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First-round decision made on superintendent

Original post made by RWE, South of Midtown, on Apr 19, 2007

Web Link

A few things I'm curious about. How is it that if PAUSD claims to hire the "best and brightest" that we can't hire a Superintendent from within? My assumption is that there are no PAUSD candidates in this group. [I hope that assumption is wrong] When was the last time that a PAUSD employee was considered for the Superintendent's position?? Why are we - time and time again, bringing in career Superintendants who stay - at most - 5 years, taking at least one year of their tenure to get up to speed on culture and everyday operations.

Also, one thing that hasn't been mentioned, but shuold be included as a prerequisite for the new Superintendent is that s/he _must_ be _very_ proactive with our city government. This is a _must_, as bond and parcel tax issues for various initiatives are going to have to be well coordinated between the city and PAUSD from now on. The outgoing Superintendent remained non-involved and aloof from city affairs. This _cannot_ be the case with the new Superintendant, not of our city and school system are to find new ways to create efficiencies and economies with each other.

Comments (12)

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2007 at 7:26 am

We clearly need someone from the outside to knock these eight-ball principals into shape.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 20, 2007 at 9:15 am

The reason the School Board goes outside the PAUSD to hire a Superintendent is to get someone neutral with no baggage attached. In the present atmosphere nearly every Principal or Assistant Superintendent, who might be eligable for the position, is on one side or the other.

The middle management's request that the present Superintendent step down now when she will be leaving in June is not practical. It's like threatening to impeach the President during the presidential campaign.

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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2007 at 10:07 am

Howard, I trust your comment was tongue-in-cheek. ;)

In fact, there is a lot of healing called for within PAUSD. Whoever comes on board is going to have to have a unique combination of collaborative and leadership skills. There has never been as much rancor within PAUSD's ranks as is currently the case. Morale is at a relatively low point.

It's a very difficult thing for an executive to walk into a morale problem, much less be charged with fixing it. Nevertheless, that's the mandate.

One caveat: this time the _BOE_ will have to be part of the therapy. Unlike last time, when the BOE sloughed off its responsibility to effectively deal with what was perceived as a "union problem", and hired a "hit-person" (MFC's 'tough' stance and "take-no-prisoners" approach to unions negotiations preceded her; she lived up to that reputation, and thus the current result).

BOE members have power; it's given to them by the polis.

It's always interesting to see what happens to someone when they gain a little power. Most people flounder a bit, forgetting that power adds a new weight to everything they say and do - in both directions, positive and negative. That takes getting used to. Hopefully, lessons have been learned.

That said, this time the BOE is going to have to step up to the plate, concede that there is a valid argument coming from staff, and find some way to repair a serious breach of trust. This will not blow over quickly, so persistence and sensitivity is called for.

The hope is that the haughty condescension inherited (by some) from the Kroynman years will go away for good, and that this BOE will find some humility.

Everyone on the BOE is - in spite of some of our disagreements with them - trying to do a good job.

One thing that this BOE might learn from the one that hired MFC - that is that one cannot in a school environment hire someone to carry out one's own mandate. The BOE needs - as does the coming Superintendent - LEADERSHIP. Until now, we've mostly seen reactive posturing, and convenient rationalizations.

BOE members need to walk in the shoes of teachers and staff, remember that they are there to help parents and students get the best value for their tax dollar, but at the same time remember that they are charged with _optimally_ running an organization. Just in case the BOE hasn't noticed (as it seems something forgotton since the Callan/Kroynman [and now Townsend]) years, is that PEOPLE run this organization. It's a SERVICE organization. We want _mostly happy_ people encountering our kids every day. Mostly happy workers invigorate an organization.

Perhaps the BOE might take a look at this Venn-diagrammed representation of the ingredients fot organizational motivation and happiness. Start with that
Web Link
(btw, Edward Deci should be required reading for all organizational leaders)

There is NO excuse for any leader to permit an environment of dissension and low morale to occur. The BOE and our outgoing Superintendent bear full responsibility for what has transpired, just as the BOE now bears the responsibility to _fix_ the current problem and make PAUSD sustainable in terms of organizational cohesion.

We're all fallible (that's an inclusive "we", btw). We all make mistakes. It's time for the BOE to own up to its errors and do right by staff, and our city.

This next hire will face challenges that no other has faced prior. We are facing real constraint in our region. It's an irony, because on the surface - and by comparison with most - we're quite well off. We're living with the artifacts of Prop 13 - artifacts that, like chickens, have come home to roost. We must bring forward leaders who understand this structural problem - within PAUSD, and within the larger environment that PAUSD operates (our city), and knows how to bridge differences in a way that doesn't alienate.

It's a big task. The BOE is going to have to step outside its current comfort zone to enable these things. Is this BOE up to the task? We'll see.

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Posted by hmmmmm
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2007 at 11:16 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2007 at 11:29 am

Where are you reading RWE as pro-bond? And why do you assume that RWE doesn't post under one name, with others posting who have the same viewpoint? RWE's point of view doesn't seem particularly unique or fringe.

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Posted by Agreed.
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2007 at 7:49 pm

There are candidates within PAUSD that have significant experience and would be well qualified to become superintendent. I know them personally.

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Posted by DJ
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2007 at 2:24 pm

"Grandma" from Fairmeadow refers to "one side or the other". I haven't been following this. Could you please clarify what are the two sides?

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Posted by Sides
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 4:17 pm

one side is the side that supports the 25 Churchill administration, Superintendent, etc. and the way they have conducted business for the past 5 years. This group includes some of the Board members. The other side is the variuos members of the school communities who support the management team's position that there is a morale crisis and the PAUSD needs to clean house.

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2007 at 10:54 pm

released tonight - Dr Kevin Skelly from Poway. Camille read the press release.

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Posted by Paly Voice
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Here's a story about the superintendent search on Voice, the Paly online journalism site. Web Link

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 2, 2007 at 8:28 am

Once again Paly Voice, a very nice article written well and in a timely manner. I am very impressed with what I see of your work.

Anybody know where Poway is or anything about it?

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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2007 at 9:28 am

A question that I'd like the people going on the 'validation visit' to ask:

When Kevin Skelly was Principal of Saratoga High (1993-2004) there was a cheating scandal (and ensuing bomb plot!) at the school that received national attention. Much of that attention focused on the intensely competitive atmosphere at the school that led, some felt, to the students' feeling the need to cheat.

I'd like the validators to be sure that Dr. Skelly is not someone who will bring even more pressure to achieve on a very narrow set of tested metrics into our district than our students already feel. Read Denise Clark Pope's 'Doing School' -- researched in high schools on the Peninsula -- to see the horrible toll on children's morals, motivation, mental and physical health that comes with a test-well-at-all-costs culture.

I think we should expect a lot of our students. I think we should encourage them to excel. But we need to do that in a way that looks out for their health and that leaves them with a love of learning that will take them through college and into their working lives.

We need to know whether a pressure-cooker environment is that something Dr. Skelly will be all the more able to deal with after his experience at Saratoga. Or is such a culture -- where students feel pressured to cheat in order to gain their own validation in the community's eyes -- something that Dr. Skelly still embraces?

Here's a link to more information: Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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