My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Regional Meeting, September 8, 2009

This meeting began with a teacher/student spotlight, in which Heather Sullivan-Flynn (English curriculum leader at the MS) discussed work in the MS on poetry. She read some poems aloud, as did a current MS student. This unit included integration of work in English and science (poems about science) as well as a visit by author Janet Wong to the MS last year. Ms. Sullivan-Flynn expressed thanks to the Family-School Partnership at the MS for giving grants to teachers who are interested in inviting outside authors/writers/scientists to come in to the classroom.



We then turned to announcements/public comment. Farshid announced a program in Leverett in which all families are invited to read the books Three Cups of Tea (which I've heard is excellent). Michael Aronson, a parent of a MS student, asked the superintendent for information about the process by which parents could meet individually with the superintendent, as apparently was offered by the superintendent to several parents sometime last week. Dr. Rodriguez noted that parents could come see him or Maria Geryk by making an appointment.



The next agenda item was the superintendent's update. First, Dr. Rodriguez announced that current Pelham Elementary School principal Rena Moore would be serving as the elementary curriculum coordinator for the rest of this year (since the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction was not hired). She will work on horizontal and vertical alignment of English Language Arts, math, and science in the five schools. The assistant superintendent position will be re-opened, in hopes that someone can start July 1, 2010.



The superintendent then announced that given Glenda Cresto's resignation on August 31st, Mark Jackson would serve as 7 to 12 principal, Mike Hayes would serve as senior assistant principal of the MS, and Diane Chamberlain would serve as an additional assistant principal in the HS. He will re-assess how this plan is working in December, and intends to conduct a search for a new MS principal next year. He also intends to hire a consultant to do a thorough study of the MS. He has selected a consultant named Barry Bears, who lives in Virginia and has a PhD from the College of William & Mary. Dr. Rodriguez offered his apologies to parents who learned of Glenda's resignation in the newspaper, which was prior to a letter going out on Tuesday.



The committee raised various questions. Steve asked whether the transition could be re-assessed if other opportunities are presented, and also raised a question about a budget item presented the prior week (why was $69,000 used on Investigations last year?). Irv expressed concern about the burden being placed on Mark to manage two buildings, and his hope that this is a short-term, not long-term situation. Farshid noted that it is the superintendent's job to make personnel decisions.



The superintendent stated that the MS faculty are pleased to have Mark in a leadership role, and that Mark would present the leadership plan to the SC at next week's meeting. He noted that there are many administrators in place at the MS, including now two assistant principals and a Dean, as well as three assistant principals at the HS. He noted that parents who had concerns should meet first with an assistant principal before meeting with Mark.



Andy then asked whether the roles of the different assistant principals are divided in some way, and that the HS is already under-staffed (e.g., there used to be three assistant principals until last year). The superintendent noted again that the leadership plan will be addressed next week.



Farshid then asked about how Rena Moore's time is split between serving as principal of Pelham and working on curriculum. Dr. Rodriguez noted that a schedule has been worked out, that Pelham is going to be well taken care of, and that important work on aligning the curriculum to state standards is going to take place.



Irv asked for information about how Rena is being paid. Dr. Rodriguez noted that her salary is being paid out of Title 2 money, so it is not coming out of other district budget lines.



I asked about the cost of the MS consultant, and whether it was under $5,000 (which is the amount above which proposals must be sought). Dr. Rodriguez stated that he did not yet have a final price for this consultant, so did not know whether it would be under this amount. I then stated that if it was this amount, surely we would be needing to do a RFP, which he said would be done if that turned out to be the case.



We then turned to public comment. A lot of this has now been widely reported in the press, so I'm not going to get into each comment from all parents. Briefly, Julia Rueschemeyer read an email aloud that she has written to the superintendent following a meeting they had had, in which she and another parent had asked whether Glenda could possibly return to the MS as principal. She stated that she had talked to Glenda, and that Glenda was potentially interested in coming back, and that when she conveyed that information to the superintendent, he wrote "Have Glenda give me a call. Thanks a million!". Julia asked whether Dr. Rodriguez in fact would be willing to consider having Glenda back. The superintendent repeated his desire to have Glenda give him a call, and said he would not comment further on personnel issues.



