How to identify abusive and incompetent Pub-Ed administrators and elected school boards

27 May

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).

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5 responses to “How to identify abusive and incompetent Pub-Ed administrators and elected school boards

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    May 28, 2014 at 06:40

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:

    If you’ve worked under both good and bad management, you learn the signs, and China Unified Valley School District is currently under the management of incompetent fools. It could be the school board or administration or both.


    May 31, 2014 at 09:08


    Thank you for blogging about the CVUSD. Unfortunately, the video clip via your link does not play. I don’t know if the play function somehow turned off when you uploaded it onto your Crazynormal blog.

    Anyway, thank you for writing the blog. I wish there were more administrators like Ralph Pagan.

    Take care.


    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      May 31, 2014 at 11:11

      Thinking that the problem might be the browser you’re using, I checked the embedded video using Google Chrome and it worked. I then tried it with Firefox and it took more time to load but it worked. Last, I tried it through Microsoft Explorer and it worked. The problem may be with your security or the provider you use to get on the Internet.

      Do you use any of those three browsers? I use all three but I don’t use the one that Apple provides for their computers and tablets. I think there’s is called Safari.

      Can you call a friend who uses a different system and provider and ask them to check to see if it works?

      The last resort would be to click on the YouTube link in the lower right hand corner of the video screen and go to YouTube to watch it.

  3. Sergio Osio Ph D

    January 14, 2016 at 21:44

    I call it Educational Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome {e.g. e-PTSD] based on my 42 years of teaching STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] Subjects and Teacher Education from JH-HS-Colleges and University in five countries in Asia, Africa and North America. Everywhere, there are Lemon Administrators who prey on their subordinates. That is because of their academic inadequacy and archaic leadership. Administrators who perform both instructional and administrative leadership have a feel of what is classroom management, This results to high academic and ethical standards among students, support staff, parents, teachers and administrators in the learning environment. That was my experience in the Philippines, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Republic of South Africa.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      January 14, 2016 at 22:05

      I think all school administrators, even district superintendents, should be required to teach at least one class a day every day all year and not Honors and/or AP classes, but the most challenge students.


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