PAUSD crisis: Bargaining Issues or Leadership?
Original post made
by ABC, Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 7, 2006
PAUSD is in a leadership crisis. Principals are on the front lines with students, teachers, parents, senior staff, psychologists, reading specialists, special education and more. They need a superintendent with vision and high standards whose actions and words support them. It seems to me that this is the key question facing our school board today: Does our superintendent possess the curiosity, the empathy, the passion for education and communications skills to effectively lead our district. If so, show us how her actions in the past few weeks have demonstrated it. If not, what are you going to do about it?
It might be easier to dismiss the current uproar as simply bargaining issues or personal conflicts. But it is about leadership. What kind of leadership do we expect in our school district? Do we expect our superintendent to respond immediately to an important memo from her principals about a breakdown of trust? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] No wonder our management staff is reluctant to speak up - they know that their superintendent does not support them. We should be glad our principals haven't all quit. If we don't have good leadership at the top of our school district, how can we EVER expect to resolve any bargaining issues.
Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2006 at 12:47 pm
a few things:
"ABC" is right on. When a publicly elected municipal body - in this case the school board - keeps evaluation criteria from the public, it is engaging in a pure conflict of self-protective interest. The rationale, or rather the "spin" about why this happens is usually stated as "not wanting to air dirty laundry in public".
To that I say, "why not?". Again, PAUSD is a PUBLIC institution, paid for by taxpayers, and managed by ELECTED policy makers. What gives?
School board members make very high level decisions - among those decisions is the hiring of the District Superintendent.
In keeping evaluation criteria, as well as the details of evaluation private, these two constituencies (the board, and the senior executive team) are able to keep a cap on transparency. As a result, problems fester - problems that, in the end, require actions that seem to the public to happen in a vacuum, because the public (in this case, PAUSD's constituency) have no idea what's going on. How is that process supposed to help the voting public understand how well, or not, school board members and executive staff are functioning, and how their _specifically_ good or dysfunctional actions are impacting the school district that oue citizens PAY FOR?
It is becoming more and more known that the _lack_ of transparency in government leads to inefficiency and waste. This is a perfect example. Instead of heading off problems as they appear, reinforcing constituencies protect each other.
I don't want to spin the problem away from MFC, but it appears to be a bigger problem than one might have thought at the outset. We have to get more transparency in this process.
The current tack is to go for mediation; we're all for that. Better to talk, than not. However, in the end, someone has to be held accountable for the _problems_ in this district. Just as credit is liberally doled out when things go right, the public has a right to see who and how various individuals have fallen down on the job.
I see no accountability in any of this; there is no communication to the public - none. This isn't surprising, because THAT'S the internal demeanor of this district - i.e. keep it all underwraps, and maybe the problem will just go away.
I submit that the above is condescending to an informed public; obstructive of good management; unhealthy as to the accumulation of unresolved inefficiencies; and, just plain poor governance.
Next, to "Former Teacher". Perhaps you have had good experiences with Marilyn Cook. I don't question that. It's even understandable that you make a global generalization about certain senior executives because of your good experiences with them. Fine.
That said, a scathing memo was written by the Management Team some weeks ago, condeming the lack of leadership and productive communication from this senior administration. MOST of the administrative corps in this district are in _essentail_ agreement with that document, allowing for slight variances of individual difference among members.
That memo was the result of LONG STANDING problems. Who is iresponsible for those problems? The administrators? Have they been as happy as you are with Ms. Cook? or Ms. Callan.
My travels through this district, as an active volunteer in the classroom, and raising kids here, along with many conversations with teachers and adminsitrators, have led me to an entirely different conclusion. Ms. Callan, and some of her senior administrators are de-motivational in personal style, and unfair and even incompetent in some of the admistration of their responsibilities. That's what I've been hearing, for _years_.
Why hasn't the _paying_ public known about this? Why haven't _parents_, who place the well-being of their children in the hands of teachers and administrators every day, been availed of information that might indicate that those teachers and adminsitrators - people that they trust with their children's well-being - have their work environment and very motivation comprromised by poor management policies, and a general lack of leadership?
Teachers and adminsitrators in this district are not whiners; they work hard, with dedication. They're professionals, serving and helping to make one of the best school districts in the country.
I used to hear the occasional grumble prior to Callan's arrival, but since her arrival, and appointment of certain senior executives, I have heard a consistent stream of dissatisfaction, and frustration with a non-communicative and condescending management.
So, here we are, with a mediator coming in. If current senior executives remain, no matter the mediation, the _people_ at 25 Churchill who have been responsible for the long standing management failure that we have in place will keep their jobs. The crisis will pass, but the people will remain.
That's my projection. With that as a possibility - and with the known demeanor and manipulations of this current management team - do you think that anyone valuing their job would come boldly forward?
The institutional silence surrounding this issue is stunning, and revealing in its depth.