A number of other parents then expressed concerns about whether the community would ever understand why a principal would leave on the 3rd day of school, why a Connect Ed call had not gone out so that parents could have learned of the resignation from the school instead of the newspaper and/or Facebook, and that a sudden and unexplained departure of a principal who was widely seen as an asset to the district creates stress and strain. The superintendent acknowledged the communication could have been "crisper" and that his priority had been getting a new leadership team in place quickly. He also was not sure that a Connect Ed call would have been the best approach to conveying this information.



Jennifer Keller Jackson asked why her child's PE class has 60 students. Mike Hayes noted that this was being worked on still, and that there were two teachers working with such a large group.



The committee expressed a number of reactions. Kathleen noted that personnel issues are private, and don't have to be shared with the community. Andy noted that communication is a key goal in this district, and that the use of Connect Ed would have been appropriate. Irv noted that the SC has a goal of transparency, but that this is an issue in which true transparency is impossible. Steve said that he respects the rules in which the SC must operate, values community feedback, and welcomes comments and concerns from all parents. Kristen asked whether the school could move forward this year, given the transitional leadership team in place, and wondered who was spear-heading such efforts. The superintendent noted that many people were taking a leadership role, including Mark, Mike, and Maria.

Updates start here:

I then expressed my thanks to the parents who spoke about the confusion they had felt regarding this change in leadership, and shared their belief that Glenda had been as asset to the school and that her departure was anxiety-provoking. I also expressed that I did not feel I had a full understanding of the events that had transpired.

Tracy Farnham stated that communication to the SC had been excellent. She wondered if people just weren't hearing what they wanted to hear.

Debbie said that she felt Glenda was valued by the parents, and she thanked the teachers and superintendent for their hard work over the last week.

Farshid said that Glenda was thoughtful and involved, and would have a lasting impact on the school. He appreciates the teachers' hard work and recognizes the community's concern and takes that very seriously.

The superintendent said he appreciates the parents' comments.

The meeting then turned to a discussion of engaging an outside consultant from Boston College, Dr. Alan Ladd, to facilitate the development of a district strategic plan. Dr. Ladd said that a strategic plan sets a philosophical foundation with core values in which districts choose to focus on their energies on some things and not on others. This includes creating a vision statement -- five years from now, what will we look like? -- as well as a mission statement -- how are we going to get there? Then district (and school) improvement plans would be written with the specific goals and objectives and action plans (resources) needed to accomplish this vision.

The superintendent would create a steering committee (including community members, teachers, parents, students, people from the local colleges/universities, and two SC members) which would canvass the community to help shape this mission and vision. This group would write a document, which would be presented to the superintendent and SC. The SC would then determine whether the document fits the goals of the community. Dr. Ladd's role would be to present options to the steering committee for developing the plan, seeking community input, etc.

The committee then raised a number of questions. Debbie wondered about the size and make-up of the committee (less than 20 people, which would include those from all four towns), and the time frame (about 6 months from start to finish). Andy asked whether Dr. Ladd had done work in other high-achieving, diverse, college towns (Dr. Ladd suggested Franklin, Lexington, and Waltham), and asked how this document would interact with the goals document we are producing (apparently it would fit with it, and should not be in conflict to it, based on prior experience). I asked about the cost (60% would be paid by Dr. Ladd's organization, so the district would pay only $4,999). Kristin asked about the role of the consultant (he facilitates the discussion), how there would be buy-in for this plan from the community (he believes that comes from everyone in the community getting an opportunity to share views), and whether the goals of the SC might differ from those of the steering committee (not likely in Dr. Ladd's experience).

Steve then stated that he believed it wasn't clear at all that our community would agree that student achievement would be a valued goal. He felt that it was essential that we were looking at other districts that are solving the same problems we are. (Dr. Ladd noted that this approach is really reflected in district/school improvement plans, NOT in a strategic plan). Steve then noted that the district/school improvement plans we have seen show little consistency, and little objectivity. Dr. Ladd noted that school improvement plans should be consistent, should be measurable, and should be reflective of a larger piece (e.g., a district strategic plan). The distinction noted by Dr. Ladd is that the strategic plan is a philosophical view, whereas district or school improvement plans are more specific (e.g., how do you go about the work of carrying out the district's mission).

