Statement From ‘The White Rose’
Statement From ‘The White Rose’ (Main Advisory Group for the new Teachers’Alliance of Gwinnett, or T.A.G.)
November 30, 2006
Over ten years in the making, the perfect storm may finally be forming around the entrenched leadership of Gwinnett County Public Schools. And the tempest could result in a long overdue cleansing of a highly toxic and multilayered web of ill-advised academic changes, appalling waste of taxpayer dollars, conflict of interest arrangements with local political, business, and even religious leaders, bullying of teachers and support staff, and a cynical disregard for the best interests of our children.
Given the long history of serious charges leveled at the school system’s famously remote and disinterested leadership, one must wonder why it has taken so long for responsible authorities to thoroughly and genuinely investigate the frequent allegations . Parents, residents, and taxpayers have the right to demand accountability from school officials. Teachers and staff would appreciate a modicum of professional respect and an immediate termination of the micro-management and constant bullying by bureaucrats.
The recent and partially documented allegations of financial mismanagement directed against GCPS officials by Jeff Weiler, former Chief Financial Officer for the school system (and posted at www.gcps.blogspot.com) have deeply shocked and disappointed employees throughout the district.
Of course, the primary responsibility for effective oversight begins with the Gwinnett County School Board, whose silence has been stifling and whose lack of willingness to reign in J. Alvin Wilbanks and his sycophants quite curious. However, the School Board has failed the voters before .
More than a decade ago, after the last fad fizzled (O.B.E. – Outcomes-based Education) and then-Superintendent George Thompson was shown the door, the Board promised Gwinnett parents a national search to locate and hire a ‘world class’ superintendent.
After a rather superficial and lethargic search, the Board hired Sidney Faucett from the Virginia Beach, Virginia, school district. But interestingly enough and though every cab driver , meter reader, and homeless person in southeast Virginia seemed to know that Mr. Faucett was under investigation for allegedly mismanaging millions of dollars of district funds, the Gwinnett School Board either missed that crucial detail, or, deliberately chose to ignore it.
When Atlanta media outlets picked up on the allegations coming from outraged citizens in Virginia, Mr. Faucett dutifully resigned his new position in Georgia, but the Gwinnett Board did not resume the promised national search for a highly qualified applicant for what would soon become Georgia’s largest school system.
Instead, the Board quickly opted for the Gwinnett Technical College president, and former DeKalb shop teacher, J. Alvin Wilbanks , an insider with close ties to local business interests . Despite the latter’s lack of a doctoral degree, any substantial experience or training in academically-oriented programs, a seeming inability to connect with students, teachers, or parents, or despite any attempt to gather local public and employee input, the Board appointed Alvin Wilbanks as the new boss.
Within a short period of time, once the Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) was engineered to provide for the runaway growth occurring in Gwinnett, an eventual school district budget exceeding a billion dollars would serve as the fuel for an engine, in retrospect, seemingly designed to promote unadulterated chicanery instead of a sincere focus on developing a world class educational experience for students. And, since Gwinnett County Commission members had no desire or intention of planning for or regulating unbridled growth and development, GCPS had the perfect cover for what would turn out to be some extraordinarily nefarious plans and activities.
Today, most teachers and support personnel within GCPS believe that there can be no “continuous improvement” for students until new and visionary leadership supplants the current status quo. In addition, many educators believe that, while the district functions like a finely oiled machine with respect to daily nuts and bolts issues (such as buses running on time and construction schedules being met), most also would likely agree with the statement that the ‘brain’ of this GCPS machine functions but possesses neither a heart nor a soul.
But when the business at hand and primary goal is the educating and nurturing of children , then the current status quo is and should be wholly unacceptable. Gwinnett’s school children and teachers need, and parents and taxpayers deserve, flexible, compassionate, and visionary leaders – not cranky, arrogant, and isolated industrial managers who think they know more about teaching students than the professionals in the classroom.
