Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 18, 2013

Big city news, small town meh

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Apparently in places like Los Angeles when a School District loses a key senior staff members it becomes news worthy for the news types, in Alameda, even with the slow hemorrhaging of senior staff, not so much.   From the LA Times:

Calling the Los Angeles Board of Education dysfunctional and warning that academic progress is at stake, a senior school district administrator confirmed Friday that he is resigning.

Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino said he would remain with the nation’s second-largest school system through Dec. 31.

Aquino has been the right-hand man for L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who called his departure a “terrible loss.”

Aquino, 48, said that the current school board majority has begun to micromanage everyday functions and that the efforts of senior staff are being routinely greeted with mistrust.

At the same time, he added, the board has been unable to reach consensus on what it wants to do, leading to paralysis and diverging agendas that are beginning to take a toll.

“The current political climate does not allow me to lead an agenda that is in the best interests of the kids,” Aquino said. “I don’t want to leave. I think we were doing major work in transforming students’ lives, and I wanted to continue to be part of that journey.”

It’s probably unheard of for departing senior staff members to be so candid about what is ailing a school district because they probably want to get hired again at some point.   But what has been said about LA’s School District would probably be echoed by a lot of Alameda School Board watchers and the similarities are uncanny.

The fact that only one person leaving becomes newsworthy in such a large metro area with a lot of news going on is pretty amazing.   But that four or five senior staff departing in a short amount of time in a city the size of Alameda’s is pretty disappointing.  I guess it would be newsworthy if someone could get one of the senior staff to go on record about why they are leaving or why they left.   Someone at the last School Board meeting — not last night’s  meeting — said that the District should make sure they perform exit interviews to understand why the senior staff have left and share the information — if relevant and not some sort of private personnel reason — with the public.  I think it’s a great idea and would help to understand why this school district has a problem keeping senior staff people.

If the reason truly is the Superintendent — which I doubt given how teary the Superintendent gets every time she announces a departure — then this would be a perfect reason to say “so long” to the Superintendent.   If the reason is — as I suspect — issues with the School Board then it would be up to the community to put pressure on the School Board to not throw up so many obstacles to District Staff.   Because as much fun as it is to hate on District Staff nothing will get done if the School District is constantly trying to bring new staff up to speed or, worse, not having any staff at all to do all the behind-the-scenes work which is critical to running a School District but doesn’t get nearly as much recognition.

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34 Comments

  1. Contributions of “District staff” to every day education are vastly overrated. Poor principals and VPs make a difference though, as do good ones. Their hiring decisions in our schools matter, too. And I do not consider the current school board to be particularly “meddling” as you might see in SD, Oakland, or LA. We need them to ask good questions, and be the eyes and ears of the community in guiding policy. I wonder if Aquino’s resignation has anything to do with the open job in Oakland?

    Comment by commonsense — September 18, 2013 @ 6:38 am

  2. As much respect as I have for principals and VPs, they don’t really have the additional time to do things like construct budgets, monitor those budgets, audit those budgets, track enrollment and enrollment trends, ensure compliance with state regulations, craft School Board agendas and supporting documentation, construct minutes to those agenda, negotiate contracts with vendors, and so on and so forth…all the bit and pieces that support what happens at the school site level. Without the District staff who would do all that work?

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 18, 2013 @ 7:34 am

  3. Here is a commentary on potential challenges to Board-District staff relationships and the upcoming public education funding changes approved by the Governor in June. http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/lausd-board-administrator-conflicts-underscore-challenges-of-local-control/38958

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — September 18, 2013 @ 8:12 am

  4. “. . . the false assumption that administrators have a secondary (or no) role in educating children, but are just part of the bureaucratic machine that is a school district. Although a politically convenient statement, it is a gross simplification of how school districts actually work. Certainly there are some roles that are purely administrative and seem to have very little impact on students’ lives. But even those – besides being mostly legally required – enable everyone else to do their job. Does the person who ensures teachers get paid not affect student learning? Of course she does. How about our principals, our district staff who work on special education and curriculum, our information technology folks who keep our networks running? Do they affect our students’ education? Of course.”