Andy noted that we (I'm not sure if he meant the SC or the community here) haven't articulated any common vision, and he's not sure whether we can reach this with any depth (e.g., whether it would be bland). He hopes it works, but ultimately believes the SC will have to approve such a plan.

The superintendent noted that strategic plans can be very useful. Farshid said he would try to get a list of districts and their strategic plans for the committee to review.

We then turned to subcommittee reports. Farshid started by stating that as chair, he intends to appoint a subcommittee to review the district's legal counsel. We currently don't have a written contract with our lawyer, Gini Tate, and she charges $210 an hour. He believes it would be wise to study best practices in terms of legal counsel, and asked for volunteers for such a committee. Irv and I volunteered. Farshid also appointed Kathy Mazur to the subcommittee.

Alberto stated that Gini Tate is an excellent attorney, and doesn't know why we would want to change counsel. Debbie asked for the total amount that she is paid each year (an answer wasn't available at this time, but will be given at the next meeting). Andy stated that he believed it would be good to know whether we are using best practices, and that since the staff of the district works with the attorney regularly, he hopes the SC would take the staff's preferences into account. He questioned whether it would be useful to change attorneys.

Alberto asked about the timing of the appointment of this subcommittee, and asked whether there are concerns historically about our legal representation.

Kathleen explains that the SC orientation includes material on legal issues, so she doesn't see why we need to consult another attorney.

Andy said that in the context of budget discussions, there have been questions about the cost of legal services. He thus sees looking at our costs and legal services as a good idea, although believes we could ultimately choose to stay with our present legal representation.

I also expressed that I had heard concerns from the community about legal costs, and believed that this was important to examine.

Steve noted that the chair of the committee has a right to call a subcommittee to review legal representation, that legal fees are complicated, and that the SC has a right to choose the legal counsel for the district.

Irv noted that it is "bad form" not to have a written contract, and that even if it is legal NOT to have a contract, that doesn't make it right.

Kathy Mazur noted that it may or may not work to the district's advantage to have a contract, which Gini Tate would be glad to explain to members of the legal subcommittee. She noted that sometimes you can have a contract for a certain number of hours (at a certain cost) and the district can use fewer hours and thus spend money that is not necessary.

The superintendent stated that he recognized the importance of having good legal representation.

Given the hour, we postponed discussion of the district goals subcommittee. The policy subcommittee is working on policies related to instruction, budget, and communication (in line with broad district goals), and the budget subcommittee will meet for the first time on October 5th.

There was a brief discussion about moving the SC meetings to the MS auditorium in order to have a live feed for the meetings. It was agreed that the SC was in favor of this, so the meetings will move as of next week.

Finally, we discussed planning for future meetings. The survey data on the MS and HS will be given to the SC by Thursday (and presented at the next regional meeting), and the elementary survey data will be given to the SC by Friday (and I assume presented at an upcoming elementary meeting). I asked a question about the RFP for the special education review, and there is still no update on that.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Catherine,
I am so confused to our school's administrative structure now. Only last year's administrative structure is posted on the ARPS website and with all the budget cuts and teaching staff who works directly with the students reduced, I hear all these names and new positions popping up in the newspaper. It may be understandable that the MS STILL has two assistant principals for just two grades since the resignation of Ms. Cresto but was tnat in place prior to her leave? When did we decide to hire a Dean of Students for MS? Is it just another name for a guidance position eliminated at the MS? When did Maria Geryk became an Assitant to the Superintendent or is she just "acting" and at the same time serving as Director of Student Services? Or is there another person already in position for her position? Didn't Mike Hayes work on aligning elementary curriculum last year? Someone told me that the MS math curruculum has been his Ph.D. dissertation work. Is that true? Then how could he have been objective? Is Mike Hayes still the director for curriculum and instruction as well as senior assistant principal at the MS? or do we have another person popping up from somewhere? So many unknown new positions with familiar names with different titles, at least for those of us not familiar with the system. Please give us clear structure so we understand where we are spending our money and can whole heartedly support our school system.

Anonymous said...