The Teachers’ Alliance of Gwinnett cannot fairly speak to the frequent accusations toward GCPS regarding corruption and financial mismanagement. That should be the domain of the media, the Gwinnett District Attorney, and the elected School Board.
As veteran teachers with long service in Gwinnett, TAG is keenly aware of , and knowledgeable about, the slow erosion of academic standards; the rapid erosion of employee morale in the schools; the almost nonexistent role afforded teachers in the important decisions affecting teaching and learning; and the often brutal repercussions for teachers and support staff who either express dissent, disregard orders that defy their professional training and instincts regarding what is best for students, or whom become whistleblowers in an attempt to alert the public and obtain justice for themselves and their students.
Some of these victim’s stories make headlines in the newspapers when their cases are adjudicated by a court, but most do not because of threats and intimidation cultivated by school administrators. Fear , anxiety and frustration seem to permeate the faculties of perhaps three-quarters of the schools in Gwinnett – and virtually all of the secondary schools. How can this situation be healthy for kids?
Schools or Factories?
The latest fad being imposed upon students and teachers by the bureaucrats is known in the business world as ‘Total Quality Management’ (TQM). Some in the education profession, including those who should know better, euphemistically refer to the experiment as ‘Standards-based Reform’.
Whatever term is employed, the effects on teaching and learning have, in the professional judgement of many veteran teachers in Gwinnett, been ruinous for students despite the official spin job generated by those who do not work closely or daily around kids in the classrooms, labs, or media centers of the district.
Several years ago, Stanford University’s Elliot Eisner said of the Standards movement in schools, “It distracts us from paying attention to the importance of building a culture of schooling that is genuinely intellectual in character, that values questions and ideas at least as much as getting right answers…The challenge in teaching is to provide the conditions that will foster the growth of those personal characteristics that are socially important and, at the same time, personally satisfying to the student.
The aim of education is not to train an army that marches to the same drummer, at the same pace, toward the same destination. Such an aim may be appropriate for totalitarian societies, but it is incompatible with democratic ideals.”
As veteran educators who deal with kids on a daily basis, we realize the enduring irony that public schools in Gwinnett are the most undemocratic of institutions. How can we expect children to love and appreciate democratic ideals when autocratic values are constantly modeled and reinforced at school?
Is it any wonder then why tens of thousands of kids are being home schooled in the U.S.A. nowadays, or, plucked out of public schools to be enrolled in private schools? Is it any surprise that fewer and fewer college undergraduates are electing to major in education?
After years of stealth TQM practices (GCPS senior leadership refuses to even now admit that the experiment is occurring – though implementation began no later than 1997; the nomenclature and steps of TQM practices here closely resemble those in certain other districts of the country in which officials openly acknowledge the connection; and the fact that undergraduate and graduate students at UGA and other state institutions often come to GCPS in order to observe, and then write reports and essays on TQM for their professors! ) , the extent of the damage done to innovative teaching, faculty morale, and student achievement is only now becoming apparent but certainly has not been worth a few additional points on standardized tests.
In fact, both Gwinnett (Gateways, Benchmarks) and the State of Georgia (EOCTs, GHSGT) are increasingly deceiving the public by developing and scoring home-grown assessments to supposedly determine what students know… except that these tests are continuously modified depending on annual student performance results, and , via the magic of “scaled scoring”, the actual student score results from one test application to the next cannot be used for comparison purposes due to the absence of statistical validity.
Teachers realized the farce years ago but risked termination if they spoke out. Centreville Elementary teacher James Hope, a popular and successful veteran educator, became the first of many “examples” made by GCPS when it attempted to have his teaching license revoked by the Professional Standards Commission for calling the public’s attention to significant design flaws of elementary-level Gateways which the leadership was perfectly content to ignore in favor of rapidly implementing a stunningly expensive assessment program in order to garner maximum bragging rights and other public relations benefits.
