Monday, October 13, 2008

The Superintendent

As I continue to read about leadership, my latest excursion is The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, the question from yesterday's post about atmosphere remains unanswered. Additionally, I am trying to compare educational roles to the business roles. The Superintendent would seem to be the CEO.
The CEO is responsible for casting the vision, defining the mission, building the executive team, and creating the culture of the organization. In a similar vein, the Superintendent provides the vision and the mission while bringing senior leadership--including the principals--together. Ultimately, it is the Superintendent who must create a culture of success within the system. When a school's culture grows restless or downright negative, it is the Superintendent who is responsible for changing the atmosphere.
Joseph Michelli, author of The Starbucks Experience, writes: When...disconnect exists, it is usually because senior management has failed to demonstrate to staff members the contructive impact they have on those they serve (20).
The current climate within the building I teach is bordering on downright negative. Teachers are being forced to attend more meetings and professional development but have yet to see how that impacts our students. Poorly organized meetings focused on Data Driven Decision Making have failed to produce the effect intended. This isn't to say that this new focus on student achievement is without merit, and it is easy for senior leadership to assume that test scores went up last year because of these teams. Unfortunately, the gap between our intended target of these data teams and our already succeeding students grew by a ridiculous amount.
Secondly, teachers who were placed on grade level teams and asked to meet regularly to plan lessons and discuss methods for helping students have been given the same amount of duties as the other teachers in the building who do not have the same responsibilities as the team teachers.
Thirdly, the pay level in the district does not allow young single teachers, a growing demographic, to live comfortably in this high cost state of Connecticut. As a result they are having to pick up jobs with tutoring services, after-school programs, and package stores in order to suppor their habit of teaching. This is not what is in the best interest of students.
In the final analysis, such conditions are obviously negative and ultimately the responsibility of the Superintendent. While it remains true that many underperforming districts need to address the instructional weaknesses which exist, it also remains equally true that those weaknesses will never be addressed correctly if the staff is not engaged in the process. The demanding leader, ones like Chancellor Rhee in Washington DC, might opt for the hard nosed approach which means staff gets fired. I'm in favor of firing poorly performing teachers. However, the building atmosphere and culture must be a positive one if such leaders wish to fill those newly empty classrooms with professionals capable of creating classroom success.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home