Randi Weingarten: Don’t Scapegoat Superintendents.


This week I read Randi Weingarten’s (President, American Federation of Teachers) article on how superintendents shouldn’t scapegoat their teachers.

I hate to say this, but I often agree with Ms. Weingarten’s positions.It's Me in Goat Form.

I want it noted I’m not going over to the dark side (not that I’m implying teacher’s unions are the dark side, they’re just the opposite side… and everyone needs a villain).

If I can sum up Ms. Weingarten’s position (and I think I can since this is my blog): teachers shouldn’t be the only ones who are held accountable for student achievement.

Bravo! (sorry, I just went a little Broadway on you…consider yourself lucky I didn’t throw in some jazz hands).

She believes responsibility for underperforming schools should also be placed on superintendents (and others, but superintendents made their way into the title of the article).

I couldn’t agree more.

Everyone has a role in schools being successful:  parents, teachers, communities, school board members, coaches, custodians, aides, secretaries and most importantly… lunch ladies (if you don’t believe me… try being great on an empty stomach).

Superintendents need to lead this charge.  They are in a position to demand excellence and accountability from others, but also ensure that teachers have the resources to help their students succeed (her words… not mine… because I’m not an attorney or president of anything).

I hate to take a hard line union position, but she’s right (I’m morphing into Jimmy Hoffa right before your eyes).

Superintendents need to have higher expectations.  They also need to put their students and teachers in a position to be successful.

She also points out we need to do a better job at collaboration and innovation.

Again, I agree.

I’m losing… power… to control… my… anti-union… thoughts.

Is it possible Ms. Weingarten is my kryptonite (superhero reference… always good for blog traffic).  Is it possible I’ve been miscast?  Could it be I’m not cut out for the role of superintendent?

Maybe I need to send the AFT several thousand dollars to catch up on my union dues.

I would if I could, but I can’t.  I don’t completely agree with her and I just can’t (you almost had me under your spell Madame President).

She’s left out one fundamental fact.

Getting rid of bad teachers is too complicated.

It’s too easy to get in a classroom and it’s way too hard to remove bad teachers once they are there.  Our tenured system is overprotective of bad teachers.  The union is only as good as their worst teacher.  This is unfortunate.  Unfortunate for students who sit in these classrooms.

Unions like to focus on their best and brightest teachers (as they should).

Superintendents are put in a position where they have to deal with the not best and brightest (somebody has to do it).

We need a system that will allow us to quickly address (i.e. remove) the teachers who aren’t helping students learn.

And I think the same type of plan should go for administrators.

If you’re bad, get out.

If you aren’t getting the job done you need to be gone today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next year.  Not after two or three years of remediation. Not when you decide to retire.

Today.

I’ve heard the arguments about this not being fair.  Evil administrators will get rid of great teachers (why would they do this?)  People need time to improve.

I’m not buying this.

Students don’t have time.

Their education is on the clock (tick, tick, tick).

We are in the business of helping students learn aren’t we?

If a child has one terrible teacher during their 13 years of education, they’ve lost 7.7% of a quality education.

It only gets worse if they have 2, or 5, or 9 bad teachers (if you don’t believe me, ask a math teacher).

I wish teachers didn’t get so much blame when it comes to failing schools.   I wish it was spread around.

But teachers get blamed because they’re 99.9% of the reason students succeed.

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Great Principals Do This. I Don’t.


I have been contemplating (better word than thinking… thanks thesaurus) what it takes to be a good principal or school administrator.

After much thought, I have concluded that I am lacking in a most important area.

Principals must have certain traits to succeed at what can be a very challenging job.

The qualities that came to mind quickly included organizational skills, leadership, and time management. To be successful, one must make good use of time and be able to take care of details.

Then I thought about decisiveness, a sense of fairness, and the ability to control one’s temper (sometimes easier said than done).

As I continued mulling this topic over, it occurred to me that the qualities needed to lead a school were almost endless.I am Not Allowed to Wear Theme Ties.  Ever.

A great principal must have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and even more importantly how the staff and students should get there. Then have the ability to guide by encouragement and sometimes even a little arm-twisting.

Principals must always be believers, in themselves and the students, and certainly in what they want to accomplish.

Next, I thought they must be willing to work longer hours than most. This is really a requirement of all people who are really good at their occupations.

When working in schools one must be available to work days, some nights, occasional weekends, and certainly be flexible enough to change your personal plans on a moment’s notice.

While the job pays well, an administrator needs to work harder than the people around them. For those who are paid the most; a lot is expected.

If you are going to be a great principal, you need to accept responsibility for all of your decisions. And then be prepared to accept the responsibility for the decisions of others, whether good or bad (just a head ups… not usually good).

Just as important is being prepared to hand the credit to someone else when things go well and take the blame for almost anything or anybody when things go badly (and things always go badly, sooner or later).

All of the really good administrators that I have met are understanding, kind, enthusiastic, driven, and have a sense of humor.

The ability to laugh may be the most important skill of all. To be successful in education, one cannot take themselves too seriously (if you can’t laugh at yourself, someone else will).

Lastly, it occurred to me that most successful principals regularly exercise. You have to make your health a priority. A structured exercise program also helps with mental health.

I thought that I had come up with a pretty good list of qualities about what makes a great school administrator until… it was pointed out that I don’t wear theme ties.

No ties with drawings from small children. No ties with baseballs, soccer balls, or basketballs on them. No ties with pictures of crayons. No Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob, or Superman ties. And none with addition, subtraction, or multiplication problems on them.

Worse than this, I can never remember to wear the appropriate color on holidays. No red on Valentine’s Day, green on St. Patrick’s Day, or orange on Halloween.

A great principal should dress the part.

And I can’t even bring myself to wear a theme tie. I hate to admit this, but I don’t even own one. Not a single solitary theme tie. I am truly a failure.

Kids don’t care about organization, time management, vision, or work ethic. They want to see a colorful and cool tie. I am not fit to work in a school or be around children.

The state should repossess my administrative degree.

Worse than this, I don’t even have my school keys strapped to my belt. I am such a loser.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.