Yesterday afternoon I tweeted this:
That’s right, Alameda Unified School District’s Chief Financial Officer (Chief Business Officer? whatevs…) is now the latest senior staff member to jump ship off the S.S. AUSD. While I know that some folks were hoping to take out Superintendent Kirsten Vital via a heavily pro-AEA slate last election, the causalities in the conflict between the District and AEA have instead decimated the senior staff ranks of the District office.
While certain School Board Members have talked endlessly about morale of teachers there is clearly something dysfunctional about an organization when the Chief Counsel (top legal person), Assistant Superintendent, Head of the Human Resources Department, and the Chief Financial person all leave within months of one another. I’ll also add into this list the last Senior Program Manager who also left the District Office and opted to go back into the classroom. Given that all these people have been fairly closely aligned (and maligned) with the Superintendent, I don’t think that you can place any of the onus of this on the Superintendent’s head. Well, I mean you can but it would require some pretty crazy logical gymnastics.
But seriously, all you need to know about the working conditions for these senior level staff is to watch last Tuesday’s School Board meeting, it’s toward the end because I kept thinking “this isn’t that bad” until I got to “it.” I mean, the levels of dysfunction are astounding. You have a few Board Members who constantly challenge everything that staff presents. You have a School Board as a whole unable to give any kind of cohesive direction to staff to tell them what they want. You have a few School Board members who think that their job is to micromanage everything at a school site level and do not understand that the role of a legislative body is to make policy not run the day to day.
With this sort of completely unprofessional working environment is there any wonder people are just leaving left and right. I mean I can barely watch it let alone live it as my job. And I’m not sure how consistent turnover is any good for the district as a whole even if a lot of it is largely invisible from the day to day school type stuff.
At this point there is no way, no way, any School Bond is going to get passed because within the School Board itself there is no consensus. If the School Board itself cannot present a united front, how is the voting populace going to have any faith in the School District and want to give money to it. It’s literally so bad that it has gotten to the point that the SCHOOL BOARD has to hire a facilitator for itself so that the facilitator can get the five-member School Board to agree on what the steps are to move forward with all AUSD facilities. It’s ab-fucking-surd. (And good luck to Jeff Cambra who has the unenviable job of herding these cats)
Okay, I know I rag on Trish Spencer a lot, but after this meeting she really jumped the shark. So blah blah blah dysfunctional Board, can’t agree on anything, blah blah, need a facilitator to help come to a consensus on next steps to move forward. Got it? So Trish Spencer then pushes back after everyone else has agreed to this facilitator idea — after two hours of round and round discussion — and says that she doesn’t want to do this facilitator idea with the five Board members until she has first vetted this whole business through the Historic Alameda High School stakeholder group.
Did you get that? Trish Spencer doesn’t want to do her job as a School Board member and make a leadership decision on the next steps with regards to school site facilities without first vetting it through a some random stakeholder group. I mean at this point what is the point of even electing people for “leadership” positions. Just take a public vote on every single issue and be done with it. Need to decide on a MOU with a charter school: public vote. Need to hire some teachers: public vote. Need to change a roll of toilet paper: public vote.
There is a real leadership vacuum right now on the Board, mainly because Trish Spencer feels extraordinarily empowered from the last election and has been throwing her proverbial weight left and right. Without something changing drastically this School Board (and District) will be on a complete downward spiral. The fact that anything gets done at all anymore is a wonderment.