Taking school concerns public seeks to manipulate
Original post made
by John Lents, Principal of Addison,, Addison School,
on Oct 3, 2006
Last week this paper published portions of an internal document used to shape and articulate discussions among members of the school district's administrative teams. It was with shock that I saw portions of it reprinted, especially as this document was divulged without the knowledge or authorization of the district's Management Team, of which I'm a member.
Rather than discuss the impropriety of this action, or the degree to which this statement may or may not reflect the administrators' experience and attitudes, I believe the more critical issue is the impact of this action and information upon our community, the district's work and how we consequently choose to interact with each other.
To "hijack" a process and "shaft" professional relationships in such a public forum undermines our collective need to trust one another and to support the district's vision and current work. Impacted relationships are fragmented and the trust and ability to engage in real dialogue is lost in the shock and anger of the action.
The school district is in the midst of framing its future work through a collaborative approach to fundraising, attendance boundaries, foreign-language instruction and its daily focus on student achievement. The gossipy revelation of what had been an internal document means that we risk losing our focus upon this future, upon the relationships and values that have created an exceptional educational organization.
We must not manipulate situations by taking them into the public arena. To do so cheats the process, makes a joke of dialogue, ignores the beliefs and experiences of others and sets a devastating precedent of "end runs," entitlement and anger. Such action, in an educational organization, derails our roles as student advocates and instructional leaders and results, instead, in a fragmented, individualized and defensive response to our professional roles and responsibilities.
As the community watches the district work through its communication needs, we have an excellent opportunity to rethink our own interactions. And so I challenge us to protect our right to disagree, to support procedures that are democratic and respectful, and to engage in actions that elicit the best in our community and in each other.
[Published in the Palo Alto Weekly 10/4/06]
Link to the document: Web Link
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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 2:31 am
I just read a letter to the editor by John Barton, John Toumy, and Cathy kroynman. Yes, the PAUSD spin machine is now running running at full tilt; damage control horns are at full blast.
Apparently, Barton, Kroymann, and Toumy) support Mary Frances Callan. Might that have something to do with not only their professed admiration of Callan, but also due to the fact they were three of the people on the board who hired a midwestern search firm to vett Callan, and then agree to bring her on? What were they thinking? That last question is something I've heard from at least 30 teachers and more than a few administrators as my 3 kids wind their way through more than a few PAUSD's schools as we've moved around the district.
Of course, none of the above three want to have their decision look bad. Heaven forbid!
This is a point that was referenced on another thread - the relationship between the board and the Superintendent is just too cozy, and often excludes those that do the hard work of teaching and administrating.
We won't - and didn't - hear a peep out of the three persons above regarding the maltreatment of teachers by Callan, or in what kind of low regard Callan, Cook and Bowers are held by their direct subordinates (management team), as well as teachers. This is a _well known fact_, districtwide.
Look at the letter! Yet Barton, Kroymann, and Toumy deny reality and claim that most administrators don't support it.
They talk about their "collective experience". Doing what? Sitting cozily with the Superintendent, and not having themselves to live with the decisions that they and the executive staff visit on district personnel?
Yet all this never makes headlines, never gets discussed, is pretty much ignored by the board.
We hear more spin about how putting things like this out there will "divert the district from its mission". Please! We all read spin like this printed by the Washington Press Corps every day. Do they think we're naive?
Note how the spin is really starting to speed up, with a few administrators in support of Callan speaking out, and now these school board members. (Barton, Kroynman, and Toumy). Teachers are shaking their heads, and so are most administrators.
Of course, the majority of administrators who agree with the document that was released have said nothing. I wonder why? Could it be that they fear retribution? Why are they silent? Interesting, isn't it? I guess it's OK to speak out and win 'brownie points' for past hiring decisions (like these board members are doing - that's a realistic subtext) that have been dysfunctional from day one, in terms of teacher and administrator morale.
In the Weekly we also see a few more letters, lamenting the "retirement" of Ann Baskins. Yes, Ann Baskins is probably a very nice person, and so may be Ms. Callan and their staff. That's all well and good, but it doesn't mean that they shuold keep their jobs if they're not performing.
In Baskins' case, we're talking about ethical blunders of major proportions. In Callan's case, we're talking about a gross inability to lead, motivate and generate trust.
All I have left to say to the three people who wrote that lettter is that I didn't hear them lamenting the grief that teachers and administrators have been going through under this executive team. They choose to disregard what's right in front of their eyes.
