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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

Comments (25)

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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2006 at 11:28 pm

While Mr. Lents is entitled to his opinion, and expresses it exceedingly well, it's also true that he - like it or not - works in a profession that is "public"; a profession that is paid for by local taxpayers; a profession that has been institutionalized to teach and socialize our children.

Mr. Lents also works in an environment that unfortunately - here in Palo Alto - has for too long lacked the kind of transparency and trust necessary for a school district to run at full bore, without waste of human potential.

Like it or not, PAUSD's current management has created a chilling atmosphere, with insensitivities and inefficiencies abounding from the core management group. This has compromised teaching, motivation, professional growth, district cohesiveness, and taxpayer dollars.

I want to congratulate the Weekly for publishing what it did, to help expose the thorhoughly dysfunctional management demeanor of some of PAUSD's senior executives.

As far as the Weekly 'hijacking' the process goes, I couldn't disagree more.

Perhaps Mr. Lents would like to address the issue of how a senior executive and some staffers can manage to hijack the open, trustful, and rich communicative needs ot educators and administrators, and not have that exposed for the tragedy it is, and the need for immediate change it represents.

I wonder how many PAUSD administrators, or teachers, would dare identify themselves as open critics of Mary Frances Callan and some of her staff. We have seen no support, oro criticism from current staff. That's telling, and supports the essence of my earlier point; our professional teaching staff and administrators are working within a chilling atmosphere of fear and mistrust, when it comes to their management - a tragedy, for sure.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 2:31 am

Spinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.........

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 curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2006 at 7:25 am

The board needs to hire an independent firm to survey the teachers & the principals to establish where the school district is at. This firm needs to report only to the board. The two recently elected board members should be ones to lead this because they have the "least history", and can be viewed as being most objective.

I also see criticism of Callahan, but with exception of a few posts, there aren't many specifics. I would like to see more specifics and the board determine how they should be addressed.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 4, 2006 at 10:37 am

What could be more democratic than an open public conversation? Its UNdemocratic to hold secret meeting, behind closed doors, keep information about the health or dysfunctional management of our public institutions from the public. It makes it MORE likely that the process gets hijacked by a manipulative few when the doors are closed, and the curtain is pulled. (The next thing you know - the adminstrators are bullied into signing contracts, retractions, or whatever, without proper representation, the results are never disclosed to the public and everyone goes home the worse for it - including the wronged employees and the public. But at least you didn't 'air your dirty laundry in public'? Its disfunctional.

The principals, teachers adminstrators and others that have been wronged should actually be relieved that the public spotlight is now shining brightly on Callan and crew. If nothing else, you should be comforted by the fact that you're not alone - alot of people have seen/experienced first hand the same arrogance and mismanagement and its a more powerful message for change when the community can band together.

No process or professional relationships were 'shafted' by public disclosure. The undermining "of 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..." occured well before the Weekly published that letter. It happened either a) through the poor management practices of the Superintendent and her Staff in the first place or b) it happened when the administrators sent a hasty? rash? letter. If the original complaints are true (and many believe they are), don't blame the press for doing its job, or the community for the right and desire to know what's going on in their public institutions paid for by their hard earned tax payer dollars.

Did you see the list of heavy hitters in the community that signed a letter asking the board to meet with you, understand, and address your concerns? This was a letter of support. Help is on the way. Share with us. Right now we have less than enough information to understand what's been really going on. The open light of day may be just what the doctor ordered for this sickly waning of the school district.


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Posted by Formerly PAUSD
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2006 at 11:52 am

Curious, is it not, that Bill Johnson, the Weekly publisher has intervened in the other PAUSD strand, to dictate that contributors must now register their email in order to weigh in on the Dr.Callan situation. Has this ever happened before? Are the Superintendent's supporters trying to control/curtail the debate? Of course Mr.Barton, Ms.Kroymann, and Mr.Toumy support Dr. Callan. They hired her and then renogiated her contract shortly after her arrival.


