Saturday, April 19, 2008
posted by Q6 at 8:51 PM
(Some background, for those who haven't read this blog for three years: I work at a 7-12 school in Southern California and have been at this site for seven years come June--which is unusual, since most APs get changed out at five years. In those seven years I've seen a lot of transition in the administration: four years in I was the only one of four administrators not changed out, and I've seen another principal change out since then. All in all, the admin team now in place has been in place for three years. My fiancee is a teacher at the same site--which is all legal and fine as long as I don't do her evaluation, which I don't. The other thing you need to know to read on is that over those seven years I've become the only administrator that teachers and parents come to with anything, which is both endearing and exhausting. They have some honesty and competence issues with the other administrators, I'm told.)

The decision to transfer me to another site, I'm finding out, began back in December (though my site principals weren't made aware of this until well into February). A month ago I was told; since I learned the news during a closed-door meeting with the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Instruction, the rumors of my transfer began to fly the moment he walked out my door. I had been told to keep this matter confidential until it was official, which meant getting used to saying "nothing like that has been announced" for WAAAAY too long. Parents have been asking my principals, my fiancee, and me if the rumors were true, and they've been sending letters and e-mails to the district office trying to prevent such a move, rumor or not. I almost feel I should send the district leadership a case of Tylenol or something.

Among the questions I'd been getting from teachers, parents, and (as of this week) students: (1) Why are they doing this? (2) Are you happy with this? (3) What can we do? And all I wanted to tell these people is This isn't my decision; this wasn't my idea; your fight is not with me. But I wasn't able to say anything, since no official statement had been made.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, this whole thing became very, very real for me. I thought I had been privately working through the five stages of grief and making progress--I was wrong. I know this because yesterday we told the teachers (in one big, called-at-the-last-minute staff meeting during break), and I almost lost it completely in front of everyone. And I learned that I've barely started to mourn my career at this school. (I don't know why I feel some need to make this news, which the staff is taking harder than I expected, easier for the teachers. This is harder on me than it is on them, yet I feel compelled to comfort them. I tried to start my little speech with some signature humor--using lines fed to me by my fiancee--and lighten the mood a little: "We're getting divorced, and Daddy's moving out; but we still love you . . . " I ended up finishing just in time--five more seconds and I would have broken down into tears.)

The parents have started a letter-writing campaign organized on a Yahoo user group,and occasionally I get blind-copied on the stuff they send. A lot of it is very flattering, and while I knew that the parents liked me I had NO idea that they felt that strongly about my presence there. (Of course, it's scary to read things like "Mr. Q6 is the only administrator there who doesn't lie to us." I have to remember that since this transfer is not my idea, I shouldn't feel guilty about the fallout.)

For the record, I've been given several reasons for this move, three I can make sense of if we use the phrase "make sense" loosely:

(1) I've been at this school too long. The district leadership wants its Assistant Principals to have a wide range of experience in different demographics and be better prepared for principalship (which is why teachers can stay in the same classroom for thirty years but APs get moved around every five). What seems to be missing from this thinking is that I don't see this as a stepping-stone profession. I was, briefly, a principal elsewhere and I have no real interest in doing it again. The district leadership acknowledges this, but they believe that every AP is a potential Principal, regardless of his personal career goals. (A side note here is that I'm trading places with the AP over there, and he DOES have an interest in climbing the district ladder, so he needs experience on this side of town.)

(2) The new school needs my technology expertise. The goal here, apparently, is to put me to work creating an electronic communication system for the parents similar to what I have set up at this site. Where this gets weird is the demographic: the new school is in a "less affluent" (read impoverished) side of town. While the district office believes the parent Internet access is actually higher than the estimated 45%, the new school's current leadership puts it at around 20%. Either I'm expected to put broadband in every home or someone has serious delusions of my grandeur.

(3) Being in one place for too long isn't good. Yeah, I don't get it either.

There are two other items here that are worth mentioning. It seems that there have been more complaints and concerns expressed to the district and the Board than I thought. The Assistant Superintendent mentioned that while he's seen this kind of reaction about Principal transfers, he's never seen this kind of thing with Assistant Principals. (It's flattering, really.) The other is the timing of the announcement to the staff--it comes before the Board of Education ratifies the move (which is Tuesday, and it's a meeting I won't be within ten city blocks of). Why give the teachers, parents, or anyone else a reason and an opportunity to complain at a Board meeting? Odd, I think.

There's more for me to post on this topic (including why I really dread this move), and this whole uncomfortable thing will drag on for a while, I expect. So stay tuned.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Maestro

"I ended up finishing just in time--five more seconds and I would have broken down into tears."

Yeah... see... welcome to MY world. That's what happens when you stop to reflect on your relationships with people when you're standing in front of them. I do that at concerts which is why I loose it every friggin time.

I've been very Zen about your leaving... mostly because -

1) It's not like you're moving to Zimbabwe.

2) I was always kind of worried you'd catch flak for getting too chummy with the teachers. And since we share a lot of interests, it's particularly easy for me to get chummy with you. Not a problem anymore. Hell, I'll be calling you for getting drinks after work.

From "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" -

"If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice?"


At 8:34 PM, Anonymous The fiancee

Bravo, Maestro. Well said.

I see the District's point of view. I certainly think they're making a mistake, but I suppose it's their mistake to make.

It's the lack of transparency -- the secrecy if you will, that I loathe. If this is what districts do, then why not make it part of the culture and the expectation? Make our schools communities; encourage us to collaborate across campuses. Put it all out there, reminding administration and teachers all the time that the only constant is change, and that sooner or later the administrator will move.

As soon as the moves are raised at the upper level, get the sites involved in a dialogue. Those cowards are afraid of public reaction; deep down, I think they fear that they don't actually have any fucking clue what they're doing...and the faster the change happens, the less time they have to spend justifying decisions that may or may NOT have any reasonable justification.

"That's what we do" is insufficient justification in my book. Isn't it ironic that teachers must show concrete goals and expectations to all and sundry so that they're kept accountable, but that the higher ups treat working at the District Office like some cloak-and-dagger medieval court intrigue?

I'm rambling. It's 'cause I'm sad. On the plus side, I think Maestro's going to take my husband out for drinks next year. Way cool.


At 9:13 PM, Anonymous the assistant

Sooooo completely frustrating...for all those that know and love you. It makes no sense to fix something that is not broke.

I've been struggling with whether me saying anything (as both an 'insider' seeing all the b.s. that goes down and a parent with incoming kids knowing that they won't have you around) would help or hurt your career.

You are handling it EXTREMELY well tho...another testament to your fine character and leadership! And you will suceed and prevail...wherever you end up...

But we're all gonna miss the shit out of you here :(