Great questions. I thought a MS asistant principal position was eliminated and never heard of any dean of student's position. What does a dean of students do that an assistant principal doesnt' do? If the principal had never left it sounds like there wpu;d be more administrative positions this year than last year. There are surely fewer classroom teachers. It sounds chaotic to me, especially without one person heading the school.

Anonymous said...

Does Pelham have an assistant principal? But WW, MM, FR & Crocker do? Yet Rena Moore takes on curriculum? A role which "necessitated" a search for a full time candidate?

So either the Pelham principal has some free time, or a full time position isn't warranted, or ???
Wow, so many questions!

Anonymous said...

Don't you remember: Rodriguez responded that "it's not like the school is devoid of administrators"?

Anonymous said...

It sounds just about right to me with the way this whole system is run....They just keep inventing and recreating highly paid administrative positions and shuffling those around who hold them already to keep climbing their inner-ladders of success... They can continue to hire these administrators on the one hand and cry about a 'structural deficit' on the other hand and close an elementary school and fire teachers... It leaves one to wonder... If we, as the adults, in this picture are confused by this run-around with administrators, and not being told about them, imagine the effect it is having on our kids educations...

Anonymous said...

A few general comments to all of youu who are talking about things you have no clue about it.

There has been a Dean of Students at the MS and HS for at least since my kids were in the schools...any my kids are now ages 25-30.

Have any of you stopped to think about how many students are in Pelham School vs how many there are at WW, FR and CR. If you did, then you would understand quite readily why Pelham does not need an Ass't Principal but the other schools do.

Next - Yes Rena is going to fill in to help with curriculum....but she is probably going to be working extra hours to do it and may forego some of the things she usually does as Principal to help fill the curriculum slot.

The curriculum slot needs someone to do the job - it cannot just sit with no one attending to the things that the curriculum director does while we re-open the search for a regular curriculum director. So, the school system is patching together people to fill slots as best they can. Its not like Rena Moore has alot of time on her hands and so can do both jobs permanently. Both her job as principal and as curriculum director will not be done as fully as they should be..but temporarily it will be ok.

Before you all sit around commenting about things you know nothing about you might want to get some facts first. I certainly don't have all the facts but neither am I sitting here taking pot shots at folks who are doing the best they can with a bad situation - no MS principal, no Curriculum Director, etc.

Thank you to all in the schools who are stepping up to fill in where they can.

Anonymous said...

"...taking pot shots at folks who are doing the best they can with a bad situation - no MS principal, no Curriculum Director, etc."

Gee, I didn't read it as pot shots at Rene or anyone else who is being exploited by the system. I heard confusion on the part of taxpayers, the ones who pay the decision maker's salary. And a degree of disgust over the inconsistencies in his priorities.

Either you have a shortage of administrators and you need to hire more. Or, "it's not like the school is devoid of administrators"?

His first month on the job, he said that the citizens should be prepared for an override. Then "Rob Detweiler presented the final 2009 budget results, which revealed that the Amherst schools returned $220,379 to the town in unspent funds at the end of the year."

And of course the recent Ms. Cresto fiasco and the sensitive way that was handled.

I feel there are many competent teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators trying real hard to provide a decent education for our kids. All it would take is a good leader to make things gel. Until we get that person, we will look out at Northampton and Hadley with their test scores and AP programs and complain.

Cranky taxpayer said...

My junior high with about the same number of students as ARMS (spread over 3 grades) had one principal, one assistant principal and 3 guidance counselors -- and lots more classes, electives, sports, intermural teams and afterschool clubs.

Also, what does the dean of students do? I couldn't find this position on the ARMS website.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Anon 11:37, but comments here are being made by people who know much more than the ones mishandling school monies would like us to know. There is, as our superintendent has stated himself, 'no devoid of administrators' within the Amherst school system and unless and until this is honestly dealt with the SC and others will continue to make incredibly nonthinking moves by closing down an elementary school and firing teachers and threatening paraprofessionals with job loss. How on earth does it make any sense to redistrict a whole community simply so that rich and poor kids will sit next to each other in the classroom...Does this mean, according to CS's line of thinking, that low scores/poor kids receive will now somehow magically become higher?? Potshots...not hardly...

Anonymous said...

to anon 11:07:

You wonder what effect this administrative juggling might be having on our kids....