Interestingly, Hope’s subsequent trial resulted not only in his exoneration, but with Gwinnett school leaders being scolded by a judge and reminded that teachers do not lose their constitutional liberties when entering through schoolhouse doors. Two later Gwinnett Grand Jury indictments, relating in part to the millions of dollars spent for development of flawed Gateways, went nowhere, apparently because the D.A. was not willing or able to take on the powerbrokers. Sadly, this state of affairs merely emboldened district officials to accelerate their secretive agenda.
Yet another example of one of the district’s more talented teachers who was willing to resist as well as sound the alarm about the changes wrought by TQMers was high school science teacher Larry Neace. Mr. Neace was eventually fired, after being systematically and unjustly discredited by the central office crowd and Neace’s own principal.
Contrary to the stated cause for termination cited by school managers, the underlying issues of the poorly handled Neace debacle were, in fact, deeply rooted in TQM management concepts and practices which were eroding the last vestiges of teacher autonomy at Dacula as well as driving off other experienced teachers unhappy with the new agenda and highly unorthodox direction.
The Reagan-era ‘Nation At Risk’ report in 1983, which unfairly and inaccurately painted U.S. public schools as the villain for all real or perceived advantages by students from other nations scoring higher than American kids on standardized tests, planted the seeds for the TQM Movement to sprout in the 1990’s.
A quarter century ago, certain business executives and politicians liked to suggest that American youth were being thumped by the Japanese and South Koreans. Today, the Chicken Littles trumpet the same nonsense, except that China and India have allegedly taken over the task of leading hordes of underachieving American youth to the woodshed for a sound spanking.
Unfortunately, many university professors in colleges of education and many ambitious school leaders hopped on the bandwagon. Afterall, universities attract much grant money from business, industry, and government sources while numerous school administrators enjoy constructing reputations and advancing their careers posing as so-called “reformers”.
The lingering fact is that America still proudly stands as the sole surviving ‘superpower’, with citizens possessing one of the highest global literacy rates; that Americans continue to largely lead the world in developing new and useful innovations – not to mention still raking-in most of the Nobel Prizes for advancements in diverse fields ranging from chemistry and physics to medicine and economics; and that American workers continue to rank as the most productive in the world and achieved, by the late 1990’s, the longest period of economic expansion and prosperity in U.S. history.
Apparently, all those public kindergarten, primary, and secondary teachers and support staff, under verbal assault by clueless and agenda-laden critics, were not doing such a shabby job afterall. And, if special interest groups would cease turning public school campuses into cultural battlegrounds, at the expense of students and teachers, perhaps even more could have been, and would continue to be, routinely and expertly accomplished by these dedicated professionals.
By the summer of 1996, the TQM experiment was under development by the GCPS leadership. Parents and teachers began to notice curious changes in educational jargon spoken by school officials. Suddenly, the new mantra was being wrapped in impressive corporate buzzwords such as “continuous improvement”, “world class schools”, “data-driven” strategies, “best practices”, “customer and stakeholder” satisfaction, and the like.
When asked by a reporter for a local newspaper in August 1996 to define “world class”, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks responded… “World class standards are qualitative measures of the performance or attributes of a product, service or organization. They are acknowledged, accepted and admired by customers, stakeholders and competitors alike, as measures that distinguish the product, service or organization as one of the best in its class.”
Apparently, it makes no difference to the leadership of our schools whether we are dealing with cars, toasters, or children.
A respected Language Arts teacher and former ‘Teacher of the Year” remarked after reading Mr. Wilbank’s statement above, “I am not aware that any clear ‘world class’ standards exist in education since the world is so diverse in its cultures and philosophies. Therefore, I don’t believe that world class is an appropriate, clear and compelling term…Words like ‘customer’, ‘product’ and ‘value-added’ are too business-oriented. The belief that principles of corporate America can be successfully applied in public schools is erroneous, lacking both philosophical validity and empirical support.”