    “Given that California has one of the lowest ratio of administrators to students in the country, it’s hard not to argue that every one of our administrators provides important leverage in the goal to educate every child. We must be reminded of the big picture and the difficulty that school board members have in making budget tradeoffs. For example, most believe that schools need to do a better job of evaluating teachers, but what is required to do this? We would have to invest in “administrative” costs that are “away from the classroom.” School districts get constantly (and justifiably) criticized for not better engaging with the community in the public process, but then those same people will often cry foul if the district considers hiring a communications person in the district office, because that’s just adding administrative costs away from the classroom.

    I’m not suggesting that in all cases the right decision is to favor “administrative” costs or those investments seemingly “away from the classroom.” What I am stating is that we should ditch the sound bites, appreciate the important role that all investments have in fulfilling our mission, and have a reasonable and informed discussion about budget priorities that make sense for any particular district.”

    http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/contrary-to-common-wisdom-nothing-is-away-from-the-classroom/21129#.UjnO6ryoXSM

    Comment by Tired of the Old Sound Bites — September 18, 2013 @ 9:11 am

  5. “Get rid of the administrators” is a frequently heard cry that bears some examination. Non-classroom personnel, like principals, school secretaries, janitors, groundskeepers, counselors, grant writers, curriculum organizers, school nurses and psychologists, personnel administrators (hiring, disciplining, firing, background checking, interviewing, negotiating, managing benefit contracts, payroll), financial people to insure that the bills are paid and the personnel are paid, are essential supports to the classroom. Our district has pared these positions a lot. I would like to see a personnel chart that shows all the positions, teaching and support, the reporting relationships, and the salary levels. Is there such a thing?

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — September 18, 2013 @ 10:15 am

  6. I would like to see a Chart of how much is Directly Spent on Each Student For Sports Equipment for all Sports , Gymnastics, Dance, Technology , Film , Art , Music, Concerts , Dances, Talent Shows, Theatre , Books , Clubs, Pools , Science Labs , Field Trips, Training in the Trades with shop classes and Training , Drivers Training and Education, Financial Planning, Job Training, Extra curricular Activities, This is all part of the Student Experience and Education.

    Take Care of these Needs First and Give the Kids a better Experience in the School and WE might not lose 45-50% of our students .

    Comment by Money is For the Students Above All other BS — September 18, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

  7. It’s called the financials and the budgets, go find it.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 18, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  8. Budget Doesn’t break it Down….It also Groups Money Spent for Supplies and Equipment and Technology being lumped in with Administrators.

    Comment by Money is For the Students Above All other BS — September 18, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

  9. Sigh. Each individual school makes their own budget based on the allocations given to each school by the District. So if you want to know how much is spent on your laundry list go look at the School Site budgets. One would think that someone who had such a strong opinion on school related stuff would have a general working knowledge on how the School district works.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 18, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

  10. #4, #6, #8, just Bullshit from an extremely unhappy person. John instead of raging against the “machine” why don’t you try doing something positive for once.

    Comment by John P. (L) — September 18, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

  11. “But that four or five senior staff departing in a short amount of time in a city the size of Alameda’s is pretty disappointing.”

    Maybe the machine needs some grease rage.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 18, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

  12. #5 Kate
    I have the exact same question , it seem that for the last 20 plus years the school district has grown more and more administrative staff and less toward education .
    # 10 John ,
    Vulgarities have never solved any issue rather created new one far worse than the original problem . We need to solve this on going nightmare , When they took a position they accepted the responsibility that came with it .
    When they leave they owe the entire community the right to know why they are leaving . They did not get their way by raising taxes , yet did not even consider using Alameda School district Empty building to use them as office , instead went on a shopping spree at everyone expense ,In today’s technology offices do not need to be together it simply does not make sense , in my view good riddance and do not let the door slap you on the way out .
    Proud Parent of kid educated by Alameda Teachers not Administrators which are nothing else but bed bug.

    Comment by frank — September 18, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

  13. John P your Right. It is total Bullshit…..Money Directly Spent on Kids in School for their Education and their experience has become Just a Crumb of the Educational Dollar…….Because I think it’s should be the #1 Priority doesn’t make me a unhappy person…….I have added so many positive contributions about what fabulous things are happening in Education……So many Great people not buying into the BS and Disrupting Education the Way you think it should be.

    I have No Clue who # 4 is but I’m sure they will be greeted with verbal hand grenades from the machine if they speak out.

