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Friday, September 22, 2006

We Deserve Better Leadership

Last May, I stood with my three daughters each holding a sign at a closure rally. The signs said:
  • We deserve better.
  • Better schools.
  • A better plan.
  • Better leadership.

Several people have told me that Raj is a genuinuly nice person and a good manager. That may be true, but I'm pretty sure those were not the only qualifications on the superintendent's job description.

I believe Raj wants what is best for Seattle children and, in my opinion, that means he should announce now that he is planning to leave his position as superintendent by the end of this school year. We need to start a search for a dynamic, talented leader with a clear educational vision (and background) and the ability to change the culture of the Seattle Public Schools district office.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Raj is a nice person or not. I don't know him well enough to make that judgement. I can say, however, that he has not performed well as a chief executive for Seattle Public Schools.

How has Raj done?

Not so good with the Mission Management

* He took three years to produce an academic plan. This delay was caused by his decision to hire Steve Wilson as CAO when he knew that Mr. Wilson only took the job for two years and acted as an interim CAO for that whole period, not making any enduring policy decisions.

* He has yet to produce anything like a strategic plan for the District. This is the primary duty of a CEO and he hasn't done it.

Not so good with the money management:

* He negotiated and signed a teacher's contract that is too rich for the District. I'm not saying that the teachers don't deserve it, I'm just saying that the District can't afford it.

* He mismanaged the capital budget creating a $30 million deficit and then sweeping that deficit under the rug through accounting tricks and a raid on the operating budget.

* His bungled school closures effort last year resulted in a one-year delay of the closures that caused the District to miss out on something like $10 million in savings.

Not so good with the personnel management:

* He does not manage the staff very well at all. The lines of authority in the District are muddy and there is no accountability at all. Performance evaluations have not been based on appropriate metrics or benchmarks.

* He came into office three years ago promising accountability but has yet to provide it. His accountability plan of a year ago is a dark joke.

Not so good with the image management:

* He has been a poor ambassador for the District to student families, to the community at large and to local and state government officials.

* He has not generated much in the way of grant revenue. We got the NEA flight grant, but we lost the Gates grant. The Alliance for Education has not gotten much help from him and he has not been effective with state legislators.

* He has not effectively managed the District's culture. He came into office three years ago promising openness, honesty, transparency, accountability, and community engagement. None of these qualities are more evident now than they were then.

* He pointedly ignored the complaints about water quality for months and then lied about the history of the problem.

All the things that Raj did that people used to point to as a demonstration of his effectiveness have now shown to demonstrate his INeffectiveness. He was lauded for the management of capital projects, which were later exposed as grossly over budget and mismanaged. He was lauded for the teachers contract which is now sinking the District's finances. He promised to be a no excuses accountabily guy but he doesn't hold anyone accountable - not his staff, not even the Chief Sealth Girls' Basketball team. He was lauded for his honesty and integrity, but were is there any evidence of this? He was praised for appointing a Committee of leading citizens to advise the District and their first recommendation is essentially that he be replaced. Later they publicly complain that he hasn't implemented their recommendations.

Finally, let's face it, scores have not noticably improved. No real steps have been taken to close the Academic Achievement Gap. No real steps have been taken to close the Discipline Gap. The public schools in Seattle continue to attract a paltry market share. The last two elections to provide extra funding for schools have failed.

When the old Board was trying to hire a Superintendent three years ago they said that the District needed an educator, a communicator, an effective administrator, and a leader with Vision. Mr. Manhas may be a genuinely nice person, but he is none of those things.