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District: a thousand more kids to educate
Original post made
on Jun 29, 2007
With new housing, an increase in birth rates and young families moving into the city, Palo Alto educators are asking themselves how they're going to educate all the new kids.
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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:26 am
A couple problems...
Do teachers think in lockstep with eachother, by virtue of the fact that they are teachers? I don't think so. If we have 200 teachers, we probably have 200 opinions about how things should be run if they were in charge. If you put a group (any group) in charge, they will have to 'grow' a process for decision making, some kind of heirarchy, representatative voice, and/or voting process to make decisions. You really don't avoid the politicization of group decision making by putting one group or another in charge. You have to put appropriate accountability, checks balances, rules in place to govern the decision making process - for any group that is in charge.
Secondly, there are SIGNIFICANT functions of running the school district that teachers really don't do, don't have experience doing, aren't all that interested in doing. Managing mega value real estate, negotiating contracts, managing pensions and other huge dollar budget issues, (including program cuts, enrollment growth, choice programs, class size vs 13th school, etc), managing state and federal funding complexities, bond and parcel tax meausres, state, county and local political and business relationships, security, education regulations, charter laws and a bunch of other stuff that goes well beyond showing up to the classroom everyday.
A good administration, a good BOE would hire education experts to take care of the educational operations, and take all the other very complex administration off the plates of the educators. It works if there are correct checks and balances and if the BOE and the Staff were required to have proper background, transparency and accountability.
what you suggest would be like putting baseball players in charge of a baseball team. Sure, they are the only ones who make the plays on the field, but someone's got to run the organization of baseball -hire the players, book practice facilities, keep the records, book the travel, and buy the equipment and clean the uniforms, and someone's got to represent that team in the league. Its not all about fielding grounders and hitting home runs - there are a million other tasks required that you wouldn't want your players taking care of anyway. Let the players do what they do - let someone else take care of the admin.
Its called division of labor, you might recognize the concept, it goes back to the beginning of civilization.
And another problem with your suggestion - how many PAUSD teachers are palo altans? Palo Altans have a right to have a say in their school district. What happens when they dont? We get MI and other crappy decisions foisted upon us against our will, and NOT for the betterment of our children. It turns in to a special interest free for all. The board was hired by the constituents, and they've let this constituency down. The proper checks and balances were not in place, were not adhered to. For example, no adherance to a strategic plan.
The danger is not in having the school district run by a BOE or by administrators. Orderly management of the system is a necessity. The danger is actually in a system that fails in its accountability and planning processes, and which is allowed to be run in the backroom by secret deals, arrogant and/or incompentent players who are not held to standards. And who do not take expert educational advice from educational experts.
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 12:12 pm
parent, and others...
First, who said that teachers should be in charge of PAUSD? Show me where I said that.
Again, we're talking about, ideally, one site administrator and one or two teachers having REPRESENTATION on the board, as voting members. THat's what I and a few others have proposed in these forums.
Second, your argument about teachers not speaking up about MI absolutely proves my point about the cancerous effects of politicization that BOE's and heavy-handed, top-down, 1950's educational management structures have on educational efficiency (including the lack of attention to the opinions of good teachers, who have been kept mum, or had their opinions disregarded, for too long)
You say that you spoke to teachers about their opposition to MI. Did you speak to them about why they didn't gather to speak publicly about that? My bet is that you haven't. If you can find some teachers who will open up about this, you'll get an earful. (btw, I've been there, done that)
PAUSD (and other districts, but let's stay with PAUSD for now) is run in top-down fashion, using a 1950's style of directive management that is so outmoded that it isn't even funny.
Teachers and site administrators have been kow-towing to lame board decisions and union-busting sentiments for years. If you don't believe me, ask around. Do that. Ask about the senseless teacher-bashing begun by people like Kroynman and a few others, and the administrators that Kroynman and a few others brought in (some still here) to bully the teachers (and site administrators)
Are you even remotely aware of the animus that can be visited on a teacher for being too vocal about a political outcome? If you don't think that fear is the primary operative in consensual silence about MI, you're out of touch with what has been going on in this district for the last 15-20 years, and especially the last 7-8 years.
Find some teachers and site administrators that trust you, and ask some hard questions; you might be surprised at what you find out.
It's amusing to hear all the excuses why teachers and site administrators should not have voting weight on board decisions. What's happened here, and elsewhere, is that education has become a political football - a kind of passionate, socially-correct fun hobby.
We've managed (at the macro level) to institutionalize educational decision making created by traveling, six-figure-salary senior careerist administrators (who are not accountable, long term, for their blunders), and publicly-elected BOE officials who mean well, but rarely have any on-the-ground, long-term experience in education. Thus, they mostly legislate from ignorance, and again, with no long term consequence to their blunders.
Explain to me why California has almost 1000 school districts, each with it's own superintendent, and how any public tax-supported entity or private corporation would endure such a structure and survive. I want to hear that argument.
The whole system is set to operate at less-than-optimal efficiency; and, it _is_ failing - on a national level.
It's even more amusing to see people blame teachers and site administrators for all this when those groups have had only a tiny hand in the way primary strategic decisions about education are made - locally, and nationally.
It's a mess of our own making, but some people - like kids - seem to delight in playing in the mud and making even more of a mess, until they've had enough and move on to their next cause.
