Thursday, July 06, 2006

Principal Assignment Process

Below is an excerpt from the district's five-year plan, last updated in May 2005.

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To Improve District Leadership, We Will:

  1. Recruit, develop, retain, and promote highly effective and diverse leaders system-wide by:
    - Increasing the number of leadership staff who reflect the diversity of the student population;
    - Developing a targeted and coordinated professional development program that includes cultural competence;
    - Revising the principal selection, assignment, and transfer process to enhance family and community involvement and make the process smoother;
    - Improving morale and working conditions (environmental health, physical health, and emotional health);
    - Working with our higher education partners to improve their teacher and leader training programs for urban school districts; and
    - Developing and implementing a staffing plan for Seattle Public Schools that includes, but is not limited to, workforce diversity, staff recruitment, staff retention, staff recognition, staff deployment, compensation, and instructional needs;

    **************

This excerpt raises several issues.

1) This five-year plan is both too detailed and too vague. Five goals, all worthy, are vague enough that they could mean anything and everything. Just this one point under the leadership goal has six bullet points, all of which would be time-consuming efforts to fully accomplish. It is not possible for the district to realistically pursue all the efforts outlined in this plan. The district should pick fewer objectives, and then truly focus on accomplishing them.

2) The objective the district should focus on now is the one I highlighted above in bold:

"Revising the principal selection, assignment, and transfer process to enhance family and community involvement and make the process smoother"

I have not been able to find any official district policy on how the principal selection, assignment and transfer process is supposed to work, but the reality I have observed and read about is appalling.

3) A well-written five-year plan with a realistic scope and appropriate focus should be guiding all policy decisions and discussions. It would ensure consistent direction by staff and Board members, and help improve communications with a clear message. The five-year plan, as written, is useless for any of these purposes, which is probably why I have not heard a single staff person or Board member refer to it during policy discussions.

6 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think that there are a few documents that every school activist should be familiar with.

The Five Year Plan is one of these. As you review the Five Year Plan, take note of the broad scope, the variation in detail, and, most importantly, the total lack of implementation.

Another document that everyone should know is the Superintendent's Accountability Plan. As you review the Accountability Plan, take note of the differences between the long, thoughtful, and comprehensive list of actions that the Superintendent says need to be taken, the much shorter and less comprehensive list of actions the Superintendent commits to doing, and the nearly non-existent list of actions that have actually been done. Whom do we hold accountable for failing to fulfill the accountability plan? It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Seriously, you will laugh out loud as you read this.

Activists should be familiar with the report and recommendations from the School-Family Partnership Committee and the Superintendent's response to their report. This is a clear expression of what the district says they believe about community engagement, which contrasts strongly with the district's actions in this arena.

You don't need to memorize the District Profile, but you should know where to find it and what is in it. Likewise the District Improvement Plan.

I would recommend reading through the titles of and select sections of District Policy. You would be AMAZED at what you will find in there. You will also see how little heed is paid to these policies. They are violated regularly and openly without any accountability at all.

Finally, you should know at least the structure of the budget documents including the General Fund budget and the Blue Book. In this case it is important to note how funds are allocated to buildings through the foundation allocation, the weighted student formula, compensatory education funds, and grants. It is also important to note how expenses are accounted for in school budgets.

GiGi said...

I could not a agree more. Consistent leadership through a solid principal is key to the success of neighborhood schools.

While I was touring schools in North Seattle, I was surprised to find that almost every principal was new. This doesn’t mean they were bad. In fact, I was impressed with most of them. However, with principals coming and going so frequently in many of the schools, it is difficult to initiate longer term improvements.

Charlie Mas said...

Nearly every principal is new everywhere. The Superintendent has replaced nearly all of them in the past three years. There are very few schools that can boast of consistent leadership.

Beth Bakeman said...

Following Charlie's suggestion, I posted links to many of the resources he mentioned so we can all more easily locate and use them.

However, I was unable to find the superintendent's Accountability Plan. Anyone able to locate it? If so, let me know and I'd be happy to link to it.

GiGi said...

Charlie-

So why is that? Is there any rationale offered by the superintendent or the school district? As a prospective parent who is not completely ignorant of how schools operate, I can say that this doesn’t inspire confidence in the district, let alone the individual schools I was looking at.

The improvements I would like to see in the neighborhood schools will not happen overnight. They require vision at the local level that can be carried through over multiple years.

Charlie Mas said...

There is no link to the Superintendent's accountability Plan. The Superintendent's office will send you a WORD document copy on request. I have one and will send it to Beth.

This reminds me of another good set of documents to read: the ones around the CACIEE including their preliminary report, their final report, and the May 3, 2006 implementation status report:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/main/Public_Affairs/06_may_report.pdf


Of these, the most important (and the most disappointing) is the May 3 implementation status report. They really haven't done very much. In fact, in the report, they essentially acknowledge that the district's culture renders most of the most critical reforms impossible. Through much of the 21 pages they write "Yes, this is vitally important and we're going to try to find a way to do this. It is an on-going effort."