    # 9 Lauren I know this is Really frkn Crazy…….But the Students use to Control the Money at the High Schools and Authorize Expenditures and put budgets together.

    They had a Administrative Board Represented by Student Body Officers and Elected Students from every Grade Level who had say in where all the monies were to be spent. Every Club, Sport, Activity had a opportunity to get piece of the Pie.

    They were also part of the Process in Middle Schools.

    The Kids Are much Smarter on how to handle Their Money.

    Comment by Money is For the Students Above All other BS — September 18, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

  14. Education for everyone: An interview with Sal Khan
    Online learning is revolutionizing access to education. As Khan Academy founder Sal Khan explains, it may also revolutionize how organizations find the workers they need.

    http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/social_sector/education_for_everyone_an_interview_with_sal_khan?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1309

    Education for entrepreneurship: An interview with Tim Draper
    Can entrepreneurship be taught? Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper believes it can and has established the Draper University of Heroes to do just that.

    http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/social_sector/education_for_entrepreneurship_an_interview_with_tim_draper?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1309

    Comment by Money is For the Students Above All other BS — September 18, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

  15. “Apparently in places like Los Angeles when a School District loses a key senior staff members it becomes news worthy for the news types, in Alameda, even with the slow hemorrhaging of senior staff, not so much. ”

    What’s the Bigger Story.

    Make a Big Deal out of losing One staff member or when you have 650,000 Students that would be considered POOR.

    “More than half of LA Unified’s 650,000 students would be considered poor by qualifying for reduced price meals under federal guidelines. But the Department of Education now wants school systems to re-certify that eligibility.”

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/#storylink=cpy

    Local and state education officials have been squabbling over the new requirement for several weeks with John Deasy, LA Unified’s superintendent, beating the drums of protest the loudest.

    “People will become unglued” if the new requirement makes a significant difference in the money flow, Adams quotes Deasy.

    State officials say that recertification is necessary to avoid double- or even triple- counting of students as poor, English-learner or foster children, a third category of qualification for the extra aid.

    Comment by Money is For the Students Above All other BS — September 19, 2013 @ 2:24 am

  16. Here’s an idea, I think “John” should run for School Board next time around with the platform of (1) we don’t need teachers we just need to plop kids in front of the computer and turn on the Khan Academy for them and (2) we don’t need administrators either, we’ll just allocate ADA funding directly to families and have them ensure compliance with state regulations individually.

    I’m sure he will win in a landslide.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 19, 2013 @ 7:18 am

  17. Extending the suggestion in comment 16, perhaps “Frank” can join with “John” and run on a “unity” platform combining popular misleading statements and poisonous rhetoric of the left *and* the right. They are already doing their best to encourage people to exterminate the bed bugs, starve the beast and blow everything up. They should just hope people don’t think too much about what all that would mean for the schools and the city.

    Comment by Tired of the Old Sound Bites — September 19, 2013 @ 8:06 am

  18. John P. , 4. is in some respects mimic of “John” in style of strip and paste and the handle used, which had me doing a double take. But the content hits the nail on the head. I’ve argued that if everybody was as self indulgent as “John” and took to switching cute handles all the time as twitter style extra commentary, that it would cause total confusion. I like word play and otherwise would take every opportunity to be creative, but if one is serious about a discussion there are limits.

    Lauren, since exiting personnel aren’t commenting on motive and we are left to speculate, I think with this example you have bolstered your contention about dysfunction of BOE. I might agree, and think too much speculation is both futile and harmful, since smooth function of administration is critical and more so with so much turn over. In a way we have no choice but to close ranks and see these changes through because IMO compounding them with replacing Superintendent at this point would be worst case scenario.

    In the area of speculation I am willing to concede to hypothetical that most if not all the reason for exits is BOE, though we also have to factor in greener grass and the administrative culture as possible contributors. It is a bit moot at this point but I can’t help wonder how much style has to do with feeding the negativity and mistrust of staff by public, as opposed to defusing it. A little more earnestness might have gone a long way, but Obama is pretty damn earnest and look what Tea Party has done to his attempts to govern. And yes I am comparing TS to Tea Party as I already compared her to Michelle Bachman. And AEA too, in terms of positions sometimes being too rhetorical, and knee jerk. I’m tired of teachers blindly defending TS as “asking the right questions”. I’d hope they instill deeper critical thought to their own students and generally know that they do. I also admire AEA leadership for being politically shrewd and pretty savvy in many ways, as the options for candidates which really strengthened their position were not great. But I think the dysfunction is a combined effort and that administration has some responsibility.

