I get this question from time to time. I get it from a lot of good, well-intentioned people. "Instead of fighting the District (or the Board, or the Alliance, or the Times, or whatever other institution) all of the time, why don't you try working WITH them to accomplish your shared goals?"
The question arises periodically as new people come to the situation and so should be answered periodically.
I do, on a fairly regular basis, try to work WITH all of these groups that I appear to be in conflict with. It never seems to come off however. There are a number of reasons why efforts to cooperate fail.
1. Let's remember that, as often as not, my primary complaint about these groups is that they refuse to work in cooperation with the community. As often as not, just asking the question "Why don't you stop complaining and try to cooperate?" is evidence that the complaint has not been heard because the top complaint is "Why won't you let us cooperate with you?" So, just to be clear, the number one reason that I don't cooperate with these groups is because they won't let me. It's not personal. They won't let anyone else cooperate with them either.
I once had a meeting with Steve Wilson when he was CAO. He asked me the question "Why can't you work with us?" I instantly responded "I would LOVE to! What can I do? Give me a task. Give me work I can do." He was completely flummoxed. He had absolutely no response because he had absolutely no vision for how a member of the community could cooperate with the District. He had no vision for it because he had no interest in it. It wasn't a sincere offer, it was a feeble effort to score points in an argument. When it is real instead of rhetoric, I'll be there with my gloves and boots. The main reason I'm camped outside is because they won't let me in.
2. I can't work with some of these organizations because they are horribly misguided. The Alliance took off running with this whole teacher quality thing, but they had no definition of teacher quality, no measure of teacher quality, no idea what the hell they meant by the words "teacher quality". They might as well have been talking about pixie dust. Yet that didn't slow them down a bit because they were paid a lot of money to make noise about "teacher quality" so that's what they were doing. No matter how much money is behind it, the effort was misguided and will continue to be misguided until they know what the heck they're talking about. The Gates Foundation is, just now, undertaking a big, expensive project to define and quantify teacher effectiveness. It's going to cost millions and take years, but it is the necessary first step that they had failed to take first.
I'm not going to participate in misguided efforts, but I do participate in the ones that make sense and actually help students. I have served, and served diligently, on a number of District-appointed committees and have always worked hard and contributed in those roles.
3. I can't work with some of these organizations because their idea of cooperation is for everyone to agree with them and support their idea uncritically. To join them is to join them in an echo chamber. I can't work with anyone who isn't open to discussion and who isn't open to the possibility that they could be wrong. People who are absolutely convinced that they have the one Truth scare the poop out of me. The more people are convinced that that they are right, the greater their capacity to do wrong. Of course, I could be wrong about that. As often as not, the only cooperation they seek is an end to opposition.
4. Often, the cooperation they offer is strictly one way - I agree with them, I do their work, I help them achieve their goals. That's not cooperation, that's submission. They talk of partnership, but in their give-and-take I do all of the giving and they do all of the taking. They aren't willing to start the partnership until the decisions are made, the solutions are determined and it time for the work and expense to begin.
5. They don't hold up their side of the partnership. We come to an agreement. I will do this work and they will do that work. I do my work but they don't do their work. There are multiple cases when the District did not fulfill their commitments. In fact, there are very very few cases in which the District DID fulfill their commitments. Their credit is exhausted.
Yet I persist. I do make the offer to these groups from time to time. I do contact them and ask how we can work together. Usually, they don't have an answer, or they only ask me to shut up. Sometimes they ask me to contact them first with my concerns rather than writing them on the blog. I do for a while, but they don't respond in a timely manner so it doesn't work for me.