Don’t read me wrong as you read this post. There are some great administrators in the public schools but some are horrible and in this post you will meet a few.
The problem is that the incompetent administrators don’t think they’re incompetent—they think everyone else is. Imagine a school with a hundred teachers and one really bad principal and he thinks most of the teachers don’t know what they are doing so he tells them what to do and that advice backfires. Who do you think gets blamed for that principal’s failure?
In addition, school boards are elected and sometimes some can be misguided and ignorant, and it doesn’t help when the district administration is just as bad or worse.
It’s actually easy to identify the incompetent administrators if you know what to look for. With 13,600 public school districts in the U.S. and more than 1,000 of them in California where I taught for thirty years, it makes sense that some would eventually end up being managed by idiots who would make Hitler, Mao and Stalin envious.
My first full-time teaching job started in 78-79 when Ralph Pagan, my first principal, hired me one summer and asked me to drive from Chicago to Southern California by Monday. The call came 48 hours before the school year started, and we drove straight through only stopping for gas. That was quite a drive.
The first three years before that phone call, (75-78), I was a full-time, paid intern (75-76), and then a substitute for the next two years in seven school districts.
I think Ralph Pagan was a genius, and he spoiled me. He managed Giano Intermediate like the schools in Finland by turning the school over to the teachers and together with Ralph’s support we turned a school that had a bad reputation and was considered one of the most dangerous schools in California’s San Gabriel Valley into a success story.
Ralph supported the teacher teams on just about every decision made on discipline and curriculum, and he ran interference between district administration and teachers—but we didn’t know that until after he had his heart attack/stroke. The pressure the idiots who worked in the district office caused for Ralph with their incompetence must have been intense to almost kill him and land him in the hospital.
Until I retired in 2005, the few highly placed district administrators in Rowland who managed the district were incompetent, because no matter what language was used to describe how the district was managed, teachers weren’t part of the decision making process. We were usually told what to do by someone who worked in the district office and if that often no-choice mandate didn’t work, teachers got the blame for the failure even if they had never liked what they were forced to do.
In addition, I walked picked lines more than once when the district had more than enough money to cut class size and increase pay to keep up with the cost of living, but the district fought us almost every time we negotiated a new contract. I’ve been out of the classroom now almost ten years, and I have no idea what the elected Rowland Unified school board is like or if the top district administration is competent and fair. I hope so. The teachers deserve the best, and they also deserve to be part of making major decisions that reach into the classroom and affect kids. If a majority of teachers don’t like a curriculum or program that administration is in love with, that program shouldn’t be used.
In this post, I want to shine a spotlight on Chino Valley Unified School District in Southern California. A former colleague-teacher and friend of mine, who once worked at Nogales in Rowland Unified—until he couldn’t stand the incompetent decisions micromanagers out of the district office were making that hurt teachers and kids—left to teach in Chino where he was happy until recent years. Once you watch the video, you’ll know how to identify incomplete public school leadership from the elected school board to the top administration.
My friend wrote in his e-mail: “I thought you might want to read about the sad state of negotiations in my district (The Chino Valley Unified School District). Of course, you experienced this type of negotiating in the Rowland Unified School District when you were teaching. Feel free to use this information in your Crazy Normal blog.”
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”