Clearly, the seeds of the almost total disconnect between teachers and GCPS central office officials was already planted and growing more than ten years ago. As time went on, the gap would become an insurmountable chasm.
In addition, by 1996, the central office administrative high command began acquiring fancy new titles as well. The Superintendent became the C.E.O.; the head finance person was now the C.F.O.; a newly devised Division of Educational Leadership would have an Executive Director of School Improvement; the guy who oversees construction henceforth would be known as the Chief Operations Officer. There would soon be a Field Engineer for the Continuous Quality Improvement Office, a Chief Information Officer, a Director of Infrastructure Solutions, and even an Executive Director for the Department of Student Accountability, Assessment, and Advisement for the huge Division of Organizational Advancement.
While teachers and support staff on the frontlines, and probably not a few parents, generally considered these changes cute if not somewhat amusing, certainly few envisioned that such highfalutin language actually portended a future threat to quality education for their children. However, they were mistaken.
The recognized gurus of Total Quality Management theory – which was devised by them for business and industry, not education or artistic endeavors – included W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) and Peter Drucker (1909-2005).
Deming, often called the ‘Father of Quality Management’, was a statistician from Iowa whose research centered on more efficient ways of gathering precise data on variations of manufacturing as a means to improve the quality of a firm’s outputs. His TQM methods were clearly designed for shop operations and factories, with the goal of increasing consumption and production for purposes of fattening profits.
Drucker, an Austrian by birth and later author, investment banker, and then professor of management at NYU’s Graduate School of Business, was fascinated by employees of firms who knew more about their jobs or certain subjects than their bosses or co-workers but yet had to cooperate with others in a large, bureaucratic organization.
According to a Wikipedia biography of Drucker, he was intrigued and impatient with executives who thought they knew best how to run companies. Thus, Drucker set-out to poke holes, though sympathetically, in their beliefs. He wrote 39 books on management theory, focusing on “ manufacturing efficiencies and managerial hierarchies of mass production”.
Deming’s concept of quality management centered around “delighting customers”. However, teachers in non-profit, public schools think it healthier to view students as workers and strive to foster a close relationship with parents that functions instead as a working partnership. Most professional educators do not believe parents want to view their children’s teachers as ‘customer service representatives’. Nor do the majority of parents or teachers believe that the delivery of teaching ‘services’ should be construed or otherwise treated in the same manner as a Bluelight Special at K-Mart.
In addition, public schools are not factories or businesses; they are not for-profit entities; teachers are not as effective or productive when treated as mere replaceable parts on some sort of moving , mass assembly line ; and… should we really be treating the education of our children as simply another bland consumer product ?
Good schools are about cultivating human intellect, skills, and potential; that includes nurturing , reassuring, and supporting children; firing-up young imaginations; reinforcing important values… not goals that can be measured with mathematical precision or efficiency.
TQM As Applied in GCPS
Deming and Drucker were brilliant thinkers and well-intentioned men. While their ideas received only mixed reviews and success within the U.S. corporate community, their theories became wildly popular for many years in Japan, where conformity, obedience, and homogeneous behavior if not thought is traditionally more valued than self-reliance, innovative thinking, reasoned risk, or individual freedom of expression.
The primary reason why much of corporate America rejected TQM schemes, and the main reason why Alvin Wilbanks modified and distorted them for GCPS, was due to the executive disdain for the relinquishing of a substantial degree of control, as required by TQM’s founders, in order to permit and cultivate a bottom-up work environment empowering ordinary workers to participate regularly in problem-solving and decision-making.
In Gwinnett and throughout much of the state, many school managers still commonly behave as if their buildings are personal fiefdoms and those who toil within them little more than vassals or serfs expected to pay homage. In other words, kiss the ring or hit the road. Clearly, this is no way to treat professionals, or indeed, anyone entrusted with the responsibility of educating the next generation of citizens.
