The Palo Alto school board took a much-needed step Thursday night when it agreed to hire an outside facilitator to explore the problems between the district's middle management group (principals, assistant principals and other managers) and the supervisory staff, including Superintendent Mary Frances Callan.
The only trouble is that whoever is hired won't start talking to school district people until January and nothing will be resolved until February at the earliest. Considering that a middle managers' memo about lack of trust and communication between the supervisory staff and these managers surfaced in early September, resolving this conflict seems to be taking a lot of time.
I agree with board member Gail Price who apologized for the board not acting more quickly to the Sept. 6 memo, saying the delay has had a negative impact on morale.
On Thursday the board appointed three people (board members Dana Tom Price, and Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers) to its half of a committee that will decide the role of the facilitator as well as screen applicants. Next, the middle managers have to appoint four to six people to the same committee. I just hope the managers make the appointments quickly to speed up the process.
I also would encourage the committee not to spend a lot of time defining what criteria should be used to select a facilitator. I've found in interviewing candidates that when the right person comes along, people just know that's the person for the job.
Ostensibly, someone could be hired by late November and begin talking to people earlier than next year. It's not healthy to let district conflicts simmer month after month. I know things take time, but working in a stressful environment daily can be frustrating.
By the way, the name of this new group is the "Organizational Development Committee." That certainly doesn't give a hint to anyone about what this committee is all about, especially since the underlying issue here is whether Callan should continue as superintendent of the district.