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School board to discuss 'trust' action
Original post made
on Oct 25, 2006
My hat is off to Gail price for taking an action that many in the community and within PAUSD have been asking for; she's a real leader.
It's time to shine some light on long-standing staff morale and lack-of-effective-leadership problems brought about by Mary Frances Callan and senior staff.
The only problem I can see with this is that very few, if any, staff - and very few parents - will comment on this in public, for fear of retribution. The latter is largely due to the chilling atmosphere that Mary Frances Callan and some of her senior staff have created within PAUSD.
Thus, we will mmostly have a chance to watch our elected board in action, in the open. My hope is that they will find a graceful way to help MFC - and possibly some of her senior staff - to exit. Our fantastic teacher and administrative corp, our kids, and our dedicated parents deserve far more than they've been getting from the current senior adminstrative leadership.
Posted by RWE,
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:52 am
Wow! We just finsished watching the BOE have its discussion on the trust issue; only one person was there to address the public - no surprise, given the hour.
One thing, it's FASCINATING to see how this thing has begun to get spun, and how fast it's spinning. Now, it's simply a "trust" issue, or a "comunication problem"; it's something out there in the aether that will take a 'professional organzational consultant' and taxpayer dollars and time and lost educational efficiencies to "discover", so that "communication and trust can be improved".
So, we're at a place where the "trust problem" is going to become more about the BOE and the MT (in a negoatiation, with a 'consultant), rather than about the senior staff who created the problem; rather than the senior staff, who are paid big bucks to presumably deploy management structures capable of keeping administrative subordinate revolts from NOT happening (these revolts are a VERY rare thing in public education).
Thus, we have a "professional organizational consultant" coming in to save the Superintendent, and buy time - all the while the "trust problem" will get spun.
We intend to continue to press this issue, and will help the MT to gain some political perspective on just what's going down here, and how their concerns - talked about with such great concern by Callan, Townsend, Tom, and Lowell - are really not "concern #1, as exhibited by the TWO MONTH gap between the surfacing of the problem; as exhibited by the attempt to avoid an open public meeting about this concern (until the issue was forced to a vote by Gail Price).
Thus, that those senior executives who are paid to do their job - and have, by majority MT standards failed to do so - will probably not be held accountable.
We are also going to hold Tom, Townsend, and Lowell accountable for the egregious display of inaction and waffling on this issue. I trust that if any of the latter group intends to run for another municipal office in Palo Alto, they can expect that there will be a committee set up, explicitly to defeat them, with this example of their lack of, or waffling, leadership used as exhibit #1 (and there are others)
So now, a proposal will be sent to the MT, for its consideration. Then, adding MT input, the Board will establish some goals, hire the consultant, who will do the work, report back to the BOE, which will do a determination about what the "problem" is (as if we don't know, already - it was pretty clear in the MT letter), discussions will ensue, new structures will be put in place, taxpayer dollars will be spent, adminsitrative time will be wasted in interviews, and maybe 6-12 months from now the community will have a "result", that will no doubt look like a new set of organizational procedures that everyone is supposed to subsribe to. That's what this thing is heading toward. Palo Alto Process, anyone? Accountability? Forget it.
One of the things that REALLY troubles me about this is that the office of ultimate accountability (the senior executive team, that, so far, has NOT been held accountable, and is spinning away from this problem like a top), will have a representative on the committee (i.e. two BOE members, some MT members, and one executive team member).
The two BOE members (Price and Tom) will be bound by the Brown Act, and not permitted to speak with the other three BOE members about the issue unless they're in a public BOE meeting - but the executive team member will not be so constrained - so he (Scott Bowers) will be able to deliver a blow-by-blow account to fellow senior executives, who will be able to adjust tactics and strategies, and put on a "happy face" in public so that they can keep their jobs. Clever.
It's not easy to say what I'm about to say, because at least two members of the Board (Price and Mitchell) have led on this issue in a way that has clearly been constrained by the three other members of the BOE (Lowell, Townsend, and Tom). The latter are, in our opinion, a BIG disappointment, with Tom and Townsend tying for #1 in the "Disappointment Championship", and Lowell running a furlong behind.
We understand that the BOE wants to get to the bottom of the structural problems that have led to Management Team revolt; that's a good thing, However, it's being spun as something that doesn't demand accountability from the persons who were hired to create a good communicative environment; a motivational environment; and environment that creates a dostrict that is more than the sum of its parts. Where is the accountability?
Here's a rundown on BOE member demeanor, and action this last evening:
First, and again, my hat is off to Gail Price. She showed uncompromising depth of leadership and real courage this evening. I have disagreed with some of her positions in the past, but over and over again, Gail Price shows she's made of measured good judgement that is rare in local politics. I'd support her in a minute if she ran for another municipal office.
Barb Mitchell is the rare politician who can be clear, concise, and do so in a way that disagrees, but doesn't offend. She and Price were gallant this evening, and worked well as a minority to thwart an apparent attempt by the majority to stack the suggested new "Organizational Development Committee" (ODE, a GREAT acronym, don't you think?) with members from the BOE majority, who are clearly in favor of processing this problem to death, and thus keep themselves from having to lead, or make any real decisions.
Dana Tom, in our opinion, has been most disappointing on this issue. He has parried the "communication problem", and spun it out into something that only Jon Paul Satre would understand. Here's a rough paraphrase ofo one of Tom's monologues in this issue...