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Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 4, 2006 at 12:13 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

As was indicated on the other topic, it seemed like a good opportunity to see how the community felt about having a bit of accountability for these posts. It's an experiment on that particular thread, and many have urged us to restrict all posts to registered users.
We are concerned that the tone of some posts leads to a downward spiral in civility, driving away voices that aren't interested in true dialogue. Frankly, the last post is a minor example of this...suggesting that our action is due to Callan's supporters trying to curtail the debate. The Weekly broke this story and has aggressively pursued it and will continue to do so.
This forum is a great opportunity for discussion. But we want that discussion to be thoughtful. Otherwise, it will become a forum for just a few number of people with thick skins, a lot of stamina and personal agendas.


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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.


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Posted by Keith
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 4, 2006 at 4:34 pm

Does anyone have any specific examples of how horrible Callan is? All I hear is hearsay. One person called for a committee to be formed (how Palo Alto) to see where we stand. That's money that the district already doesn't have. Another said that it's obvious that the teachers are unhappy with Callan, but this is about administrators. The teachers have a union for their complaints. Mr. Lents says that he's not even sure the letter is an adequate representation of the administration's feelings. Before the public decides to get rid of Callan, why not let them deal with their problems on their own, and then if the issue is not resolved, the adminstration can move forward from there. Seems like a lot of judgements are being made on rumors. It'd be nice to have some hard facts. If the administration is unhappy, then it is up to them to deal with it. All of the name calling and head hunting does nothing to improve the work environment, nor does it serve any other productive purpose.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 5:36 pm

Keith, Respectfully, what you fail to understand is that bringing micro-details into a forum like this _would_ sully the process. The scenario before us is set in a way that will permit the PAUSD board to take the necessary action, or not. THEY know the details. If they want to paper over the current situation, and the Management Team buys into that, so be it.

Yes, the teachers have a union. Do some digging and see what they had to go through with Callan at the helm.

Do you have kids? I have three, and have spent a lot of time in the schools over the years. There is a very strong dissatisfaction with Callan, period.

Also, there is no name calling in this forum, and to characterize what's been said as name-calling is frankly inaccurate.

It IS a hard fact that administrators are far from happy. Read the letter, and take into consideration the spinnnnnnnn that's coming from the top, including from ex-board members who were far from friendly to teachers during the last negotiation round, especially Kathy Kroynmann, who consistently took the 25 Churchill side of the issue during negotiations. It angered a lot of our best teachers.

The problem is now out there for all to see. Let's see if the board has the guts and wisdom to do what should have been done some time ago, instead of spinning this problem into something other than it already is, to divert away from a painful and necessary solution.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 5:44 pm

So, now aat the end of a "long closed meeting" we know ....nothing....

Note how the 'process' is taking hold. By this I mean a process that will end up negotiating toward the middle, hopefully.

But along with that, what will become of the internal dysfunction that led to the problem. THIS is what has been missing from PAUSD for quite some time.

We should all be for dialogue, but we should all also be, as they say in card games, 'calling a spade, a spade'. There is a reason for this dissention, there is a reason for the problem.

That reason is not some abstract animal that appeared suddenly, out of nowhere.

Will the board act with courage? We're watching.


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Posted by Keith
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 4, 2006 at 6:08 pm

I have 3 as well, and spend a lot of my time at the schools as well. In my opinion, Callan's job is not to give in to all of the teacher's and administration wishes. I'm glad that she was hard on the teacher's union during negotiations, that's what she should be doing. The PAUSD teachers and admin have it pretty easy compared to other, less supported, districts. Don't get me wrong, I love our teachers. I have yet to hear any teacher, or admin complain about Callan. And, as a member of the PTA, I know for a fact that some of the more involved parents hardly even know who Dr. Callan is.

Like I said, I'd like to hear some actual complaints, with actual examples, from actual admin, before I start talking about what kind of job Dr. Callan is doing.