From where I see it i think it matters very little to the kids. There reality is all about their relationships with the teachers and, of course, their friends. I don't believe the principal or other administrators has much effect on them on a daily basis, nothing like their teachers do. I am not impressed with all the changes going on, but the bottom line is my kids seem to have great teachers at the MS and that is what really matters to them, and to me. I just hope the messy stuff doesn't hurt teacher morale too much....those are the ones we can't afford to lose.

Anonymous said...

It is affecting teacher morale and that is my concern.

Anonymous said...

Teacher morale is probably not half as bad as the morale of the Town employees after learning they will have to work in the shadow of fear for 4 more years.

Rick said...

In thinking about all the changes that are going on at ARMS, I would suggest that the kids aren’t going to notice anything in the short term. The kids are just not affected on a day to day basis by who is in administration – other than if their schedules are wrong – they are affected by the teachers they see day to day and that’s it.

The real concern with changes in administration is what it does in the long term – like what happens with a review of things that need to be looked at like the math program. But was Glenda Cresto even doing that anyways? Is Mark Jackson really going to be doing that now?

I would think that the really important stuff – like curriculum – ought not to be dependent on just who is Principal of a school at any point in time. It should be higher up and broader oversight, such as curriculum committee for each subject area (like math) covering K-12, reporting directly to the Superintendent.

Anonymous said...

SC Blog

In reviewing the notes on the RSC meeting of September 8, I note with approval a desire to review the use of the legal counsel by the District.

A disclaimer on my part is in order. In 2008 the District initiated litigation against my child. Hence, I am not a fan of the legal advice the District is following.

As a resident of the town, however, I want to point out that the District has, in at least my case, initiated litigation despite my request for impartial mediation. While this may be good legal tactic between corporate litigants, it is a surprising strategy given a willingness to mediate and the fact that I am a resident of the Town footing the bills for the legal action.

Questions one might ask:
What is the cost to the District of an aggressive litigation strategy ? Or
Why does Amherst’s legal counsel pursue litigation when mediation offers have been made ?

Another surprising reality in our District is that the litigators hired to pursue District interests are the same counsel that engage a variety of other legal activities.

Is it best practice to engage a litigator for contracts ? for legal seminars ? My guess is that most attorneys would blush at such a poor practice.

In the Blog it is noted that Legal counsel is hourly. That begs the following questions:

Is it in the interest of hourly legal counsel to settle with mediation rather than to press with litigation when they are quite aware of the opposing party’s interest in mediation - and the likelihood that that party will agree to a settlement in advance of trial?

What is the cost to the District of an aggressive litigation strategy in terms of cash outlay, administrative time and staff exhaustion from an adversarial interactions with families ? How does that compare to offers of mediation to avoid litigation ?

Mediation is cheap and can always be followed by litigation should the results not be acceptable.

Another question the Committee might explore is why hire a litigator from Quincy ? Surely there are lawyers in our area that can represent the district. Transportation time alone represents thousands of dollars a year. Wouldn’t those be better spent on those currently de-funded clubs for the middle school ?

As a taxpayer that has been asked to override Proposition 2.5 largely for school expenditures I am offended by a District legal strategy that encourages litigation over mediation. As a businessman not unfamiliar with legal proceedings I can assure you that someone within the Administration has been following poor legal advice.

I applaud the inquiry by the Committee and hope that you explore how to change a litigious culture to one of collaboration and even mediation. The only certain result of such a change in strategy will be that students and their families will benefit.

Anonymous said...

SC Blog

In reviewing the notes on the RSC meeting of September 8, I note with approval a desire to review the use of the legal counsel by the District.

A disclaimer on my part is in order. In 2008 the District initiated litigation against my child. Hence, I am not a fan of the legal advice the District is following.

As a resident of the town, however, I want to point out that the District has, in at least my case, initiated litigation despite my request for impartial mediation. While this may be good legal tactic between corporate litigants, it is a surprising strategy given a willingness to mediate and the fact that I am a resident of the Town footing the bills for the legal action.

Questions one might ask:
What is the cost to the District of an aggressive litigation strategy ? Or
Why does Amherst’s legal counsel pursue litigation when mediation offers have been made ?

