Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

I recently had a discussion with Dr. Michael Hynes, the district superintendent in Port Washington, New York.

Our ZOOM discussion was sponsored by the Network for Public Education.

Mike Hynes is unusual because he believes in whole-child education. He is a revolutionary. He doesn’t think that test scores are important. He thinks schools should be places of joy. He believes in collaboration with staff. He shadows children to learn how their days are spent.

He is a different kind of superintendent.

Is he the wave of the future?

This story was first reported in the Los Angeles Education Examiner by Sara Roos.

I mistakenly attributed the initial reporting to parent advocate Carl Petersen .

Roos reported that Superintendent Austin Beutner, a former investment banker, has brought management consultants Bain and Company to provide strategic guidance to the district.

With Governor Cuomo assigning the task of “reimagining” education in New York, and Austin Beutner calling on Bain and Company, it bears mentioning that none of these people are educators.

Los Angeles has an elected school board.

Why is the superintendent turning to a management consulting business with no experience in education to guide the district in these troubled times? Why isn’t the school board, which is Beutner’s employer, making the strategic decisions?

This is “disaster capitalism” (Naomi Klein’s apt term) at its worst. This is another instance of the Pandemic Shock Doctrine.

Beutner works for the board. They should stop him before he outsources the district management to unaccountable and unqualified “experts.”

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, warns of the dangers of coronavirus capitalism. She notes that some elected boards have granted unusual powers to their superintendents to make contracts. Seattle’s superintendent, she says, has signed some doozies.

It is especially sad to see Seattle in this trouble, as the parents and educators there have been unusually vigilant in protecting their public schools, especially after a Broadie made some terrible decisions.

One inexplicable decision was to hire a “strategy firm” to improve her image at the same time that teachers were being laid off.

Juneau also hired a private strategy firm Strategies 360, while teachers were losing their jobs due to budgetary restraints. Seattle Public Schools has a communications department well established within the district. Why was an additional private firm needed? A former Seattle superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, hired the same firm to assist with her public image, but to no avail.

Carl Cohn is a veteran educator who served as superintendent in Long Beach and in San Diego. He has received many awards for his service.

The selection of a new superintendent in Long Beach prompted him to write his thoughts about previous crises faced by the district and about the importance of teachers today. No superintendent can succeed without building relationships of mutual respect and collaboration with trusted teachers.

I first met Carl Cohn when he was selected to clean up the damage done by the first effort to disrupt a school district. That was San Diego. At the turn of the century, San Diego was one of the most successful urban districts in the nation—perhaps the most successful—but the school board decided it needed a massive overhaul. They hired lawyer Alan Bersin to disrupt the district. I described what happened there—including demoralization of teachers, and a philosophy of changing everything all at once because (as the saying then went) “you can’t jump over a canyon in two leaps.” The philosophy of the leadership was that change had to be abrupt, immediate, and “pedal to the metal.” Billionaires sent money. Books were written about the “bold” reforms. The infighting and controversy became so inflamed that the public eventually threw out the “reform” school board. San Diego, however, was the model for Joel Klein’s disruptions in New York City, which were the model for the same in D.C., and on and on.

I spent a week in the district interviewing teachers and principals and school board members. My last interview was with Carl Cohn. I saw him as a calming figure whose job was to restore morale, order, and professionalism. He succeeded.

After the collapse of the disruption era, the San Diego school board hired an experienced educator, Cindy Marten, who had been a teacher and principal in the district. Although she has had to impose devastating budget cuts, she has been a steady hand at the tiller. I met her in 2006, when she was a principal, running a progressive child-centered school. When I visited San Diego a few years ago, she took me for a drive, and I surprised myself for taking a paragliding ride at Torrey Pines. Needless to say, I am delighted that San Diego has such trustworthy, experienced leadership again.

I began my book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education with the San Diego story. It is a cautionary tale. If you read one chapter in that book, read that one. It ends with my interview of Carl Cohn.

Angelica Infante-Green, the Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island, selected Harrison Peters as the takeover superintendent of Providence.

Peters announced his initial plans, which sound sensible, like implementing restorative justice in schools and assessing which schools need emergency repairs.

However, the article suggests that the big reform plan will be rolled out in April.

Keep an eye on this because Peters is already a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” where he has been designated a “future” chief. Chiefs for Change is an organization that adheres to Bush’s harsh ideas about testing, school closings, school report cards, and charter schools. And, of course, Jeb is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for vouchers.

Peter Greene writes here about the forgotten role of the principal and superintendent. It is not to promote misguided and harmful policies such as those that were central to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, but to fight against them and to protect their staff as best they can against misguided mandates. For most of the past two decades, however, the folks at the top blew with the wind and went along with what they surely knew were very bad ideas.

He writes:

A manager’s job– and not just the management of a school, but any manager– is to create the system, environment and supports that get his people to do their very best work. When it rains, it’s the manager’s job to hold an umbrella over his people. When the wind starts blowing tree limbs across the landscape, it’s the manager’s job to stand before the storm and bat the debris away. And when the Folks at the Top start sending down stupid directives, it’s a manager’s job to protect his people the best he possibly can.

NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core, the high stakes Big Standardized Tests– each of these bad policies is bad for many reason, but the biggest one is this: instead of helping teachers do their jobs, these policies interfere with teachers doing their jobs, even mandate doing their jobs badly. In each case a bunch of educational amateurs pushed their way into schools and said, “You’re doing it all wrong from now on, you have to do it like this,” like medically untrained non-doctors barging into a surgical procedure to say, “Stop using that sterile scalpel and use this rusty shovel instead.”