Didn't realize spin had so many "n's"


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Posted by ABC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2006 at 8:20 pm

The evaluation of the Superintendent is the sole responsibility of our elected school board. Our school board should be intensely interested in getting to the bottom of any issues concerning trust, communication and overall leadership between our superintendent and all her staff. The School Board must hold our superintendent accountable for her performance. All personnel discussions are conducted in closed session. We, the public, will never know what is discussed in closed session. I would not expect nor encourage any PAUSD staff to speak on this matter publicly - regardless of their point of view. Furthermore, former school board members should know better than to take sides, or even weigh in. We have term limits - their turn is finished. And they, like us, do not know the facts.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2006 at 10:04 pm

If the major complaint is that Callan was hard on negotiations, look at what the budget has gone through the last few years! It wasn't until the Parcel Tax was passed that there was a little daylight; before that there was some dipping into the reserves.

I'm interested in hearing specifics...


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Keith, A Superintendent's job is many-faceted. It's political, fiscal, pedagogical, motivational, etc. etc.

You will almost _never_ hear any PAUSD employee say anything negative in public about their supervisors. They are professionals, and try to keep things like politics out of the way so that they can do their job. They are almost entirely dependent on the board and their union for the creation of conditions that let them do their job (which is to teach, and lately, to help socialize our kids). The teachers that I have talked with in this district do not have a favorable opinion of executive management. Administrators are more tight-lipped, but two have in the past told me that 25 Churchill is dysfunctional relative to their needs.

To say teachers here "have it pretty easy" compared to teachers in other districts is somewhat of an overstatement. Go check out San Mateo, and a few other districts - take a look at pay scales. Go ask what's happening to a lot of young teachers who stick around here for just a few years and move on, because it's too expensive to live here.

Incidentally, given the responsibility of teachers, and day care workers, they are grossly underpaid. To disagree with that is to insist that our kids aren't worth top dollar.

You simply don't have an accurate idea of what is going on here, and what some of the constraints are. Respectfully, you appear to be out of touch with the undercurrents set in motion by the present executive team. There are lots of details, but they won't be put into this forum. We'll wait and see what the board does, and act accordingly from there.

I agree with "ABC". We don't know anything, and there is little we will know, under the present rules. Why is that? Can you think of a private or government sector that muzzles - via a process of secrecy and silence, masquerading as "pragmatic management" - the voices of its members? The only people this process _really_ protects are the reputations of people at the top who screw up. The PAUSD spin machine is refueling, as we speak.

This is the 21st century. We need 21st century leaders, and process. Teachers and administrators, and our kids, deserve it.

by the way, the word "Spinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn", spealled as it was, was meant to be onomatopoeic, for effect...you get the idea :)


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Posted by anon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 4, 2006 at 11:27 pm

Bill,
Frankly, when it comes to examining anything to do with the schools here, a parent would be taking a risk to express certain opinions as there could be a payback...so requiring registering will squelch commentary on this topic


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Posted by Looking for clarification
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2006 at 12:09 am

RWE
You state in your last post "There are lots of details, but they won't be put into this forum."

I've got to assume from the certainty of your statement that you're privy to these details.

If this is the case, why the reluctantance to share these details if they are relevant to the discussion?

If they're not relevant, why mention them at all?


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Posted by Looking for clarification
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2006 at 12:11 am

RWE
You state in your last post "There are lots of details, but they won't be put into this forum."

I've got to assume from the certainty of your statement that you're privy to these details.

If this is the case, why the reluctance to share these details if they are relevant to the discussion?

If they're not relevant, why mention them at all?


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2006 at 12:43 am

Details will not be aired in this forum. It's appropriate that negotations continue without details that will just inflame the matter, unncecessarily. Who needs that?

Many people are in favor of the district and site administrators coming together, and meeting in the middle.

Given that, we're also interested in having district executives be held accountable for the long-standing dissension and other dysfunctionalities that have compromised teaching, administering - and in the end, education and tax dollars.

