He is no longer interested in a permanent position.

"It's a job nobody wants," Cortines said. "I do think that it takes it's toll on you.

The toll is personal, political, and financial. Cortines should know. As head of New York City's schools in the early 90's, he was popular with students and teachers but not with Mayor Rudolph Guiliani. Cortines was forced to resign.

His successor fared no better. Two months ago, New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew was fired after losing the mayor's support.

"We're never going to get the politics out of education and we shouldn't expect to," Cortines said.

Nowadays, superintendents find themselves squeezed between a public demanding tougher standards and higher test scores and the fact that education has changed: schools do much more than teach now. They are also social service providers, dealing with students from broken families, drugs and violence.

That's why, Paul Houston of the American Association of School Administrators tells CBS News, "to really make change at the classroom level, it takes time, it's not something you can wave a magic wand and make happen very quickly."

Given the challenges of the job, it's hard to attract skilled administrators who could make much more in the private sector. The crunch leaves cities like Baltimore struggling to find candidates.

"You've got to compete with corporate dollars," Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said. "You've got to compete with other cities that are looking for somebody for the super human task of bringing about immediate results."