If the Weekly has the time, I hope it digs into this story in some depth. Weekly, are you game? Or, are the chummy relationships that come into place between the press in a small town, and the people who generate news, too delicate to enable deep reportage and risk offense - to advertising contracts, access, and so on.
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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 3:13 pm
Bill, the Weekly is a public institution, and a for-profit entity, with the latter taking precedence (from your perspective). You, as guardian of the Weekly asset have to make decisions that will not reflect poorly on your newspaper. That's all understood.
The 'last post' that you refer to in a prior thread was hard-hitting, but how does it lead to a downward spiral? There seems an aversion to frank discussion of certain problems in this community - it's almost old-British in its demanor. This forum should be able to permit many forms of expression, as long as they are not ad hominum. Are we a diverse community - or not?
It seems to me that the person who wrote that post might be frustrated by having watched years of behind the scene maneuvering, spinning, and inefficiency brought to staff by an inept management, with nothing done about it.
Can you deny that teachers in this district are unhappy with Callan and her executives team's leadership, and have been from almost the first day she came here? Now we have what is practically an unprecedented (by national standards) revolt by a large majority of site administrators, with only those few that support the current regime coming out to support her - after that, can one deny that there is a _serious_ problem of long-standing leadership that has been a subtext to district operations?
There is something wrong in this school district, at the senior executive staff level. It's upsetting to see some of those who have worked so hard to keep this problem - largely one of their own making (after all, they hired Ms. Callan) - under wraps.
One metaphor that immediately comes to mind is the 'happy' 1950's middle-American household where women were expected to 'keep quiet' and 'just play along', as their frustrations mounted from not having their voice heard. Sure, America in those days hummed along, but at what social cost - what loss of human potential? We have a smaller version of that happening in this district, with teachers and administrators asking to be seen (on the job), but not heard. In a district with our expectations, and a teacher and management core of this level of talent, to endure a situation like that is dysfunctional.
One has to ask - "why"? Who does this serve? Are we simple to used to our chains to do anything about them?
Enough with metaphors. So as not to wander too far from the current problem, it's imperative that our school board get to the bottom of this and come forward with solutions that will flat out put an end to what has been tolerated for too long in this district. Our elected PAUSD officials are sworn to manage this district (with taxpayer dollars) to the best of their ability, to maximum efficiency - and that doesn't just mean dollar efficiency.
The art of teaching - and yes, it is largely an art (skill + passion + determination) - if it's to be undertaken with passion and effectiveness, in a way that benefits _all_ who partake of it _including those that do the teaching and administering_ MUST be engaged in and led from the top by individuals who understand BOTH the 'art' AND 'enterprise' ingredients that go into nurturing our most precious resource (our children, our future).
What has happened in this district (and too many others) is that the 'art' part of the equation, the part that can't be quantified to a fare-thee-well, and argued about in black and white terms, has been left behind by those who are expert in the 'enterprise' portion of the equation. Therein lies the tragedy. We are losing the soul of our teaching enterprise.
Within PAUSD, there has arisen a performance- and dollar-efficiency-based model of education that has mostly resonated with a certain kind of administrative leader. Ms. Callan is the last in a long line of that type of administrator
The current executive is certainly not as affable as the last two, but the last two were little better in inspiring exceptional system-wide motivation, and passion.
The current executive has simply brought morale in this district to a level so low, that it seemingly flies in the face of the excellent performance that beleaguered administrators and teachers have been able to coax out of our great student population. The latter has been accomplished _in spite of_ Callan's poor leadership. One has to be careful with correlating Callan's presence here with the academic excellent that this district touts. Correlation is not causation.
Callan's style - possibly quite efficient on the enterprise side - has filtered down into the choices she has made in Marilyn Cook and Scott Bowers. Go ask around.
My kids are now almost all through the system, but as they've gone through it, I've been amazed to hear the same frustrations repeated over and over again - from teachers and administrators alike - with no resolution. The silence about those problems has been deafening. I am not going to detail them in this forum.
Almost all those frustrations have to do with _not_ having someone at tthe helm who can handle BOTH the art and enterprise functions of education - about _not_ having someone who resonates with our teacher and administrator core in a way that leads and motivates.
In all, what I have heard about our current executive team, and seen first hand, is an egregious lack of responsiveness to the human side of teaching - a lack to significant that everything good that happens in this district on the teaching (and even some of the enterprise side) comes _in spite of_ the current leadership.
I hope that our board will see this problem for the significant problem it is, and take the bold, difficult steps necessary to ameliorate it. Our teachers, adminstrators, kids, parents, and taxpayers demand it.