Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Enforcing Policy: Governance or Management?

Let's set aside, for the moment, the question of whether Seattle Public Schools should enforce policy or not. While it is clear to me that there is no point to having policies if they aren't going to be followed, and that there is no reason to believe that they will be followed if they are not enforced, I want to just take this question as given. I'm happy to come back to this question later. Could we, just for now, presume that we want the policies enforced? I want to move past that question and to focus on the question of who has the duty to enforce policies - the Board or the Superintendent? The answer to that question will hinge on another question: Is the enforcement of policy a governance task or a management task?

The current board is quite fond of meditating on the question of what is governance and what is management, but they have carefully avoided bringing that contemplative power to bear on this question. I say that enforcing policy is a governance task.

I could make a whole long argument and get tangled in the abstractions that distract the board, but it comes down to something much more simple. Let's say that the board were to come together and vote to direct the superintendent to take a specific action, such as review a policy and suggest revisions, make a report, or make a document public. Then, if the superintendent didn't take that action, wouldn't you expect the Board to follow up? Wouldn't you expect the Board to say "Hey, Dr. Enfield, we asked you to make that document public and you haven't done it yet. Please take care of that." or would you expect the Board to remain silent about it and perform no follow-up to prompt the superintendent to fulfill the direction? Nevermind what you might predict the current board would do - what should the board do? We should expect the board to follow up in a situation like that. The alternative would be to expect Dr. Enfield to scold herself for failing to take the action and, all by herself, either remember to take the action that she had forgotten or reverse her thinking and agree to take the action that she had heretofore refused to take.

It's pretty clear that the Board should follow up.

Well, that's all that the Board Policies are. They are a set of things that the Board got together and voted to direct the superintendent to do. And if the superintendent neglects to do one of them (intentionally or otherwise), then the Board should remind her that she has to do it. It is the Board's duty to follow up.

Digression:
Let me note that the primary reason that the current Board has been such a colossal failure - and they have been - is that they have shown themselves to be unwilling - not unable but unwilling - to follow up. They wouldn't follow up on promises by the staff. Consequently, the staff wouldn't follow through on those promises. The examples are legion. I don't have any specific examples; I'll get back to you with those.

At the School Board Candidates Debate last week Director Martin-Morris whined about the absence of any kind of oversight system in place when he joined the board four years ago. That's a lie. There was a system. The system was written into the policies and it was board-driven. Director Martin-Morris and his colleagues joined the Board, failed to read the policies (Policy B61.00 in particular), and then sat around and waited for the staff to do everything. Instead of taking responsibility for oversight - as they should have - they sat around and waited for the staff to orchestrate the oversight. The staff didn't do it - for the perfectly good reason that it isn't their job - and the Board didn't do it, so it didn't get done.

This Board still refuses to accept responsibility for enforcing policy or for oversight. They are trying to push it off onto the superintendent and the staff. That's a HUGE mistake.
Even if you were to claim that policy enforcement is a management responsibility, then you would have to put the task on each supervisor in the district to assure that each direct report complies with the policies. Well, the Board is the superintendent's supervisor and she is their direct report so they have the management responsibility to assure her compliance with policies.

Otherwise you have a situation in which every person working for the district has someone assuring his or her compliance with policy except the superintendent. Since the superintendent is the one person in the district who is most regulated by policy - whole chapters of policy apply exclusively to her - it would be bizarre to leave her without enforcement. So even if policy enforcement were a management responsibility - and in a culture of compliance it is everyone's responsibility - then the board would have the duty to assure the superintendent's compliance as her manager. The alternative would be to leave her to self-police. When has that ever worked?

Although the Board will deny their duty to enforce policy - mostly by remaining silent on the question and simply neglecting the work - they acknowledged their duty to enforce policy in a number of official documents. They acknowledged it in the response to the State Audit. They also acknowledged it in their new Series 1000 policies. Unfortunately they also used the Series 1000 policies to try to delegate the work to the superintendent. Here's the funny thing: enforcing policy is the very heart of governance work, but they don't mention it in their Governance policy.

