Over the last several weeks I've been involved in a situation at work that I can't really discuss, so I've been dancing around it with some of my previous posts. I'll get to the heart of the matter in due time (I expect the public announcement on the 17th or 18th of April), but for now I'd like to delve into the world of district-level decision-making.
"Mommy, how are decisions born?" might be one way of looking at it: like a child who really doesn't understand the process at all. These decisions can take many forms, but we at the school sites usually see them in the form of program initiatives (read, "unfunded mandates"), hirings, firings, and administrator moves from site to site (the "switcheroo"). District administrators make such decisions based on the information they have, and (supposedly) for the good of the district. The questions I put to you today, friends, are (a) are they working off the best possible information, and (b) what defines "the good of the district"?
When does the district office get wind of how things are going in the trenches? Most of their information comes mainly from two places: field operatives (meaning principals, in most cases), and angry customers (parents). It goes without saying, therefore, that said information has a slant to it, one way or the other. When something goes right, however, who hears about it? I think the same is true of any service industry; how often, really, do we ask to see the manager and tell them what a great job the staff is doing? We don't, and that's information that goes unconsidered in many cases. There's also the "buffer" angle to examine: if parents are pleased with something at a school site, do they tell the principal? In most cases, yes, and still the information doesn't get up to the decision-making level. My point is this: the district administration is trusted to make decisions based on the best possible information . . . so how good are those decisions if said information is incomplete?
Is a school district (the whole) as good as the schools is contains (the sum of its parts)? Many people believe in leaving a good thing to work properly. Factories set up their equipment and, as long as it's performing at or above par, they simply maintain it without making changes. People invest money in various programs, and many leave it as is unless a change is required or a problem comes up. So why move an administrator from a school when all is going well? (Again, this is completely hypothetical.) Some of the answer comes from seeing the view from the district office; they're looking at ALL schools, not just one. They move their chess pieces as they see fit, in order to win the game, and they look at the WHOLE board--and, arguably, they may need to weaken the queen's position in order to fortify the king. Or, maybe, they make such changes just to shake things up and make them fresh (Dr. McCoy said something similar in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" . . . "I know engineers, they LOVE to change things.")
Here's the real problem: these changes are kept very quiet until after they're considered, made, and put into motion. THEN, such changes are announced and the debate begins. Why not hold the debate during the decision-making process? Would that not be the better way to get the best information, work for the good of the district AND the schools, and make the very best possible decisions? Stakeholders, indeed. And if we keep the whole thing quiet until it's over, how do we tell the teachers, students, and staff about these decisions?
That the stork brings them?