Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another Superintendent Search meeting

I attended another Superintendent Search meeting this morning at the Stanford Center. It was, including myself, 8 women and 3 guys from Ray & Associates. They assured us that the numbers of people they are seeing at these meetings is about par but it seems very low to me. One woman there said she had gone to the Whitman one and it was about 12 people while the Hamilton one I attended was about 8 people.

I felt this meeting was somewhat different from the Hamilton meeting as the people there seemed to want to put a rosier face on our district than at the Hamilton meeting. (I offered no opinions at the meeting as I had already spoken at the previous meeting. I made one correction when one woman said she wanted the superintendent to "manage" the Board and I told her that the Board legally manages the superintendent so that wouldn't be possible. She just shrugged and said she didn't agree. If any superintendent thinks that managing the Board is part of the job description that person is going to have a hard time here.) They also stated as top qualities to be knowledgable about education and have a proven record of academic achievement.

This group was different in that one woman was trying to talk about faith-based organizations being a part of the district, that while closures and consolidations is a critical issue facing the district that equity seems to be the most important. No one wanted to reinvent the wheel but rather have a vision (possibly the one put forth by the Superintendent's Committee) and carry it through.

I had noted that the consultants had said that there would be a board meeting on Jan. 31 to formally approve a candidate profile however the district website called it a work session. The Board can't vote at a work session and it will be changed to reflect that it is a real Board meeting (albeit truncated just for this purpose). I do believe you could sign up to speak as that is a normal part of every board meeting.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Managing the board is an critical part of any superintendent's role. Not in the technical sense that you speak of Melissa, but in a practical sense. The operation of the SPS board is a direct result of poor management by district leadership. Boards are volunteers- districts must actively partner with them instead of the passive style that SPS admin has taken as of late.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I disagree. I think the superintendent and the board have to have a good working relationship based on mutual respect and trust and believe in working on one vision for the district. But unless that isn't happening, then I don't believe a superintendent can be blamed for problems on a board. Every potential board member, from the time he or she decides to run, has to believe that they are part of a team and that compromise and consensus are the order of the day. I just don't see how it's the superintendent's job to unite them if they come in with their own agendas from the start.

Charlie Mas said...

It is not the Superintendent's job to manage the Board.

It is the Board's job to manage the Superintendent.

Unfortunately, the Board has no management tools. They can write policy, but they have no means of enforcement. If the Superintendent doesn't want to follow or enforce the Policies, there isn't much the Board can do other than give the Superintendent a poor performance evaluation or a pink slip. So if the issue doesn't rise to the level of termination, the Board is powerless.

Anonymous said...

On a certain level you are both right. On a practical level you are wrong. Good superintendents do this- heck, they even talk about how to do this. As do CEOs who work with boards and University presidents. Should they be held to account for a fully disfunctional board of extremists? No.

On a practical (and political) level do good leaders manage their boards? Yes. Did Raj do this? No. If we expect the sames things we will continue to get the same outcomes.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

Is this is a semantics issue? Yes, he doesn't manage the Board in the technical sense.
But, perhaps Anonymous' point (which I totally agree with) is that a good employee (especially an employee with MULTIPLE bosses who are part-time AND unpaid) can do a lot to help his bosses succeed (or not). A great superintendent candidate wouldn't just wait for commands, but would proactively participate the leadership process (which some might call "managing the Board").

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I posted my notes from a different superintendent search meeting on the CPPS yahoo group, for those who are interested. (I think it's a bit long to repost here in a comment.) You can find it at: groups.yahoo.com/group/cppsofseattle/message/367

Melissa Westbrook said...

You may believe that the Board is dysfunctional but extremists? Michael deBell, Cheryl Chow, Irene Stewart, etc.? Those people are not extremists. Be fair and name names if you want to but don't slap a label on all of them.

I went and read Andrew's post about his experience at the superintendent search and agree with most everything he said. (Odd, though, because Ray and Associates said nothing to either group I went to about the survey being intellectual property. They said it would be impossible to put it online and then have people only vote once. I have to wonder why they said two different things.)

I want to especially point out one thing that Andrew said that was on point.

"Today in SPS, the District has an annual budgeting process, but no
unified academic planning process to precede it. The District's five-
year-plan includes many good ideas and was an earnest effort at a
strategic plan, but without explicit priorities it fails as a toolfor decision making across the organization. It also lacks an ongoingfeedback loop to continually test and hone the strategy. SPS is stillan organization reactively veering from one crisis to the next."

That is absolutely, in a few brief sentences, the crux of much of the district's problems. No unified vision, no way to enact it and no oversight/feedback on how it is working.

I feel this frustration playing out in the BEX III list. The Board was told of the option of waiting a year to hold the election for the levy/bond measures. The reasoning given by staff was to be able to give more consideration to the CACIEE's recommendations, to see how closure and consolidation goes, and to put into place a new enrollment plan (and the transportation changes that would flow from it). All of these items would have a huge impact on facilities and what we need. But no, the Board plunged on perhaps worried by delaying the money for a year. But voters consistently vote for levies and having the best, on-the-ground information would have provided the best list of projects possible.

As an example, the academic side had a very well-thought out and articulated plan for New School and the South Shore building in spring of 2005. New School would move to Dearborn Park and stay a K-5. They were then going to build a middle school at South Shore (with South Lake getting a new building itself elsewhere on the site). But somehow, all that work and planning got dumped and they are at a place of building a preK-8 for New School. Why do these different departments work in isolation?

At both the search meetings I attended, the CACIEE was mentioned. People said they were tired of having committees formed to help the district and then having their work shelved. And the CACIEE did particularly good, thoughtful work which deserves enactment.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

I said I fully agreed with Anonymous, but reading more closely, I do agree with Melissa that it is incorrect to characterize the Board as "fully disfunctional" and "extremists." I only meant to agree that it is fair to expect an executive to manage his board. I think that's true even for an outstanding Board. Oops...