    I’m most curious about departure of in house attorney since my impression was Ms. Vital and attorney were like BFF, which itself seemed to increase tension with union, a lot. I can’t imagine that departure is related to said attorney not getting along with supe. If it is all BOE, does supe’s apparent inability to persuade cabinet to see things through “for the kids” have significance? No way to know, but hard not to think about that.

    Comment by MI — September 19, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  19. From what I’ve read you should be comparing Obama to a TS.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 19, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

  20. Comment by Alameda High School (A Day in the Life Of) (1975 and 1977) — September 19, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

  21. This would be a more Realistic Platform versus the one you try to Frame Someone In

    Confront Reality and the Failures

    Being a Vulnerable Leader

    Might be A start in turning Schools Around

    Hard Work Sometimes Isn’t Enough:

    Comment by Money is For the Students — September 19, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  22. Comment by Money is For the Students — September 19, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  23. If people are going to speculate about the various reasons that particular people have left the school district, maybe they should consider the ways that activists in the teachers union and others have chosen to talk about the people who work for the school district. Frank’s statement in comment #12 above that “Administrators which are nothing else but bed bug” is typical of the rhetoric the union leadership, their activist membership and their allies have used. Over the past couple of years, they’ve done much more of that from the left than anyone from the right in Alameda.

    Has discourse like that become so common that many people don’t even notice it or have become numb or something? Bed bugs aren’t human. They are pests that should be exterminated. How can we work together and have a civil society when people think and talk in public like that? It isn’t a great distance from snickering that someone is a bed bug to ceasing to view the person as a fellow human being.

    Perhaps Frank’s comment should just be dismissed as a silly insult by someone who is frustrated. On the other hand, that choice of words seems like it would only be used by someone with a certain mindset living in a culture that accepts that way of thinking and talking. The fact that someone would think that way, say it in public, and be supported and not condemned is seriously messed up. Everyone who looks the other way at this sort of garbage is also culpable for what this language has done and will do.

    Comment by Tired of the Old Sound Bites — September 20, 2013 @ 8:34 am

  24. 23. That’s “bed bug” not “bed bugs”, which is actually a much bigger insult. Look it up. Maybe if people had to use their full names here, we’d get less of this abusive banter.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 20, 2013 @ 9:04 am

  25. I just want to clarify that I have been posting as ‘frank’ for several years and #12 is NOT my Post. This is someone else with the same name. I have never had children in AUSD.

    Comment by frank — September 20, 2013 @ 9:09 am

  26. 24. Okay, it’s not so easy to look up. But in old time detective novels, it means evidence in the sheets of “um” sexual congress. Classy, huh?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 20, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  27. If anyone Witnessed the School Board Meetings about a year ago and How the Teachers and AEA ranted and Raved Jerry Springer Style about the School Board and The Administration with Total Disrespect and now are speculating why people have left .

    These same people now want to be respected by the community…….It’s a frkn Joke.

    Speaking of poisonous rhetoric.

    Comment by Pass the Coal — September 20, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  28. Some may defend the rhetoric the teachers union’s leaders, activists and allies chose to use over the past couple of years on the grounds that it was effective, even if it was often nasty and abusive. For example, that perspective might be implied in this line from comment #18 above: “I also admire AEA leadership for being politically shrewd and pretty savvy in many ways, as the options for candidates which really strengthened their position were not great.”

    If one is looking at the short run of 2012 and 2013 one might see this as shrewd and savvy. But if one looks out at a longer term perspective, what they’ve done may turn out to have been something closer to tragic and self-defeating. What strengthens the position of teachers in the long run is not division and nastiness.

    Will this turn out to have been a Pyrrhic victory for the teachers union? “If you break it, you buy it.”