You can ask Board members the question directly but I don't think you'll get a direct answer. Go ahead and ask them: "Is it the Board's duty to enforce board policy?"

You can also ask them this one: "If the board votes to direct the superintendent to take an action, and the superintendent doesn't take that action, does the board have a duty to follow up and remind the superintendent of the Board's direction?"

That may look like an innocuous question, but for this Board it's a loaded one. They might also talk around that question without answering it. This question is less innocent than it appears because the Board actually did vote to direct the superintendent to take an action, she neglected it, and they failed to follow up. On January 29, 2009 the board directed the superintendent to review and suggest revisions to policy D12.00. She never did it, and they never followed up.

Just the same, if a Board member forgets and answers the question that the Board should, in fact, follow up when they ask the superintendent or the staff to do something, then you can follow up with "And how is that different from a policy which, by a vote of the Board directs the superintendent or staff to take an action?"

If the Board director claims that enforcing policy is the superintendent's duty, then ask them if they expect the superintendent to also enforce the policies that regulate the superintendent's actions. If so, will they be issuing her hand puppets to facilitate her self-policing?

26 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Whoa ... wait just a minute.
Before tackling the Enforcing of Policy,
could we look at obeying the law?


Consider the fact that the Board is currently not following the law WAC 181-79A-231 and the directors clearly do not even care to discuss their ongoing failure.

I had an interesting response from Professional Educator Standards Board Executive Director Jennifer Wallace=>

Mr. Dempsey –
Sorry I missed your visit to the PESB and I will forward your statement to my board members. You are taking appropriate action in addressing your concerns directly to Seattle School District. The decision related to hiring individuals on conditional certificates resides at the district level and thus the accountability for the outcome of that decision. The PESB declined tightening the current WAC related to conditional certification in March 2011 at the urging of several state associations, including school districts, particularly rural and remote districts. We do express our intent in WAC, as you stated, that districts give careful consideration to this decision and they are affirming they have done so when they submit the application to the certification division at OSPI.

My reaction to this follows....

dan dempsey said...

Will the Board ignore the law again tomorrow? Another Crime?
=====
Dear PESB Executive Director Wallace, 10-4-2011

The law requires more than districts giving careful consideration to a decision to apply for conditional certification.

Specifically the WAC 181-79A-231 states:
The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options.

The District has stated in School Board Action Reports that the conditional certificate is being requested because circumstances within Seattle Public Schools, “warrant consideration of issuance of a conditional certificate.

The option to hire Teach for America teachers is one strategy that the district is pursuing in our efforts to close the achievement gap which, according to the Public Educator Standards Board, is an appropriate circumstance for seeking conditional certificates.

=====
Please contact the Seattle Schools and inform them that since the "circumstances within the Seattle Public Schools" that the Board is dealing with are the "achievment gaps", the law requires a careful review of all options for closing the Achievement Gaps.

The Board and District have failed to conduct a careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps.

Why is there no mechanism at either OSPI or the PESB to protect the citizens of the state from legal violations committed by the Seattle Public Schools in matters like these?

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

dan dempsey said...

enforcement of WAC 181-79A-231...

Governance or Management?

Looks like NONE of the Above.

dan dempsey said...

Here is Ms. Wallace's reply:

Mr. Dempsey –
Please consider the WAC in its entirety – pasted below. While section (a) is what the PESB encourages in terms of policy intent, (b) provides the conditions upon which a conditional certificate is issued upon request of a school district. One of these acceptable conditions is “circumstances warrant” and you are quite correct that in seeking local school board permission the district likely must justify to their board and the public those circumstances, although only the signature of the district superintendent or personnel administrator is required on OSPI’s form. Per other similar inquiries we have verified with our AG that our interpretation and implementation of our own WAC is correct. That being said, I will still be glad to forward your concerns to our board – those being that our policy ought not allow a district to request without stronger evidence of careful review of other options, but as I mentioned previously they have recently considered and rejected changes to this section.


(1) Conditional certificate.

(a) The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.