Another surprising reality in our District is that the litigators hired to pursue District interests are the same counsel that engage a variety of other legal activities.

Is it best practice to engage a litigator for contracts ? for legal seminars ? My guess is that most attorneys would blush at such a poor practice.

In the Blog it is noted that Legal counsel is hourly. That begs the following questions:

Is it in the interest of hourly legal counsel to settle with mediation rather than to press with litigation when they are quite aware of the opposing party’s interest in mediation - and the likelihood that that party will agree to a settlement in advance of trial?

What is the cost to the District of an aggressive litigation strategy in terms of cash outlay, administrative time and staff exhaustion from an adversarial interactions with families ? How does that compare to offers of mediation to avoid litigation ?

Mediation is cheap and can always be followed by litigation should the results not be acceptable.

Another question the Committee might explore is why hire a litigator from Quincy ? Surely there are lawyers in our area that can represent the district. Transportation time alone represents thousands of dollars a year. Wouldn’t those be better spent on those currently de-funded clubs for the middle school ?

As a taxpayer that has been asked to override Proposition 2.5 largely for school expenditures I am offended by a District legal strategy that encourages litigation over mediation. As a businessman not unfamiliar with legal proceedings I can assure you that someone within the Administration has been following poor legal advice.

I applaud the inquiry by the Committee and hope that you explore how to change a litigious culture to one of collaboration and even mediation. The only certain result of such a change in strategy will be that students and their families will benefit.

Still Cranky Taxpayer said...

I am willing to pay for classroom teachers, SPED teachers, rich curriculum materials, books, materials, sports teams, art and music programs, etc. I had all that as a kid. But all the administrators and the musical chairs they seem to be playing in the past few years seems unjustifiable.

And still no info on the dean of students. ...My middle schooler never has heard of this position either.

Anonymous said...

The Dean of Students in usually in charge of discipline. Both the high school and the middle school have one. I believe they also do other tasks beyond discipline depending on the school and the administrative needs of the school.

Anonymous said...

Dean of students at the middle school is new this year. This was part of the assitant principal's job till last year. Now middle school has two assitant principal and a Dean of Students. It does look like more head counts in the administrative bucket. I am also concerned that given they have removed one team from current 8th graders (they had 3 teams last year as 7th graders) and now have only 2, there seems to be more administrators. Please clarify.

Anonymous said...

Actually there has been a reduction in administrators this year at the MS. Last year below the principal there were two assistant principals, and two guidance counselors. Basically one of each per grade of about 270 kids.

Entering this year because of cuts there was to be only one assistant principal for two grades and one guidance counselor for two grades,
plus the additional dean of students. The dean does deal with discipline which relieves much of that responsibility from the one assistant principal left. So four positions became three to cut one administrator's salary. It is also worth noting that the dean position is at a teacher's salary and not an administrator's salary representing additional budget releif.

BUT...because of the transition in leadership at the school a new position for senior assistant prinipal has been filled. So, the original plan was not to have two assistants but it has ended up that way. Mr Hayes who is doing that job was already doing something else at an administrator's salary so there are no additional budget implications by having him in the middle school office instead.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me where I can get a list of administrative and staff positions (NOT the names of the individuals, just the posotions)at the middle school.

I see from the ARMS web-site, 2 assitant principals, 1 dean of students, 1 guidance counselor, 1 student assistance counselor,3 positions for Bridges program and few other non classroom teachers. Is there a place that lists the job responsibilities for these positions?
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The school district is a very large organization with many moving parts and multiple constituencies. I would challenge anyone on this blog to run it effectively and efficiently without having the necessary admin and staff support to do so. I think that what gets lost in these conversations is that at some point reducing the number of administrators actually has a negative impact on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. Witness the chaos over schedules at the MS this year.

Anonymous said...

In addition to what Anon 10:51 said, schools today are faced with greater financial burdens because of high health insurance costs and unfunded mandates in special ed, etc. In the 80's, schools spent less than 1% of their budgets on health insurance -- today it is over 20%.

Let's not get hysterical over these admin changes. We should keep our attention focused on working with staff and admin on improving the schools -- rather than starting and "Inquisition".

