Monday, March 21, 2016

Program Placement games

The Board has been blindsided by a few program placement shenanigans (Middle College, EEU, Interagency, etc.) and got the idea of pulling back program placement authority from the Superintendent.

That would be a shame because in the District's governance model, with its management/policy dichotomy, program placement is solidly on the management side and belongs among the Superintendent's tasks, not the Board's. That said, this same governance model expects the Superintendent to follow the Board's policy and, when it comes the program placement, Dr. Nyland has been an extremely naughty fellow with policy violations all across the horizon.

So this becomes just another episode highlighting the district's fundamental governance flaw: the Board's only way to discipline the Superintendent is to fire him. No one is happy about how he has handled Program Placement, but no one is unhappy enough to fire him over it.

What to do?
The policy isn't the problem. The policy, on the whole, is pretty good. It requires the Superintendent to:
  • use a set of objective criteria when making program placement decisions
  • give the public and the Board early warning of upcoming decisions
  • engage the community and get input in the process
  • and provide the rationale for decisions when they are made
Pretty good, right? The policy is not the problem. The problem is that the Superintendent is completely ignoring the policy.
  • We have no idea what process he uses when determining program placements
  • He has never given the public or the Board any early warning on decisions
  • He refuses to engage the community or get their input
  • He utterly fails to offer any rationale for his decisions
  • And he tries to evade regulation by re-defining programs to exclude them from the policy
So what can be done?
  1. The Board can pull back the authority and require Board approval for all changes going forward. That way the Board can require compliance before they grant their approval. With good behavior and after he has established some good habits and practices perhaps he can have the authority transferred back.
  2. Or, same sort of idea but in the opposite order, the Board can put the Superintendent on some sort of probation requiring good behavior on Program Placement for some period and, if he fails to comply with the policy, then pull back the authority.
  3. The Board can keep doing what they have been doing: try to cajole good behavior from the Superintendent while continuing to provide him with consequence-free non-compliance.
  4. The Board can amend the policy to remove the requirements that chafe the Superintendent.
What are your ideas?


Charlie Mas said...

We have no idea what process he uses when determining program placements

There is no program placement procedure. None. Dr. Enfield used to use a Magic 8 Ball. Dr. Nyland apparently determines them through some secret ceremony with candles and the sacrifice of a goat to check its entrails for omens. If you don't think he does it that way then tell us how he does it and point us to the document that describes the process.

He has never given the public or the Board any early warning on decisions. Never. The policy requires him to report quarterly on upcoming decisions. He has never reported an upcoming decision even once. Are we to believe that none of the decisions made each quarter were on the radar in the previous calendar quarter? Really? That would explain why

He refuses to engage the community or get their input. He doesn't have time to ask anyone for their input because all of his decisions have to be made so quickly.

He utterly fails to offer any rationale for his decisions. Only with the most recent report has he offered any rationale for any program placement decisions made since he got here.

And he tries to evade regulation by re-defining programs to exclude them from the policy He gave very lawyerly explanations of how neither the EEU kindergarten, nor the Middle College at High Point, nor Interagency sites were covered by the policy. Except that all of his lawyerly explanations were rooted in his procedure and how none of these are programs or services or schools. He didn't base his explanations in the text of the policy. If your read the policy there is no questions that all of these are covered by it.

Catherine said...

A down side of hiring someone out of retirement, is that they can do whatever they want and they don't really care if you fire. them. I think that's what we have with our current sup.

The sup is putting the district at legal risk by randomly making decisions about programs. It's the board's job to provide supervision. When you have an employee failing to do their job, they have to be put on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). The generally involves removing some of that employee's authority.

Patrick said...

It's not just out of retirement. At least back to Maria Goodloe-Johnson, and probably farther, the superintendents have felt free to ignore most board policies they didn't like. The board has no tools for disciplining a super other than firing, and firing for cause will result in a nasty unpleasant court case with lots of dirty laundry being aired on all sides. The board can not renew their contract, but that's usually three years out so it's not much of a threat as a consequence.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I just don't agree with the thesis here. The policy is the problem. Program placement - including whether a program stays or goes - is a very important decision over which the board should have the final say. After all, when the staff make bad decisions, as they have with EEU, or bad and racially offensive decisions, as they have with Middle College, the public rightly expects the board to be able to reverse it. In a democracy, the people's elected officials should have the ultimate say over the future of a program, just as they should over the future of a school. I think the last few years have proven this to be the case.

Anonymous said...

The board is about to find themselves very busy. I still think Sue Peters made a mess of things when she got so involved in the math adoption, but that's another story.

The board is going to start putting in eight hour days,plus all the meetings? Hire and manage their own staff, using money that could support teachers?

Maybe pay the directors, again, instead of hiring teachers?

They could look for a more compliant super if they want, but can they find one and do they want to go through that process again?

questions, questions

Charlie Mas said...

I think they could find a more compliant Superintendent and, here's the bonus, they could get a compliant one for less than they are paying now.

Board policy 1620 states: "The Board is charged with setting district policy and the Superintendent is charged with carrying out and enforcing that policy."

A Superintendent who saw the role in that context would be more affordable, less political, less expensive, and, hopefully, more competent, than one who thinks the Vision for the District should come from the Superintendent's office.

Eliza said...

Staff said that the EEU was a service not a program, and that Middle College sites were just classrooms, so they could make changes without notice. I think it's a good thing that these changes are back under board oversight, but will the underlying issue still remain of how to define a program?

Charlie Mas said...

School, program, service, classroom, curricular focus - the name doesn't matter. What matters is whether the authority to open it, close it, or move it rests at the school level or the District level.

If the authority lies at the District level, it is program placement.

Watching said...

It is the board's legal responsibility to adopt curriculum- questions, questions. The board chose a recommended math curriculum, but I'm not going to argue with you.