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School board to consider protocols Aug. 28
Original post made
on Aug 2, 2007
In their first meeting together, new Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly and the five members of the Board of Education considered adopting a lengthy list of protocols, including one addressing "trust and integrity."
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posted Tuesday, August 7, 2007, 2:18 PM
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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2007 at 10:41 am
Just Wondering brings forward some good points; let's look at them.
The question "Are teachers' interests adequately represented at the collective bargaining table and on site councils or do they need more?" assumes that teacher representation on the board would put at risk the balance of power that exists between teachers and the district at large, or teachers and the administration.
Who does the BOE represent? Taxpayers (parents, etc.) AND, through its power to decide policy, and hire and fire senior administration, the entire policy making and senior OPERATIONAL management apparatus of the district.
Operational policies - those that emanate from senior administration - are essentially run under the umbrella - and within the constraints - of policy budget decisions that are carved out between the senior executive team and the board. So, where does the balance of power lie in this - and every other - school district in America? Clearly, it lies with BOEs and senior administrators, who generally work together as a team, counterbalanced by teacher's unions.
Let's drill down a bit. How about the power of the purse? Why is iit that when things get tight, we still see senior executives drawing exhorbitant salaries and perks, while teaching staff is compelled to hold the line on something as simple as a cost-of-living increase?
How about the DOZENS of decisions that BOEs make that filter down to make more work in the classroom?
What we have in MOST school districts is essentially an atagonistic relationship between teachers and the BOE/senior adminstrative groups. That's the norm.
Another feature of this structural mess is that BOE's are COMPELLED to cozy up to senior executives because the model is "strong executive" DIRECTED by the board. Tthink about how many conversations, briefings, etc. etc. etc. happen between the board and senior exectives in a district. Compare that to the number of briefings, conversations, etc. etc that happen between teacher's committees and individual teachers and the board. There's simply no comparison.
A good example is SI and MI. Teachers weren't consulted; yet if you asked teachers (privately) what they thought about the large and small variables resulting from implementing these programs, you would have gotten an earful about what some of the early constraints might be, and whether something other than what has been cobbled together by the BOE, senior administrators, and parents who have special interests in mind.
Teacher consultation is simply NOT done to any degree that is representative of the weight of teaching hours spent with student in the classroom.
I, and others who agree, about getting some kind of teacher representation on the board (that has weight) are well aware that having such a thing happen are close to zero, mostly because the TRADITIONAL relationship between BOE's and what goes on - every day - in a classroom is a distant second cousin to what happens between the BOE and senior administrators.
From 30,000 feet, the above scenario, writ large, is one of the PRIMARY reasons that American K-12 education is in such a funk.
Where else - in what other buraeucracy - would there be NO effort to combine efficiencies between districts (or operating units). We see NOTHING done in California, or elsewhere, to lean out the excessive, and expensive, over-management of public education at the district level. This costs taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars in waste and inefficiency.
One of the reasons that senior adminsitrations proliferate in such numbers is because they are managed by essentially naive political electees - i.e BOE's, who are typically interested in pursuing one political agenda after another that more often than not COMPLICATES the process of educating our children.
Here in Palo Alto we have a gifted demographic - i.e. a population very motivated and interested in the education of their children, at almost any cost. Thus, we have a lot of parents who want involvement in ways that they think will benefit their kids. This is normal.
However, when you combine the above with the fact that the BOE is a POLITICAL body - made up of individuals who run on reputation and sound bites - there happens a recipe for meddling in classroom and other related educational places (like hiring a Superintendent to "manage" the teacher's union) that ultimately creates dysfunction.
What I still find astounding is the consultant's report, from the last fiasco (the Management Team revolt).
The advice issued in that report, and the protocols requested by the new superintendent are so general as to be meaningless. Basically, those protocols are a long list of "let's be nice to each other" requests that will soon fall apart as the next not-so-bright idea is floated by a board member or parent (or group of parents) who think PAUSD can oro should do something better.
All this begs to the question: "where are the teachers in all of this". They're in the classroom, teacxhing nand socializing our kids every day, largely removed from the back room maneuverings ofo the BOE and senior management, and mostly at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiation, because the essentail negotiation points around key things like salary are put together by the BOE and senior administrators.
When it comes to programs and policies that impact teachers and kids in the classroom, there seems even more ignorance on the part of this (and other) BOE's.
The bottom line is that there is a dearth of teacher input on strategic decision-making in school districts, period. 98% of the teachers that one discusses these points with would agree.
The protocols set out (above, by the superiintendent) only say general things about maximizing quality of education.
Guess what? the word "teacher" doesn't appear in that list of protocols even ONCE, not ONCE. Think about that.
"Parent" has failed to show anyone in this forum even ONE professional policy-making body responsibe for any large body of public servants that doee not include strong representation and feedback from those who thus serve. That's the case in teaching.
My hope is that Mr. Skelly will be the strong manager we need in this district - a manager than can hold the BOEs feet to the fire, and a manager that will treat the teachers in this district as a part of HIS TEAM.
That's going to be a tall order for Mr. Skelly, mostly because he has to ANSWER to the BOE for his actions. He will not have to answer to the teachers in the same way.
Think about the conlfict of interest that the above engenders within PAUSD (and elsewhere) - and then come back and tell me that we shouldn't do more to incluse the voice of teachers in strategic decisino-making in our schools.
Flippant voices like "parent" want to make it seem as if those who agree with me want teachers to control districts. Not so. The point is that the balance of admisinstrative power is so far weighted in favor fo political electees and careerist managers who have no real incentive to do anythign other than please the poeple who hired tthem, with the latter having no special obligation to the people who do the work of educating our children - our teachers.