(b) Conditional certificates are issued upon application by the local school district, approved private school, or educational service district superintendent to persons who meet the age, good moral character, and personal fitness requirements of WAC 181-79A-150 (1) and (2), if one of the following conditions is verified:

(i) The applicant is highly qualified and experienced in the subject matter to be taught and has unusual distinction or exceptional talent which is able to be demonstrated through public records of accomplishments and/or awards; or

(ii) No person with regular teacher certification in the endorsement area is available as verified by the district or educational service district superintendent or approved private school administrator, or circumstances warrant consideration of issuance of a conditional certificate.

dan dempsey said...

My Response to Ms. Wallace:

Ms. Wallace, 10-4-2011

I read your response and I was unaware that the PESB could decide on an interpretation of WAC 181-79A-231 that is in direct contradiction with the requirements of the law.

Are you going to remind the Seattle School Board and the Seattle Superintendent of the requirements of WAC 181-79A-231 as written?

You stated:
Per other similar inquiries we have verified with our AG that our interpretation and implementation of our own WAC is correct.

In considering the Law in its entirety per your suggestion, I find:

(1) Conditional certificate.

(a) The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.
=====

As I previously stated: "This legal requirement" for a careful review of all other options is being ignored.

I was unaware the PESB had the authority to ignore the law.


I find it interesting that you wrote:

(b) provides the conditions upon which a conditional certificate is issued upon request of a school district. One of these acceptable conditions is “circumstances warrant” and you are quite correct that in seeking local school board permission the district likely must justify to their board and the public those circumstances, although only the signature of the district superintendent or personnel administrator is required on OSPI’s form.

So as long as a signature is on the OSPI form, then OSPI and the PESB are not concerned that the requirements of the law may NOT have been satisfied.

Well it is informative to know that neither OSPI nor the PESB has any interest in enforcement of existing state laws in this matter. Could you please inquire of the Attorney General whose job it is to enforce existing state laws that govern teacher certification? For some reason I thought it might rest with OSPI or the PESB, but apparently I am wrong. I would like to know who is responsible for applying the certification law.

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Charlie Mas said...

So much for the "Culture of Compliance"

dan dempsey said...

Ms Wallace responds:

WAC 181 is PESB administrative code. The PESB establishes and amends it. We are responsible for applying the certification rules.

Law generally refers to RCW. WAC is administrative code.

Joan NE said...

"enforcing policy is the very heart of governance work"

Charlie - Are you familiar with the John Carver Policy Governance Model?

The JC model calls for the board to conduct annual evaluations of teh CEO (in our case, superintendent), in the following manner:

For each and every Board Policy, the CEO gives a report, stating what s/he did to improve the fidelity of implementation the policy, enforce the policy, and to list what obstacles s/he encountered in his/her efforts to implement the policy. IF the CEO recommended revisions to the policy, that might also be appropriate to include in the report.

In the JC model the continuation of the CEO's employment is to be conditioned on how well the CEO upheld Board policy, upheld all applicable laws and regs, and showed good moral leadership.

MJG would have lost her job after year one if this Board followed the JC model.

I know candidate Marty McClaren has read up on this model, and is enthusiastic about it.

StopTFA said...

Ms. Wallace has compromised herself time and again. As Executive Director of an agency with a rubberstamp Board (sound familiar) that has been delegated authority to interpret laws and write regulations, she can pretty much do as she likes. Ms. Wallace can't be an enforcer and advocate at the same time. You saw how she ran PESB directives by TFA lawyers to get their blessing. She cloyingly courted Higher Ed to partner with TFA. She did her master's bidding (Rodney Tom, take your pick) smoothing out the bumps to entice TFA her. Someone needs to file an ethics complaint against her and select others in this charade.

Oops, sorry Charlie, a little off topic....

Eric B said...

Simple answer is that it's both. Management should comply with policy as a matter of course. It's the Superintendent's job to make sure that staff are in compliance with policy. Sometimes people are unwilling or unable to follow policy, or mistakes get made (it happens, it's OK if it's dealt with and learned from). In those cases, it's the governance Board's responsibility to make sure that staff take appropriate corrective action.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dan,

While I appreciate your broader question, I wish you had not gone so far off the stated topic.