Furthermore, Gwinnett County school officials did not even seek to legitimately implement either the Deming or Drucker TQM models when they unilaterally redesigned local school and district management teams. In fact, the heavily modified version of TQM favored by Superintendent Wilbanks, and subsequently forced on the district’s teachers, violates the most important precepts of TQM applications, of which both Deming and Drucker repeatedly warned, including their admonishments to executives and managers to “stop haranguing workers”, “remove barriers to pride in workmanship… and barriers that rob people of joy in their work”, “ do not run companies by the numbers… eliminate numerical goals, numerical quotas and management by objectives”, “use all employees’ broadest expertise and reward it meaningfully”, and by all means possible, “drive out fear and build trust so that everyone can work more effectively” .
The naked truth about working for Gwinnett County Public Schools under the current leadership structure, is that teachers are increasingly being micro-managed to death, while students are often being bored to death thanks to unwarranted administrative interference in the teaching and learning process taking place in the classroom. Most teachers and staff are not afforded a role in decision-making and their opinions and professional judgement are routinely ignored. The district’s increasing emphasis on devising a “cookbook” plan for uniformly teaching students at all levels is literally sucking the fun and creative energy out of the teaching and learning process for both students and teachers.
Parents might ask themselves this question. “Who is more qualified to direct instruction regarding the specific subjects being taught your children?” Teachers, and not school administrators, are the real curriculum experts and should be, with parents approbation, the instructional leaders and key decision-makers in the schools when issues of teaching and learning, curriculum and instruction , or simply what’s best for kids is in question or under review..
It’s easy to understand why TQM has been a failure, a nightmare for teachers, and the wrong format for educating children.
The industrial management model advocated by the TQM crowd believes that a “one size fits all” approach is best due to the perceived efficiencies inherent in such an approach. Traditional academic-oriented advocates believe that every child is unique, and that schooling must strive harder to customize educational opportunities for learners. In Gwinnett, considerable resources are interjected from time to time for the top achieving students in certain programs (i.e. Gifted classes), as well as for the very lowest achievers due mostly to concerns by Principals about not making the dreaded A.Y.P. (Annual Yearly Progress) as defined by state education authorities via the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Unfortunately, the group which consistently gets “shafted” in terms of funding and attention are the vast populations of students in the middle achievement levels. For example, class sizes for this particular group are always much higher than for higher or lower achievers.
TQM implementation is based on standardizing as many aspects of the teaching/learning process as possible, including tests, technologies, course syllabi, lesson plans, projects, teacher grading procedures, and increasingly, teaching methods as well.
TQM management practices tend to be top-down and authoritarian, risk adverse, and geared toward efficiency, organization, and vague notions of productivity.
Traditional academic-oriented educators stress flexibility, creative problem-solving, more empowerment for teachers and more self-reliance, accountability, and assumption of personal responsibility by students for their learning, and greater tolerance by school and county administrators for diverse ideas, teaching styles, and instructional programs for students.
And, there is a disturbing strand of anti-intellectualism among many local school and district leaders that is quite unsettling to teachers and many parents. It would seem reasonable to conclude that promoting and cultivating scholarly pursuits and intellectual development among students should constitute an important goal for schooling, and thus should be reflected in school personnel hired from the top leaders to the newest teacher recruit.
Another obvious but disturbing aspect of the TQM model as mandated in GCPS is the almost total emphasis on quantitative measurements … meaning of course… on numbers, numbers, numbers (rough translation = data derived from standardized tests). In fact, teachers are expressly discouraged from incorporating any serious qualitative measures in their annual professional goals for promoting student growth and achievement.
In other words, if a desired outcome for students cannot be statistically measured, tracked, and compared… it apparently does not merit teacher time or attention. So much for the critical efforts teachers have traditionally made with respect to such insignificant variables as student feelings, experiences, emotions, problems, perceptions, civic values, or character development. Apparently, there is no time or place left for such outdated efforts.