That was bad. But it is base betrayal when, in that situation, management turns to its trained, professional workers and says, “Well, you heard the man. Pick up that rusty shovel.”

John Ogozalek teaches in rural upstate New York.

He writes:

Let’s hope we dodge this bullet as a nation.

But it sounds like the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to go sideways.

What if schools close for weeks -if not months?

What will teachers do during this time off? (Assuming we’re not taking care of family in our own homes.)

And, let’s face it, the idea of teaching online just isn’t going to last long if at all for many K-12 schools. Seriously.

Here’s the thing…

Teachers represent an already organized, very locally based force -across the entire nation.

Instead of waiting for the federal government’s response to get organized (which under Trump’s leadership seems like a disaster in the making as valuable time slips by) perhaps our unions and school districts can get moving on this challenge right now.

Hopefully, we won’t be needed. But why not get ready to help?

I do not want to sit around my house if school is closed.

Could I volunteer with a local doctor? Check on shut ins?

At the minimum, schools can have meetings right now to make sure teachers and staff have accurate contact information including alternate means to communicate in case the internet is stressed. What happens to families who are lacking child care? And, those kids who rely on school lunch?

We can start to organize and at least offer our volunteer assistance to the government. A sort of “Teacher Force” at the ready for those of us who can lend a hand.

By moving forward without fear and working together maybe we can create a model for other groups? And, most importantly, offer some help to the children in our communities.

You have contact with people in charge of things in this country, especially union leaders.

I think this idea might get off the ground pretty quickly if an organization like NYSUT, for example, gets local presidents on it. Of course, we’d include administrators and anyone else in the school who wants to pitch in. We’d need a thoughtful template to respond effectively…a plan informed by public health experts. A package of possible options that local schools can consider and perhaps choose from.

Just an idea, Diane. Maybe the higher ups somewhere are already thinking in this direction?

If not, maybe we should….

Educator Jen Mangrum won the Democratic primary for State Superintendent of Education. She had the support of the state’s biggest teacher associations, and she won the endorsement of the Network for Public Education Action.

Jen is a native of North Carolina whose parents were public school teachers. After graduating college, she taught second and third graders and specialized in early childhood education for 15 years. She earned graduate degrees and became a teacher educator.

Distraught with the General Assembly’s disrespect for the state’s teachers, she launched a long shot campaign against the most powerful politician in the state in 2018. She didn’t win but she persisted in fighting to restore respect and dignity to the state’s educators. North Carolina has moreNational Board Certified teachers proportionally than any other state.

Her Republican opponent, Catherine Truitt, was an advisor to Governor McCrory, who led the attacks on teachers and introduced charters and vouchers. She is now leader of an online university.

NPE Action is proud to have endorsed Jen and wish her well in her November race. We hope every public school parent and teacher will help her. She can lead the charge to revive the Tarheel State’s reputation for educational leadership.

Oklahoma has an elected state superintendent of schools. Her name is Joy Hofmeister. Amazingly, she is a strong friend of public schools, and has done her best to shield them from a penny-pinching, anti-education legislature that puts tax cuts first, children last.

So of course, the conservative Republican governor Kevin Stitt thinks it is time to get rid of the elected superintendent and give him the power to choose someone more to his liking, who will not fight to fund the public schools as Hofmeister has. Several years ago, I spoke in the Sooner State and met Superintendent Hofmeister. I thought she was impressive and well-informed. Oklahoma is lucky to have her.

Somehow, a lot of Oklahomans like the idea that they can have some role in picking the state superintendent.

Since they have a very good one, they should keep her. You can be sure that Governor Stitt wants someone who will cut the education budget and demoralize teachers.

The Resistance grows!

Press Advisory: Thirty Regional School Superintendents To Come Together to Defend Public Education, Joining Public District Leaders from Across the State to Urge Reform of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law

When: Monday, January 27, 2020 10 a.m.

Where: Whitehall Elementary, 399 North Whitehall Road Norristown, PA 19403

Leaders Form Coalition and Support a Moratorium on New Charter Enrollment Until Laws Can be Reformed

Leaders from public school districts in the five-county Greater Philadelphia region are joining with others from across the state in calling for meaningful, substantive reform of Pennsylvania’s charter school laws. They also support a moratorium on new charter school applications and a freeze on additional seats for students at existing charters until reform is enacted. Public school superintendents and other top school administrators recently formed LEARN, Leaders for Educational Accountability and Reform Network, as a way to coalesce around urgent issues impacting public schools, such as charter reform. They are calling for reform to the way charters are funded, as well as an improvement in accountability and oversight. Citing an extremely inequitable funding system, LEARN says charter schools, which are often among the worst performing schools in the state, are straining public systems. Extreme increases in charter costs are sending an increasingly greater amount of public tax dollars to charters, over which locally elected school boards have little-to-no authority or oversight. LEARN wants to bring charter tuition payments in line with actual school district costs and provide more accountability.

Contact: Dr. Frank Gallagher, Superintendent in the Souderton Area School District

 

“School choice advocates argue that every child learns differently, and parents have a right to choose the kind of school best suited to their child’s needs. But the public education system was designed as a public benefit, with a different purpose in mind: to provide education to every person, despite their special or specific needs and limitations. Those advocates aren’t wrong in demanding better options for public education and its current failures. We all should be demanding that. Schools supported by all should work for all. Parents can make a different choice, but shouldn’t rely on the rest of us to pay for it.”