Tom: "the issue is trust, we need to better understand the nature and scope of the issue - the goal is to have clear and open communication - when you're talking about trust, communication is key - it takes time to build trust - and so on, into verbal nothingness -
What Tom manages to do is to - by default - put the MT group in a bind by defining *their_ problem for them. This is naive, and disconnected from the real MT world.
Tom further went on to say that the "real work" will be done by the consultant. Huh? Dana, we elected you to make decisions, some of them will be *difficult* decisions. So far, on this an other issues, we have rarely seen Dana Tom leading. He's playing it safe. Why? Future political aspirations? Perhaps.
Camille Townsend tried - with Mandy Lowell's help - to get herself appointed as one of two BOE members to the "development committee". Lowell, along with Townsend and Tom, who all caused a delay of open discussion on this issue in the first place, suggested that Townsend and Tom be the representatives.
Mitchell, in a deft move, while answering a self-serving question about goals from Townsend, suggested herself and Price, or possibly Tom. Townsend was last person out, as a discussion ensued - with a waffling Lowell unable to make a decision - that placed Price and Tom on the committee. Thank goodness! At least Gail Price will be present to make sure that this thing is done right!
We are very unimpressed with Lowell's leadership on this issue, and get the feeling that she just doesn't want to go down a path that leads to replacing the Supervisor. She kept talking about how the district values collaboration. I don't see her actions following her words. Collaboration in a large organization is enabled - or not - BY THE PEOPLE HIRED TO RUN THE ORGANIZATION.
What part of that last sentence do Tom, Townsend, and Lowell not understand?
Townsend went on at one point in another attempt to spin away the seriousness of this issue by saying that "we're not alone" in having a problem like this. She lectured the BOE about management school experts, and books written specifically about "this kind of problem". She brought up names of Organizational Behavior experts, and so on. What Townsend accomplished was a belittling of the issue, and a sad attempt to spin it as a "thing" to be treated, rather than a series of events caused by policies created by the PAUSD senior executive team.
Townsend was also the one who suggested that a senior executive team member be on the committee. Given the nature of the problem, and given that the "professional organizational consultant will have the BOARD as its client, why is there an executive team member on that connittee. I mention this above.
What Townsend fails to realize - or deliberately wants to spin away from - is that administrative mutiny in public school settings are EXCEEDINGLY rare. If she doesn't know that, it's quite surprising, as it's easy enough to ask around about.
I would say back to Ms. Townsend that we ARE virtually alone in having this happen. It's disingenuous for Camille Townsend to suggest otherwise. I wonder what's going on in the minds of MT members as they see real problems, brought to the surface at real risk to their jobs, belittled in the way that Tom, Townsend, and Tom managed to do. This was a sad, sad, night for PAUSD - saved only by the courage and smarts of two determined BOE members (Mitchell and Price).
My advice to the MT is to demand FIRM benchmarks and milestones in this "consultancy". I would suggest an EXTREMELY aggressive schedule. the professional consultant should be asked to conduct interviews in no more than a months time. With the holidays coming, this thing is going to drag on for quite a while before anything is done.
I would aslo recommend to the MT that the senior executive member of the committee be compelled NOT to discuss ANY findings with his senior executive peers, under pain of dismissal.
In fact, this 'committee' should be made into a formal committee, with all members subject to Brown Act regulations - otherwise the executive team will gain access to inside information that will further help its spin machine.
Altogether, what happened this evening was not a surprise. It's disappointing only insofar as one hopes that the small chance for something substantial to happen, doesn't happen.
We're now in a situation where taxpayer dollars, BOE time, staff time, etc. will be expended to "rediscover" a problem that has already been pretty well defined by the management team. These actions are the direct result of the influence that Mary Frances Callen has with the majority of the BOE, and that majority's lack of will to act decisively and lead this district forward.
this means that we're going to be living for the next 6 months to a year will the SAME management in pace that caused the problem, with an end result that "new organizational structures" will be put in place, and no accountability from the Superintendent and her senior staff.
In a word, this is tantamount to a betrayal by BOE majority (Lowell, Townsend, and Tom) to our district personnel, who made a cry for help, and have had that cry muffled by delay, undue process, and "consultants" - all in service of that majority's inability to lead.
Last, so as not to forget what led to this situation, we shuold remind ourselves that Mary Frances Callan, Barbara Cook, and a few others have been wreaking havoc with teachers and staff for four years in this district - - ask around. They will continue to do so, only more quiuetly than in the past, because now, at least, they know they are being monitored.
That said, how it is that so-called professional executives who create and run an organization without the MOST BASIC structures in place to encourage good communication and trust are still in their jobs - jobs that are directly superior to dedicated administrators and teachers who DO NOT TRUST THEM?
Where is the accountability? Where is the leadership? Where is the simple, straightforward language (Dana Tom, are you listening?) that admits to a problem, accompanied by the sometimes difficult decisions that oe has to make to correct them.
To Camillle Townsend, who so tried to make light of this issue with effervescent spin by saying that "professional organizations and corporations have these problems all the time" - I would like to mention a few names "Patricia Dunn", "Richard Nixon", "Bernie Evers". Ms Townsend, MANY organizations solve the kinds of obvious problems that are plaguing this school dostrict by REPLACING their executive team, perhaps you should consider that fact - and it is a fact - the next time you begin quoting management experts in an effort to appease the persons you're supposed to be managing.
After all, that's what boards are for - i.e. managing the organization, with *impartial oversight*. Maybe some BOE members need to take a COURSE in Org Development!