In GCPS, the ‘product’ is marketed under the brand name of ‘A.K.S.’ To assure that the product is ‘ safe’ for consumers, textbooks are usually and carefully selected for the absence of controversial topics or ideas. A “good” text is one bland enough so as not to offend anyone. And, teachers must be extremely careful to avoid discussing or otherwise engaging students in sensitive topics (evolution, religious differences, certain political subjects, subjects involving race, ethnicity, love, sexuality, drugs, or disabilities, certain local school or school board policies, etc.) lest they are reprimanded or dismissed ( should a complaint be registered) for having committed the unpardonable sin of straying from the official curriculum previously written by a handful of individuals whose ideas and attitudes were approved in advance by district administrators.
The obsession by school managers and district administrators with feeding students unrelated facts so as to improve test scores often translates into under-utilized media centers in middle and high schools, fewer field trips or guest speakers, more superficial projects for students, less time spent discussing the significance of current events, etc., because teachers cannot afford the instructional time lest test scores decline slightly.
A decade ago, it was widely deemed unethical and unprofessional for teachers to “teach the test”. Under the new reality , teachers are being pressured to do exactly the opposite ( this is termed “curriculum realignment”) lest their students suffer a competitive disadvantage resulting from lower standardized test scores than students in other districts.However, most teachers continue to resist this pressure.
Most importantly, TQM and ‘Standards’ Models for public schools rely almost exclusively on the emphasis of “high stakes” standardized tests, although the vast majority of veteran teachers insist these snapshot-in-time measurements have extremely limited applications, do not accurately determine what most students actually know or can do, and are often embraced by administrators as an excuse to supercede the classroom teacher’s judgment about student progress and achievement levels and to justify their interference.
Since public school leaders have designed the entire learning environment for students around the tests (it should be the other way around), with the only goal being to increase numerical scores, the phenomena continues to beg the question, “Are all these standardized examinations true indicators of what a child actually knows or how he/she will fare in college or in life… or merely how accomplished the student has become at mastering the plethora of test-taking strategies taught him/her throughout a dozen years of schooling and indoctrination?”
TQMers therefore MUST defend all the testing to the bitter end because failure to do so signifies they must abandon a long cherished myth – that standardized test scores correlate to student achievement or achievement potential – a myth carefully crafted in the ‘public mind’ by those who seek to control the education agenda. More likely is the proposition that certain standardized tests simply reveal how good of a test-taker and how much of a mainstream thinker is the student.
Mainstream thinkers are not the individuals that historically advance human knowledge and civilization. Besides, a bunch of poorly worded multiple choice questions can not even remotely divulge whether the student possesses practical or theoretical knowledge, or whether the child can apply it in terms of the ability to critically think, innovate or improvise, or otherwise problem-solve their way to a solution or greater understanding.
When Leadership Fails
Warren Bennis wrote in Why Leaders Can’t Lead (1989), “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. Both roles are crucial, but they differ profoundly. I often observe people in top positions doing the wrong thing well.”
Better still is a July 1990 comment from the New York Times attributed to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan… “You can lead an organization through persuasion or formal edict. I have never found the arbitrary use of authority to control an organization either effective or, for that matter, personally interesting. If you cannot persuade your colleagues of the correctness of your position, it is probably worthwhile to rethink your own.”
Strong, progressive, and democratic leadership makes all the difference, whether in the context of a single business, a conglomerate, politics, the military, government , a school or a large and sophisticated school system such as Gwinnett County.
Quality leadership in education here in Georgia has historically been lacking and has relegated the state to the basement when it comes to student achievement. This void also appears to be the Achilles’ heel of GCPS. It is both unfortunate and telling that both former Governor Roy Barnes and former State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko would likely poll higher than Alvin Wilbanks on an internal popularity survey in Gwinnett among certified teachers and support staff as well as classified employees. And while a leader does not have to be popular to be effective, the survey results for effectiveness likewise would almost certainly be an embarrassment.
