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.