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New Palo Alto school chief: Arriving with 'fresh eyes and ears'
Original post made
on Jul 9, 2014
Palo Alto's new school-district superintendent says he's coming to town "with fresh eyes and ears" and the goal of creating a "culture of trust." Max McGee, who officially begins work Aug. 1, is spending three days in Palo Alto this week meeting with senior district staff and a range of community leaders.
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posted Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:43 AM
Posted by FourGoalsForMcGee
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm
Hi Dr. McGee - if you are reading this, and are looking for 4 big goals to pursue at PAUSD, here is a place to start:
1) Get us out of the OCR Quagmire.
This entire issue is a fever swamp of incompetence, lies, deceit, cover-up, conspiracy and conspiracy theories. It is dividing the community, and putting a wedge between the parents and the schools and the board. Please work to (a) close all open cases asap, at any cost; and (b) get to the root of the problems which generate new OCR cases. That brings us to the next goal...
2) Bring some accountability to the sites.
The sites (principals and teachers) have fine-tuned the art of ignoring parents & students; deflecting issues, delaying progress, and avoiding problems in general. From big issues like bullying, and accommodations for 504 students to small issues like an unwillingness to write homework down, or issues of intimidating students in classes.
As long as the sites ignore the problems they are inflicting on the students, the parents have no place to turn to get resolution. That is why they resort to OCR filings - it is desperation born of frustration dealing with sites which lack a moral compass. Even if the OCR findings show that we have good procedures, remember each complaint is an issue which was not resolved at home, but escalated to the Feds out of frustration.
3) Create a learning institution.
The sites are not learning institutions; and they should be. If you have a desire for innovation, then you are focused on problem solving. Find a problem, fix the problem, and the overall progress of the district moves forward. This is the basis of incremental improvement, good customer service, and quality organizations. This is something which is second nature to many of the Parents here in Silicon Valley, and is strangely at odds with the culture in the schools. The schools (not everyone, but many, and certainly the middle schools and High schools) do whatever they can to ignore problems, avoid responsibility for issues, and generally fail to look for system problems. While sticking their head in the sand may be a defensive mechanism to avoid accountability, it unfortunately means that years of accumulated problems have built up in how the sites treat the students and parents. A learning institution will face these problems head-on, and work to innovate solutions. This may mean getting rid of local leaders mired in problems and unwilling to work with parents.
4) Create an organization with principle-based leadership, courage, and a moral compass.
The leaders you have in your schools (Instructional Supervisors, Principals, District Staff) are not always considering the best interest of the students in their day-to-day activities. In fact, rarely is a students interest given priority over a teachers (mis) behavior. Cowardly leadership originates in organizations which lack a moral compass, are not pursuing a student-centered strategy, and who do not have the backing of their own management. All of these issues lead to environments of fear, retaliation and petty bickering. Often driven from the bottom-up following the basest of motivations; certainly organizations of weak leadership do not see the students and parents as customers to be highly valued and worked with productively towards good solutions.
The principles which will serve you well are to always focus on the students. Survey student engagement; where engagement lags, you will find the issues right behind them. Do not accept large aggregate numbers "75% of students are satisfied"... that means 25% are unsatisfied, and many are really hacked-off. Your target should be 99.7% satisfied. Also avoid data which aggregates over sites - look at the satisfaction within each classroom, with each teacher, each course, and each department. This will give you insight into where the problems are. Then apply leadership, innovation and a problem-solving approach. If your lieutenants at each site do not pursue such aggressive approaches to customer satisfaction, get rid of them. Only the exemplary survive.
Best of Luck - that's 4 good goals: Get us out of OCR; bring some accountability; create learning institutions; develop principle-based leadership.