In fact, School Board members might best serve their constituents by permitting district personnel to complete such a survey, though containing only one vital question –
“Do you have confidence in the leadership of GCPS Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, Yes or No ?”
Veteran observers in GCPS have noted through the years that administrative hires for local schools and central office positions frequently, though with many notable exceptions, are not based on merit or in some cases even competence. Indeed, over the past decade, only two attributes stand out as being critical for upper-level management – loyalty and strict obedience.
Classroom teachers have watched in recent years as many highly experienced assistant principals, especially in middle and high schools, with long years of successful service to Gwinnett, have been frozen in their current positions, nudged into retirement, or unceremoniously ignored or shoved aside while a new cadre of young, inexperienced and highly ambitious replacements, eager and willing to immerse themselves and their schools in industrial management practices, are trained at locations such as Dacula High or North Gwinnett High Schools , then “fast-tracked” into local schools as head principals (at the high school level, the most recent examples having occurred at Peachtree Ridge, Norcross, and Grayson).
Frequently lost on numerous school leaders in Gwinnett is any logical or coherent philosophy that adequately defines or clarifies their roles as school leaders. This is the fault as well as the responsibility of senior district officials. So here is a complimentary refresher course of some free samples for Principals and school C.E.O.’s.
First, Your most important duty is to identify, carefully interview, investigate, and hire the best qualified applicant for EVERY available position in the facility, including teachers, counselors, media specialists, clerks, custodians, principals, etc. Attempting to lure the most talented people away from other schools is perfectly acceptable. Don’t worry about offending fellow Principals or hurting their feelings.
Such competitive hiring practices would force all school leaders to improve working conditions for employees and to improve relationships with them as well. Highly qualified and happy employees make excellent schools and even make poor or mediocre school leaders appear talented and successful.
Second, it’s all about PEOPLE, not process or numbers. Cultivate and maintain a positive and pleasant work environment, as you scout out and induce the best employees to come work for your school, and the rest will take care of itself over time. Good relationships also extend to students, parents, and all other visitors to the school.
Third, your background does not qualify you to serve as, or otherwise claim the title of ‘Instructional Leader’ or ‘Curriculum Expert’ for the whole school. Make sure your people understand their duties and responsibilities to students… then ask continuously what you can do for them to support their mission to educate and assist students. Teachers are primarily responsible for students. Administrators are there to support teachers. Your role will be validated by comments from students, parents, teachers, support staff, and community leaders expressing their pride and joy to be associated with the school you lead.
Fourth, don’t attempt to micro-manage anything. Trust your faculty and give them lots of latitude. Permit faculty leaders and veterans to take active roles and exercise some authority in hiring , training, mentoring, and monitoring new people. Make it clear that all opinions and suggestions will be welcome. The best results inevitably occur when employees have “ownership” of their duties as well as the full support of their supervisors. Maintain an ‘open door policy’ and convince even the skeptics that dissenting views will not be negatively reinforced. Also, remember that most teachers did not become teachers so that administrators could turn them into accountants, statisticians, data-entry clerks, career counselors, and the like. Work tirelessly to take unnecessary duties away from teachers that detract from their ability to directly serve the interests of their students. In most schools, especially at the secondary level, parent volunteers are severely underutilized or discouraged. Why turn this free labor away?
Fifth, hire with an eye for gathering a very diverse group of teachers and staff. Encourage not just human diversity as pertaining to race, religion, gender, and ethnicity, but also diversity of ideas within the faculty and diversity of teaching methods and other strategies for reaching kids. School leaders have no ethical, moral, or professional “right” in seeking to build a faculty in their own image.
Sixth, using fear, threats, coercion, manipulative practices, the withholding of resources, playing favorites, verbal abuse, unwarranted reprimands, aggressive behaviors, isolating or abandoning employees, or assigning meaningless tasks as punishments do not make effective schools. In fact, such practices only serve to undermine respect for the leadership and call into question the qualifications of school administrators.