Managment styles do not change overnight. the current leadership was brought in for a very specific purpose - to put the squeeze on the teacher's union, and tighten the administrative ship. The problem is that the 'enterprise' function of administration is all that the curent leadership has brought to the district.

The board's last hiring decision was short-sighted - both in terms of "cultural fit" with district personnel, and in light of current challenges that shuold have been easily anticipated by those on the board at the time. There has been a significant lack of leadership on the personnel side, a change in executive management is called for.

We're waiting to see how much this thing spins away from the main problem, even if the negotiations are successful.

There will be a time and place more appropriate for the revelation of details if the board does not act in a way that's appropriate to the situation.



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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2006 at 12:47 am

Bill is absolutely right. I have never seen a chill on self-expression like the one that presently exists within PAUSD. It's a general demeanor that exudes from the top. That has to change if this district is going to thrive in the coming years.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2006 at 12:49 am

re: last post, I meant "anon" is absolutely right -


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Posted by waiting for the light
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2006 at 6:00 am

RWE -- you are exactly right in stating that there is a chilling atmosphere in this District. It starts at the top and goes all the way down through the schools, and people at all levels will state openly that they are afraid to talk for fear of retribution. This is the atmosphere that Ms. Callan is cultivating. People are asking for specifics so I will give one: a group of 14 very involved (at school and district PTA levels) parents were extremely frustrated with the atmosphere at a local elementary school, which has the same "no problems here" atmosphere of denial, favoritism and retaliation. They went (I might add, encouraged to do so by various members of the school staff, who thought adding parent voices might get Ms. Callan to listen) all the way up to the District to resolve their concerns. Ms. Callan' staff not only dropped the ball on the specific complaint but breached the trust of those parents, who were trying to adhere to the process. Specifically, Ms. Callan defended her staff for forwarding verbatim and without notice to the author all e-mail strings that some of those parents had sent to her staff with respect to the issues of concern. When the parents finally met with Ms. Callan, now over the original issues *and* the breach of trust by her staff, she berated them for wasting her time. I know; I was there. My children are no longer at the school or in the District because of the level of dysfunctionality I encountered at every level in this experience. I have seen firsthand her mediocre leadership by bullying, intimidation and apologia and her remarkably abrasive personal skills. Finally, to those parents who say she was hired to be tough in this era of fiscal crisis, I would respond with my personal impression as a casual observer that she nearly tanked the Measure A campaign with her arrogant attitude, and then took full credit for its success notwithstanding her having alienated any number of parents and administrators in the District. Justice Harlan said that "sunlight is the best disinfectant." I wonder at those who are worried about having this high-ranking, well-compensated *public official's* performance record examined, questioned or discussed publicly -- particularly as she herself stated in my presence that she has a policy of complete disclosure (or maybe that is only with respect to others' expectations of privacy). Are they afraid of what might come to light?


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2006 at 11:44 am

Mr. Johnson, I see hard hitting complaints, but little incivility. Your paper has certainly made very aggressive complaints against the District and Ms. Callan. Now, why do you wish to stifle others who feel differently?


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Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 5, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Maria,

I'm not sure to what you are referring. I don't think we've done anything to stifle opinions. The whole point of Town Square is to provide a place for sharing diverse opinion. We decided to experiment with requiring registration on one of the other threads, but there was a technical glitch and that restriction isn't in effect.
As you may know, many forums like this one require all posters to register and many people have urged us to go that route. We would prefer not to require registration because it deters some from participating. That said, it is a tool available to us if we feel posters are pushing the envelope with the personal nature of their comments. It's a difficult balance. We're hoping to keep steering people toward meaningful and respectful dialogue without getting in the way of expression of strongly held views. Removing posts always attracts accusations that we somehow trying to censure or manipulate the discussion, so our strong preference is not to have to do that.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2006 at 11:26 am

Here we have a problem, defined as an essential problem of communication between senior executive staff and administrators. There is not unanimous agreement among administrators regarding every aspect of the issue, but nearly unamimous agreement that the memo issued by the Management Team was mostly right on target.

