Larry Cuban left the Arlington school superintendency in 1981, he says, because he wanted to write and teach. "No one believed me at the time," he said recently.

Since he left Arlington, Cuban has fulfilled those wishes, switching coasts and shifting gears from the "intense and urgent" job of superintendent to the more "reflective" post of associate professor at Stanford University's school of education.

"I really enjoy it," he said of his job teaching courses on leadership and effective schools at the 500-student graduate school in Palo Alto, Calif. Although the job switch meant a cut in salary, "I wanted to go back to teaching," he said. "The life of a professor is very privileged. I have more control of my time than I ever have had in my adult life."

Cuban described his seven years as Arlington's superintendent as "exhilarating and exhausting" but said fatigue was not the main reason he left.

"I wanted to shift to something else, but I wouldn't call it burnout," he said. Ideally, superintendents should serve "three to five years on the short end" and seven to 10 years at most, he added, because "the key to a lot of important fundamental change is persistence and steadiness -- and that takes time."