Here's a prediction: until we find a way to fundamentally redo the way this and other districts are administered, and until we start giving good teachers more say in how education isi delivered, our local and national K-12 systems will continue to suffer from unnecessary political ferment, and massive inefficiencies.
the only other way out is to watch public education unravel, year-by-year, until most of the good teachers and site administrators move on to private schools and charter schools. (this will be a few decades-long process, but it's one that has already begun).
Go take a look at the first year drop out rate among teachers. Why do you think that is?
Can you imagine physicians having their decisions ruled by non-medical boards? If you can't, take a look at what HMO's have done to limit good doctoring; take a further look at the growing trend for good doctors to leave HMO's and start private practices (usually small consortiums).
What most here don't seem to realize is that all this politicing ultimately finds its way back to the classroom. It wears on teachers and staff, and compels _constant_ workarounds to an already stressfull environement.
I'm begining to wonder if this district really has what it takes to do the necessary soul-searching, and then take _courageous action_ based on what we find out. I wonder further if that soul-searching will involve hard questions that challenge the current structural administrative, and structural governance constraints that got us here. We'll see.
In any case, life will go on. Those who get fed up will leave, and the lost opportunity will go largely unnoticed as PAUSD continues to be a playpen for would-be politicos and ambitious adminsitrators.
Posted by Natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:12 am
NBND -- I agree, the solution is not to drug or beat misbehaving children. However, in the school I am referring to, which is a PAUSD elementary and I don't think the only one that thinks like this, teachers would hve been able to do a fine job managing if they had not been undermined by administrative ideology. that is to say, I watched a teacher come in new to teach a compeltely out of control class. In 3 weeks he had them under control. He was used to teaching in East LA, so clearly used to managing. The big, bad system he used was the "traffic light" system used in the scouts, at most enlightened private schools that focus on emotional intelligence and have behavioral standards. In this system, a kid who misbehaves once gets a warning. Twice, a warning. Three times, the kid gets up and moves a clothespin with his or her name to the "yellow light" position on a posterboard traffic light. More nonsense, and the kid gets a "red light," and a note home. Now, in normal circumstances, the kids don't want to geta yellow light, that happens a few times and they understand boundaries and consequences. In my kids' former school, however, the principal came in and informed the teacher that this system was disrespectful and demeaning and made him take it down. DEMEANING! So the kids understood perfectly well that while the teacher told them to behave they didn't have to and that if they didn't, NOTHING would happen to them. Please. That's ridiculous.
Oh, I should add that the same enlightened administrator shot down my idea (taken from Award Winning School Law Lomitas) that kids could have boxes in each classroom where they could secretly nominate any child they saw doing something nice, thoughtful, etc. and the principal could call their names once a week or once a month or so at lunch so they would know people noticed. The reason this idea was bad was apparently that some kid might at some point do something great and no be noticed and be so discouraged his self-esteem would be forever damaged.
So for those of you who keep harping on the idea that good teachers control their classrooms, I agree to a point. But when every tool for controlling kids is taken away, and they are not allowed to give rewards for good behavior (forgot to mention that gem ealier) and they are not allowed to give consequences for disruptive behavior, well please tell me how they are supposed to control their classes?
Of course, this may be the only school in the district that has this problem for all I know, but the trend seems to be for parents to protect their kids from consequences and think their little darlings are extraordinarily brilliant. Oh, and a final note -- we cannot stop the trend fast enough of forcing bully and vicitm to apologize to EACH OTHER to make it equal. I hear it happens everywhere. Sometimes, I kid has just been mean, and both children are not equallyto blame. This practice emboldens bullies and undermines victims and it's just stupid. Another example of a well-intentioned philosophy (takes two to tango, taken to its absurd extreme.
I will give just one more example. I used to volunteer countless hours in my kid's classroom. I did drama with them. It was wonderful. Once I was given a group of four completely unrult boys to manage. Luckily, I am a volunteer and not a teacher. They acted up, I gave them a warning. They acted up again, I gave them a second warning. Third time they got going, I informed them that practice time was over, that I was not here to wste my time with them, and that I would be back the next day. And if they could not get it together the next day, there would be no play at the end of the week because we would not have time. Guess what? Those four little boys were a dream the next day and for the rest of the week and several ended up being my particular favorites for the rest of the year. I can only imagine if I had been a teacher doing this. Parents, calling and complaining, principal saying I have to "understand" them bette, blah blah blah. I did have one parent come and tell me her son said I had yelled at him. That little kid was arrogant and over the top bright and was ruining the play for everyone else by running around mocking them -- not because he was ADHD but because he thought he was so much better than all of them. I told him "You are either part of the team or not, but you do not get to ruin this for everyone. So you need to decide whether youwill be in or out." He freaked out and went home and reported I had yelled at him. I said he needed to decide whether he wanted to be a soloist or part of a trupe, and stood my ground. Guess what? That kid came around too.
There are so many consequences that don't involve paddling, berating, etc. Swift, natural consequences (benching, etc.) will weed out the problem kids from those with impulse control issues, who can then be helped appropriately. I think the teachers in this district are heroes, teaching our kids with all this pedagogical psychobabble being thrown at them and hampering them from just doing their job.