Back to the Board. Charlie, did you attend the retreat? Anyone? (I seem to remember Dorothy N. may have gone to some of it.)

The minutes are in the Board agenda and indeed, governance versus management was discussed but the minutes don't reflect exactly how. The key here, though, is that it was Don McAdams who was the facilitator and I think he has a stance on this issue (towards governance vs management). I think this would be a good place to ask a couple of Board members what was said.

What is interesting is WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Assn) has its own ideas on this issue and they seem to lean more towards management. Not a lot but more.

Harium did say, at the The Stranger forum, that he HAS gone to the Superintendent (I believe he meant MGJ) about policy enforcement. BUT he said nothing about the outcome. "And she agreed that this needed to happen." "She felt staff had done what was asked for."

Telling the Superintendent what she should already know - Board policies have to and will be enforced - is not enough unless the Board is willing to hold feet to the fire. What is the point of policy if it isn't enforced?

No one is talking about berating or public finger-wagging but the staff should never feel as equals to the Board. These are our elected officials there to support those policies and watch out for the money.

How can the public trust the Board to do its job if there is no real sign they are doing it?

Anonymous said...

Hi - This is off-topic, but there isn't a current open thread.

The District has posted the power point it's going to present at the Capacity Management meetings this week and next on its web-side. I don't know how to do links, but it is buried there. They have quite a bit of information about elementary areas and projected population growth.

For middle schools, they actually have a slide that says there are three possibilities for opening an additional permanent north end middle school - Marshall, Wilson-Pacific and (surprise to me) Lincoln. Which begs the question, what about Hamilton, right next door?

There isn't much mentioned for High schools, since their total numbers indicate that district-wide we have more than enough room at the high school level. I didn't see any mention of where those extra seats are, and whether students live anywhere near those seats. Could be interesting.

klh

dan dempsey said...

here is my response to Ms. Wallace....

Ms. Wallace, 10-4-2011

Thank you for clarifying that WAC 181-79A-231 is a written administrative code, which the PESB is responsible for applying.

Interesting to know that WAC 181-79A-231 requirements will not be applied by the PESB in the matter of the applications filed by the Seattle Public Schools for Teach for America conditional certification. How is the PESB applying this WAC by only looking for a signature on a form for sufficiency of compliance?

Please explain why the PESB does not apply the requirements of WAC 181-79A-231 in this situation, I seem to have missed the explanation as to why the requirement for a careful review of all other options for closing the achievement gaps is being ignored.

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:
While I appreciate your broader question, I wish you had not gone so far off the stated topic.

I thought that since the Board will be again considering a TfA conditional certification application tomorrow night..... that enforcement of WAC 181-79A-231 requirements was not that far a field from Policy Enforcement.

Would you rather me move this to "Open Thread" Tuesday? where is it?

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a question that I asked Don McAdams at a board retreat a year ago:

"What if the board voted to direct the superintendent to take a specific action and the superintendent didn't do it?"

Mr. McAdams responded without hestiation: "That would be grounds for dismissal."

The Board voted on January 29, 2009, to direct the superintendent to review and suggest revisions to policy D12.00. More to the point, a number of policies - including some that are regularly violated - are specific directions to the superintendent that have been voted and approved by the Board.

I have read Mr. McAdams book. He doesn't really speak to enforcing policy because he presumes that a superintendent who violates policy will be quickly fired - with cause.

dan dempsey said...

The answer to that question will hinge on another question: Is the enforcement of policy a governance task or a management task?

I think the Executive Director of the PESB would likely respond to that question as It is a management task.

Would not the Board evaluate the Superintendent on her ability to enforce policy?

Given that Directors are not to be involved in minutia ... Policy enforcement would clearly rest with the Administration .... this is a management task.

Now as to the Board actually overseeing their employee the Superintendent in regard to enforcement of policy (that is the governance piece)... and ...well ....
read the State Auditor's reports for how well that normally goes.

dan dempsey said...