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty reasonable to look at all staffing when teachers are being cut over and over. It seems pretty clear that the regular ed budget is shrinking relative to special ed. and administrative costs. We see fewer teachers each year in the classroom, fewer coaches and lately, fewer librarians. Many children sit in classrooms with more and more students. So with a situation of fewer regular education teachers teaching more kids, I can't see why other staffing shouldn't be scrutinized.

Anonymous said...

Let's try something.

How about we give all the big bad "administrators" a month off? We'll call it "paid administrative leave". They can get the mental health break they all desperately need, and all of you can see what would happen if we didn't have them.

First and foremost - who would you all have to vent your frustrations on? Oh - I know - you'd take it out on the teachers even more than you already do.

OK - well,then.... who would deal with all the mental health crises that are had on a daily basis by your children? Because when there are several of those going on at once, someone's gotta take the third one.

And - well, there are those pesky teacher evaluations that have to be done. Who's going to do that? Oh yeah - and speaking of staff evaluations, who's going to manage the staff? Managing 60 or 70 or 100 people is no small feat - especially when all you parents require constant attention for your every discomfort.

And while the school based administrators are doing all of that, who's going to be planning the curriculum, making sure the SPED requirements that are mandated by law are being met, writing grants, and doing all the many, many other things that need to be done for the good of your kids?

I could go on. But to sum up:

1. Manage a very large staff, and all the personal issues, personality issues, competency issues, etc. that come with that.

2. Manage an increasing load of mental health challenges brought by your children.

3. Manage a very noisy, very entitled, and very overbearing parent contingency.

3. Manage the needs and mandates of a new superintendent.

4. Try to hold it all together in a community that is supposed to be all about education, but where it is impossible for educators to win.

What do you get? One principal - resigned. Morale among the district administration and teaching staff - low. Quality of education provided? Exceptional, given the above.

Good grief. Back off, you ridiculous whiners. Let these educators do their jobs. You have yourselves to blame for Brenda Cresto's departure, and you'll be lucky to retain the other principals at this rate.

You don't actually know what is best all the time, despite what you may think. Give these people some space to do their jobs.

And give your kids a chance. Your criticism of the schools and teachers in front of your kids is creating kids who can't be successful here. How can you expect your kids to learn from people who you obviously don't respect or value? How can you expect your kids to learn when you hover over them all the time?

Back off, people. You are not doing anyone any favors. Not your kids, not the district, not yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Why is asking for information criticism?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:49- Well said. Now get ready to be flamed!

Rick said...

Anon 10:51 is excatly right:

"...at some point reducing the number of administrators actually has a negative impact on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes."

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on achivement. It should be very much helpfull

Thanks,
Karim - Creating Power

Anonymous said...

Rick, I'm not sure that asking for reduction--or at the very least to stop creating new administration positions is not an okay thing for parents to demand. Especially in light of the threats to fire teachers, get rid of the arts, and close Marks Meadow.
If we do not have the money to fund these vital programs and retain our teachers, please--tell us how on earth do we have the money to keep dolling out to the administrators and now consultants??

Anonymous said...

Gee Rick, in my experience the most important person in any central office is a capable secretary to facilitate .... More frequently than not, it is the administrator who causes the problem, except when he is saying "Goodbye" to the school buses at the end of day. For the most part, he's got that one down.

Rick said...

Anon 8:01:

It’s an OK thing for parents to demand if it were clear they knew what jobs the administrators did and think that those jobs do not need to be done – but they don’t. That is not their fault, it’s the fault of ARPS, who does a lousy job of communicating exactly what these administrators do, and even how many of them there are. We all need that info.

Everyone knows what a teacher does without explanation. Nobody knows what an administrator does unless it is explained.

Anon 10:50

Yes good secretaries or other clerical people often do a lot of good stuff. They are part of “administration” right?

You said: “More frequently than not, it is the administrator who causes the problem…”

Boy how do you figure? Does Mark Jackson cause problems at ARHS? How about Miki Lee Gromacki, Assistant Principal – I hear she is phenomenal, or Annie Leonard, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction - I have found her to be very good.
The Dean are awesome people: Mary Custard, Dean of Students for 10th and 12th grade, Earl McGraw, Dean of Students for 9th and 11th grade

I’m sure somewhere there are administrators who cause problems, but where that is so, let’s be specific.