Disqus

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Failure to Manage

The core mission of Seattle Public Schools is to educate students. The executives and managers in the District who are most directly responsible for the accomplishment of that mission are:

  • Superintendent, Jose Banda
  • Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Michael Tolley
  • Executive Director of Curriculum and Instructional Support, Shauna Heath
  • Executive Directors of Schools, Marni Campbell, Carmela Dellino, Kim Whitworth
  • Principals


I don't know about your workplace, but any organization with any kind of intentional management makes a periodic assessment of the effectiveness of the organization's efforts. The same can and should be expected from Seattle Public Schools.



For the schools, the School Report Cards are intended to fulfill this function. The report cards from a number of schools could be combined for the regions and there is a District Scorecard that compiles the data for the whole district.


There are others who have part of the management responsibility as well. They include:

  • Executive Director of Special Education, Zakiyyah McWilliams
  • Director of English Language Learners, Veronica Gallardo
  • Manager of Advanced Learning, Robert Vaughan
  • Manager of Native American Education, Arlie Neskahi
  • Administrator of International Education, Karen Kodama

There are no Report Cards that tell about the performance of these programs. While there is some opportunity to disaggregate the school and district report card data for these students, that data alone does not speak to the specific goals of these departments. If the district had no goals for these students beyond the usual goals for all students, then the students would not be in these programs. The report card data does not really tell us about the progress children in these programs are making towards the unique goals for each of them. In fact, I am not aware of any reports that provide meaningful data about the performance of these departments.

That represents a grievous failure to manage. That's a simple fact. The absence of any assessment of the quality and efficacy of these programs constitutes an indisputable failure to manage the programs. How can the District make decisions based on data if there is no data?

The Board has a duty to oversee the district's management - not to meddle or micromanage, but to confirm that the management work is getting done. Given the poor documentation, rapid turnover at the executive level, and history of non-management, this duty carries more than ordinary weight.

Towards that end, the Board conducted a work session to review the management of two of these efforts - Advanced Learning and Native Education. The Board not only noticed the absence of reports on the quality or effectiveness of these programs, but throughout the department. Director Carr decried the absence of any meaningful metrics or benchmarks for the entire C & I operation. She noted the absence of Key Performance Indicators. Others noted the mismatch between objectives, measures, and targets for the department. It wasn't lost on them.


I expect Mr. Banda and Mr. Tolley to correct the deficiency this year without fail. They cannot be unaware of the problem. The absence of these reports are not only a violation of Board Policy 2090, but their absence reveals an utter failure to manage - a failure first by the five managers and executives, second by Mr. Tolley, and then by Mr. Banda. This failure to manage cannot be tolerated.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Seattle Dad said...

Seattle Public Schools can be closed 365 days a year and not make a bit of difference

Catherine said...

Seattle Dad - I strongly disagree.

I think SPS does more good than harm, though not by nearly the margin it should. I acknowledge that it does a few things with breathtaking ineptitude.

But there are absolutely teachers and staff that perform miracles, as well as those who simple do a good job. We certainly saw more of those, than the poster children of education reform in our time at SPS.

SPS certainly has a management and oversight issue, but in digging into some other districts across the state, they are in some good company. That doesn't excuse it, but I think puts perspective on it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Agreed, Catherine.

I think the schools perform far better than district management.

And Charlie nails it.

Talk, blah, blah, blah from this district, over and over, but where IS the accountability? Still waiting.

Jan said...

Seattle Dad: Hard for me to cheerlead for some of what goes on in this district -- but I have to say, I disagree. Every fall, kids wind up in classes that help them learn how to write essays and research papers, how to do calculus, how to learn enough to get into UW, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Cal Polytech, Pomona, Davidson, -- the list goes on and on. They play violin concertos, refurbish computers that go to third world countries, take (and do very well on) APP exams, get IB diplomas -- it is really quite astonishing, especially since they do all of this with the help of parents, teachers, site-based administrators (in some cases, in other cases, those folks are part of the problem), and against a backdrop of what has been indifferent and ineffective (at best) central administration.

We need more reources than we have; but in the meantime, we need to do far better with the resources we have than we do. We get pulled aside by the moneyed crowd (with checkbooks and enough time on their hands to do serious harm). We get bogged down by midlevel administrators who seem to have lifetime jobs, regardless of whether they ever do anything to justify their paychecks.

I believe that we currently have a board that has stopped patting itself on the back for failure and genuinely engages with the issues. I like our new superintendent. But the entire process remains bogged down by a bad combination of downtown administrators who cannot, or do not, do their jobs well, and far too many site based administrators who either need help learning how to be effective school leaders -- or need to be moved out of their jobs.

Charlie Mas said...

I think Seattle Dad got it almost right. The top two floors of the JSCEE could be closed 365 days a year and it would not make much difference. Let's keep the trades and the kitchens running, but the rest of the "work" done in that building adds little - if anything - to student education.

mirmac1 said...

I see Arlie Nekashi won't be managing anymore.

Personnel Report

I also see these principals retiring:

Ernie Seevers (Sanislo)
Anne Fitzpatrick (Kimball)
Marcia Boyd (Rogers)

Patrick said...

Seattle Dad, that's an appalling thing to say. The vast majority of students are getting a good education. SPS has management problems and problems with central services, but the teachers and principals, for the most part, are able to do a good job in spite of central administration.

Charlie Mas said...

This is always interesting to me.

Three principals are retiring. Let's see if the community gets a standard level of involvement in choosing the new principal.

Some schools form a hiring committee that handles the whole process and makes a recommendation to the superintendent. Some schools just get told "Here's your new principal."