Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Communication Plan

Dr. Nyland, at the Alliance for Education's State of the District address, announced his intention to launch a 100-day Communications Initiative. At first, little was known about his intentions. Dr. Nyland himself couldn't name any of the initiative's goals, other than improving the District's responsiveness to families and principals. He believed that the root problem was that people would get a question but they not only didn't know the answer, but didn't know who to call for the answer and so they would simply not answer the question. His plan was to assemble lists of the answers to the most frequently asked questions and posting that information on the district's web site. He would also create lists of staff to contact in various departments who would be ready to answer questions about their department. The goal is to get the person with the question in contact with the person with the answer. Dr. Nyland noted that he, himself, didn't know whom to call for answers - he didn't know which department to call or which person in that department.

That was on November 17. 100 days after November 17 would be February 25, 2015. What should we expect by that day? Nothing really. Dr. Nyland has revised his commitment.

After his appointment as superintendent, Dr. Nyland told KIRO that he wanted to spend his first 120 days to improve District communications. His plan, this time, was better defined. He wants to see a call list for each department in the first 30 days. In the next 30 days he wants people trained on how to answer the questions for their department. In the 30 days after that he wants a plan for responding to "hot topics" - I guess the simple truth isn't enough for anything controversial. In the final 30 days of his 120 plan he would like to form a plan for making the District a "listening organization" and for capturing all calls and emails from the public.

That was on December 11. So he's expecting the call list by January 10, 2015, the training complete by February 9, 2015, the "hot topic" response plan done by March 11, 2015, and the "listening organization" plan done by April 10, 2015.

I'm not sure how the two commitments are different - actually, I think they are the same commitment, except that the second one replaces the first one, starts 24 days later (24 days that went by without any action), and lasts 20 days longer.

It appears that the first 24 days of the 100-day plan were squandered through inaction. There has been some action on the 120 day plan, however. We have the person to contact with any questions about the Garfield High School field trip procedures: no one. We are not to ask any questions about it at all. I guess that represents some progress on the plan for how to respond to "hot topics" as well. The District's response will be to reject questions.

Here's the real story: The District doesn't like to answer tough questions because the District hates, hates, hates to acknowledge any failure - even when those failures are obvious. Think of all of the "aspirational goals" that weren't met, think of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's claim that the SE Education Initiative was a success, think of the whitewash of the non-compliance on the Garfield field trip, think of the whitewash of all of the non-compliance throughout the district. Think of all of the various initiatives that did not get implemented over the past ten years. Think of all of the commitments that were broken. Where are any of the things promised to any community? Nowhere. Failures are denied, re-characterized as successes, subjected to revisionist history, or simply ignored.

This is part of the dysfunction in the culture. If the District staff could acknowledge their failures candidly then they could address them honestly. By denying them, the District appears dishonest, self-deluded, arrogant, and non-responsive. Communication requires trust based on truth. The District does not have a reputation for truth and is therefore not trusted. This is a significant obstacle to communication.


Anonymous said...

Maybe we can help them out and assemble a list of "hot topic" questions for them to answer! I'm sure most of have a number of issues we've emailed them about over the past months and years, but to which--even after tracking down the right person to ask--we never received a meaningful answer.

Here's my start:

1. There appears to be a looming high school capacity crisis in the north end, likely to hit several years prior to the reopening of Lincoln HS. What is the district's plan to deal with this? And is the district considering moving to split shifts or alternate schedules in order to deal with capacity issues?

2. When the school board ok'd the opening of JAMS as a new APP site, they also issued a directive to provide a middle school APP LA/SS curriculum. When will this new curriculum be adopted? Or does the district consider current efforts to develop HCC LA/SS "unit plan development guides" sufficient, even though these are just recommendations and won't have to be followed, and even though there are no associated resource materials (e.g., texts)?

3. How effective are each of the district's different programs and services in meeting the educational needs of participating students?

4. What is the timeline for a new math curriculum adoption for middle and high school levels?

5. Why are detailed enrollment data no longer provided on the website?

Half Full

Charlie Mas said...

Ooh! Ooh! Let me play!

6. When will we see the annual report required by the sexual harassment policy, 3208?

7. When will we see the evaluations of the advanced learning programs promised by Shauna Heath in April of 2013?

8. When will we see evaluations of the other programs as required by policy 2090?

9. When will we see a program placement report that meets the requirements of the program placement policy?

10. When will we see the Equitable Access Framework that the staff promised each year for three years but never delivered?

11. How does the head of curriculum and instruction evaluate the performance of various program managers without an evaluation of the programs they manage?

cmj said...

Nyland's communication plan was so very disappointing.

What happens too often now, he said, is that a call gets sent to someone who doesn’t have the answer, but doesn’t know who does, so just doesn’t call back. (Seattle Times article)

That is unacceptable. Imagine if SPS were a business and employees routinely ignored customer's questions if they couldn't immediately answer them. It would very soon be out of business. And yet the general tone of the Seattle Times article was that this was acceptable. Nyland said nothing to indicate that this behavior was unacceptable.

Some of Nyland's points are quite valid (such as people not knowing who to ask about certain things). To fix the problems Nyland mentioned, they could ask staff to write detailed job description for themselves, pool any form letters (about any SPS topic/issue) that have already been sent to confused or complaining parents, and then put them all on an internal webpage. That should come together quite quickly.