He doesn't really speak to enforcing policy because he presumes that a superintendent who violates policy will be quickly fired - with cause.

Well that sure ain't Seattle.

Here the Board watches violations for years and then buys out the Superintendent with only 22 hours of public notice.

Anonymous said...

Draft Capacity Management Plan Presentation

FYI

Anonymous said...

The AG says the Board enforces policy.

And I would hope all policies follow the law.

-JC.

Jack Whelan said...

Don't you think it comes down to a fundamentally complacent mindset that leads them to assume that policy is being followed until it's flagrantly clear that it's not. These directors have adopted (or been instructed to adopt) an attitude that they're "directors" not managers, that they set broad policy as the board of a corporation does, but don't really have much or anything to do with enforcement because that's what they pay the big bucks to the superintendent to do. Wasn't that Sherry's argument at the Town Hall debate?

We can argue that they do not understand their oversight responsibilities, but more to the point I would argue that they don't really grasp the nature of the crisis at the Stanford Center. They really believe they have the right people in place and that these people can be trusted and that they therefore have no need for aggressive oversight. The contract extension and raise given to MGJ alone is proof of their cluelessness in this regard. And they don't understand that whatever they were told should be the normal limit of their governance responsibilities, they are dealing with a crisis that requires more assertiveness from them until the system has proved itself more functional than dysfunctional.

Jan said...

Spot on, Jack. This is exactly the sense that I get when I listen to the current board. It is why I am so frustrated when the answer to raising a concern is that they will have staff look into something. There is an overwhelming sense, among parents who are attuned to downtown behavior, that staff cannot be trusted, either as a matter of competence or ethical culture, to do the right thing. And there seems to be an overwhelming sense, among directors, that everything downtown is just fine.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's where the rubber hits the road: I write to the Board and I tell them that the district is out of compliance with a policy and they... take no action whatsoever.

They don't even have the common courtesy to respond.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Charlie...

"They don't even have the common courtesy to respond."

Hummm just like my school board testimonies.

Clearly NO BIG DEAL.... these folks make a habit of only responding when it suits them. If you need an answer ... ask Jeeves. Thank God for the internet.

I will continue my communications about the PESB and TfA on Open Thread Tuesday.

dan dempsey said...

Bingo - BINGO

Charlie wrote:
"If the Board director claims that enforcing policy is the superintendent's duty, then ask them if they expect the superintendent to also enforce the policies that regulate the superintendent's actions. If so, will they be issuing her hand puppets to facilitate her self-policing? "

So how would that be working out? NOW.

Take a look at the requirements of WAC 181-79A-231. The PESB is essentially allowing the District to self-police itself.

PESB's Jennifer Wallace says that the signature of a District official on an application for conditional certification is acceptable to indicate compliance with the code's requirements.

CLEARLY in this case self-policing by the district is a SHAM.

The District has not complied with the requirements but is submitting an application that in effect claims it has done so.

Hey its all good with the PESB ... because the PESB prefers NOT to enforce compliance with their code WAC 181-79A-231. It prefers to trust the District, which makes things a lot easier.

The PESB is a mirror of the District as far as enforcement of rules.... both are ineffective and incompetent.
...{{Likely to stay that way without a good swift kick in the rear.==>
SPS reelect NO one.}}

Jack Whelan said...

--They don't even have the common courtesy to respond--

@Charlie--They don't respond because they don't trust you the way they trust staff. How is trust established? Mainly by being part of the insider group. They dismiss "the usual suspects" as ideology-driven nuisances who don't really "understand" what they are dealing with on the inside. I also suspect in your case it's personal--they quite frankly don't want to give you the satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

""If the Board director claims that enforcing policy is the superintendent's duty, then ask them if they expect the superintendent to also enforce the policies that regulate the superintendent's actions."

Which is the fatal flaw with the new City run whistleblower program.

The City investigates and then turns the investigation over to the superintendent for results.

Ya sure. You betcha. Where can I get a deal like that?

Also, I think the Board does not respond because of legal implications. Anything they do or say can and will be used against them. Better to just keep quiet since they can't really seem to say anything good at all.

-JC.