    Comment by Tired of the Old Sound Bites — September 20, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

  29. 28. That is a fine line. If you check the history of my posts I never defended the lump of coal stuff or other rhetoric. but I also see that your comments here reneforce the sides and catagorize everybody who supports teachers efforts as on a side as if it is a catgorical break down. Now you can declaare that you support teachers etc., just question AEA, etc…

    Look, I had a school board member not favored by AEA tell me that some of the actions during the campaign were politically “really smart”, so don’t get so high on your horse that you break something if you fall off. Yeah, I like the “you break it you bought it”. Many of us were vexed at the previous board as a whole for not being more firm with supereintendent, but AEA backed people I couldn’t vote for which IMO is short sighted and now the chickens come home to roost, but that choice was in response to the perception of “rubber stamping”.

    People who rant at staff indescriminately are just like people who rant at teachers the same way. It’s all bad. I don’t have some comnspiracy theory about staff and have known several socially, including three adminstrators who just left and a principal, as well as having had other first hand contact. I’ve had specific nits to pick ( opps that is a bug isn’t it?!) with superintendents actions and also was strained by the dynamic created by proximity to her in house counsel. I don’t apologize for any of it.

    Comment by M.I. — September 21, 2013 @ 10:04 am

  30. clarification of 29. The choice AEA made for endorsements was in response to perception pervious board was rubber stamping wishes of a demonstarive adminstrator.

    Comment by M.I. — September 21, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  31. 29 “People who rant at staff indescriminately [sic] are just like people who rant at teachers the same way. It’s all bad.”

    You rant indiscriminately at political groups all the time. So why should one carve out teachers and staff for special benign consideration? They are no more and no less than a political group represented by a union.

    Comment by Jack Richard — September 21, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  32. Here is one persons opinion on how to handle “Bad Attitudes of Employees” from a Person Who has Built many Successful Companies.

    If an employee gets “the disease” he needs to be fired.

    If they bad mouth you to other employees.

    If they ask for more money all the time.

    If they are talking behind your back, fire them.

    The disease has no cure.

    And it’s very contagious.

    Show the employee the door.

    There are no second chances because the disease is incurable.

    This is How this affects the workforce

    • Wasted time

    • Hinders creativity and innovation

    • Loss of good employees

    • Lower morale

    • Loss of loyalty

    Comment by Will never Happen - Just live with the Disease — September 21, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

  33. here is a link to a treatise entitled: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla, Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley in Whole Earth Review, Spring 1987

    http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/Stupidity/

    I pulled this comment at the bottom f the article:

    Remarkably, a research group has used Dr. Cipolla’s taxonomy to assess the merits of random selection as a mechanism to enhance democracy.

    Random selection could ‘improve democracy’

    By Anna Salleh for ABC Science Online

    Democracy can be better served by randomly selecting representatives, argue Italian researchers.

    Dr Alessandro Pluchino of the Universita di Cantania and colleagues report their findings on the pre-press website arXiv.org.

    Their model relied on four categories of people in the parliament. These were: ‘intelligent’ people (actions serve both personal and social interests), ‘helpless or naive’ (loss for self, but gain for others), ‘bandits’ (benefit themselves, but not others), and ‘stupid’ (actions produce a loss for everyone).

    Comment by M.I. — September 21, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  34. This blog is getting hot :
    The school district need a deep reform plain and simple , management if we can call it like that, need to be fully accountable of their failure and rewarded when they succeed , here the opposite is happening .
    Some , at all levels need to be put on a performance improvement system .
    I do not agree with the philosophy to fire anyone , when someone is sick you give them medical treatment don’t you ? you do not call doctor Kevorkian . So why not work with them ?
    I have by the way brought back businesses from their death bed with mostly the same Staff and achieved the best in my industry.all multi millions dollar operation
    Some could not be saved , their failure did a service to the industry . you cheat , you lie , you earned your failure.
    My suggestion to hire a new administrator , leaving wages in Alameda $ 40K , within the contract should they improve the schools they get the entire pay retroactive plus a bonus on a ratio scale .
    This will eliminate 90% of all candidate interested in the $ amount on the short term versus long term commitment .
    Judge Judy did not minced Her words {she never do} she called them suckers …..
    I will never forget that AUSD painter that used to spend his days sleeping or reading the newspaper in the alley between the glass factory and what is now The Home Depot , next to the transient in their RV ……I understand he is retired at our expenses .
    not Hiding behind nick name .
    Joel Rambaud

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — September 21, 2013 @ 9:02 pm


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