It's an interesting, but not shocking development to see the problem kicked back to the very group that raised it, with the concomitant effect that the _cause_ of the problem - senior executive managment - gets off the hook.

I am very dissapointed with this action, as are many members of the Management Team. This situation is as close to "Catch 22" as it gets in this district.

Of _course_ there are going to be differences among members of the Management Team regarding some of the specifics, but there is a LARGER overall problem that led to their action in the first place.

What part of that memo doesn't our school board understand? How more clear does the gist of that memo have to be to suggest that there is something VERY wrong with the way that this district has been managed?

I want to saty with the latter point, because Mary Frances Callan has managed to spin her way out of this. Now we have the focus of attention moving to the board, with the Management Team asked to go back into a huddle and come up with what it _really_ meant in that memo. This is Palo Alto Process unleashed, this time within PAUSD. It's little more than a feeble attempt to be _absolutely_ sure and have _absolute_ agreement, where neither one of those elements _ever_ exist in a situation like this.

It's going to be interesting to follow this, noting how much dissension can be raised on the Management Team over issues subservient to the maian issues raised in that memo.

It's a brilliant tactic, really - in an almost unconscious way, Callan, with the Board's unwitting help is going to divide and conquer the Management Tean by creating dissension over minor issues in that memo (and a few of the major ones).

The focus is now shifted back to the _Management Team_ as the problem (i.e. they don't really have their act together), rather than the gross lack of effective leadership and communication from senior management that has led _over years_ to the slow boil that finally exploded last week.

As of this moment, the PAUSD board has deferred its responsibility, made life more difficult for a Management Team that went out on a limb to expose an intractible problem (in the face of a chilling communicative environment), and played right into the hands of the Superintendent, who has been the major ingredient in bringing this conflict about (along with a few of her managers).

there is always room for negotiation, even after a significant failure at the top. What usually happens, in healthy organizations, is that the top is changed over, and new blood brought in that better resonates with the organization, so it can heal. The board doesn't seem to have the guts for that right now; maybe in its wisdom, it will develop the necessary courage to do what needs to be done - i.e. permanently relieve the Superintendent and a few of her associates of their duties, and get this district and it's _key personnel_ (teachers and adminnistrators) back to a place where they are led by an administrator worthy of their superb talent. Anything less is a compromise for our children's education, and an insult to those who have been trying for years to do their jobs in an organizational environment that has been far from motivational (and that's being kind).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 6, 2006 at 1:38 pm

It sounds like the Mangagement Group has been invited to, and should seize this opportunity to put together a very specific list of complaints and very specific list of examples of their complaints, covering their whole spectrum of issues and deliver it directly to the board. The window of opportunity is open. They should come up with a specific list of as many and all issues, and have each individual in the group put a check mark by each bullet item they agree with.

That way, they don't have to come up with a single list that everyone agrees with, but they can still be specific, and still indicate the numbers of supporters behind each specific complaint.

From today's report in the Weekly, it sounds like the board has said to them what many on this forum have said as well - that the exact specific complaints are not well understood. They need to be made very clear and very specific before the board can act.

If the management group takes this step of creating some very specific documentation and delivering it directly to the board, then the board will have no excuse for not acting. Right now, I think they have a very convenient excuse that they haven't heard enough specificity, from the group who have the problem, and the group hasn't made clear how widespread the issues is or how much agreement there is among its members.

Go ahead and submit this to the board in confidentiality, but frankly if the management group wants any real action or accountability from the board or the district staff, I suggest you make this document public. The public will not let this one slide away into oblivion if they are allowed to understand the specifics.

(By the way, you can still do this and keep the names of Mgmt Group confidential, you can show the tally in numbers of subscribers to each issue..)


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