Gotham Schools reports that Mayor-elect Bill will not make his chancellor selection until next week. The rumors that the Commissioner of Education in Finland is taking a crash English course are unsubstantiated.
To date the appointments of deBlasio have been vanilla, solid, professional choices; a police commissioner who knows New York with a sparkling resume and other choices that upset no one – no more Sandinista supporters.
The talking heads, the newspapers, the blogs all speculate: why the delay? Is it Farina? And on and on … Just remember: when Mayor Bloomberg selected Joel Klein the response was, “Who?”
After deB defeated Thompson, the union’s first choice, union president Mulgrew and deB bonded. Perhaps bonded is too meek a word- it was a lovefest, Mulgrew praising deB to the sky and deB praising teachers.
After January 1 the dance begins.
The mayor-elect must get off to a good start.
The somewhat stumbling beginning, not selecting a chancellor for weeks has led to endless idyll speculation. Why the delay? The delay has led to suspicions.
The soon-to-be mayor must consolidate/invigorate his core supporters: parents and teachers.
deB: “I am imposing an immediate freeze on co-locations of charter schools in public school buildings. I am asking the chancellor to establish guidelines outlining a co-location process that includes parents, establish a period for public comment- we hope to have regulations in place within sixty days.”
deB: “I am directing the chancellor to enter into discussions with the union – the Absent Teacher Reserve – called the ATR pool – 1200 pedagogical employees who rotate from school to school each week is a waste of taxpayer dollars. We will return these employees to full time teaching positions within license as expeditiously as possible.”
The Department of Education is a $24 billion corporation with 120,000 employees – making changes is like changing the direction of the Titanic – it takes miles to slow down and make changes in direction, and, beware of icebergs.
The new chancellor, whoever she is (don’t assume anything from the use of “she,” I use it to make up for decades of female deprecation), will have to change a culture (Read “How to change school culture,” here)
In the last decade, the education standards movement has taught us that policy change without cultural change is an exercise in futility and frustration.
The greatest impediment to meaningful cultural change is the gap between what leaders say they value and what they actually do. Staff members are not seduced by a leader’s claim of “collaborative culture” when every meeting is a series of lectures, announcements, and warnings. Claims about a “culture of high expectations” are undermined when school policies encourage good grades for poor student work. The “culture of respect” is undermined by every imperious, demanding, or angry e-mail and voice mail coming from the principal [or superintendent or chancellor]l. Leaders speak most clearly with their actions. When staff members hear the call for transformation from a leader whose personal actions remain unchanged, their hope turns to cynicism.
How many school and school district leaders stand on the stage and lecture teachers about making their classes more interactive? How many leaders warn about change, or else, i.e., school closings, staff changes, etc?
The next chancellor must both reflect the views and feelings of parents and teachers and well as lead. I was a guest at a School Leadership Team meeting – a teacher made a proposal that the team, parents and teachers, thought was a good idea. The principal responded, “I don’t think this is going to work, obviously I’m in the minority, convince me I’m wrong, make it work.”
I worked in a school-based management, school-based budgeting district, school budgets required signoffs from the principal, the parent and union leaders. The superintendent’s mantra: you can do whatever the school SLT thinks will work, if it doesn’t, it’s my way.
de Blasio, the new chancellor and the union president must work to create school cultures that both lead and respect the views of all stakeholders.
Sometimes we will “agree to disagree,” sometimes we will reluctantly agree to go along, other times we will all be on the same page. As long as we live in a culture of respect we can prosper.
Moving from a culture of conflict, a culture that encouraged grenade tossing to a culture of collaboration is akin to moving from a Yankee fan to a Mets fan – not impossible – really, really hard.
It was far easier to blast away at Bloomberg in meeting after meeting, to rip the soon to be ex-mayor in TV ads and union meetings, than to slow dance with the new guy.
Maybe we all need dance lessons.